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Introduction to Ontario’s Consumer Protection Laws
[For more than 2 decades Rural Legal Services (RLS) has written Legalese, a legal information column kindly published by the Frontenac News. Following the recognition of our columns by the Law Foundation of Ontario as an effective means of delivering legal information, others interested in public legal education, including the Legal Advocacy Regional Network (LEARN) and the Community Law School (Sarnia-Lambton) Inc. have embraced this approach and are now sharing their newspaper articles with us under the respective banners: LEARN LAW and Law Talk.
Rural Legal Services will continue to write its own Legalese column but will provide LEARN LAW and Law Talk columns as they become available. The following Law Talk publication is the first of a series of articles covering consumer protection laws.]
The era of buyer beware has largely passed when purchasing goods or services from a seller. While a healthy scepticism is always good for your own protection, strong legislation has been passed over the last few decades to regulate certain industries, and to protect the buyers of goods and services from the vendors who sell them. Still, consumer protection laws are often unknown and underutilized by the general public. This article and the series of articles that follow it aspire to change this, and to let you, the consumer, know your rights when dealing with vendors.
Federal legislation protecting consumers includes the Competition Act, the Hazardous Products Act, and the Food and Drugs Act. These Acts regulate industries broadly, protecting consumers from misleading advertising and dangerous sales schemes, setting national safety standards for consumer products, and regulating the sale of food, drugs, cosmetics, and medical devices respectively.
The Consumer Protection Act, 2002
Provincial legislation protects consumers in their specific dealings with vendors. The Ontario Consumer Protection Act, 2002, provides a general system of rights to consumers, who are defined as those who are purchasing goods or services for personal, family, or household purposes.
Generally, the Act applies to purchases over $50 in value, when either the consumer or the seller was located in Ontario at the time of purchase. It is important to know that the Act does not protect consumers in their dealings with regulated professionals, including doctors and lawyers. Nor does the Act apply to transactions with regulated financial service providers such as banks and stockbrokers, to contracts with public utility companies such as gas and electricity providers, to transactions for real property (excluding time share contracts), or to landlord and tenant contracts covered by the Residential Tenancies Act.
The specific protections of the Consumer Protection Act are numerous and will be explained throughout many of the articles to be published in this series. Briefly, the Act works to protect you against unfair business practices, provides you with cancellation rights when goods are delivered late, and provides a 10-day “cooling off” period that allows you to cancel certain types of agreements within 10 days of signing them. The Act also prevents sellers from charging a final price that exceeds the seller’s estimate by more than 10%.
The Sale of Goods Act
Ontario’s Sale of Goods Act deals specifically with contracts for the purchase of goods. It defines the ways of which a contract can be breached, and what remedies sellers and consumers have when either party has caused a breach.
Other Legislation and Topics
In addition to broadly-based protective legislation, many other provincial laws apply to regulate specific types of vendors, including the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act, 2002, and the Travel Industry Act, 2002. While these Acts will not be discussed here, articles to be published over the next few months will inform you of your rights with respect to many different types of transactions, including collection agencies, identity theft, the Internet, private career colleges, cellular telephone service contracts, credit repair agencies, pay day loan providers, prepaid membership contracts, energy re-billers, home renovations, motor vehicle repairs, and door to door sales contracts. In addition, you can find more information about consumer protection topics at any time in a series of Community Law School webinars archived online at www.yourlegalrights.on.ca/training-topic/consumer-law. Be empowered, and stay tuned.
This column is brought to you by Community Law School (Sarnia-Lambton) Inc., and Community Legal Services and Pro Bono Students Canada at Western University, with funding support from the Law Foundation of Ontario. It provides legal information only. The information is accurate as of the date of publication. Laws change frequently so we caution readers from relying on this information if some time has passed since publication. If you need specific legal advice please contact a lawyer, your community legal clinic, Justice Net at 1-866-919-3219 or the Law Society Referral Service at 1-800-268-8326.