| Sep 11, 2008

Setpt 11/08 - Legalese

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Legalese - Setember 11, 2008 Everything You Wanted to Know about Consumer RightsPeter Graham, Lawyer, Rural Legal Services

We recently received, at the legal clinic, an interesting and informative letter from the Consumer Measures Committee. The committee is a joint project of the governments in Canada with representatives from the federal government as well as each of the provinces and territories. It was formed to provide a forum for all levels of government to cooperate in improving the marketplace for Canadian consumers by harmonizing laws, regulations and practices as well as taking initiatives to raise public awareness. The committee has a number of working groups.

One is conducting research and consultation on the Alternative Consumer Credit Market. Its mandate is to formulate policy proposals concerning the use of small, short-term loans or other forms of credit from alternative lenders (often referred to as the payday loan industry which was the subject of a previous legalese column).

Another working group is looking into Charge-backs. A charge-back is a voluntary policy of most credit card issuers, with respect to internet purchases, to look into a charge that is disputed by the cardholder. If the credit card issuer finds the charge to be unsubstantiated, the issuer will refund the amount to the cardholder. The charge-back is not an obligation to reverse charges. Rather it is an obligation to review disputed charges and to reverse the charge only when the charge is not substantiated. The working group is exploring extending the credit card chargeback remedy for internet sales to other forms of “business to consumer” transactions.

The Consumer Awareness Working Group of the Consumers Measures Committee is the subcommittee which sent the letter to the legal clinic. Its latest initiative is an information series entitled Be Informed About … Consumer Issues. The series includes concise information about the following topics:

Making a Complaint – It’s Your Right to ComplainDebt – Take Charge of Your Debts!Landlords and Tenants – Home Sweet Rented HomeInternet Safety – Safety NetIdentity Theft – Watch Out!

The Be Informed About … Consumer Issues series and further information about the work of the Consumers Measures Committee may be accessed online at www.cmcweb.ca.

The Be Informed About … Consumer Issues series is only the tip of the iceberg of information identified by the Consumer Awareness Committee. The consumer issues series includes a reference to the Canadian Consumer Information Gateway which is found online at www.consumerinformation.ca. The welcome page describes the website as a strategic partnership of more than 400 federal departments and agencies, provincial and territorial ministries and Non Governmental Organization (NGO) partners. Its aim is to bring together, on a single website, consumer information, tools and services available from objective and reliable sources.

The consumer information website contains much information of interest to consumers. One of the most useful aspects of the website is, I think, that in addition to providing consumer information, it has a number of interactive tools for consumers. One tool which stands out is “How to File a Complaint”. It is an interesting combination of interactive tool and online coach as to how to make a consumer complaint effectively. Other tools which I tried were the Interactive Inflation Calculator and the Canadian Retirement Income Calculator which are of particular interest to Canadians of “a certain age”. Another tool is called Privacy Town. It provides some thought provoking examples of the use made of your personal information.

This has been a brief introduction to the vast amount of information available to consumers. I urge you to visit the two websites for a tour. If you have questions, give us a call at the legal clinic.

Legalese is a column of general information and opinion on legal topics by the lawyers of Rural Legal Services, Box 359, Sharbot Lake, ON, K0H2P0, 613-279-3252, or 1-888-777-8916. This column is not intended to provide legal advice. You should contact a lawyer to determine your legal rights and obligations.

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