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Buyers and Sellers: Know Your Consumer Laws!

April 19, 2021
Canadian Consumer Laws

Whether you’re finally ready to launch your new product or service, or you’re about to purchase a big ticket item, it is important to understand Canada’s consumer laws before you buy or sell. Everything from buying a doughnut to online shopping and product labelling falls under consumer laws in Canada. A failure to follow consumer regulations as a business can mean extra expense, fines or worse. A failure to understand the laws as a purchaser means you may not be exercising your rights.

An overview

Consumer law in Canada is covered by both federal and provincial regulations. In general terms, the federal laws oversee the broader things like product safety and unfair competition, while provincial laws handle how companies interact with consumers. These include all the ways you can make a purchase: online, in store, one time, over time, door to door or at a distance, to name a few. Each province and territory has its own consumer protection laws, so if you are a start-up or an existing company pivoting to something new, always seek local experienced legal advice – and LegalShield Canada can certainly help you with that.

 

If you’re a consumer

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and buy the latest something – a laptop, a fridge or maybe the Aston Martin you’ve always wanted. But a few days after you bring it home, you decide it’s not what you expected or it’s not working as you’d like, and you want your money back. The type of recourse you may have in these situations depends on what you bought, how you bought it (in store or online), when the purchase was made, and just in case that is not complicated enough, it also depends on where you live and what laws apply.

In Quebec and elsewhere, you are automatically covered by a legal warranty for what you buy or lease, no matter where you purchased it – which means that all products must be good quality, durable, safe and in line with the expectations created by the seller. You are also automatically covered if there is a defect with the product. However, keep in mind, this legal warranty may help you if you purchase a kettle that does not heat up water. It will not help you if you use the kettle to hammer in nails.

 

There are other circumstances where if you are not satisfied with the product or service after purchase, you are able to cancel the agreement within a specific period without penalty. In Ontario, if you pre-paid for a gym membership, made a purchase at your home or bought a newly built condo, for example, you can request cancellation if done so properly, and within the prescribed time. 

 

Buying online

If you buy online, in many parts of Canada, you may also be able to cancel the order if the seller does not abide by a set of specific actions, including shipping the product in a reasonable amount of time, often 30 days. The Ontario government does a great job of explaining the cancellation process here – but be sure to visit your local consumer protection website for the information that best applies to you.

It is good to keep in mind that not everything can be returned. For example, aside from a few exceptions like making false or misleading statements, once you buy a used car from a dealer, you cannot simply give it back. There is no cooling off period. Plus stores can set their own refund policies. Don’t forget that each province has its own consumer protection laws and while they can be similar in many ways, it is essential to understand the regulations that apply to you. You can always reach out to us for guidance.

If you run a business

After years of hard work, you want to sell your new product or service and you KNOW your eye-popping online marketing campaign will attract attention… except, stop right there!

If your great campaign conflicts with Canada’s misleading advertising rules, it can cost your company a whopping $10,000,000 in fines – and that is not a typo. Complying with consumer laws as a business can be complex and daunting. In these cases, the price of not seeking experienced legal advice to help you navigate Canada’s many consumer laws can be very high.

There are laws governing just about all aspects of your relationship to your customers. Each one is important to understand and comply with. Your business may be in an industry that is subject to specific regulations and licensing requirements, such as car dealers, collection agencies, loan companies, travel agencies, and real estate brokers/agents, to name a few.

 

If your product or service is aimed at children, there are strict guidelines to follow. If it involves health or wellness or food or drink, there are more guidelines. And if you do business in Quebec, there are language laws to follow. The list is almost endless – so having experienced legal counsel on hand to talk to can be extremely helpful.

The Take-Away

Regardless of the type of service or product you offer, there are many consumer laws that will apply to you, some more obvious than others: licensing, product safety, anti-spam laws, privacy, anti-competitive laws, and more. And as a consumer, it is important to know your rights. It is recommended that you seek legal advice to help you navigate the complicated federal and provincial laws that apply specifically to you. We offer affordable plans for individuals and businesses. Get in touch.

Articles on the LegalShield.ca website are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice or opinion in any manner. Laws mentioned in the articles vary from province to province. Any links to third-party sites in our articles are for general information purposes only and LegalShield is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, the content of linked sites. It is always advisable to seek legal counsel - and LegalShield can help.

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