To help ensure Canadian consumers are protected from issues like unfair business practices and misleading advertising, there are consumer protection laws in place. There are laws in place at both the federal and provincial levels.
Provinces and territories are responsible for outlining specific laws in a Consumer Protection Act. At the federal level, there is consumer protection legislation that governs several groups and agencies responsible for protecting consumer rights and interests. This includes the Financial Consumer Protection Agency of Canada which focuses specifically on financial products and services.
The Consumer Protection Act
The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) outlines a list of rights available to all consumers in Canada. This includes:
- The right to be safe from unfair business practices
- The right to be adequately informed about products and transactions
- The right to reasonable access to redress when they have been harmed
The CPA serves a number of purposes. Primarily, it seeks to protect consumers. It also helps to protect business owners by ensuring everyone plays by the same rules. Without a watchdog like the CPA, honest businesses that follow the rules could find it hard to compete against those that do not.
While there are federal laws that govern things like consumer product safety, packaging, and labelling, as well as deceptive marketing practices, many consumer protection laws are managed under provincial and territorial jurisdiction. As a result, you may see differences in how consumers are protected in Alberta versus Ontario.
Provincial and territorial consumer protection
Provincial and territorial consumer protections cover a range of topics. Some examples include:
- Payday Loans. Provinces and territories can outline specific rules for licensed collection agencies and collectors. For instance, in Prince Edward Island, collection agencies can not contact you after 9:00 p.m. or before 8:00 a.m. or on Sunday. There are also rules stating they can not call, visit or send mail to your workplace.
- Online Shopping. In Nova Scotia, the Consumer Protection Act has specific rules that state online purchases must include a confirmation page summarizing the purchase, outlining all costs, and giving the consumer a chance to cancel or accept the purchase.
- Buyers Remorse. In Ontario and other provinces and territories, if you feel a sense of buyer’s remorse after committing to a product or service from a door-to-door salesperson, from a gym or fitness centre, or even after purchasing a timeshare, you are protected by a cooling-off period. A cooling-off period gives you a certain number of days in which you can cancel an agreement for any reason and without penalty after signing a contract.
To learn more about the consumer protection laws in your province or territory, you can visit your provincial or territorial Consumer Affairs office.
Federal Consumer Protection Legislation in Canada
The Government of Canada does have federal agencies and departments responsible for enforcing consumer protection legislation in the areas of:
- Consumer product safety
- Food safety
- Consumer product packaging and labelling
- Anti-competitive practices such as price fixing and misleading advertising
- Privacy complaints
There are many areas of federal legislation administered by different groups and agencies, some examples include:
- Health Canada. Responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health. They regulate drug and health products as well as product safety.
- Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Helps to ensure that your private information stays private.
- Competition Bureau. Prevents anti-competitive practices in the marketplace.
- Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. Ensures federally regulated financial institutions in Canada follow consumer protection laws.
The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada
The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) is a federal agency that looks out for the rights and interests of consumers of financial products and services. The FCAC was established in 2001 with two main goals, to supervise and to educate.
Supervise. The FCAC helps to maintain the compliance of federally regulated entities such as banks, federal credit unions, and insurance companies. The agency also promotes access to basic banking services and banking protections, including the right to:
- Open a personal deposit account at any bank and cash a cheque from the Government of Canada for free
- Receive clear and simple information about products and services from banks and other financial entities
- Express consent. This means financial institutions can only provide you with financial products and services once they get your permission.
- Make a complaint through financial institutions’ complaint handling process.
Educate. The FCAC also provides information and online tools to help improve the financial literacy of Canadians. In 2021, the agency put together a National Financial Literacy Strategy. This is a five-year plan (2021 to 2026), to “create a more accessible, inclusive, and effective financial ecosystem for all Canadians.” The goal of the strategy is to help Canadians build the skills they need to navigate financial decisions in challenging times.
The FCAC also offers a variety of information and tools on topics such as managing your money, debt and borrowing, and pensions and retirement. You can also access several useful calculators, including credit card payment and mortgage calculators.
Learn How We Can Help
While the financial consumer agency of Canada has many resources available to help Canadians manage their finances, sometimes you might find that you need a little extra help. If you find yourself struggling or unable to pay your bills, reach out to a Licensed Insolvency Trustee (LIT). An LIT can provide information on all of the debt management and debt relief options available and can help you choose which is best for you.
At Allan Marshall and Associated, you can book a risk-free 20 minutes call with a financial administrator to discuss your concerns. We are here to help so when you’re ready, give us a call at 1-888-371-8900 or reach out online.