Vulnerable Families as E-Consumers: Current Attitudes, Behaviours and Barriers to E-Information


Christine Colbert


The Canadian Association of Family Resource Programs




The main objective of this exploratory study was to provide a better understanding of the current practices related to the access and use of product safety information among vulnerable families in four Canadian regions. The study sample consisted of three sub-groups of parents who attended family resource programs. The groups represented were:
(1) low-income two-parent families,
(2) low-income new immigrant families, and
(3) low-income female-led families.

Each participant took part in a focus group and completed a survey. The semi-structured focus group questions expanded the topic of inquiry to include family health information. In addition, a survey was disseminated to practitioners working in family resource centres across Canada. This survey provided additional perspectives regarding current product safety practices among vulnerable families and by the practitioners themselves.

The four specific areas investigated in this project were:

1. The literacy skills (technological and language) among the three sub-groups of vulnerable Canadians;
2. The current knowledge level of each sub-group about the benefits and availability of electronic (e) consumer product safety information;
3. The factors that influence access and use of e-consumer product safety information; and
4. The delivery preferences and needs of the families regarding product safety and family health information and the identification of strategies to improve access and use.

The findings from this project suggest that the current practices around the dissemination of product safety information to vulnerable families can be strengthened by:

• Expanding the distribution of product safety information related to children’s safety;
• Clarifying and simplifying product safety information in general;
• Simplifying the level of English used with product safety information;
• Disseminating product safety information in multiple languages in order to reduce the language and content barriers for immigrant families;
• Using creative campaigns to reach all families including such things as colourful and eye–catching posters in public places;
• Providing parents with the opportunity to discuss product safety information with other parents;
• Increasing access to low cost Internet connections for the most financially vulnerable families;
• Providing computer and Internet training to vulnerable families in order to reduce the capability barriers.

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OCA Funded Research
This research received funding support through the Office of Consumer Affairs' Contributions Program.

Contact information

The Canadian Association of Family Resource Programs
150 Isabella St, Suite 149 (Phase 2), Ottawa, ON K1S 1V7
(613) 237-7667
(613) 237-8515

Source: Consumer Policy Research Database

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