The views of Canadians on the harmonization of consumer protection standards


Annik Bélanger-Krams


Option consommateurs




The rules respecting consumer protection vary from province to province. This can cause problems for merchants, who must adapt to them and for consumers when they buy goods in a province other than the one where they reside. Option consommateurs (OC) conducted a literature review and interviews with experts which allowed to identify six problem areas: e-commerce, consumer credit, legal warranties, class action litigation (and related clauses), gift cards and cell phones. OC’s research focused on these six topics.

OC's research revealed how consumers’ rights vary depending on where they live. For example, in certain provinces, consumers are protected by the laws of their province, even if they are making a purchase online from a merchant located in another province. Also, in some provinces, there are prohibitions against including clauses in consumer contracts that either restrict access to the courts or compel consumers to file their case in another jurisdiction. In addition, the laws respecting legal warranties give consumers living in some provinces better protection than others.

OC also conducted a web survey of 2,000 Canadians. This survey revealed that consumers know very little about their rights. This lack of information is particularly apparent in certain areas. For example, among consumers protected by the laws of their province, very few know that they are protected when they purchase goods online from a merchant located in another province. Likewise, an overwhelming majority of respondents are unaware of their rights with respect to class action litigation (including afferent clauses) and cell phones. Finally, Canadian consumers are also confused as to the applicable law with regard to legal warranties.

In addition, OC's survey revealed that as a general rule, consumers would like the laws to be harmonized across the country. They especially want this to be the case for consumer credit, for class action litigation, for cell phones and for gift cards. They also stated that they want better access to information on consumer protection.

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

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Source: Consumer Policy Research Database

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