2012–13 Project Summaries: Option consommateurs

50 West Ste-Catherine Street, Suite 440
Montréal, QC H2X 3V4
Tel.: (514) 598-7288
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1. Digital Divide: Time, Money and Complexity Costs for Non-Internet Users

According to Option consommateurs (OC), whereas the use of information and communications technologies is growing rapidly among businesses, some consumers still do not have Internet access, either for lack of money, because of a low level of literacy or for personal reasons. More and more observers believe that a gap has been created between those people who are skilled Web browsers, and the rest of the population. This gap is known as the "digital divide."

Expected results

Through this research, OC will develop a qualitative snapshot of the digital divide. OC wants to find out if a lack of Internet access is bad for consumers and, if so, in what way. If it is determined that not using the Internet puts consumers at a disadvantage, OC will attempt to come up with solutions to address the problems faced by non-Internet users. Within the framework of this project, OC will look at two specific sectors: financial institutions and the telecommunications.

2. The Credit Report: a Tool for Alternative Justice?

According to OC, a bad credit report has severe consequences for the consumer. It can prevent the consumer from having access to credit at a reasonable rate; it can lead to an increase in the consumer’s insurance premiums; it can cause a landlord to reject the consumer’s application; and so on. Of course, the consumer can always add a note to his or her credit report, but this will not prevent the credit score from being downgraded. To avoid this, the consumer can pay, under protest, the amount requested, and then take the merchant to court. The consumer must prove that the amount paid under protest was not owing. OC has started to wonder if non-favourable credit report entries are becoming an alternative justice tool.

Expected results

Through this research, OC wants to find out the impact of using a credit report to produce the effect of private justice. OC will also evaluate the effectiveness of current rules and, if necessary, will make recommendations aimed at ensuring better consumer protection.

3. Undersizing: Canadian and International Trends and Regulations

According to OC, "downsizing" or "package shorting" is a marketing practice whereby the quantity of a product is reduced without it being easily noticed from the product’s packaging. Since consumers pay more attention to the price of a product than to the quantity, some manufacturers may decide to downsize a product rather than increase its price.

Expected results

Through this research, OC’s goal is to provide a snapshot of the downsizing phenomenon, ensure a better understanding of the associated issues from the consumer’s standpoint, identify ways of better informing and protecting consumers, as need be, and publish a report with recommendations for the key stakeholders.

4. Tanning Salons Under the Spotlight!

In 2009, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified tanning devices as "carcinogenic to humans." At the current time, there is no federal legislation specifically governing the activities of tanning salons. In 2005, Health Canada published a document entitled "Guidelines for Tanning Salon Owners, Operators and Users." A number of countries have also introduced legislation aimed at protecting consumers.

Ten years ago, OC conducted an investigation, which revealed that most tanning salons did not provide all the information about the risks associated with the use of tanning devices. OC will therefore focus on updating the situation and preparing a report on this issue.

Expected results

The goal of this study is to identify the overall problem and then recommend the most effective measures for protecting consumers.