What Is the Consumer Protection Act?

Understanding the Canadian Consumer Protection Act

When dealing with the market, Canadian consumers have a myriad of rights and protections. These defenses, put in place to shield consumers from deceptive business practices and misleading advertising, are housed under various consumer protection laws. These laws exist both at the federal and provincial levels.

A Look at the Consumer Protection Act

The Consumer Protection Act (CPA), a significant piece of legislation, encapsulates a set of rights applicable to all Canadian consumers. These rights include:

 

  • Safety from unjust business behaviours.
  • Adequate information provision about products and transactions.
  • Reasonable avenues for redress when harmed by business practices.

 

The CPA’s primary role is to ensure consumer protection. However, it also plays a crucial role in safeguarding business owners by setting a level playing field where everyone abides by the same rules. Without regulatory bodies such as the CPA, it would be challenging for honest businesses to compete against those that don’t adhere to the rules.

While federal laws govern areas like consumer product safety, packaging, labeling, and deceptive marketing practices, most consumer protection laws are enforced under provincial and territorial jurisdictions. This arrangement leads to variations in how consumers are protected in different provinces, for instance, Alberta and Ontario.

A Dive into Provincial and Territorial Consumer Protection

Provincial and territorial consumer protections span a wide range of topics. A few examples include:

 

Payday Loans.
Provinces and territories have the power to set specific rules for licensed collection agencies and collectors. For example, in Prince Edward Island, collection agencies are restricted from contacting you past 9:00 p.m. or before 8:00 a.m. or on Sundays. They also have rules preventing them from contacting you at your workplace.

Online Shopping.
In Nova Scotia, the CPA stipulates that online purchases must include a confirmation page that summarizes the purchase, lists all costs, and offers the consumer a chance to accept or cancel the purchase.

Buyers Remorse.
In Ontario and other provinces and territories, consumers are protected by a “cooling-off” period if they regret a purchase made from a door-to-door salesperson, a gym or fitness center, or even a timeshare. This period gives consumers a set number of days to cancel a contract without any penalties after signing it.

For more information 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 has federal agencies and departments responsible for enforcing consumer protection legislation in areas such as:

 

  • Consumer product safety.
  • Food safety.
  • Consumer product packaging and labeling.
  • Anti-competitive practices like price fixing and misleading advertising.
  • Privacy complaints.

 

Several groups and agencies administer the areas of federal legislation. A few examples include:

 

Health Canada.
This department is dedicated to helping Canadians maintain and improve their health. It regulates drugs and health products and oversees product safety.

Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
This office ensures that your private information remains confidential.

Competition Bureau.
This bureau seeks to prevent anti-competitive practices in the marketplace.

Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.
This agency ensures federally regulated financial institutions in Canada adhere to consumer protection laws.

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) is a federal agency that advocates for the rights and interests of financial product and service consumers. Established in 2001, the FCAC has two main objectives: supervision and education.

Supervise. The FCAC oversees the compliance of federally regulated entities like banks, federal credit unions, and insurance companies. It 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 Government of Canada cheque for free
  • Receive clear and simple information about products and services from banks and other financial entities

 

Express consent. This implies that financial institutions can only provide you with financial products and services once they have your permission.

Educate. The FCAC provides information and online tools to help Canadians improve their financial literacy. In 2021, the agency devised a National Financial Literacy Strategy. This five-year plan (2021 to 2026) aims to “create a more accessible, inclusive, and effective financial ecosystem for all Canadians.” The strategy’s goal is to equip Canadians with the skills they need to navigate financial decisions during challenging times.

The FCAC also offers a variety of information and tools on topics such as money management, debt and borrowing, and pensions and retirement. You can also access several useful calculators, including credit card payment and mortgage calculators.

How We Can Assist

While the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada offers many resources to assist Canadians in managing their finances, there may be times when you need additional help. If you’re struggling to pay your bills, consider reaching out to a Licensed Insolvency Trustee (LIT). An LIT can provide information on all the debt management and debt relief options available and can help you choose the best one for you.

Find Your Personal Debt Relief Solution

Licensed Insolvency Trustees are here to help. Get a free assessment of your options.

Discuss options to get out of debt with a trained & licensed debt relief professional.