The Consumer Protection Act, 2002 (“CPA”) is a piece of legislation in Ontario that was put in place to safeguard customers’ interests in their interactions with various commercial enterprises. If a consumer’s rights are infringed upon, it details the legal recourses available to them as well as the rights and responsibilities of both businesses and customers.
The purpose of the CPA is to provide a framework for resolving disputes between consumers and businesses, as well as to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive business practices that businesses may employ.
The CPA applies to most consumer transactions in Ontario, including the purchase, lease, or rental of tangible and intangible goods and services, respectively (such as rights or interests). In addition to that, it applies to the advertising and promotion of movable and immovable goods, as well as services.
There are a number of exceptions to the CPA, including transactions involving the purchase of real estate, insurance contracts, and transactions between businesses. The CPA also does not apply to certain regulated professions (such as lawyers and doctors) or transactions governed by other specific legislation (such as the Sale of Goods Act).
The CPA prohibits businesses from using a number of specific practices that are deemed to be unfair or deceptive. These include the following:
- Representations that are untrue, misleading, or deceptive about the nature, characteristics, suitability, or quantity of the product or service in question
- Making statements that are either false or misleading about the price of the goods or services being offered, as well as the availability of a rebate, discount, or credit
- Representing that goods or services have sponsorship, approval, performance characteristics, accessories, uses, or benefits that they do not have
- Representing that goods or services are of a particular standard, quality, grade, style, or model, if they are not
- Representing that goods are new if they are not
- Representing that goods or services are available at a particular price, if they are not
- Representing that a particular price advantage exists, if it does not
- Misrepresenting the nature, character, ingredients, uses, or quantities of goods or services
- Engaging in any other form of deceptive business practice concerning the marketing of products or services
The Rights of the Consumer:
The CPA provides consumers with a variety of rights, including the rights to the following:
Before entering into a contract, consumers have the right to:
- Receive information that is accurate and truthful regarding the products or services that are being offered
- Receive certain disclosures before entering into a contract (for example, information about the total price, additional fees, and cancellation rights).
- Seek remedies when their rights under the CPA are violated, including the right to cancel a contract, the right to a refund, or the right to damages.
The CPA gives customers the legal authority to terminate certain kinds of contracts within a predetermined time.
These are the following:
- Contracts for door-to-door sales: Customers have the right to cancel door-to-door sales contracts within ten days of signing the contract.
- Cancellation of direct agreements: Customers have the right to cancel direct agreements (for example, contracts signed away from the seller’s place of business) within ten days of receiving a copy of the contract. This time frame applies to contracts that are signed away from the seller’s place of business.
- Consumers have the right to cancel contracts for certain services (such as dating, fitness, or weight loss) within ten days of signing the contract.
Before a consumer can enter into a contract with a business, the CPA mandates that the business must first provide the consumer with certain disclosures. These are the following:
- The overall cost of the product or service, which takes into account all applicable taxes, fees, and other charges
- Any additional taxes, surcharges, or fees that the customer may be responsible for paying
- The consumer’s cancellation rights under the CPA
- Any conditions or restrictions on the use of any rebate, discount, or credit
If a consumer’s rights as outlined in the CPA have been violated, the consumer may have the legal right to seek one or more of the following remedies:
- Cancellation of the contract
- Refund of any money paid under the contract
- Damages (i.e., compensation for any loss or injury suffered as a result of the violation)
Businesses that violate the CPA can be subject to legal action taken by the Minister of Consumer and Business Services, which is in charge of enforcing the CPA and has the authority to investigate complaints and take enforcement action against those businesses. Consumers can also file a lawsuit in court to seek remedies for a violation of their rights under the CPA.