Consumer Protection Changes in Alberta
Late in 2017, the Alberta government passed the Consumer Protection Act, which amended the former Fair Trading Act. These pieces of legislation provide the framework for consumer protection law in Canada, and contain restrictions and rights relevant to many small businesses and consumers that they may not be aware of.
The Bill, passed in December 2017, contains an updated preamble reading “all consumers have the right to be safe from unfair business practices, the right to be properly informed about products and transactions, and the right to reasonable access to redress when they have been harmed”, which is meant to reflect the additional protections to consumers throughout the document.
The Act establishes the right of a consumer to post negative reviews online. According to the new Act, “[a] business shall not include in a consumer transaction a provision that prohibits a consumer from publishing a review of the business or transaction.” The Section (183.1), also ensures that no action can be taken in respect of the publishing of a negative review unless it is “malicious, vexatious or harassing or otherwise made in bad faith.”
The bill is also relevant to those who’ve noticed mandatory arbitration clauses in the terms of any agreement they’ve entered into, such as with an internet service provider. According to the new Act, suppliers cannot enforce mandatory arbitration except in some circumstances. Those circumstances include where the consumer and supplier have agreed to arbitration after the dispute arose, or where the consumer can elect to use arbitration. So if you threaten court action on your next argument with your cell phone provider, your threat just got more credible.
Pet owners should also pay attention to the changes. Vets are required to disclose “all fees for the prescribed type of veterinary medicine services proposed” before the services are performed.
Another change to the Act, is the promise to establish a Consumer Bill of Rights, which will be the first of its kind in Canada. The new Part 8.1 of the Act creates a new series of rules targeting ticket resale bots. Under section 57.2, and secondary seller, or operator of a platform that sells tickets second hand will have to provide refunds where a ticket turns out to be counterfeit or does not work in granting admission to the event. Anyone operating a digital platform, such as Stubhub or Gametime, would therefore be subject to these rules if scammers attempt to use their platforms. This Part also outlaws any use of automated ticket purchasing software.
There is also a new set of rules for car dealers and repairs. This applies to consumers that are individuals or small businesses with a car fleet of five vehicles or less. Section 108.2 of the Act requires the business to provide provide a warranty in accordance with the regulations, provide an estimate of the cost of proposed work in accordance with the regulations, and prohibits vehicle repairs that are not authorized as required in the regulations. This Section is not yet inforce, but will have significant impacts on the sale and repair of vehicles once the regulations are introduced.
Alex Grigg is a 3rd year JD/MBA candidate at the University of Calgary.
Blog posts are by students at the Business Venture Clinic. Student bios appear under each post.