In Canada, we have laws and guidelines to make sure consumers are treated fairly. These can differ slightly depending on where you live.
Newcomers to Canada have the same protections and responsibilities as all Canadians.
Knowing about this will help you to make better choices when it comes to buying goods and services.
In Canada, you should expect to:
- get the product or service you have chosen at the time it was promised to you;
- pay only for the products or services you have agreed to buy;
- have retailers and manufacturers honour their warranties or guarantees;
- get a full and honest explanation about all costs and credit terms;
- be protected against products or services that are hazardous to your health;
- be given all the facts and information that you need to choose the product or service that is best for you;
- be entitled to return or exchange products if there is a product exchange or return policy;
- get money back or a fair settlement if the products or services are not the ones ordered, are faulty, damaged or not fit for the usual intended purpose;
- be able to complain to the merchant or supplier if you are not satisfied with a product or service;
- have your privacy respected and protected;
- express your views about consumer issues through government organizations or your elected representative;
- be able to complain to public agencies.
Where can I find sales, specials and coupons?
Stores often promote their deals and specials in flyers that are normally delivered door-to-door on a day near the end of the week. These flyers often have coupons that you can cut out, bring to the store and give to the employee at the checkout when you pay for your products to receive a discount.
You can also look for special prices, sales and coupons in newspapers, magazines and on the Internet.
A store has offered me a rain check. What does this mean?
If a store offers you a rain check, it means that an item it had advertised as being on sale is no longer available. An employee at customer service or at the checkout will give you a piece of paper with the name and the sale price of the item you wanted. The company is letting you know that you can come back to the store and buy the item at the sale price when it becomes available.
If you can’t find an item that has been advertised as being on sale, always ask an employee at customer service if you can have a rain check. It is important to know that rain checks are not always available. A company could specify “no rain checks” when it advertises a sale, for example.
Some provinces provide protection to consumers when a store advertises a product but does not have a sufficient supply to meet the demand.
Can I bring products back to the store?
Businesses do not always have a legal obligation to accept an item you want to return just because you have changed your mind about it. Businesses don’t have to give a refund or exchange on products unless it is written in their return policy. Return policies are often posted somewhere near the checkout.
If you want to return an item because it is broken, or does not work as you expected it to, the store may be obliged to offer a replacement for the item or repair it. Or, the store may simply return your money. If a manufacturer’s warranty came with the item, the store may refer you to that warranty and suggest you contact the manufacturer directly.
If you are having problems with an exchange or refund, or feel as if the seller is not respecting its policy, contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office for help.
A store is telling me a product comes with a warranty. What does this mean?
A warranty is a written promise to replace or repair the product, if necessary, within a specified period. The warranty will likely be offered by the manufacturer of the product and not by the store where you are buying the product.
You may be asked if you want to buy an extended warranty on products or vehicles. Before you accept to pay more for an extended warranty, check to see if the product you are buying already comes with a manufacturer’s warranty or a legal guarantee and what it includes.
A number of frauds or scams have been reported where consumers receive telephone calls from someone offering to sell them an extended warranty, for example for a car they have just bought. Throughout Canada cases have been reported where the callers have simply taken the money and disappeared. Be careful of such offers.
If you have a credit card, you should check with your credit card company to see if it offers warranties on products you buy with your credit card. Some credit cards offer one year of warranty if you pay for the item with your card. If your credit card is already covering the item for a period of time, the warranty the store is offering to sell to you may not be giving you any extra protection.
For more information on warranties, visit the Warranty section of the Canadian Consumer Handbook.
To learn about the guarantees stores must provide, contact provincial or territorial consumer affairs office.
The price advertised may not be the final price that you pay due to sales taxes that are added to the price at the checkout. These taxes vary depending on where you live in Canada, and are known as Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), Goods and Services Tax (GST), Provincial Sales Tax (PST), and in Quebec, QST. For more information on GST/HST, please visit the Canada Revenue Agency.
You do not have to pay tax on all things you buy. For example, there is no sales tax on basic groceries and on drugs prescribed by a doctor.
Goods and Services Tax (GST) credit.
The GST/HST credit is a tax-free payment made every three months to some individuals and families with low or modest incomes. It gives back all or part of the GST or HST that these individuals and families pay. To receive the GST/HST payments you must meet eligibility requirements, and you have to file income tax and benefit returns every year.
You can get more information by calling the GST information line at 1-800-959-1953.
Is there anything I need to be aware of if I buy something on the Internet?
There are advantages and risks of buying on the Internet (or online). Check to see that the company you are dealing with has security systems that protect your financial information and your privacy when you buy something online.
Before giving any financial information (including your credit card number) make sure you are using a secure Internet link. Look for one, or both, of these clues:
- There is an icon (symbol), often a lock or key somewhere near the outside border of your computer screen in the browser. The lock should be in the locked position and the key should not be broken
- The website address begins with https://. The “s” means that the site is secure
Make sure you understand the online company’s warranty, and its refund and return policy – just like you would do with any other company. Make sure it is clear how much you will be paying for shipping, duty, and taxes. Print out a copy of the confirmation of your purchase.
For more tips and information about online shopping, read the Online Shopping section of the Canadian Consumer Handbook. Several provinces have adopted specific rules for online contracts. Under these rules, the company must provide consumers with certain information before a contract is signed, send a copy of the contract to the consumer, and deliver the purchased product within a certain period of time. There are also rules entitling consumers to cancel a contract, reverse a credit card transaction, and so forth, when a business does not meet its obligations.
To learn about the obligations of companies that sell products and services online, provincial or territorial consumer affairs office.
Should I buy products and services from someone who comes knocking on my door offering to sell me something?
In some provinces where there is a lot of competition in certain industries/business sectors, such as for services related to energy (heating, cooling, water heaters, furnace repair), you may find that people will knock on your door to sell you their products or services. Be very careful about signing anything.
You should not feel pressured to buy from someone who comes knocking on your door. It is perfectly acceptable to say “no, thank you” and close the door.
Be suspicious if the person:
- offers a free gift if you buy a product;
- tells you the offer is only good for that day;
- tells you that a neighbour just bought the same product.
If you feel threatened or intimidated, ask the person to leave. Don’t leave the person alone in any room of your home.
Before you buy anything from a door-to-door salesperson, ask to see identification and a seller’s licence or registration.
Before buying any product or service do research. This means asking the salesperson to come back another time.
Ask to see information about the product and visit local stores that sell the same products to compare prices – some door-to-door products may be overpriced. Every province and territory gives you a specified number of days, commonly called a cooling off period, during which you may cancel a contract you make with a door-to-door salesperson for any reason. To find out the length of the cooling-off period where you live, and other obligations of door-to-door salespersons, contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office.
How do I make a complaint?
If you’ve just bought something that you’re not happy with, contact the business right away. Good businesses will be pleased to fix any mistake they’ve made or replace a faulty product. If you are not satisfied, you may also wish to contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office.
BUILD YOUR BUYING SKILLS
The following is a list of good buying practices. It is in your best interest to:
- be informed about and do research on the product or service you are considering before buying it;
- compare prices and ask questions about differences between similar products;
- read and understand everything in a contract before you sign it;
- make sure you receive what you have paid for;
- let a business you are dealing with know if you have a problem or complaint;
- read product instructions and use products as they are supposed to be used;
- understand what is covered, and what is not covered, under product and service warranties or guarantees;
- know what you need to do if you wish to return a product;
- check the qualifications and references of people you are hiring to do home or vehicle repairs.
You may have to enter into many contracts as you settle into your new life in Canada, such as a lease for an apartment or arranging for phone and Internet services.
You should fully understand all contracts before you sign them.
INFORMATION ON CONTRACTS
How easy is it to break or walk away from a contract?
A contract is a legal agreement. When you sign a contract you are committing to the terms and conditions in the document. Never assume you can cancel a contract just because you have changed your mind. Always read a contract carefully and do not sign it unless you understand it completely. When possible, have a lawyer or another trusted person review a contract you want to sign.
Aren’t there any contracts I can cancel?
In some provinces and territories, some contracts, such as door-to-door sales, can be cancelled soon after you sign.
Don’t assume you can cancel a contract you are about to sign. Check with your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office to learn the rules where you live.
Are there contracts that are expensive to cancel?
Many contracts for a set amount of time (example: six months, one year) are hard to cancel and if you do they may cost you additional money.
- cell phones;
- house cleaning;
- gym memberships.
Understand the terms of the contract before you sign it.
If you are having problems with a contract, contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office for help.