Consumer Protection


What Marketers Need to Know

Consumer protection laws aim to protect consumers from unfair business.

Consumer protection is a shared responsibility between federal, provincial, and territorial governments. As a result, marketers face numerous sets of rules and regulations across the country. To avoid confusion, marketers should familiarize themselves with the laws in the jurisdiction(s) where their organizations operate.

The laws generally cover areas such as:

  • Gift cards
  • Loyalty programs
  • High-cost credit
  • Time shares
  • Licensing
  • Ticket sales
  • Contracts

The Canadian Marketing Code of Ethics and Standards outlines legal requirements and best practices in many of these areas.

 



Consumer protection laws regulate a wide range of marketing activities.

Provincial and Territorial Laws
Consumer protection laws at the provincial and territorial levels govern the conduct of businesses in their interactions with consumers with the aim to ensure consumers are treated fairly. Given its broad focus on unfair practices, Consumer Protection Acts cover activities such as misrepresentation of goods or services, undue pressure, misleading terms and conditions.

Several provinces, including Quebec, Nova Scotia and Ontario, have amended their consumer protection laws in recent years, so staying current with regulatory news is important for all marketers.

Quebec’s Consumer Protection Act includes:

  • Requirement for consumer contracts to be drawn up in French, but contracts may be drawn up in another language if all parties agree.
  • The prohibitions to advertise to children under 13, except in certain cases (sections 248 and 249).

Federal Laws
Federally, consumer issues are governed by several agencies and federal departments including the Competition Bureau. Federal consumer protection laws cover various issues including:

  • consumer product safety;
  • food safety;
  • consumer product packaging and labelling;
  • anti-competitive practices, such as price fixing and misleading advertising.

For more information about federal consumer protection legislation in Canada, check out the Government of Canada’s website.

In recent years, Ontario and Quebec have updated rules governing loyalty programs.

Ontario
As of January 1, 2018, new regulations pertaining to reward points took effect. A key feature of the regulations is a ban on the expiry of loyalty points based on time alone, which means that points can still expire because of the passage of time, but there also must be a second reason (such as a combination of time passing and inactivity).

Read the Ontario regulations.

Quebec
Of importance to members who are engaged in the loyalty programs space, is that as of August 1, 2018, points can no longer expire unless there is inactivity of not less than one year.

The Act does not apply in the following situations:

  • To a contract relating to a loyalty program where the retail value of each good or service that the consumer may obtain does not exceed $50.
  • To a contract relating to a loyalty program for a single good or service or a set of goods or services determined at the time of entering into a contract relating to a loyalty program. 

These regulations governing loyalty programs are aligned with those that have been in effect in Ontario since January 1, 2018.

Read the Quebec regulations.

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