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Ontario proposing updated consumer protection legislation

By CJ Goater Oct 23, 2023 | 11:22 AM

Todd McCarthy announcement - Screen Capture via Government of Ontario Announcements YouTube

The Ontario government is introducing legislation that, if passed, would strengthen protections for Ontarians from unfair business practices such as price gouging.

“People deserve to shop with confidence when spending their hard-earned money on goods and services at home, online and in their communities,” said Todd McCarthy, Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery.

“By updating rules that protect them when they are shopping or entering contracts with businesses, we can better adapt to today’s evolving marketplace and build a smarter, safer, and stronger economy.”

Consumer protection laws have not been comprehensively reviewed and updated since the Consumer Protection Act, 2002, came into effect in 2005.

Ontario’s marketplace has transformed significantly with an increase in online shopping and the use of apps.

According the the Ontario government The Better for Consumers, Better for Businesses Act, 2023, builds on existing protections to strengthen consumer rights by:

  • Prohibiting unfair business practices such as taking advantage of a consumer’s inability to understand language in a contract.
  • Limiting when businesses can make one-sided contract amendments, renewals, and extensions without express consumer consent.
  • Prohibiting businesses from creating unnecessary barriers when consumers are trying to cancel a subscription or membership-based contract.
  • Providing fairer exit options to consumers and their families who find themselves locked indefinitely into a timeshare contract as well as homeowners tied to long-term leases for home comfort appliances like HVAC systems.
  • Providing stronger enforcement powers to better enable the ministry to hold bad actors accountable including doubling maximum fines to further deter offences and egregious business behaviour.

The new act if passed would simplify legislation through a single set of core rules written in clear, simple language that would apply to most consumer contracts, whether for online or in-person purchases.

The threat of identity theft was also targeted in the proposed legislation which would also make changes to the Consumer Reporting Act giving Ontarians greater access to their credit information and greater ability to limit how their credit information is shared with third parties.