Consumer protection changes

Bill 31 has been introduced to improve consumer rights and level the playing field in the marketplace.

Status: Bill 31 introduced Nov 29, 2017
Ministry responsible: Service Alberta

Overview

Consumer protection laws help protect consumers from unfair practices and businesses from unfair competition.

Consumers expect protections when they are buying goods and services or signing contracts. Businesses expect a level playing field so they can compete on equal footing and not be undermined by bad players.

Bill 31: A Better Deal for Consumers and Businesses Act  has been introduced to improve Alberta's consumer protection laws.

If passed, the bill would amend the Fair Trading Act to make regulatory improvements in areas that Albertans and stakeholders identified as priorities during our consultation last summer.

Fair Trading Act to be renamed

The Fair Trading Act is the primary legislation to protect Albertans from unfair business practices. If Bill 31 passes:

  • the name of the act would be changed to the Consumer Protection Act to clearly communicate the intent of this legislation
  • a new preamble would be written in plain language to further explain the intention and purpose of the act and to help the courts interpret any provisions that may be unclear

Consumer Bill of Rights

Bill 31 would allow a Consumer Bill of Rights to be established to help Albertans know their rights when buying or selling.

  • Alberta would be the first jurisdiction in Canada to introduce a general guideline to recognize and protect consumer rights.
  • Consumers would have clear guidelines to understand their rights and make well-informed decisions.

Fairness between consumers and businesses

Bill 31 strives to balance both consumer and business interests within the legislative framework. Several new provisions would enhance fairness by:

  • protecting consumers from unfair lawsuits and other intimidation tactics
  • expanding grounds for recourse when consumers suffer losses
  • enabling the government to act in the public interest and proactively release information about pursuing individuals or businesses that do not follow consumer protection laws

If the bill passes:

  • Unilateral amendments to contracts would be subject to strict limitations.
    • Businesses would be required to notify consumers and get consent for any changes to contracts.
    • Consumers would be fully informed and less likely to be taken advantage of.
  • Mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts would not be allowed.
    • Businesses would no longer be able to dictate an arbitration process or prevent consumers from using courts for dispute resolution.
    • Consumers would have a choice in the dispute resolution avenue.
  • Preventing consumers from posting negative reviews would not be allowed.
    • Contracts could not contain clauses that prevent consumers from posting negative business reviews.
    • Businesses would not be able to prevent consumers from posting online reviews or intimidate consumers into withdrawing negative reviews or complaints.
    • Consumers who file complaints in good faith or post honest reviews would have a new right of defense against lawsuits intended to force consumers to withdraw negative reviews.
  • Consumers have greater right to sue in case of loss.
    • Consumers would be able to sue individuals or businesses that have violated consumer protection laws through detrimental behaviour beyond unfair practices.
  • Enforcement actions would be released publicly.
    • Information about charges, convictions and other enforcement actions taken under the act would be released publicly to help consumers from unknowingly entering into contracts with potentially unscrupulous individuals.

Ticket sales

New rules for online ticket sales would give Albertans a fair shot at seeing their favourite performers.

  • The use of software (bots) to purchase tickets would be prohibited:
    • primary sellers would be required to carry out due diligence to identify any ticket purchased by bots and to cancel such tickets
    • ticket sellers and buyers would have a private right of action to sue if bots are used
  • Secondary sellers and ticketing platforms would be required to provide a guaranteed full refund if the:
    • event or ticket is cancelled before the purchased ticket is used
    • ticket does not grant the purchaser admission to the event (e.g., the secondary seller accidentally sold the same ticket twice, invalidating one of them)
    • ticket does not match the advertised description
    • ticket is counterfeit

High-cost credit products

Additional protections for borrowers of high-cost credit products would help consumers make informed decisions when borrowing money:

  • high-cost credit would be defined as 32% and above
  • disclosure and advertising requirements would be established
  • use of standard contract formats or contract terms would be required
  • licensing requirements for high-interest lenders would be established

Veterinary services

New protections for pet owners would help Albertans find the best veterinary services:

  • all fees would be required to be disclosed before services or treatments are provided to household pets, except those fees exempted in regulation
  • customer approval would be required before administering veterinary services, unless exempted in regulation such as in the case of an emergency
  • fees would be allowed to be advertised

Changes to the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC)

AMVIC oversight would be strengthened to better protect the interests of consumers and ensure integrity in the automotive industry:

  • AMVIC would become a public agency subject to the Public Agencies Governance Act
  • the minister responsible would be enabled to:
    • set the composition of the AMVIC board
    • regulate the appointments of specific roles such as board chair
    • establish rules for how the board makes decisions

Car sales and repairs

New protections would help consumers have a straightforward experience when buying a car and paying for repairs:

  • automotive businesses would be required to disclose key vehicle information such as vehicle history
  • a standard bill of sale would be required for automotive sales
  • minimum warranty protections would be established for specific types of transactions such as repairs
  • repair shops would be required to provide written estimates to consumers, upon request, prior to beginning work
  • time stamped work authorizations for repairs would be required

Timeline

If passed, the majority of changes to Alberta's consumer protection laws would come into effect upon proclamation.

New protections in the areas of ticket sales, high-cost credit, veterinary service, car sales and repairs, and changes to AMVIC would come into effect as related regulations are developed throughout 2018.

News

Contact

Consumer Protection Line
1-877-427-4088 (toll-free)