Consumer protection consultation

Albertans provided feedback on ways to improve Alberta's consumer protection laws through extensive engagement in summer and fall of 2017.

Consultation status: Concluded Nov 2017
Ministry responsible: Service Alberta

Overview

Consumer protection laws, under the Fair Trading Act, help protect consumers from unfair practices and businesses from unfair competition.

The purpose of the consultation was to understand the changes needed to keep consumer protection laws in line with marketplace trends and to fix some problem areas we often hear complaints about.

The goal was to ensure consumer laws and regulations are effective and enforceable so consumers and businesses have confidence in Alberta's marketplace.

Public and stakeholder engagement

Extensive public and stakeholder engagement was held from July to November 2017 to gather Albertans’ input on consumer rights and responsibilities and to identify the level of interest for changing Alberta’s consumer protection laws.

Objectives that guided the engagement process were to:

  • further our understanding of marketplace issues and proposed legislative amendments, including a bill of rights
  • inform our priorities to modernize existing consumer protection legislative and regulatory frameworks
  • establish baseline data for awareness of consumer rights, responsibilities and consumer protections

The engagement included:

  • an online survey, which generated 2,954 responses
  • 6 open houses in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Grande Prairie, Medicine Hat and Fort McMurray
  • 40 meetings with business and consumer groups
  • 2 roundtables with the Edmonton and Calgary Chambers of Commerce

What we heard

The issues most responded to in the public survey, and supported by comments and interest through the open house sessions, were:

Consumer Bill of Rights

More than 85% of the survey respondents and many open house attendees favoured a Consumer Bill of Rights that emphasizes:

  • an improved understanding of consumer rights
  • businesses awareness of consumer rights
  • assurance that consumer rights are protected
  • confidence that the government can enforce consumer rights

The business community raised the importance of a balance between the rights of consumer and the rights of businesses, with particular emphasis on honest businesses not having “to compete with bad actors.”

Automotive sales and repairs

More than 80% of survey respondents and many open house attendees agreed with the proposed regulatory solutions for a standard bill of sale and mandatory vehicle history disclosure.

Nearly 70% of survey participants favoured the proposed measures of including written estimates, upon request, for automotive service and repairs.

Just over half of survey participants supported the proposed measure to introduce requirements for time stamped work authorizations.

Automotive industry representatives cautioned about the administrative burden of additional regulations, but also expressed support for strengthening rules so businesses would not face unfair competition.

Ticket sales and reselling

More than 80% of survey respondents and many open house attendees supported the proposed regulatory solutions to improve protections for ticket buyers, including:

  • prohibiting the purchase of tickets through automated software such as bots
  • capping the ‘above face value’ amount for ticket re-sales

Just over 65% of survey participants supported the proposal to limit the sale of tickets for concerts and events in Alberta to residents of the province for the first 48 hours of sale.

The business community expressed strong support for measures to improve protections for ticket buyers, particularly prohibiting the purchase of tickets through bots.

Fairness between consumers and business

More than 75% of survey respondents and numerous open house attendees agreed with the proposed regulatory solutions for:

  • preventing businesses from changing a contract unless consumers are provided advance notice
  • allowing consumers the right to sue if a seller is operating unfairly or against consumer protection legislation
  • protecting consumers who file honest complaints or from being sued by businesses when publishing negative review
  • informing consumers if a business has been charged or convicted under consumer protection legislation
  • improving access to mediation programs

There was less support (64%) for prohibiting suppliers from forcing consumers into mandatory arbitration.

Industry representatives expressed support for ensuring that fairness between businesses and consumers is maintained for both parties. They also emphasized the importance of looking into a best practice or a process of controlling intentionally defamatory or false business reviews published online.

The business community also supported the creation of an alternative mediation program and improving access for consumers, instead of using the courts.

Veterinary services billing

More than 85% of those who responded to this topic strongly agreed that full disclosure of fees should occur before administering veterinary services or treatment, such as routine physical examination, vaccination, spaying/neutering, microchipping and euthanasia.

While some veterinary businesses supported increased fee disclosures, others raised questions respecting where there is a need for new regulation.

High-cost credit

More than 70% of survey respondents and many open house attendees agreed with the proposed regulatory solutions to enhance protections for other forms of credit including:

  • installment loans
  • vehicle title loans
  • high interest auto loans
  • rent to own contracts

Feedback also showed very strong support for posting borrowing costs at lending locations and simple, standardized loan terms and conditions.

Limiting the amount a person can borrow received weaker support.

Credit industry organizations cautioned about adding additional regulatory burdens to a sector, which saw significant government intercession through payday loan legislation in 2016. They suggested avoiding over-regulation and giving more time to allow the marketplace to adjust to what is now seen to be recent beneficial changes.

Outcomes

Feedback from this engagement was used to inform proposed legislative changes to improve fairness in Alberta’s marketplace for both consumers and businesses.

Bill 31: A Better Deal for Consumers and Businesses Act was introduced Nov 29, 2017.

If passed, the bill would amend the Fair Trading Act to improve Alberta’s consumer protection laws.

Contact

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

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