Overview

The Consumer Investigations Unit (CIU) investigates complaints from Albertans about consumer transactions where a business has breached Alberta’s consumer protection or tenancy laws.

Most business to business transactions are not subject to consumer protection legislation.

Protecting your rights

Consumer Investigations Unit (CIU) accepts and reviews consumer complaints, and investigates potential violations of consumer protection and tenancy laws.

Every complaint is unique. When the CIU receives your complaint, you can expect a thorough assessment of the issue to determine if a violation of any consumer protection or tenancy laws has occurred. If so, an investigation may be warranted.

If the matter is not a violation of consumer protection laws, the CIU will advise you of the best course of action to address the issue. You also have the option to Report a Rip-Off as an anonymous tip. This is an alternative to a formal complaint. Call 1-877-427-4088 and follow the prompts to Report a Rip-Off.

Tenancy complaints

For tenancy complaints, the CIU can investigate offences under the law, and can take enforcement action if a violation is proven. The CIU does not have the power to mediate disputes over money owed or deductions to security deposits.

If you are trying to get money from your landlord or tenant, and if your claim is up to $50,000, you might be able to file your claim through the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service.

Areas covered by the CIU

The CIU can investigate complaints and transactions related to:

  • auctions
  • cemeteries
  • charitable fundraising
  • collection agencies
  • condominium developments
  • credit reports
  • door-to-door sales
  • employment agencies
  • energy marketing
  • gift cards
  • home inspections
  • landlords and tenants (mobile home sites and residential tenancies)
  • payday loans
  • prepaid contracting
  • time shares & travel clubs
  • unfair trade practices

Considerations for complaints

Every complaint is reviewed to see if an offence has occurred and if an investigation is needed. We consider several factors when reviewing a complaint, including but not limited to:

  • whether the issue falls under legislation we can handle
  • available evidence to support the complaint
  • if a business has prior complaint history
  • the number of people affected
  • the vulnerability of the consumers

Before you submit a complaint

Before submitting a complaint, it is recommended you try to resolve the problem first.

Consumer issues span a vast variety of unique problems. Some can be solved almost instantly, and some involve extensive investigations. Regardless of the circumstances, you have the right to protect your interests and take action if you have been treated unfairly.

When you are faced with a problem, here are the steps you can take:

  1. Go back to the business
    • Discuss the issue with the business that provided the goods or services. Be specific about your request, and make sure to get clear explanations as to how your request will be handled. It is best to start this process privately, and give business an opportunity to address the problem.
  2. Contact your local Better Business Bureau
    • If a business you are dealing with has Better Business Bureau accreditation, you can file a complaint with Better Business Bureau. This organization may then mediate to get an action from the business to address your problem.
  3. Contact a professional or industry association
    • If a business is part of a regulated profession (such as veterinarians, real estate agents, electrical contractors, and so on), business or industry association, contact the relevant organization and ask about options to resolve the matter.
  4. File a complaint with Consumer Investigations Unit
    • If the business has committed an unfair practice or unlawful activity as defined in the Consumer Protection Act and there is no remedy from dealing with the business, you can submit an official consumer complaint. All complaints are assessed on a case by case basis to determine an appropriate course of action to address the issue. Anonymous complaints are accepted through the Report a Rip-Off tip line, but anonymous complaints cannot proceed to enforcement action.
  5. Pursue a civil action
    • If you have a claim that is under $50,000, you can file a civil action at the provincial court.

How to submit a complaint online

You can submit a complaint through the online complaint form.

How to submit a complaint through mail

You can submit a complaint by mail to the Consumer Investigations Unit for review.

Before you submit a complaint

Call us to speak with an Information Officer. They can help you determine:

  • if your issue should go to another program area, which they can refer you to
  • if you should file a formal complaint or fill out a complaint form

Phone: 780-427-4088 (Edmonton and area)

Toll free: 1-877-427-4088

Step 1. Fill out a complaint form

You can fill out a complaint form online or can print one out.

Trouble opening PDF forms?

Fillable forms do not open on some mobile devices and web browsers. To fill in and save this form:

  1. Click on the PDF link to save it on your computer.
  2. Launch Adobe Reader.
  3. Open the PDF from within Adobe Reader. You can now fill and save your form.

Consumer complaint form (PDF, 104 KB)

Details

Include all of the details of the incident, including:

  • dates and times
  • addresses
  • names of people involved
  • witnesses
  • contact information for you and the business

Release of your information

Your name and the issues you raise will be shared if an investigation is opened or if information is sent to the business. This is so the business knows who is making the complaint and can respond.

If there is information you don’t want shared, please state this in the complaint form.

Step 2. Gather your documents

You will also need to provide copies of all the documents you have related to the incident, including:

  • contracts or rental agreements
  • receipts
  • cancellation or dispute letters
  • e-mails and letters
  • statements of account
  • audio or video recordings

Step 3. Submit the complaint form

You can email, mail, fax or drop your complaint form along with your documents to the Consumer Investigations Unit office. You can also drop it off in person.

Northern Alberta (north of Ponoka)

Email (north of Ponoka): ciu.north@gov.ab.ca

Fax: 780-422-9106

Mail or drop off:

Service Alberta
Consumer Investigations Unit
3rd Floor, Commerce Place
10155 102 Street
Edmonton, Alberta  T5J 4L4

Southern Alberta (south of Ponoka)

Email (Ponoka and south): ciu.south@gov.ab.ca

Fax: 403-297-4270

Mail or drop off:

Service Alberta
Consumer Investigations Unit
301, 7015 MacLeod Trail S
Calgary, Alberta  T2H 2K6

After you submit your complaint

Due to high volumes of complaints, the Consumer Investigation Unit does not process incomplete submissions or matters that fall outside of Service Alberta’s consumer protection mandate. In those instances you will not receive confirmation of your submission.

If, upon review, your complaint is validated and merits further assessment or potential investigation, you will receive a notice within 30 days of receipt of your complaint.

Role of the CIU

When a complaint is received, the first step is a thorough review to ensure it is within the CIU’s legal jurisdiction and all of the necessary documentation is included. Upon review, the CIU will inform you of a recommended action or may refer you to another agency with appropriate jurisdiction to address your matter. If a complaint is opened by the CIU for investigation, it is assigned to an Investigator.

The Investigator:

  • reviews the issue to determine the scope of a potential consumer protection offence or unfair practice
  • establishes an investigation plan which is necessary to coordinate evidence to a court standard
  • establishes appropriate channels of communication with all parties related to the complaint and maintains open communication throughout the investigation process
  • gathers evidence
    • the Investigator will likely ask you numerous questions and request an interview to understand the issue and ask you to present any relevant documents for the purposes of the investigation; this may include receipts, contracts, correspondences and other proofs of purchase
    • the Investigator will also speak with the business to provide an opportunity for the business to respond to your allegations
  • recommends an enforcement action or information resolution / disposition as necessary based on the facts and findings of the case.
    • while the Investigator may recommend a specific enforcement action, based on sustained allegations, the final decision regarding any administrative sanctions or the prosecution of the case rests with the Director of Fair Trading or the Crown.

The CIU is not responsible for nor it has jurisdiction over:

  • recovering financial losses
  • enforcing court orders
  • mediating between consumers and businesses outside of the investigative process
  • renegotiating contracts
  • assisting with civil court process
  • investigations normally conducted by police

Contact

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)

Toll free: 1-877-427-4088

Northern Alberta (north of Red Deer)

Email: ciu.north@gov.ab

Southern Alberta (Red Deer and south)

Email: ciu.south@gov.ab