The Consumer Protection Act protects consumers from unfair business practices before, during or after a consumer transaction.
Service Alberta can investigate an alleged unfair practice if:
- the consumer or supplier lives in Alberta
- the offer or acceptance is made in or sent from Alberta
- the unfair practice is made or received in Alberta
- the unfair practice involves an Alberta supplier or their representative
An unfair practice may occur even if you do not start or finish a consumer transaction.
You cannot waive your rights under the Consumer Protection Act. If a consumer contract is vague, the terms of the contract are interpreted in favour of the consumer.
Preventing and resolving problems
You can prevent unfair practices from occurring if you:
- make sure you understand what is being offered in any advertising and what a salesperson tells you about a product or service
- get answers to your questions before you buy
- never sign a contract unless you have read it to make sure it includes all the terms and conditions to which you agreed
- never sign a blank contract that a salesperson says will be filled in later
- make sure all verbal claims that a salesperson makes about the goods or services are listed in the contract
- write into the sales agreement any statement the supplier says that encourages you to buy the product (for example, the car has never been in an accident)
- always keep your bills of sale, contracts, warranties, instructions and cancelled cheques
The first step to resolving a problem is to talk to the business or supplier.
If that is not successful, you may be able to file a complaint with the Consumer Investigations Unit.
As an alternative, if you are otherwise unsuccessful in resolving the problem and have suffered a loss because of an unfair practice, you can start an action against the supplier in the Court of Queen’s Bench.
If the claim is less than $50,000, it can be heard before the Provincial Court of Alberta, Civil Division. This level of court can only award damages for losses suffered.
Examples of unfair trade practices
- Intensively pressuring or influencing a consumer to buy.
- Example: A salesperson spends 4 hours in a consumer’s home trying to sell a vacuum cleaner.
- Taking advantage of a consumer who does not understand a transaction
- Example: A seller convinces a consumer who cannot speak or read English to sign a multi-page contract.
- Representing that goods or services are of a particular quality, style or model if that representation is untrue.
- Example: A furniture dealer says a coffee table is solid wood when it’s actually particleboard.
- Making false or misleading statements about the condition of used goods.
- Example: The seller tells a consumer that a car has 100,000 kilometers on it and the true mileage is 200,000 kilometers.
- Representing goods as new when they are used, deteriorated, altered or reconditioned.
- Example: A computer is sold as new, but the seller has reconditioned it.
- Stating that a specific price benefit exists if it does not.
- Example: A business advertises that an item is on sale or the price is ‘20% off’ if the item has never been sold at the regular price.
- Representing the price of goods or services in a manner that leads consumers to reasonably believe the price refers to a larger package of goods or services.
- Example: A company advertises it will build a complete fence for a home for $2,000 when the fence project is for the rear of the house only. Adding 2 more sides would cost $1,500 more.
- Misrepresenting the reason why or how goods or services are available.
- Example: The seller says the goods were bought at an estate auction to convince potential buyers they are looking at great deals when they were actually purchased as regular inventory.
- Stating that a part, replacement, repair or adjustment is needed or desirable when it is not.
- Example: A shop replaces a dryer motor when only the belt needed replacing.
- Implying that the supplier is asking for information, conducting a survey or soliciting when that is not true.
- Example: A door-to-door salesperson asks a consumer to fill out a home care survey when the salesperson actually wants to sell a vacuum cleaner.
- Charging a price that grossly exceeds the price of similar goods that are readily available without informing the consumer of the difference and the reason for the difference.
- Example: A contractor charges a homeowner $7,500 for roof repairs that would have been be done by competitors for $2,500.
- Charging a price for goods or services that is more than 10%, to a maximum of $100, higher than the estimate given unless the consumer has specifically agreed to the increase.
- Example: A repair shop says it will cost $150 to fix an item, but the final bill is $400.
- Making an untrue statement about a good’s prior history or use.
- Example: The seller tells the consumer a car was only driven by the owner of a dealership, when it was a lease-back from a rental company.
- Making claims about a product’s performance, capability or length of life without proper testing to prove it.
- Example: a business states that a device installed in your vehicle will reduce gas consumption, without basing their claim on proper independent testing.
- Giving an estimated price for goods or services if they cannot be provided for that price.
- Example: A renovation company tells a homeowner that it can replace the garage door for $500 when it knows the price for parts alone is $700.
- Claiming that a particular number of goods are available if they are not.
- Example: A store advertises it has 35 stereos for sale when in fact it has one stereo in stock.
- Claiming that a voucher from one supplier can be used at a different business for goods or services when the first supplier knows (or ought to know) the voucher won’t be accepted.
- Example: A company sells a coupon book knowing that some of the businesses will not honour the coupons.
- Telling a customer that goods or services will be available at a stated time if the supplier knows (or ought to know) they will not.
- Example: A hot tub company promises a tub will be installed on Christmas Eve when it knows the installation staff will not be available.
- Telling a consumer they will be rewarded for finding other customers even though they won’t get any reward.
- Example: A marketer agrees to give you a reduced price on your next order when you refer a friend to the company, but it never gives you a reduction.
- Consumer transaction
- Any sale, lease or other transfer of goods or services for payment. This includes a contest prize and goods or services given to someone else.
- An individual who:
- is given or pays for goods or services
- does not intend to sell goods after receiving them
- Goods generally refer to:
- material items used primarily for personal, family or household purposes
- a new residential dwelling, whether or not it's attached to land
- a voucher that promises goods or services in the future
- Include, but are not limited to, any of the following when they are used primarily for personal, family or household purposes:
- maintenance, improvement or repairs to goods or private homes
- membership in a club or organization if the club or organization is in business to make a profit for its owners
- the right to use property under a time-share contract
- Payday loan
- A loan of $1,500 or less for a term of 62 days or less.
- Credit agreement
- An agreement under which credit is extended, including:
- a loan of money
- the extension of credit
- a sale on credit
- an agreement under which a loan or credit sale may occur in the future
- A person who:
- provides goods or services to consumers
- manufactures, assembles, or produces goods,
- promotes the use of goods or services, or
- receives or is entitled to receive money or other consideration as a result of the provision of goods or services to consumers
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)
Southern Alberta (Red Deer and south)