The Consumer Handbook is intended to help you become a better-informed and more confident consumer. It offers information on a wide range of topics such as online shopping, contracts, housing and home renovations, identity theft, collection agencies, and much more, to help you build your buying skills.
Knowing what’s on offer in today’s marketplace and whether it suits your needs –in other words being a well informed consumer - is key to protecting yourself. Critically examine product and service offerings before purchasing to make sure there are no unexpected or negative implications. Always remember – if it seems too good to be true, it usually is.
Along with consumer tips, the Handbook includes a directory of government and non-government contacts useful to consumers.
The Handbook was created and is updated by the Consumer Measures Committee. This Committee is a joint federal/provincial/territorial committee which provides a forum for national cooperation to improve the marketplace for Canadian consumers, through the harmonization of laws, regulations and practices and through actions to raise public awareness.
The Office of Consumer Affairs at Industry Canada, as Secretariat for the Consumer Measures Committee, is responsible for maintaining the Canadian Consumer Handbook.
Be cautious about advertisements promising guaranteed jobs, guaranteed loans, credit repair, debt consolidation or similar claims. In many cases, you will be asked to send money in advance to a company but will receive little or nothing in return.
There have been a number of cases where consumers have being contacted via email and through the mail by bogus retailers attempting to fraudulently obtain credit card information and other personal data. More information on common scams can be found on the Fraud Prevention section of Competition Bureau’s website.
Consumers should be aware of the following:
Be cautious when responding to advertisements, particularly those that use 1-900 telephone numbers. You can be charged large amounts for calls to 1-900 numbers.
Be careful about giving out any of your personal information, including your social insurance number, credit card numbers and bank account numbers. Fraudulent businesses could use this information to make unauthorized charges to your credit card or to withdraw money from your bank account. In the case of your social insurance number, while there are no laws preventing businesses from asking for it, you are only required to give it out for a very few specific reasons, such as for tax purposes. Go to the website of the Federal Privacy Commissioner for more information.
Before you make any payment, ask the business to send you a contract and other information stating the terms of the service and whether you may cancel the service and get a refund.
Ask how long the firm has been in business and, if required, whether it is licensed in your municipality, province or territory. Review all contracts carefully. If you are unsure about a contract, take it to a lawyer or trusted advisor for his or her opinion before you sign.
Contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office or the Better Business Bureau to find out about legislation governing business practices where you live.
When you suspect that advertising is fraudulent, contact the local police, your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office or the Competition Bureau.
You can also learn about consumer scams and find advice on how to deal with them on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police website. Contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office or the Better Business Bureau to find out about legislation governing business practices where you live.
Contacts For Advance Fee Scams
Competition Bureau Canada
50 Victoria Street Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0C9 Telephone: 819-997-4282 Toll Free: 1-800-348-5358 Phone (TTY): 1-800-642-3844 Fax: 819-997-0324 Website: www.competitionbureau.gc.ca
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)
RCMP Public Affairs and Communications Services
Headquarters Building 1200 Vanier Parkway
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0R2 Telephone: 613-993-7267 Fax: 613-993-0260 Website: www.rcmp.gc.ca Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Mail Room, 8 South Maritime Centre 1505 Barrington Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 3K5 Telephone: 902-424-5200 Toll Free: 1-800-670-4357 Fax: 902-424-0720 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/access/individuals/consumer-awareness.asp Nunavut Consumer Affairs, Department of Community and Government Services