In the event of litigation, various options are available to resolve your problem. Depending on the situation, you could even claim compensatory damages and punitive damages, i.e., a sum of money to compensate for the inconvenience you suffered.

It is to your advantage to clearly determine what you wish to obtain from the very first steps to reach an amicable agreement with a merchant.

Claims in connection with the contract

If the merchant or the manufacturer failed to meet one or more of its obligations, you could claim the following, as the case may be:

  • performance of the obligation (e.g., demand that the merchant deliver the item as described in the contract);
  • authorization to have the obligation performed at the merchant’s or manufacturer’s expense (e.g., demand that the item be repaired at the merchant’s expense);
  • a reduction of your obligation (demand a reduction of the price paid);
  • termination of the contract (ending the contract and any future obligations);
  • rescission of the contract (ending the contract with a retroactive effect); or
  • invalidity of the contract (the contract was never valid).

Thus, the potential solution for an item that breaks 4 years after purchase or for insulation work that was poorly executed will certainly not be the same. Similarly, if you have a warranty, you should generally agree to have the item repaired, rather than claim a reimbursement.

In short, it all comes down to common sense: think about a solution that is satisfactory, reasonable and fair for both parties.

Claims for damages

Claims for damages, also known as claims for compensatory damages, represent a sum of money to compensate for the harm and injury you believe you have suffered as a result of a merchant’s failure to meet its obligations.

Damages can take many forms, as you can see below. They must be demonstrated and supported by concrete evidence, such as supporting documents (invoices, photos, email exchanges, etc.).

Whatever the case may be, you must remain reasonable in your claim by minimizing your damages, but especially by justifying them. Your claim must not be perceived as an unjustified attempt to enrich yourself.

Expenses incurred represent the various amounts you have had to pay as a result of what you believe is a merchant’s failure to meet its obligations. Such expenses were unavoidable, and stemmed directly from the problem you were experiencing as a result of such failure on the part of the merchant.

For example, this could mean fees paid to have a defective item repaired or inspected, to have an unusable car towed and renting a car to replace it, for the purchase of public transit tickets or taxi fare, etc.

A claim could also be made for various related expenses, such as having to repurchase food to replace the contents of a refrigerator that broke down, cleaning up a room after it was flooded by a defective washing machine, etc.

In addition, if you decide to take your case to court, you could even claim the court filing fees.

It is important that you keep all your invoices to justify this type of damage.

An example of this could be damage caused to an object that is not covered by the contract (e.g., a snow removal contractor damages the corner of your house with his tractor).

This could also refer to damage caused to the item being serviced (e.g., a drycleaner that burns your shirt while ironing it).

Photos and invoices, among other things, could support this type of damage.

Lost wages can be justified in certain cases, as long as you can show that your absence from work is directly related to the damages you suffered and that it was unavoidable given the circumstances.

For example: you needed to take time off work to have a claims adjuster come over to look at the water damage that was caused by the breakdown of your dishwasher, and your employer did not pay you because of this absence. An absence authorization or a pay slip will be useful in justifying this type of damage.

Le stress subi, la perte de jouissance et la perte de temps peuvent être plus difficiles à démontrer. En effet, il ne suffit pas de réclamer un montant quelconque; il faut être capable de démontrer en quoi cela vous a réellement causé un préjudice.

Par exemple, si le bris de votre équipement de ski vous a empêché, pendant la moitié de la saison hivernale, de profiter du laissez-passer annuel que vous aviez déjà acheté pour aller à la montagne, vous pourriez réclamer au commerçant ou au fabricant du bien une somme pour compenser la perte de jouissance.

Punitive damages

If your case goes to court, you could also claim punitive damages. Also known as exemplary damages, they aim to discourage misconduct by the merchant with regard to its obligations and prevent any such events from reoccurring.

Unlike compensatory damages, which can generally be justified with supporting documents or a concrete demonstration, punitive damages are more difficult to calculate in the eyes of consumers. The amounts are awarded at the judge’s discretion: they depend on the evidence brought before the court based on several factors. Moreover, punitive damages can be claimed even in the absence of a claim for compensatory damages.

Punitive damages are often awarded as a result of a serious breach on the part of a merchant, for example, when the merchant has been shown to act in bad faith with the consumer. Negligence, carelessness and a lack of cooperation on the part of the merchant are other arguments that can weigh in the balance.

Be better prepared by consulting examples of judgments

Thanks to a partnership with the Société québécoise d’information juridique (SOQUIJ), the Office provides free access to 2 tools that present examples of judgments, in particular from the small claims court.

These tools can be used to help you assert your rights, and you will be better prepared to defend your point of view. By consulting various decisions rendered in cases of litigation between consumers and merchants, you can more easily determine what you consider to be a reasonable solution to your problem.

Examples of judgments regarding legal warranties »

This tool can help you determine what is the reasonable lifetime of a product or estimate the amount of compensatory damages to which you may be entitled.

Examples of judgments that include punitive damages »

This tool brings together various summaries of judgments in which punitive damages have been awarded. Compensatory damages may also have been awarded in the judgment examples found in this tool.

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Last update : December 1, 2023

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The information contained on this page is presented in simple terms to make it easier to understand. It does not replace the texts of the laws and regulations.