Are you shopping online? The following tips may be of interest to you before you purchase a good or service online.

Consult also our consumer tips before buying by phone or by mail.

Some merchants use misleading practices to advertise their products online.

Before making a purchase, keep in mind that offers that seem too good to be true often are. Be wary of merchants who send you e-mail offers that you did not request. Often, these are not good deals, and may in fact be fraudulent.

Prohibited commercial practices

Certain commercial practices are illegal. For example, it is prohibited for merchants:

  • to provide you with false or misleading information;
  • to demand payment for goods or services you did not request;
  • to charge more than the advertised price. See Advertised price different from paid price for more information on prohibited practices related to pricing.  

When shopping online, make sure to do business with trustworthy merchants.

Complete contact information

Check if the merchant’s Web site provides the complete contact information including customer service information: company name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, etc. You will be able to assert your rights more easily in case of a problem. You may even attempt to contact the merchant by phone or e-mail before making a purchase.

Getting information about a merchant

If you do not know a merchant, do some research and ask the opinions of people who have already done business with them. You can also consult an official registry, for example the Registraire des entreprises du Québec.

You can also get information about a merchant by using our tool Get information about a merchant. By entering the name of a company, you will find out:

  • if the Office has intervened with it;
  • if it has received formal notices from other consumers.

When making a purchase online, provide information that is relevant to the transaction. If you have any doubts about a request for information, you can contact the merchant to find out how they plan to use this information.

Merchants often post their privacy policy on their website. Be sure to read it.

Secure websites

Make sure to do business on a secure website. A website is likely to be secure if:

  • the website address begins with https://;
  • an icon, often a small locked padlock, appears beside the address bar or at the bottom of the page.

When you make an online purchase, merchants are required to provide certain information before you complete the transaction, including:

  • the name, address, telephone number and, if applicable, the fax number and e-mail address of the company;
  • a detailed description of the goods or services being sold to you;
  • the price of the goods, related fees and applicable taxes;
  • the total cost of your purchase;
  • a description of all additional fees that may be charged by another merchant for which the cost cannot reasonably be calculated. These may include, for example, customs and brokerage fees;
  • the payment terms;
  • the currency used to pay for the purchase if not in Canadian dollars (Euros, US dollars, etc.);
  • the delivery time or date, and, if applicable, the delivery method, the name of the carrier and the place of delivery;
  • the cancellation, return, exchange and refund policy, if applicable.

Merchants who resell tickets for a show or an event at a price that is higher than the one advertised by the official ticket office are also required to provide you with the following information:

  • the name of the official ticket office;
  • information to the effect that tickets may be sold at the ticket office;
  • the price of the tickets sold at the ticket office;
  • the fact that the tickets in question are being resold;
  • the maximum price agreed to by the producer of the show or event, if applicable;
  • the place or seat the ticket entitles its holder to occupy, if applicable.

In all cases where tickets are resold, merchants are also required to inform you that you will be refunded if you find yourself in any of the following situations:

  • the ticket grants admission to a show or an event that is cancelled;
  • the ticket does not grant you admission to the show or event;
  • the show or event to which the ticket grants admission, the place or seat it allows you to occupy, or the value of the ticket does not correspond to what was said, written, advertised or claimed during the resale.

This information must be presented in a manner that is clear and easy to understand, and be expressly brought to your attention. You must be able to easily save and print this information.

Option to accept, modify or refuse an offer

Before completing the purchase, merchants must provide the option to accept, modify or refuse their offer. Read the summary of your order carefully before confirming your purchase. Merchants do not always allow exchanges or refunds of products purchased by mistake.

Written contract

The merchant must provide you with a copy of the contract within 15 days of the purchase. You must be able save and print it easily. The page titled Contents of the contract outlines the information that must be included.

Your rights if there is a problem

If a merchant does not abide by these rules, you can cancel your purchase and return the product at the merchant’s expense. The page titled Cancelling an online purchase indicates the terms and time limits.

Exceptions: purchases not covered by these rules

Merchants are not subject to these requirements for certain types of online purchases:

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When you make a purchase online, the merchant can request payment before delivering the product or providing the service only in the following case: if you pay by credit card.

This payment method offers you protection: you may file a chargeback request with the issuer of the credit card you used to make your purchase, as long as certain conditions are met.

Exceptions: advance payment permitted

The restrictions regarding payment in advance do not apply to certain types of online purchases:

  • subscriptions to newspapers, magazines and journals;
  • prearranged funeral services and pre-purchased sepultures;
  • goods that may perish quickly, for example, food products;
  • purchases made from a travel agent which meet the trust account requirements. Funds deposited in such accounts can be used to compensate you in case of a problem;
  • goods purchased by auction, as defined by article 1757 and subsequent sections of the Civil Code of Québec;
  • lottery tickets (from Loto-Québec, for example).

Before making an online purchase, inquire about the merchant’s exchange and refund policies. The law does not require merchants to refund, exchange or credit an item that you no longer want.

Merchants are free to decide on the terms of their exchange and refund policy. However, once they do adopt one, they are required to comply with its rules.

Cancelling a purchase if a merchant does not honour their obligations

Merchants do not honour their obligations if, for example:

  • you realize, upon delivery, that they have not provided mandatory information before you made your purchase;
  • you do not receive the item you purchased within the delays provided by the law.

In such cases, you may be able to cancel your purchase. For more information about the different situations and cancellation time limits, see Cancelling a purchase made online.

Defective product

Merchants have obligations if the product you bought is defective. They must repair, exchange or refund the defective item. For more information on warranties that are automatically provided by law, see Warranties provided by law.

If the merchant or manufacturer offers a warranty, you should also read the pages Merchant or manufacturer warranty and Additional warranties.

Before buying an additional warranty (sometimes called “extended warranty”), be aware that any good purchased from a merchant is covered by warranties provided by law.

Legal warranties entitle you to expect that the item you are buying:

  • will serve the purpose for which it was bought;
  • will have a reasonable lifetime, given the price paid, the contract, and the conditions of use;
  • will not contain hidden defects – that is, important defects that were present before the sale, that were not mentioned to you and that you could not have noticed, even if you were observant;
  • will conform to the description written in the contract and the advertising, and to the merchant’s statements.

Additional warranty offered online

Before offering an additional warranty online, a merchant must:

  • inform you of existing legal warranties and tell you what they cover. To do so, they must provide a written notice, which should only include mandatory information, such as the fact that the item must serve for normal use for a reasonable period of time. The notice should be legible and you must easily be able to print and retain it;
  • inform you of the existence and duration of the warranty offered for free by the manufacturer, if applicable. Upon your request, the merchant must also tell you how you can access all of the warranty’s conditions. This information must be expressly brought to your attention and be legible.

Last update : March 7, 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.