What happens if you make a distance purchase, i.e., online, by mail order or by telephone, and the merchant informs you after the fact that the purchase is cancelled? The merchant is still required to deliver the purchased item to you, and you are required to pay the merchant the initially agreed upon price.

Invalid reasons to cancel a purchase

A merchant cannot refuse to follow through on the contract entered into with you for any of the following reasons:

  • the purchased item is no longer available;
  • the price you had agreed to pay is not the one the merchant wanted to advertise;
  • the merchant does not agree to let you purchase the item, even after making you a proper offer that includes all of the required information.

Some merchants use a clause in the contract to cancel a transaction. This clause provides for the possibility of the merchant cancelling the purchase, for example, if there was a pricing error. Such a clause does not authorize the merchant to refuse to deliver the item to you or charge you a higher than advertised price.

Recourse options

The law provides for recourse options when merchants fail to abide by the agreement they entered into with you. But first, try to come to an agreement. The page titled Negotiating with a merchant explains the procedure to follow.

If the negotiation fails, you can send the merchant a formal notice. The page titled Sending a formal notice provides details on this topic. For example, you could put the merchant on notice to deliver the item to you at the price you had initially agreed to pay.

If the merchant does not respond to the request you made in the formal notice, you can resort to the courts. The page on small claims court provides more details. You could also petition the court for financial compensation, for example, to be awarded an amount equivalent to the difference between the price advertised by the merchant and the price you had to pay.

The page titled Steps to reach an amicable agreement with a merchant provides all the details.


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Last update : October 25, 2022

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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.