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In Québec, the Consumer Protection Act governs transactions carried out between consumers and merchants, among other things. For example, car dealerships, furniture stores, financial institutions and telephone service providers have different obligations toward consumers.
The Office de la protection du consommateur is a Québec government body. It ensures that merchants comply with this law. The Office helps consumers make informed choices to avoid any problems, and informs them of their rights and recourse options when the need arises.
When you do business with a merchant, various problems can occur: an item is defective, a delivery is delayed, unforeseen costs pop up, a merchant fails to abide by a contract, etc.
How can these problems be avoided? How can they be resolved when they occur? By getting all the information concerning your rights before making a purchase, accepting an offer or signing a contract.
You will find many tips covering a variety of topics below.
Before purchasing goods or services, or entering into a contract with a merchant, carefully assess your needs:
Are you planning to purchase a product? Generally speaking, all sales are final. However, merchants often have an exchange and reimbursement policy, even though the law does not require them to do so. Deadlines and conditions may vary depending on the store. Before making a purchase, it is therefore recommended to find out about the policy in effect.
Are you about to enter into a contract? The Office recommends that you not sign any documents or enter into any contracts as long as you have not made a firm decision. Take the time to think, even when faced with an enticing offer. Contrary to popular belief, you do not always have 10 days to cancel if you change your mind.
In all cases, keep in mind that advertisements that promote products or services that are free or sold at a special price are quite common. Always check the conditions that apply to take advantage of such offers. Also, keep in mind that offers that seem too good to be true… often are.
A credit card consists of pre-approved credit that a financial institution (such as a bank) makes available to you.
Before choosing a credit card, it is suggested that you:
When you use your credit card, you will receive a statement of account at the end of each period (usually one month). You can then pay off the amount shown in full or in part. In the latter case, a set minimum must still be paid. This is known as the “minimum payment,” “minimum instalment” or “minimal payment.”
If you only pay the minimum amount each month, you will reimburse very little of your debt and pay high credit fees. You can calculate this yourself on this page: Minimum Payment: Maximum Intere$t!
To find out more, refer to the section titled Credit Cards and Lines of Credit.
Before subscribing to a cellular phone service, determine your budget as well as your needs. Will you be making long calls? International calls? At what times during the day? Do you want to send and receive text messages? Will you be using the Internet? This will help you find the plan that is right for you.
Keep in mind that there are 2 types of contracts:
You could also choose services with prepaid cards. You cannot be charged any fees to activate them. However, the minutes to which you are entitled have an expiry date, which is usually between 30 and 90 days.
To find out more, refer to the section titled Cellular Phone Services.
Before visiting a used car dealer, you should first:
Then, once you have found a vehicle, remember to:
To find out more, refer to the section titled Before Buying a Used Vehicle From a Dealer.
You may be interested in taking language, drawing, dance or music lessons…
First of all, check the price of the course. The total amount of all of the fees to be paid to take the course must match the price advertised by the merchant, taxes not included. “Surprise fees” are prohibited.
Certain merchants who offer series of courses have other obligations. These merchants include:
Before registering for a course with one of these types of merchants, keep in mind that:
To find out more, refer to the section titled Courses.
If a merchant is asking you for a deposit to purchase a piece of furniture or an appliance, try to negotiate the smallest amount possible. It is safer, as the store could close or go out of business before your purchase is delivered.
In addition, to avoid having the delivery of your purchase being delayed, make sure your invoice indicates:
Before paying anything, find out about the merchant’s exchange and reimbursement policy. Will you be reimbursed if you change your mind? Or if the piece of furniture does not fit in your home? Merchants may choose to have such a policy, but they are not required to. Merchants that do are required to abide by the rules provided for in their policy.
All goods (furniture, appliances, cars, telephones, etc.) purchased from a merchant are covered by warranties provided for by law. In fact, before offering you to purchase an additional warranty (sometimes called an "extended warranty"), all merchants must inform you of the existence of other warranties. These include certain warranties provided for by law and, if applicable, the warranty offered free of charge by the manufacturer of the goods in question.
The warranties provided for by law allow you to require, among other things, that the goods you purchase:
If your item is defective, you can inform the merchant, the manufacturer or both. In a situation where the warranty provided for by law applies, the merchant or manufacturer must, depending on the circumstances, repair the item or have it repaired free of charge, exchange it or reimburse you.
Also find out about the merchant’s or manufacturer’s warranty. It may be free of charge. If a document exists that describes this warranty, ask the merchant to give you a copy. If not, have the details written down on your invoice, receipt or in your contract.
To find out more, refer to the section titled Warranties.
Before registering your child with a childcare provider (daycare centre), check whether the establishment to which you wish to entrust your child is recognized by the Ministère de la Famille.
Then, keep the following points in mind:
To find out more, refer to the section titled Childcare Services.
Online advertisements, junk email and classified ads in newspapers or on the Internet are full of offers for business opportunities. They often amount to the same thing: you are being offered to pay for the opportunity to sell a product or service. You could be offered a distribution contract, to purchase a franchise, an agreement to become a dealer, etc.
Beware of the offer if:
Certain government bodies can provide you with information on the business concerned. For example, you can consult the website of the Registraire des entreprises to find out how many years a company has been in business and the names of its directors.
To find out more, refer to the section titled Occasions d’affaires (in French only).
Are you being asked for money to work from home? You do not have to pay to work! This is often a tactic to sell you material or get money from you. Serious businesses provide you with everything you need free of charge.
Before answering a classified ad offering people an opportunity to work from home, study it carefully. If in doubt, seek advice from an informed person. You can also contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
Beware of any businesses that:
To find out more, refer to the page titled Offres de travail à domicile (in French only).
A price accuracy policy applies in establishments that display the price of the items on the shelves and use an optical scanner at the cash register.
If the price claimed at the cash register is higher than the price indicated in the store:
You can have the policy applied on the spot in the store. All you have to do is ask for it. If you notice the error after making the purchase, you can go back to the store to claim the compensation provided for under the policy.
The price accuracy policy does not apply if:
To find out more, refer to the section titled Price Indicated in the Store.
Is a collection agent contacting you? Who is this person? What does he or she do?
Let’s say you have $2,000 worth of unpaid bills with a merchant. The merchant could ask a collection agency to try to recover this amount from you.
The ways in which a collection agent can recover a sum of money are regulated. Among other things, a collection agent:
To find out more, refer to the section titled Debt Collection by an Agency.
An itinerant salesperson rings your doorbell. Obviously, you are not prepared for this person’s visit. The salesperson could try to make you believe that his or her offer is a real bargain, and that this opportunity will never come again.
Before you sign a contract and commit to purchasing, for example, a heat pump, follow these tips:
It is easy to say no on the spot and say yes later. The reverse may be more complicated!
To find out more, refer to the section titled Itinerant Sales.
Before making an online purchase, certain precautions could help you avoid many inconveniences. Here are a few tips:
If you have not received your purchase within 30 days after the date indicated by the merchant in the contract, you have the right to cancel. If no date is indicated in the contract, the 30-day period that follows the date of purchase is considered. You also have the right to cancel if the merchant fails to provide you with certain information about the company and the transaction.
To find out more, refer to the section titled Online Purchases.
Landlord/tenant relations are governed by the Tribunal administratif du logement. Its website provides information on your rights and obligations, whether you are a tenant (lessee) or a landlord (lessor).
The Autorité des marchés financiers can provide you with information on various financial products and services. Among other things, its website provides a kit designed for newcomers titled L’essentiel des finances personnelles (available in French only). This kit contains all the information you need to understand Québec’s financial system and effectively manage your personal finances.
To help you make an informed choice when opening a bank account, refer to the website of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.
The rules for opening an account at a credit union (caisse populaire) are different from those that apply to a bank account. You can visit the Desjardins website on this subject.
Some consumer protection organizations offer budget consulting services free of charge. They can show you how to set and manage your budget, and advise you on how to settle your debts.
Contact your local Association coopérative d’économie familiale or consumer association. The contact information for these organizations and much more information can be found on the website Tout bien calculé (in French only) of the Coalition des associations de consommateurs du Québec.
The Get information about a merchant tool provides you with the following information:
Are you having a problem with a merchant? Contact the Office to file a complaint. We will inform you of your rights and recourse options. We will also provide you with tools to assist you.
You will probably be asked to try to negotiate with the merchant. If the negotiation fails, you can send the merchant a formal notice. In certain cases, you may be able to use Parle consommation. This is a quick and free service offered entirely online that could help you settle your litigation with the merchant.
To find out more, refer to the section titled Resolve a Problem with a Merchant.
Would you like to find out more? Watch this webinar in which experts from the Office provide information on various consumer topics: warranties on goods, new and used cars, telecommunications, online purchases, credit, etc. Tools to get the information you need before making a commitment and to help you assert your rights are also presented. The video is available in French only.
Do you work with immigrant clienteles? Watch this webinar intended specifically for you (in French only).
The Office can provide you with information and assistance on many other consumer topics, such as trips or gift cards.
If you experience a problem, you can also contact us. An agent can guide you through the steps you can take to resolve the problem.
You can write to us, call us or even come in person to one of our offices.
You will find our contact information in the section titled Contact Us.