Area of Law: Consumer Law
Answer # 819
Unsolicited goods and servicesRegion: Ontario Answer # 819
In Ontario, the Consumer Protection Act, 2002 deals with situations where sellers attempt to charge you for unsolicited goods, such as books or credit cards, or unsolicited services. Under the Act, the recipient of such goods and services has no legal obligation to pay any invoice or to return the goods.
Sometimes people are provided with goods or services they never requested, such as magazine subscriptions. Those who are providing the goods or services are hoping that you will pay for them knowing that the goods were never requested. Others, though, may entice you to join their club with special prices and then lock you into a contract that involves them sending “special” products regularly. Others may actually perform a service for you without your consent, such as shovelling the snow from your driveway or washing your windows. You are under no obligation to pay the invoice, no matter how “official” it seems to be. If, however, you decide to enter into an agreement with the company, read the contract closely before you sign.
It is also worth noting that criminals may try to send you or your business fraudulent invoices for directories, website listings, office supplies, or other products or services you have not ordered or received. The simplest and best course of action is to simply delete the email, or throw out the invoice. Never provide personal information, such as your date of birth, bank account or credit card number, unless you are certain of who the recipient is.
For more information, or to report a possible scam or fraud, contact the federal Competition Bureau.
Unsolicited door-to-door sales banned for certain household goods and services
As of March 1, 2018 changes were made to the Consumer Protection Act which affect goods and services sold door-to-door. If a consumer signed a contract made through a door-to-door sale after March 1, 2018 for one of the products or services listed below, the agreement is not legally binding and is considered void. In addition, the consumer is permitted to keep the product or service without any obligation to pay for it.
However, there is an exception to this rule if the consumer contacted the business and arranged to meet in their home for the purpose of entering into an agreement to buy or lease one of the products or services specified in the new rule. In those circumstances, any agreement made would be legal and binding.
The new rules apply to the door-to-door purchase of:
- air conditioners
- air cleaners
- air purifiers
- water heaters
- water treatment devices
- water purifiers
- water filters
- water softeners
- duct cleaning services
- bundles of these goods and services
Other important rules under the Act include:
- Consumers can invite a business to their home and any contract under such circumstances is valid and is subject to the 10-day cooling off period.
- If a consumer calls for repairs, maintenance, an energy assessment, or any reason other than entering into a contract for one of the restricted items, the business can only perform the work that they were requested to do and cannot enter into a new contract for the sale of a restricted goods. The business is permitted, however, to leave information about the products and services they offer.
- If a consumer already has a written contract in place with a business, the business is permitted to contact the consumer by phone, schedule a visit upon the consumer’s request, and enter into a new contract. However, if the business plans to offer the consumer one of the restricted products and services, they must inform them of this fact before visiting the consumer’s home. Also, prior to making an offer or presentation to the consumer, the business must get the consumer’s approval to hear their offer.
- Retail businesses must keep records regarding new contracts for up-to three years.
- Penalties for businesses violating the law include: a fine of up-to $50,000 or imprisonment for up-to two years, less a day, or both, for individuals; a fine of up-to $250,000 for corporations.
For more information, view topic 807 Direct agreements and door-to-door sales.
Material change of goods or services
In the case where you have agreed to receive goods or services on an ongoing or periodic basis, those goods or services can later be considered unsolicited if there is a significant change to them. For example, if the quality of the goods is reduced or their functionality changes, you will not longer be obligated under your past agreement, unless you agree to accept the goods in their new condition.
Entitled to refund
If a consumer mistakenly paid for any unsolicited goods or services, they have the right to a refund and have up-to a year to request it. Under the Act, when the consumer requests a refund, the seller is obligated to provide a refund within 15 days of the request.
Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) Do Not Contact Service
The Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) operates the Do Not Contact Service, which is offered free of charge to consumers and allows individuals to reduce the number of marketing offers they receive by mail. The CMA is a private trade association funded by its members, and as such, the Do Not Contact Service applies only to products and services that are supplied by its members.
For more information or to register for the service, visit The Canadian Marketing Association website at the-cma.org.
Telemarketers and the National Do Not Call List
Consumers who wish to reduce the number of unwanted telemarketing calls they receive can register their residential, wireless, fax, or VoIP telephone number(s) with the National Do Not Call List (DNCL) operated by the Canadian government.
It is important to note that registering a telephone number on the DNCL does not eliminate all telemarketing calls. Exceptions include calls for or on behalf of registered charities, political parties, and persons collecting information for a survey of members of the public. More information is available on the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission website. On the website, consumers can also check their registration, find out how to remove their number from the DNCL, and file a complaint about telemarketing phone calls.
More information about your rights as a consumer can be found from the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, Consumer Protection Ontario.
For legal advice and assistance, contact a lawyer or paralegal.
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