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As easy as online shopping is, you’ve probably bought something with a quick and simple click and then regretted it and wanted to cancel. Consumers that order products online from local or international websites should be aware that they are entering agreements with sellers when they place their orders and finalize their payments.
These agreements are sales contracts, which ought to include the name and contact information of the seller, the after tax price and shipping costs associated with the item, the delivery or service date, and an explanation of the right to cancel, return, or exchange any products. It is important for consumer to know who they are dealing with before making a purchase online, and to check the warranties and guarantees of the product, to whom any complaints may be made, and the return policy of the seller prior to buying any product.
Although the Consumer Protection Act of Ontario applies to any internet purchases if either the consumer or seller are located in Ontario during the sale, there are no requirements for businesses to provide returns or exchanges and, notably, cancellation rules only apply to purchases that exceed $50 CAD not including taxes. If a purchase that exceeds $50 CAD is made, the seller must provide the consumer with the contract or sales agreement (which in some cases can be the invoice) by mail or email that includes transaction details, and the consumer has the right to exit the contract under certain circumstances, by requesting a refund in writing directly from a business or cancelling processing payments via credit card providers.
Agreement cancellation deadlines depend on specific circumstances including occasions where the following is met:
- The seller does not deliver the item within 30 days of the date of the contract, which allows for cancellation at any time before the seller attempts to deliver a product or service, unless the consumer agrees to late deliveries or start dates; or
- The seller uses unfair practices to convince consumers to buy their product or service including overcharging or making misrepresentations, which allow cancellation any time within one year of the agreement; or
- The seller does not provide a copy of the agreement within 15 days or the agreement does not contain the required information, which allows for cancellation 30 days after the agreement; or
- The seller does not provide consumers with all the required information before an order is placed, or the consumer did not have a chance to accept the agreement or correct mistakes before entering the agreement, which only allows for cancellation within 7 days of receiving a copy of the agreement.
Qualifying cancellations should be made in writing and mailed or emailed to the seller, and a copy of the notice should be kept by the consumer, otherwise confirmation and identification numbers and information should be obtained if the cancellation takes place over the phone or in person. After the formal cancellation notice is sent, the seller has 15 days to refund payments and the purchaser has 15 days to return any items. If the refund process is complicated or the seller does not comply, consumers may file a complaint with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services to obtain an order for specific performance.
Consumers may have legal rights beyond what is covered by the Consumer Protection Act including legal action if the product is of exceptionally poor quality or not as described, the seller used unfair business practices, or the agreement was cancelled without a refund being processed. Consumers must sue within two years after the problem arises under Ontario’s Statute of Limitations Act if they are to bring an action in small claims court for up to $35,000 CAD, and legal advice from qualified professionals should be sought before any sort of litigation.
The purchase of sports and entertainment tickets in Ontario is controlled by the Ticket Sales Act, which came into force on July 1, 2018, to introduce transparency and protect consumers from fraudulent activity and informational discrepancies when dealing with sellers. For consumers to have access to their legally available rights and remedies, such as refunds for tickets and incidental costs, including the cost of accommodations in some situations, they must deal with recognized ticket dealers as prescribed under the Ticket Sales Act.
Consumers should be able to know whether they are dealing with a primary seller or ticket business that engages in making tickets available for sale, or a secondary seller or ticketing platform that sells tickets originally made available by primary sellers, or ticket bot software that automates ticket purchases. Depending on the context, such as the website on which tickets are being sold, sellers may be required to clearly disclose their status as ticket providers.
Whereas primary sellers are required to disclose information about the distribution of tickets and the event venue, including how many tickets are going on sale and if these will be made available in batches, consumers that buy tickets on the secondary market should ask about the money-back guarantee and for conformation from primary sellers regarding the validity of the ticket they have purchased on the resale or secondary market.
Nonetheless, according to Part III of the Ticket Sales Act, both primary and secondary sellers must be incorporated in Ontario or Canada and maintain an address in Ontario, and must follow certain rules selling valid tickets in their possession. During the sale of tickets, businesses in Ontario are required to provide the face value and price of the ticket and any service fees or taxes, the type of currency if it is not Canadian, and the seat location.
If a ticket business contravenes the Ticket Sales Act and a ticket purchaser has suffered a loss as a result, a court may order restitution for any consideration given, award damages in the amount of any losses suffered, grant an injunction restraining the person from contravening the provisions of the Act, or order specific performance. For exemplary or punitive damages, however, the question becomes whether the ticket seller took reasonable precautions to avoid contravening the Act. Individuals that are convicted for an offence under the Ticket Sales Act are liable for $50,000 in fines and imprisonment under two years, and corporations that are convicted are liable to a fine of not more than $250,000.
Conversely, ticket bots are often designed to work around control and security measures on electronic applications, and their complication of the ticket buying process has led to their ban in Ontario by the provincial government. Any active ticket bots must be reported to the police, due to the criminal nature of the activity and the fact that no specific body is responsible for enforcing the Ticket Sales Act in Ontario, and the offense could lead to imprisonment and a significant fine for individuals or corporations.
The purchase of tickets from unregistered third parties or any person that is reselling their ticket, commonly known as scalpers, carries with it dangers about the authenticity of the ticket, the advertised description, the inflated price point, and its refund options. In the event that tickets are purchased from a third party scalper, consumers may have the same rights against sellers as they would otherwise within the limitations of the Ticket Sales Act.
Consumers should thus confirm the status of the selling party and learn about the legitimacy of tickets before making their purchase, in order to partake in a fair transaction with enforceable rights.
Learn more about purchasing event tickets in Ontario in the following links:
Regulations and Precautionary Measures
If consumers book trips or tours directly with an airline or hotel, they should be aware that only trips booked with registered travel agents and travel wholesalers are covered under the Travel Industry Act. The advantages of using a registered travel agent or wholesaler may be for ease, knowledgeability, client satisfaction and guarantees, but also because travel agents and wholesalers follow various requirements.
All travel agents and wholesalers must be registered with the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (“TICO”), which is Ontario’s travel regulator, and should be registered with other industry-led membership based organizations such the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (“ACTA”), and consumers must ensure that they are dealing with registered travel agents or tour operators.
TICO registered travel agencies are required to advise travellers of the availability of trip cancellation insurance and out-of-province health insurance at the time of the booking. Travellers should seriously consider purchasing both:
(i) Adequate medical insurance for out of province coverage, because the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) only covers part of the expenses in case of an illness or accident (e.g. uncovered costs include ambulance costs, prescription drugs, dental emergencies, and emergency room or in-patient services); and,
(ii) Trip cancellation insurance that permits the cancellation of charges from airlines, cruise lines, hotels, and tour companies.
It is the responsibility of travellers to check the terms and conditions of their booking prior to confirming their travel services online or in-person with the travel agent. Travellers must read and understand the terms and conditions of the travel services, and the contractual clauses regarding cancellation, changes to bookings, and refundability. A copy of all transactions, confirmations, and correspondences must also be kept as proof of the booking, in case travellers must refer back to them.
Claims and Complaints
Ontario has regulations that registered members of the travel industry must follow, and TICO allows access to the Travel Industry Compensation Fund that reimburses payments made for services that are not provided due to complications during trips (e.g. inadequate transportation or accommodations) or the bankruptcy or insolvency of agents or suppliers including airlines or cruise lines.
Consumers that want to file a complaint against a registered travel retailer or travel wholesaler that is located and operating in Ontario should contact the business or contact TICO to file a complaint form against the travel agency. It should be noted that TICO does not deal with complaints against airlines or complaints relating to timeshares and travel membership companies.
Learn more about booking trips with travel agents in Ontario in the following links:
Consumers should know their right to cancel a gym membership or fitness club contract in Ontario.
Anyone who has ever felt the urge to get into shape may have seen some splashy fitness centre ads and dived into getting a new gym membership. Reality sets in, and then maybe you realize you didn’t have the time or this wasn’t for you.
If you enter into a fitness club membership agreement in Ontario, you have a right to a 10-day cooling-off period that applies after a copy of the contract is issued. During this period, membership holders may cancel the contract for any reason, and should do so via email or written correspondence with the fitness club.
After the cooling-off period expires, contracts may be cancelled within a year if they lack certain information required by the Consumer Protection Act 2002 Part IV (under personal development contracts), such as the amount that will be charged, a description of the services and guarantees, the nature of the payment method, and conditions of cancellation and renewal.
All fitness club contracts must end after one year by default, unless they are automatically renewed by the fitness club with proper notice within 1-3 months before the expiry of the membership.
Consumers ought to check the fine print in their contracts before signing (while looking for false or misleading statements and unconscionable consumer representations), recognize the nature of the terms and length of their commitment, and be alive to their right to cancel agreements and aware of the service guarantee requirements that fitness clubs must live up to.
Consumers must also keep in mind that the Consumer Protection Act does not apply to the following:
- Memberships that cost less than $50 in advance;
- Memberships offered by non-for-profit charitable organizations (such as the YMCA), recreation centres funded by the province, and cooperative-owned fitness clubs; or,
- Incidental fitness services that are part of other services or facilities. It is important to keep an eye on how fitness contracts are classified and whether they deviate from the personal development contract classification.
Non-compliance with the Consumer Protection Act allows consumers to cancel their agreement at their election upon the delivery of a Notice of Cancellation to the supplier. Aside from rescission, consumers may also have access to restitution, and actions in common law. If consumers in Ontario have been wronged by fitness clubs, they have the right to submit a Consumer Complaint Form to the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services.
You can learn more about cancelling gym and fitness membership contracts by discovering the following links and resources: