The Consumers Council of Canada has advocated recently for firm action on unsolicited, door-to-door sales, new protection for users of alternative financial services such as payday loans, and definition of qualifications, with licensing, for home inspectors. The Ontario government took action in all three areas through its Putting Consumers First Act passed April 10, 2017.
Ontario's Act will:
- Make it possible to ban unsolicited, door-to-door sales on prescribed household appliances such as water heaters, furnaces, air conditioners and water filters.
- Offer new consumer financial protections through rules for alternative financial services such as payday loans, including extended repayment periods and more time between loans, as well expanded rules against unfair debt collection practices.
- Regulate the home inspection industry through mandatory licensing and set qualifications for home inspectors, as well as minimum standards for contracts, home inspection reports, disclosures and the performance of home inspections.
"The Council has conducted research, engaged in public consultations and addressed legislators on behalf of consumers across Canada about these problem areas," said Council President Don Mercer. "We are pleased to see some other provinces addressing these issue areas as well. Some have acted already. Some are contemplating action. The Council welcomes the action taken."
Persons interested in more information about Ontario's new act should click here.
"These three measures also better position Ontario consumers as they look toward improvements to their homes in Ontario's active housing market, in which many consumers are upgrading homes after purchase," said Mercer. "Governments are encouraging consumers to make their homes more energy efficient as part of efforts to respond to climate change. Consumers should act on good information, deal with quality service providers and avoid pernicious financing schemes when upgrading their homes."
The Council is currently working to complete research entitled Incenting Energy Efficient Retrofits: Risks and Opportunities for Consumers.
This research focuses on the risks and opportunities for consumers of home energy efficiency retrofits and renovations that are driven by government and utility incentives. This study will examine how consumers benefit from incentive programs and what risks they assume when renovations or retrofits are completed. The study, expected to be released later this Spring, will examine the safeguards governments and utilities have adopted to protect consumers from renovations that are not properly executed. The Council has received funding from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada's Contributions Program for Non-profit Consumer and Voluntary Organizations for this research. The views ultimately expressed in the final reports of this research will not necessarily be those of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada or of the Government of Canada.
The Council recently examined certain alternative financial services, including online payday loans and product financing through rent-to-own schemes.
In preparing its 2016 report Consumer Experiences with Rent-to-Own, the Council conducted an examination of the rent-to-own offerings available to typical consumers. The research provided a perspective on two questions: 1) What information do rent-to-own providers deliver to potential customers prior to completing a rent-to-own transaction? 2) To what extent does this experience meet relevant provincial rules, including consumer protection rules?
Consumer Experiences in Online Payday Loans, 2015, improved the understanding of consumers' experiences when they look for payday loans online, by examining the online payday loan services available to typical Canadian consumers.
The Council's 2009 report Renovation Rip-Offs: Problems and Solutions highlighted reasons for consumer problems in the home renovation industry. It contains recommendations for consumers, business and government aimed at improving the experience with home renovations.