Hungry Via Rail travellers need to either pack their credit card or their own snack when travelling on most major routes.
Effective October 29, VIA Rail only accepts credit cards from Visa, MasterCard and American Express for its onboard services on trains in the Quebec City - Windsor corridor and some regional trains. It will also accept VIA Rail gift cards, but not cash or debit. Cash payment is still possible on some regional routes.
A VIA Rail media representative said eliminating cash would make its onboard transactions more efficient and allow employees to spend more time serving passengers. The new onboard payment solution would “optimize frontline operations all while streamlining our back-end food management systems," according to an email query response.
The system cannot accept debit card transactions because it relies on cellular network connection and “cellular coverage is inconsistent across VIA Rail’s network”. Credit card transactions can be completed while offline.
The change brings VIA Rail policies in line with air carriers such as Air Canada and WestJet. The former allows only the three major credit cards and pre-purchased Air Canada vouchers, while the latter allows the same credit cards as well as Diners Club and Discover.
The VIA Rail prepaid cards can only be purchased in stations before boarding trains from manned, open stations.
One common concern with prepaid cards is that they can result in trapped value, when the amount placed on the card exceeds the amount used. This could easily be done by any train traveller unfamiliar with VIA Rail food prices.
Parents should consult another list when holiday shopping for children – the Health Canada list of items subject to recalls.
Toys and clothes are common gifts, but both pose common problems, based on a review of the most recent entries on the Health Canada list of banned products. Numerous toys have small items that detach easily (either on purpose, or by accident) and the fragments pose choking hazards. Drawstrings on children’s clothing are frequently cited because of the risks they could accidentally get caught on equipment, fences and possibly even result in strangulation or a child being dragged by a moving car.
TVOntario’s flagship public affairs program The Agenda Tuesday (8 pm EST) will examine how the rise of online shopping has also led to greater sales and distribution of counterfeit products – a topic also the focus of recent Consumers Council of Canada research.
The episode is titled Amazon’s Counterfeit Problem and pledges to explore why it is getting harder to tell what’s real and what’s fake online, as Canadians are on track to spend $64.5 billion online this year. The Consumers Council report Consumer Attitudes and Their Role in Reducing the Impact of Counterfeit and Pirated Goods and Services concluded that consumers find it difficult to identify the perils of buying counterfeit goods and pirated media, and industry intellectual property protection campaigns don’t help them.
The research included a 2,000 person national web survey and focus groups. It noted that consumers do not have the same ability to examine the goods, packaging and labelling that could help them determine authenticity. It noted that problematic goods pose serious risks to consumers, such as fake pharmaceuticals and forged safety certifications. Among the report’s recommendations:
• A single body to co-ordinate anti-fraud initiatives by governments across Canada.
• Business, government and consumer organization joint engagement to address marketplace risks born by consumers and facilitate consumer education.
• Governments and business should provide sustainable funding to consumer organizations to play an independent role in curbing marketplace fraud.
The report also urged stronger enforcement by governments of general consumer protections.
That theme was also an important part of a second 2019 Consumers Council research report. Super Complainers: Greater Public Inclusiveness in Government Consumer Complaint Handling noted the trend of Canadian regulators to reduce or even withdraw from pro-active inspections. In that report’s survey of 2,000 Canadian consumers, public confidence was low (84%) that government complaint handling would be helpful in distant transactions. Consumers supported measures that would reduce their risk in distant transactions such as a national consumer complaint data bank, international cooperative agreements and frequent issuance of consumer complaint trends.
A third Consumers Council of Canada report examined another element of consumer protection in online transactions. Consumer Redress, Chargebacks and Merchant Responses in Distant Transactions examined how remedies to different problems in distant (online or telephone) transactions can differ by how the consumer chose to pay for the purchase. It discussed how the protections offered by credit card chargeback programs compare to online dispute resolution choices, and how poorly chargeback protection is disclosed to consumers.
The program will be rebroadcast at 11 pm, and then available through TVO’s online archives.
In theory, unit pricing is supposed to make it easier for consumers to more fairly compare prices of different quantities. The practices of retailers and regulatory authorities have limited these benefits.
Unit pricing is the display of the price of a product at a standard unit of measurement adjacent to its selling price. Commonly grocery stores use it, in theory, to allow consumers to better compare the price difference between a 450 gram box of cereal and a 710 gram box of cereal, by showing the price of each box per a standard unit, such as 100 grams.
Widely introduced more than 40 years ago, it is not required by law in Canada, except in Quebec. Retailers in other jurisdictions provide unit pricing voluntarily, or not at all.
A report from the Consumers Council of Canada released earlier this year, concluded that retailers that use standardized unit pricing information stand to gain an advantage over those that do not by adopting standards-based pricing displays and educating customers about how to use the service. Unit Pricing: Time for a National Approach? noted that one persistent consumer complaint is about the lack of readability – the unit price information displayed is too small and often much less prominently presented than the basic price. Other common consumer complaints involve inappropriate units of measure as well as a lack of consumer awareness and understanding how to use the information.
The research included a survey of 2,000 Canadian consumers. Consumers use unit pricing to make informed choices, but “due to sporadic and unreliable retail practices” they often default to other methods to find the lowest prices. And those methods quite commonly are unreliable.
The report recommended that governments collaborate with retailers to explore better methods of delivering unit pricing to consumers, and that provincial ministries consider following Quebec’s lead and directly regulate price presentations.
Stuffed toys often make popular Christmas gifts, but buyers need to look carefully at product labels to determine whether the joy they are bringing to the recipient is likely to be accompanied by vermin, dirt or mould.
Disappearing provincial legislation on upholstered and stuffed articles is transferring oversight to federal legislation – which has different labelling and enforcement – and to consumers themselves.
Ontario repealed regulations that once required retailers, importers or manufacturers selling plush toys and other stuffed articles (mattresses, winter coats) to label the toy with a tag bearing their government registration number and a statement that the filling inside the toy is clean, new material only. The impact of this change was analyzed in a Consumers Council of Canada December 2018 report.
That report noted that Ontario inspectors would no longer be able “to enter premises, inspect products and write correction orders – including ordering the destruction of an article believed to pose a danger to public health.” It also noted that inspections may encounter bed bug infestations, unclean waste products, vermin, fungus and mould, dangerous contents such as glass and metal shards, and other items that can present choking hazards.
Ontario cited the broad protections under its Consumer Protection Act (such as prohibiting misleading descriptions such as claiming new material when used material has been used) and the federal Consumer Product Safety Act, which has specific sections governing the stuffing in dolls and plush toys.
That federal legislation does require that stuffing in a doll, plush or soft toy must be clean and free from vermin, free of hard or sharp foreign matter, and within toxicity and irritant thresholds. However, there is no labelling requirement. Enforcement is often triggered by consumer complaints, as well as periodic inspections by Health Canada – typically every few years.
The net effect of these changes is that there is a lot to learn about the labels of the toys being purchased.
Toys that are registered with Quebec or Manitoba tags still have stuffed article regulations in effect.
Most U.S. states have similar regulations, so labels from those jurisdictions may convey some protection.
If there is a tag that cites Ontario regulations, the message is less clear. it may be an older toy, produced when the older rules were in effect. It may also be a newer toy with a tag designed to mostly give comfort to consumers who expect a tag about contents. But that tag offers little protection, and consumers could be at risk of being mislead.
Plush toys without registered labels present no guarantee that the product is compliant.
More information about the impact of the changes on mattress labelling was included in a previous report.