Introduced in February 2008, and available to consumers since January 1, 2009, the TFSA has the potential to transform the way Canadians save for the future and manage their investments. The Consumers Council research report is built on interviews with industry participants, an extensive survey of Canadian adults and a detailed review of published and on-line resources. The report focuses on early consumer experiences with TFSAs, including:
The changing levels of awareness and participation, including geographic and demographic breakdowns;
The most commonly cited reasons for consumers deciding not to open a TFSA;
Some of the most frequent consumer misunderstandings about the TFSA;
How the turn in economic fortunes between the conception of the TFSA policy and its implementation affected consumer acceptance and adoption of the new savings vehicle.
To help consumers make an informed decision, the report also touches on many other TFSA issues: costs, benefits, competitive products, savings alternatives, consumer knowledge, rule changes, investor behaviour and public policy. The report includes numerous recommendations about what consumers, government and financial services intermediaries can do to improve consumer experiences with the Tax-Free Savings Account.
Consumers Council of Canada received funding from Industry Canada’s Contributions Program for Non-profit Consumer and Voluntary Organizations. The views expressed in the report are not necessarily those of Industry Canada or of the Government of Canada.
The Consumers Council of Canada is concerned that the Ontario Securities Commission has declined to give the investor rights group FAIR Canada a place as intervenor at the June 23, 2010 proceeding involving Magna International and the Stronach Trust. At the upcoming proceeding, important questions about market transparency and fair valuation of publicly traded securities are to be considered.
FAIR Canada, a foundation which represents both retail investors and shareholders of listed companies, has stated that the proposed transaction is contrary to both the public interest and the best interests of investors generally, as well as an abuse of the Canadian capital markets.
"The Ontario Securities Commission needs to be more open to hearing investor and public interest concerns about major marketplace events," said Consumers Council of Canada President Don Mercer. "Clearly, there are significant concerns about this proposed transaction, and a wider hearing of qualified views would benefit the marketplace and all investors."
In a press release issued late last week, FAIR Canada detailed concerns about the proposed transaction. The OSC has given limited intervenor status to certain pension funds and other institutional shareholders.
"Once again, it appears that the fundamental right of consumers to be heard has been overlooked and investor protection is taking a back seat," added Mercer.
The Consumers Council of Canada welcomes the introduction of the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, Bill C-36, in the House of Commons and the continued movement toward improved consumer protection of Canadian consumers from unsafe products.
The legislation is predominantly based on an earlier bill, C-6, which had passed the House of Commons and had been referred back by the Senate shortly before Parliament's recent prorogation, leading to a procedural requirement for the legislation to be reintroduced in Parliament.
If enacted, the new law would improve consumer protection by:
Prohibiting the manufacture, importation, marketing or sale of consumer products deemed or proven unsafe to human health or safety;
Requiring companies to quickly inform the government of products linked to a serious incident, death, or product safety issue;
Requiring manufacturers or importers to provide test/study results on products when asked;
Empowering Health Canada to recall unreasonably dangerous consumer products; and
Making it an offence to package or label consumer products that make false or deceptive health or safety claims.
"The substance of this legislation has been debated in multiple sessions of Parliament. In the recent past, all parties in the House of Commons have supported this legislation," said Consumers Council of Canada President Don Mercer. "The time has come to pass it. Canadians deserve the higher level of consumer protection from dangerous products already enjoyed in the United States and Europe."
The Consumers Council of Canada is Canada’s most active, countrywide multi-issue consumer group. The Council helps business and government manage today’s consumer issues. It aims to create an efficient, equitable, effective and safe marketplace. Organized as an independent, not-for-profit organization, the Council was federally incorporated in 1994.
The Consumers Council of Canada in conjunction with the Canadian Consumer Initiative has cautioned consumers that the Government of Canada's proposed Copyright Modernization Act, Bill C-32, permits existing and new consumer use rights such as backing up content, time- and format-shifting to be taken away by digital locks and license agreements.
Bill C-32 creates a prohibition on removing or circumventing “technical protection measures” (TPMs) such as those copying and regional restrictions commonly found on DVD discs. Consumers cannot legally remove or circumvent TPMs even if the consumer’s use is otherwise protected in the bill, such as for creating a backup copy of a DVD in case of scratching, theft, fire or other reason.
“Without an exception to technical protection measures to exercise their copying and backup rights, this Bill is a dead letter for consumers” contended John Lawford, Counsel for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.
Geneviève Reed, Head of Consumer Representation and Research at Option consommateurs concurred: “Media companies will very likely add TPMs which restrict those rights, just as they now do for DVDs. Since consumers are violating the law if they break the TPMs for otherwise lawful uses, there will be confusion and a whole army of consumer copyright criminals created virtually overnight.”
CCI notes that Bill C-32 has positive features for consumers that, absent TPMs, allow consumers to back up music and videos, to time-shift TV programs with PVRs, and to format-shift music from CDs and legal downloads to MP3 players, as well as some innovative rights that reflect how consumers actually use content, such as fair use exceptions for
parody and satire, and a “remix” right for private media creations such as using commercial songs over family slide shows or amateur YouTube videos.
“Unfortunately, these promising consumer rights all are subject to the overriding control of the media companies that put the digital locks on content” said Anthony Hémond, Telecommunications, Broadcasting, Internet and Privacy Analyst at Union des consommateurs, “As a result, consumers most likely will be paying more for entertainment products, as media companies can effectively dictate when, where and how consumers use their content.”
"The legislation's protection of digital locks will be detrimental to Canadian consumers and eliminate many of their rights with respect to copyright. It opens the door to the loss by consumers of the kind of durable lifetime access to purchased content traditionally associated with books, for example" noted Don Mercer, President of the Consumers Council of Canada. "It could make the transfer of access to content to inheritors more difficult and less likely. Consumers' ability to unlock the content they purchased is not overtly protected in the legislation."
The Canadian Consumer Initiative includes four major Canadian consumer organizations: the Consumers Council of Canada, Option consommateurs, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and Union des consommateurs.