The Consumers Council of Canada (“the Council”) made a decision at its March 30, 2012 board meeting to no longer have an alignment, association, relationship or lend its name to a foundation dedicated to its interests, and accordingly has revoked the use of ‘Consumers Council of Canada’ in the name of the independently governed Consumers Council of Canada Foundation (“the Foundation”).
The Foundation was created to support the aims of the Council.
The Council's board of directors took this action having decided that the Council has no current need for such a relationship.
People are finding damaging information about themselves on the Internet, and they may not know what to do about it.
A Consumers Council of Canada research project entitled “Canadian Consumers: Online Reputations, Awareness, Misuse and Repair” investigated a recently developed, somewhat “unruly” industry still seeking to establish common professional standards and service commitments, with some participants even lacking verifiable addresses for their business operations. The report also suggests ways consumers can manage their online reputations proactively and reactively.
Among the key facts the Council learned:
Internet users of all ages find that their friends, acquaintances, business associates or a complete stranger, innocently or not, may have posted something damaging about them online.
This content may be an inappropriate photograph on Facebook, a person’s own emotional rant on a blog or discussion forum, or someone’s anonymous criticism.
Lucky consumers find this bad news or history before someone else does – especially important when that someone else is a prospective employer or customer, a colleague or their mother.
A truism has been recast: “What happens in Vegas, no longer stays in Vegas.”
Our desire to know about others, supported by search engines like Google and Bing, is leading more people to check on other people. Services such as Facebook create significant social pressure for people to expose information about themselves and others to belong.
What can consumers who end up with an online reputation problem do?
The Council’s report presents available options, including ways to avoid creating a reputation problem or deal with one caused by others.
Several important findings resulted from the Council’s research:
Reputation matters. Online reputation significantly affects one's general reputation.
A large number of people are aware of their online reputation, and the damage or the benefit it can provide, but many are not.
There are organizations that provide online reputation management repair to individuals. Their service can be invaluable, but it is best that someone seeking this help, check the service choices diligently and compare multiple providers. The online reputation management industry is relatively young and somewhat unruly.
Any information can be available about almost anyone and be potentially misused – intentionally or otherwise. Misuse typically comes from information being posted or used “out of context.” Damage from misused information on the Internet can be immediate, disproportionately severe and irreparable.
Anonymity online is an issue. This is evident as Canada’s courts seek to protect two important rights of Canadians – the right to freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the right of an individual to protection from libel, slander or defamation.
The Internet is turning consumers, as individuals, into publishers, and they need help to learn their legal responsibilities, particularly respecting libel, slander or defamation.
Consumers need to know “removal” from the Internet is rare. Typically, when referred to by an online reputation management organization, “removal” means concealment by movement of damaging information to the second or third pages of Google or Bing search results.
Everyone should take time now to assess their online reputation and how they contribute to the reputation of others, and then determine action they should take about what they discover.
The research evaluated representative products and/or services made available to Canadian consumers to manage or repair their online reputation. Ten organizations were evaluated on a non-invasive, non-intrusive basis. In many cases the efforts of the organizations themselves and their uses of Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing techniques and website material, were examined as a way to get material directly from them objectively.
Consumers Council of Canada received funding from Industry Canada’s Contribution Program for Non-profit Consumer and Voluntary Organizations. The views expressed in this report are not necessarily those of Industry Canada or of the Government of Canada.
The board of directors of the Consumers Council of Canada re-elected Don Mercer as its president following the Council’s June annual general meeting, at which a new board of directors, including five new and returning members, was elected.
“Active board members and individual members have worked with passion, enthusiasm, high competence and diligence to ensure, in conjunction with staff, that we have continued to be the ‘go-to’ consumer organization in Canada,” said Mercer.
Members of the newly elected 2011-2012 board of directors are:
Gail Campbell is an Orangeville, Ontario, Town Councillor with a background in health (nursing) and active involvement with community boards.
Howard Dean is the owner of Acme Metric Company Ltd., a Greater Toronto Area based consultancy in social media, web analytics, knowledge management, and search engine optimization. He is a Chartered Accountant with more than 30 years of experience, most of it with KPMG, where he was the Chief Knowledge Officer of the Canadian firm.
Dolly Gerrior is a project manager for the non-profit industry, and, over the past few years, her work has centred on youth focused issues. Dolly is an active consumer representative as a member of the Consumers Advisory Council for the Technical Standards and Safety Authority and has served as a public representative on the Children’s Advisory Committee for Advertising Standards Canada.
Joan Huzar was a founding member of the Consumers Council of Canada in 1994. She served her first term as Council president in 1995. Recently she has chaired the Council’s Energy Committee. She is a board member of the Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance. She sits on the Canadian Building and Fire Code Commission, its Executive Committee and several Task Groups. Joan has also served as a member of the Management Advisory Board of the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy since 2003, and is its Chair.
Aubrey LeBlanc, who was elected Vice President of the Council, is currently president of Audrey LeBlanc Consulting Incorporated. He is a former president and registrar of the Ontario New Home Warranty Program. He also served as Director of the Building Branch of the Ontario Ministry of Housing.
Anne McConnell has extensive experience in the consumer packaged goods industry. She began her career with Procter & Gamble Canada, and moved through progressive roles in research and development, regulatory affairs, and external relations.
Don Mercer has served as President of the Consumers Council of Canada since 2009. He retired in April 2007 after a long career in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver with Competition Bureau Canada, which administers the Competition Act, the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, the Textiles Act and the Precious Metals Marking Act.
Heather Nicolson-Morrison is executive director of the Toronto Central Palliative Care Network and prior to that was chief executive officer of the Ontario Home Respiratory Service Association (OHRSA). She has also held the position of executive director to the Ontario Funeral Services Association (OFSA) and was the executive director of the Canadian Snowbird Association (CSA). She has served as senior policy advisor and acting executive administrator to two Ontario cabinet ministers.
Elizabeth Nielsen holds a Doctorate in Chemical and Material Sciences. As a Canadian government scientist, regulator, policy analyst and senior executive, she was responsible for investigating and testing consumer products and radiation emitting devices for compliance with safety regulations and standards. She held various executive positions in Health Canada’s Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch and the Health Products and Food Branch. She formerly served as Director-General of the Office of Regulatory and International Affairs for Health Canada’s Health Products and Food Branch. Dr. Nielsen is a member of the Standards Council of Canada’s Consumer and Public Interest Committee, and the Canadian National Committee of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). She is an expert member of the Canadian Advisory Committee to the ISO and IEC Technical Committees on Nanotechnology.
Agni Shah has been a professor teaching package development and pharmaceuticals quality assurance at Seneca College and at Sheridan Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning. He has extensive experience with quality assurance in food and pharmaceutical products. He represents the Council on the Board of the Pharmaceutical Advertising Advisory Board and is a member of the Consumer Advisory Committee of Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO). He has volunteered with United Way, Canada Revenue Agency in the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program, Leadership Peel and a number of Social Agencies. He has held local positions with Halton-Peel District Health Council and Community Care Access Center.
Venkat Subramanian Somasundaram is a recent MBA graduate from the Schulich School of Business, York University with a focus in Strategy, Sustainability & Marketing. Drawing upon mechanical engineering, business and diverse industry experiences, he is currently an independent consultant with businesses and not-for-profits, assisting them to integrate sustainable practices into their business.
The Consumers Council of Canada congratulates all members of Parliament elected in the national vote on May 2. The voters of Canada have clarified significantly the accountability for the public’s business at the federal level for the next four years by electing a majority government.
One of the important responsibilities of government and of the opposition that holds it accountable is consumer confidence in both the private and public sectors of the economy.
Canada has fallen far behind major OECD nations in supporting formal consumer representation in the economy, at the expense of economic efficiency and sovereign consumer protection.
All levels of government in Canada must do more to support the important role of organized, fact-based consumer representation.
Having said this, the Government of Canada recently opened a door to greater consumer protection with passage of the Consumer Product Safety Act, due to come into force June 20, 2011. The effective implementation and enforcement of the new act will be one standard against which the new government’s performance in the area of consumer rights can be readily observed.
Also, the Council would draw elected officials’ attention to areas of federal jurisdiction mired in consumer dissatisfaction, such as mobile telecommunications services, where consumers seek fairer service contracts and improved access of vulnerable consumers deserves consideration.
Canada lacks robust consumer policy concerning the efficacy and safety of nanomaterials in food and consumer products. This will ultimately lead to anxiety among consumers, and potential harm to emerging intellectual property based businesses based on nanotechnology.
Canada’s cultural policy has become a consumer conundrum. Consumer choice in purchasing both globally derived and domestic cultural and entertainment products has become impaired. The Canadian-Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission recommended to the federal cabinet that consumer representatives be funded to intervene before it concerning broadcasting as well as telecommunications matters. This right should be extended to consumers in the interest of well-rounded policy development.
A growing number of Canadians want to make economic choices based on their views about sustainable consumption. This is a significant new marketplace development. Consumers deserve the support of government and business in exercising their rights and responsibilities with respect to the related range of choices they may wish to exercise.
The Consumers Council also notes rising consumer angst concerning essential commodities, from food to fuel, and affordable, safe access to them supportive of their life needs. As well, a crisis in transportation services of all kinds, especially within and among regionally proximate urban centres, has made Canada’s economy less efficient and sustainable, while robbing businesses and individuals of their most precious commodity – time.
The time has come to bring consumer policy based on consumer rights and responsibilities back into the mainstream of policy setting.
Elected officials would do well to ask themselves before they vote how their decisions will impact the following:
1. Basic Needs
The right to basic goods and services which guarantee survival.
The responsibility to use these goods and services appropriately. To take action to ensure that basic needs are available.
The right to be protected against goods or services that are hazardous to health and life.
The responsibility to read instructions and take precautions. To take action to choose safety equipment, use products as instructed and teach safety to children.
The right to be given the facts needed to make an informed choice, to be protected against misleading advertising or labeling.
The responsibility to search out and use available information. To take action to read and follow labels and research before purchase.
The right to choose products and services at competitive prices with an assurance of satisfactory quality.
The responsibility to make informed and responsible choices. To take action to resist high-pressure sales and to comparison shop.
The right to express consumer interests in the making of decisions.
The responsibility to make opinions known. To take action to join an association such as the Consumers Council to make your voice heard and to encourage others to participate.
The right to be compensated for misrepresentation, shoddy goods or unsatisfactory services.
The responsibility to fight for the quality that should be provided. Take action by complaining effectively and refusing to accept shoddy workmanship.
7. Consumer Education
The right to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to be an informed consumer.
The responsibility to take advantage of consumer opportunities. Take action by attending seminars and workshops, work to ensure consumer education takes place in schools.
8. Healthy Environment
The right to live and work in an environment that is neither threatening nor dangerous and which permits a life of dignity and well-being.
The responsibility to minimize environmental damage through careful choice and use of consumer goods and services. Take action to reduce waste, to reuse products whenever possible and to recycle whenever possible.
The right to privacy particularly as it applies to personal information.
The responsibility to know how information will be used and to divulge personal information only when appropriate.