Consumer Attitudes and Their Role in Reducing the Impact of Counterfeit and Pirated Goods and Services
Counterfeiting and piracy impacts middle class jobs, new innovations and consumer health and safety. Experts forecast that if current trends continue, the total value globally of “counterfeit” goods by 2022 will reach at least $991 billion. This does not take into account the economic, social, environmental, and consumer costs which are borne by business, government and consumers. This research examined the quality and safety assumptions consumers have about consumer goods, what they expect the government’s and industry’s role to be, and what they think they need as tools to protect themselves in an environment that is difficult to police. Download
Super Complainers: Greater Public Inclusiveness in Government Consumer Complaint Handling
A primary source of information for market conduct reviews and enforcement investigations is regulators’ consumer complaint data. Regulators rely on consumer complaint data to identify business practices, unusual trends and sector — or industry-wide — patterns that warrant investigation. Yet regulators tend to pay little regard to consumers and the detriment they experience once the complaint is filed. Trends are appearing in the U.S. and Europe where governments provide greater transparency of their consumer complaint databases, to give consumers and consumer advocacy groups a greater role in the complaints management processes. For example, in 2002, a “super-complaints” system was established in the UK government by the then Office of Fair Trade (now the Competition & Markets Authority). This system allows a designated consumer body to submit a complaint that “…any feature, or combination of features, of a market in the UK for goods or services is or appears to be significantly harming the interests of consumers”.This research provides consumer and government views on the current government complaint handling systems, gauges receptivity to alternative systems being implemented in other countries where greater transparency, consumer and consumer advocacy group participation is encouraged, and discusses the challenges and barriers to adopting similar alternative systems in Canada. Download
Unit Pricing: Time for a National Approach?
The widespread introduction of unit pricing labelling practices in most advanced globalized economies took place over 40 years ago, yet the majority of Canadian consumers still do not have access to reliable unit pricing information to assist them in making informed decisions. Quebec is the only province in Canada that regulates unit pricing. Retailers in other provinces and territories provide unit pricing information on a voluntary basis, or not at all. This research sought out consumer and government views on the value of unit pricing as a factor in promoting consumer interests, and the resulting report gauges receptivity to adopting national systems such as those being implemented in other countries and discusses the challenges and barriers to adopting similar systems in Canada. Download
Home Energy Labels in Canada: How Well Do They Serve Consumers?
This research examined how consumers understand home energy labels and whether they want further information that is not currently available on these labels, in order to make informed home purchasing, renovating and upgrading decisions. The objective of the research was to identify ways to strengthen the usefulness of energy labels for consumers and clarify the functionality and impact of home energy labels on consumer purchasing decisions. Download
Consumers and Product Insurance Purchase Decisions
This research examines consumer experiences, attitudes and common misunderstandings with extended coverage programs such as “product protection plans” or “extended service plans”. Download
Consumers’ Experience with Higher Cost Credit
This research examines high-cost credit offerings, such as installment loans, to improve the knowledge of the Canadian consumer’s experience when they attempt to secure credit through storefronts and online. Download
Mandatory Energy Rating and Disclosure for Existing Houses: Opportunities and Risks for Consumers
This research examines options for mandatory disclosure of home energy ratings for existing houses across Canada and its potential impact on consumers’ decisions. Download
Dynamic Pricing – Can Consumers Achieve the Benefits They Expect?
This research reportl outlines the possible harms to consumers from potentially exploitative pricing practices as retail business moves to more extensive use of dynamic pricing, what consumers can do to protect themselves, how aware they are of the risks, and what business and government can do to ensure consumers’ rights are protected. Download
Consumer Redress, Chargebacks and Merchant Responses in Distant Transactions
This research concersn consumer attitudes and merchant responses related to disputes in e-commerce (or distant) transactions. It will examine what consumers do to reconcile disputes with merchants, how merchants respond to what consumers do, how changing accounts management and debt collection affect and are affected by these trends. Download
Incenting Energy Efficient Retrofits: Risks and Opportunities for Consumers
This research focused on the risks and opportunities for consumers of home energy efficiency retrofits and renovations driven by government and utility incentives. The resulting report examines how consumers benefit from incentive programs and what risks they assume when renovations or retrofits are completed. The study will examine the safeguards governments and utilities have adopted to protect consumers from renovations that are not properly executed. Download
Strengthening the marketplace through a Consumer Protection Framework for consumer online reviews
This research outlines harms to consumers from misleading, fraudulent, inauthentic and inappropriate reviews, what consumers can do to protect themselves, what business and government can do to ensure consumers’ rights are protected, as well as provides input into the ISO Technical Committee on Online Reputation, and more specifically their International Working Group on Consumer Online Reviews. Download
Towards a National Housing Strategy
The Consumers Council of Canada’s response to the Fall 2016 federal government consultation concerning a National Housing Strategy for Canada. Download
Consumer Experiences with Rent-to-Own
The Consumers Council of Canada has conducted an examination of the rent-to-own offerings available to typical consumers. The research provides 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? Download
In Touch with e-Consumer Protection?
The Consumers Council of Canada’s conference concerning e-consumer protection themes, documented in this report, created a timely opportunity for thought leaders in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors to discuss existing and emerging trends and consumer rights and responsibilities in e-commerce. Download
Residential Intensification: The Impact on Consumers
The Consumers Council invited 12 individuals representing the housing industry, skilled experts, and consumers, to join a panel to examine the impact of residential intensification. Panel members looked at where we have been and the shape of things to come. Following a consensus process, they made 24 recommendations which taken together suggest that in the future consumers have to be better informed about condominium purchases and high-density living; planning policies must reflect the rapid shift to intensification; a higher demand will be placed on the performance of new and existing buildings; and the need for affordable housing can only grow. Download
Improving Online Agreements: “It’s Not Rocket Science!”
Studies show that Canadians are concerned about online privacy and e-commerce risk. Canadians seldom read, often for good reason, the online agreements necessary to understand and manage these risks. This report presents practical guidelines for the display of findable, usable and relevant online agreements. Download
Consumers Council of Canada received funding from the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) to produce the project. Views expressed in relation to this work are not necessarily those of CIRA. CIRA manages the .CA top-level domain, Canada’s online identifier, on behalf of all Canadians. A Member-driven organization, CIRA also facilitates the development of a better Internet for all Canadians, and represents the .CA registry internationally.
Options for a ‘Sustained Institutional Role’ for Consumer Organizations in ‘Internal Trade’ Harmonization Initiatives
Research by the Consumers Council of Canada has found the Canadian public will expect well-resourced consumer groups to be part of any stakeholder process attached to the next round of negotiations among the federal and provincial governments concerning internal trade. Download
Consumer Experiences in Online Payday Loans
To improve knowledge of consumers’ experiences when they look for payday loans online, the Council has conducted an examination of the online payday loan services available to typical Canadian consumers. Download
Stuck in the Middle: Consumers, Transaction Fees and Loyalty Programs
A force driving credit card transaction costs is increased rewards for loyalty programs. The funding for points/miles/cash rewards and other benefits is generally drawn from the fees paid on retail credit card transactions. This research provides a summary of publicly available information on different dimensions of loyalty programs, transaction costs and card fees, views of key market participants as to where the consumer interest lies, and focus group evidence of how typical Canadian consumers may view contemplated changes to credit card and rewards programs. Download
Hockey Equipment Comparison Price Study, 2013 vs. 2014, Canada and United States
The 2013 federal budget included a provision to eliminate tariffs on certain sports and athletic equipment, including ice skates and other hockey equipment. The government’s stated aim was to “reduce the gap in retail prices that Canadian consumers pay compared to those in the U.S.” The Consumers Council of Canada tracked the online prices of more than 330 junior and youth hockey equipment items available through leading online retailers in Canada and the United States from April 2013 to April 2014. Download
Will Consumers Benefit from Enhanced Product Labeling on Energy-Efficient Products?
Few studies have examined how Energy Star and EnerGuide labels are used and how well these labels are understood by consumers. It its unknown if consumers want information beyond what is currently on these labels to aid in making informed choices on energy efficient products. Historically it is known that consumers want to compare and contrast items prior to making a purchasing decision. This research contributes to understanding the information needed by consumers to make these comparisons. Download
Consumer Perspective 360° – Residential Intensification: Density and Its Discontents
Residential intensification has been a planning objective in Ontario for decades, but has recently followed a path quite different than in the past. The type of building that provides a home to many people can now be as tall as an office tower. New, multiple residential buildings, in Ontario and BC, have a larger share of the market than ground oriented low-rise housing. This has not happened without controversy.
The purchase of a home may be the most important investment decision most Canadians will make. The Council intends that this 360° Report educate and inform consumers of events that could impact a decision to purchase a home in new developments with increased density. It also identifies policies and market trends, lists the rights and responsibilities consumers possess, describes where to obtain information, and the information that is still lacking. It was developed to form the basis of discussion for a panel of stakeholders concerned with the issue area. Download
Report of the Consumer Group Panel on Food Information, Labelling and Advertising
The Consumer Group Panel on Food Information, Labelling and Advertising has produced a landmark report concerning the consumer interest in food information. It represents the collaboration of six major Canadian consumer-focused organizations, including three Canadian multi-issue consumer groups and three Canadian organizations with particular concerns about how people are affected by food and food information. Download.
Cyber Threats on Mobile Devices
This research focused on identifying current and emerging risks and trends of cyber threats on mobile devices to the Canadian consumer; determining the nature and awareness and understanding of these risks and how, if at all, such risks can be mitigated; and recommending actions to be taken by consumers and consumer organizations, regulatory bodies, application developers and the developers of mobile operating environments to help protect the Canadian consumer. Download Report in English or French/Télécharger le rapport en anglais ou en français (PDF)
Do Smartphones Make for Smarter Consumers?
Research examining the emerging trend of large retailers in providing product and purchase information through smartphone applications. It identifies information that consumers use at point of purchase of products and the extent to which these applications meet their needs.
Canadian Consumers’ Online Reputations – Awareness, Misuse and Repair
A research project on the phenomenon of consumers’ online identities being misused by others resulting in potential damage to a consumer’s reputation, with a focus on the services of reputation repair offered by various organizations and businesses. This research conducted a practical and useful evaluation of products and services purporting to help Canadians find and/or manage their online information and reputation.
The Impact of Higher Energy Efficiency Standards on Housing Affordability in Alberta
A study commissioned by NAIMA Canada and the Consumers Council of Canada to determine whether EnerGuide 80 energy efficient homes in Alberta can improve affordability for consumers. Download
Tax-Free Savings Accounts
Since January 2009, Canadians have been able to use a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) as part of their personal financial planning. Introduced in the February 2008 Federal Budget, the new TFSA could radically alter the way Canadians save for the future and manage their investments. Over the balance of 2008, there was a great deal of speculation about how much and how Canadians might use this new program. The Consumers Council of Canadas research investigated and evaluated the early patterns of TFSA usage among Canadian consumers. Download
The Canadian government has completed a much-anticipated wireless spectrum auction, which has enabled several new wireless service providers to emerge. The consumer adoption rate for wireless service will increase rapidly with many new operators and/or service plans. Consumer complaints related to wireless charges have been many. Research in the wireless prepaid and postpaid area was required to understand consumer satisfaction and concerns. The research helps identify the source of complaints and makes recommendations to address perceived unfair practices. Download
Corporate Social Responsibility
Consumers consistently tell researchers that they are concerned about the impact of the products they purchase, and that they prefer to make purchases from organizations that take social and environmental responsibilities seriously. In Canada, a majority of members of the public are reportedly paying attention to issues related to social responsibility in purchasing decisions. However, a major gap between consumers’ concern and their everyday actions remains even where information is available to guide choices. This project proposes to better understand what elements help to enhance the credibility among consumers of reports and claims about social responsibility made by organizations, and to identify how to assure the public in their decision-making on socially responsible purchases, in order to build smart, people-centred assurance practices that both empower consumers and strengthen marketing performance. Download
Assessing Consumer Impacts
A directive of the federal cabinet on streamlining regulations has given rise to a new Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (RIAS) intended to incorporate, among other things, an assessment of the impact of proposed policies and regulations on consumers. Office of Consumer Affairs, Industry Canada, is developing a draft of a guide, to be used in assessing the impact of proposed policies and regulations on consumers. This research is important because the direct involvement in Canada of consumer groups in assessing consumer impacts of proposed regulations and policies for Regulatory Impact Analysis Statements would be a new development. This research considers the resources, processes and standards necessary for effective participation in such assessments by Canadian consumer organizations. Download
Sustainable Household Consumption: Key Considerations for a Canadian Strategy
This report presents key considerations and elements of a household consumption strategy for Canada, within the context of the federal government’s current efforts to develop a Sustainable Consumption and Production Framework. Embedding the household strategy within this broader SCP framework is essential, as a central conclusion of this report is that households cannot advance sustainable consumption on their own but require collective solutions and collective actions by government and other stakeholders. (March 2009, Released June 2009) Download
The Ontario Smart Metering Initiative – What Does It Mean for Ontario’s Residential Consumers
This report explores the Ontario policy initiative to install smart meters in all homes and businesses by 2010 and focuses on the expected impacts on residential consumers. Costs and benefits for Ontario consumers are explored and informed by the results of pilot programs undertaken both in the U.S. and in Ontario. The paper also identifies potential problems with the rollout of the Ontario initiative as well as recommended solutions. (March 2009, Released June 2009) Download
Long Distance Phone Cards – Are Consumers Satisfied?
This report investigates consumer issues concerning prepaid phone cards. In light of recent regulation disallowing expiry dates on gift certificates and gift cards in Ontario, the Council sought to investigate the breadth of consumer issues with prepaid long distance calling cards and whether similar expiration policies and regulation should apply to prepaid phone cards. It makes recommendations concerning price and service disclosure and the handling of consumer complaints. (March 2009, Released June 2009) Download
Renovation Rip-Offs: Problems and Solutions
This report on the home renovation marketplace focuses on key causes of complaints, perceived problems and a variety of frameworks considered and existing to address consumer concerns. It attempts to go beyond the tips and checklists for hiring renovators and to assess the state of a seemingly troubled marketplace. (March 2009, Released June 2009) Download
Creditors Insurance – Are Consumers Being Well Served?
Creditors insurance, such as found on credit cards, lines of credit, personal loans, and mortgages life insurance and mortgage default insurance, is marketed to protect consumers and their families from the obligations associated with existing credit in the event of a borrowers death, critical illness, disability or involuntary job loss. A variety of insurance products exist fitting this general description. This research focused particularly on the consumers ability to make an informed decision, and it examines creditors insurances scope, cost structure, and how it compares to other insurance products. (March 2009, Released June 2009) Download
Research on Consumer Protection, Civil Enforcement & Consumer Advocacy
This study identified consumers of goods and services who are vulnerable and require assistance to examine the type and extent of the assistance they require. It identified the help provided to vulnerable consumers and examined the best methods and programs to deliver the required assistance to them in the future. (March 2009, Released June 2009) Download
Consumers’ Willingness to Pay for Climate Change
Consumers Council’s Research Report on Canadian Consumers’ willingness to pay for energy efficiency and other initiatives that would contribute to the reduction of climate change. Download
Energy Efficiency and Building Codes
Report prepared for the Consumers Council of Canada by Michael Lio Download
Financial support from Industry Canada to conduct the research on which this report is based is gratefully acknowledged. The views expressed in this report are not necessarily those of Industry Canada or of the Government of Canada.
Gaps in New Home Warranty Programs Across Canada
The Consumer Council’s research into differences among provincial New Home Warranty programs. Download
Nanotechnology and Its Impact on Consumers
Report Prepared for the Consumers Council of Canada by Elizabeth Nielsen, Ph.D.
Nanotechnology, one of the key emerging technologies of this century, has the potential to provide consumers with a number of significant benefits and profoundly affect all aspects of their lives. These include energy efficiency, pollution prevention and clean up, diagnosis and treatment of disease and safe food and water. Nano enhanced products may also play a major role in reducing risks such as injury in car crashes, fire and earthquake damage due to their increased strength, flame resistance and flexibility. While the benefits of these technologies appear almost limitless, they will only be realized if consumers are confident that any potential adverse effects of nanotechnologies are identified, studied and managed. Download
Improving the Effectiveness of Consumer and Public Representatives on Delegated Administrative Authorities
Consumer Council’s report on how to improve Consumer Representation. Download