Updated Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Consuming the Consumer

I know a few people lately who've found themselves on the business-end of some seriously high-pressure sales tactics.

They've hung up the phone, closed the door or left the gym and thought to themselves 'wait a minute... what the hell did I just do?'

So, as a former door-to-door salesmen myself, I wanted to write a little something for my fellow Canadians and introduce you to a little-known Consumer Right (yes, Consumers in Canada have RIGHTS... crazy, eh?) called the 'Cooling off period'.

In Ontario any written contract worth over $50 -- From the DAY YOU RECEIVE IT -- can be cancelled, for any reason. This right was granted to you by the 'Consumer Protection Act of 2002'.

You can, if you like, read the act HERE.

Or, you can go to this website for explanations of how it works and for templates of letters that you can use for canceling a contract under the Act.

You can read your actual rights as a consumer in Ontario here.

You should also make sure that you cancel in writing and submit it by fax or by registered mail so that you have proof that you tried to cancel (I recommend registered mail).

Now, if you don't live in Ontario, that doesn't mean you're excluded. Some provinces have different laws and regulations in regard to this.

To find out more, find your province below:

** Note, I'm highlighting special considerations by province as I find them, these are not exhaustive by any means, but hopefully will help point you in the right direction.

Provincial and Territorial Governments (this list is copied from here - with my notations added):

First off: Download/Read the Canadian Consumer Handbook 2008-2009

--> No cooling off period for buying a car, 2-day cooling off period for Pay-day Loans. In Alberta, you want to read the 'Fair Trading Act'.

Service Alberta
Consumer Contact Centre
17th Floor, TD Tower
10888–102 Avenue
Edmonton Alberta T5J 2Z1
Telephone: 780-427-4088
Toll-free: 1-877-427-4088
Email: governmentservices@gov.ab.ca
Website: www.servicealberta.gov.ab.ca

British Columbia
--> 10 day cooling off period for door-to-door sales. 24 hours if you lease -- not purchase -- a car (and only if you leave it with the dealer for that time). In BC it's called the
'Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act'

Consumer Protection BC is a not-for-profit organization that operates at arm's length from government. On July 4, 2004, the Authority assumed responsibility for the oversight of business practices and consumer protection in British Columbia, functions previously performed by the Consumer Services Division of the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General of British Columbia.

Consumer Protection BC
5th Floor, 1019 Wharf Street
PO Box 9244
Victoria British Columbia V8W 9J2
Telephone: 604-320-1667
Toll-free: 1-888-564-9963
Fax: 250-920-7181
Email: info@consumerprotectionbc.ca
Website: www.consumerprotectionbc.ca

--> Up to 48 hrs after purchasing a condominium, 7 days on a reverse-mortgage loan, 48 hrs for a Pay-day loan.

Consumers' Bureau
Consumer and Corporate Affairs, Manitoba Finance
302–258 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg Manitoba R3C 0B6
Telephone: 204-945-3800
Toll-free: 1-800-782-0067
Fax: 204-945-0728
Email: consumersbureau@gov.mb.ca
Website: www.gov.mb.ca/finance/cca/consumb

New Brunswick
10 days for purchasing a Condo, No cool off period for car purchases, 10 days for any door-to-door sales pitch sale over $100. This is granted to you under the 'Direct Sellers Act'.

Rentalsman and Consumer Affairs
Department of Justice and Consumer Affairs
Centennial Building
PO Box 6000
Fredericton New Brunswick E3B 5H1
Telephone: 506-453-2659
Fax: 506-444-4494
Website: www.gnb.ca/0062/rentalsman/index-e.asp

Newfoundland and Labrador
--> No cooling off period for vehicle purchase, 10 days for a door-to-door sale that is more than $100. This is given under the 'Direct Seller's Act'. There is a great FAQ here.

Trade Practices Division
Department of Government Services
5 Mews Place
PO Box 8700
St. John's Newfoundland and Labrador A1B 4J6
Telephone: 709-729-2600
Toll-free: 1-877-968-2600
Fax: 709-729-6998
Email: gslinfo@gov.nl.ca
Website: www.gs.gov.nl.ca/cca/tp

Northwest Territories
--> You have the 'Consumer Protection Act' (PDF), but I can find no mention at all of a 'cooling off period'.

Consumer Affairs
Department of Municipal and Community Affairs
Suite 400, 5201–50th Avenue
PO Box 1320
Yellowknife Northwest Territories X1A 3S9
Telephone: 867-873-7125
Fax: 867-873-0609
Email: michael_gagnon@gov.nt.ca
Website: www.maca.gov.nt.ca/operations/ consumer_affairs/index.html

Nova Scotia
--> 10 days for a door-to-door sale over $100, 24 hrs to change your mind on a Pay-day loan. You have the 'Consumer Protection Act' (this link is an overview of your rights).

Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations
Public Enquiries
Mail Room, 8 South, Maritime Centre
1505 Barrington Street
Halifax Nova Scotia B3J 3K5
Telephone: 902-424-5200
Toll-free: 1-800-670-4357
Fax: 902-424-0720
Email: askus@gov.ns.ca
Website: www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr

--> Sadly, I can't find anything in regards to consumer protection legislation or 'cooling off periods'. That doesn't mean there isn't any, I just haven't been able to find them.

Consumer Affairs
Department of Community and Government Services
PO Box 440
Baker Lake Nunavut X0C 0A0
Telephone: 867-793-3303
Toll-free: 1-866-223-8139
Fax: 867-793-3321

--> (See beginning of post)

Ministry of Consumer Services
Suite 1500, 5775 Yonge Street
Toronto Ontario M7A 2E5
Telephone: 416-326-8611
Toll-free: 1-800-889-9768
TTY: 416-325-3408
Toll-free: 1-800-268-7095
Fax: 416-326-8665
Email: consumer@ontario.ca
Website: www.ontario.ca/consumerprotection

Prince Edward Island
--> 10 days after the day of a door-to-door sale. For some situations (ie. being mislead into buying a vehicle) you may have recourse under the 'Business Practices Act'

Consumer Services
Office of the Attorney General
4th Floor, Shaw Building
95 Rochford Street
PO Box 2000
Charlottetown Prince Edward Island C1A 7N8
Telephone: 902-368-4550
Toll-free: 1-800-658-1799
Fax: 902-368-5283
Website: www.gov.pe.ca/attorneygeneral/ index.php3?number=1002799&lang=E

--> If you feel your rights as a consumer have not been respected you can launch a complaint online here. Also, read Québec's 'Consumer Protection Act'. There's also a great Article explaining 'Québec Consumer Protection'.

Office de la protection du consommateur
Suite 450, 400 Jean-Lesage Boulevard
Québec Quebec G1K 8W4
Toll-free: 1-888-672-2556
Fax: 418-528-0976
Website: http://www.opc.gouv.qc.ca/

--> Your rights and responsibilities as a consumer. An explanation of 'The Consumer Protection Act'. 10 day 'cooling off period' for door-to-door sales, more if they're unlicensed or from out of province.

Consumer Protection Branch
Saskatchewan Department of Justice
Suite 500, 1919 Saskatchewan Drive
Regina Saskatchewan S4P 4H2
Telephone: 306-787-5550
Toll-free: 1-888-374-4636
Fax: 306-787-9779
Email: consumerprotection@justice.gov.sk.ca
Website: www.justice.gov.sk.ca/cpb

--> Visit their 'Consumer Protection' page
'cause I can't find much else...

Consumer Services
Department of Community Services
Third Floor, Andrew Philipson Law Centre
2130 Second Avenue
PO Box 2703
Whitehorse Yukon Y1A 2C6
Telephone: 867-667-5111
Toll-free: 1-800-661-0408, local 5111
Fax: 867-667-3609
Email: consumer@gov.yk.ca
Website: www.community.gov.yk.ca/consumer/index.html

Good luck out there folks!

Remember: You are always free to leave at any time. No one has the right to make you feel uncomfortable in a sales situation and you're completely within your rights to get up and leave -- or, if they're in your house, ask them to leave.

And, frankly, if you ARE feeling pressured or bullied or anything during a sales presentation, you should leave. If you're still interested in the service, come back some other time and ask to speak to a different representative.

Also, for myself and as a general rule of thumb, I never buy anything sold to me at the door, on the street or from unsolicited ads online -- even if it sounds like the deal of the century. Ask for the information, take it inside, look into it on your own. Read the fine print.

If you ever hear a door-to-door salesperson say 'oh, this is time sensitive' or anything remotely like it, I will guarantee you that in some way you're not getting the full picture. They WANT you to rush, to not think. Door-to-door salespeople are trained to get you (as fast as possible) into a 'non-thinking' state by talking fast, overwhelming you with information or using lots of technical-sounding jargon.

Watch for salespeople who continually nod their heads 'yes' at you while they speak and ask you questions. They're taught to use subliminal cues to get you to not think, to get you to automatically agree with them. As humans, when put into a situation where we're confused or off balance, often our natural response is to go with the guy/grrl who has the answers. They know this, they're trained to do it. Watch out for it.

Also, if an unsolicited salesperson ever steps a foot into your house (without your permission), your first reaction must always be to say "please step back". This is another trick... another way to throw you off balance, so that you're more willing to say/sign anything to get them to leave. Be aware of this. They're counting on you to be a nice, polite human being that's too nice to kick them out.

Don't let it get that far.

Anyways, always remember, you have 10 days to cancel but you should begin that process as quickly as possible 'cause sometimes the dirtier places are prone to 'lose' things. Or forget to pick up their phone. Or 'accidentally' give you the wrong number for their cancellation line.

Yes, not all door-to-door salespeople are bad - I prided myself on being upfront and honest (which, is why I wasn't a top seller...) - but the fact is that there are enough bad ones that almost every province has laws protecting consumers from door-to-door sales. Keep that in mind.

Do your research and remember your rights and you'll be fine ;)

Now if only we could make this 'cooling off period' work for elections... :S


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