You've probably heard about the Office de la protection du consommateur - the consumer protection bureau. This government agency informs and protects consumers in Quebec. This article explains what the bureau can do for you!
Inspects, Investigates and Takes Legal Action
The bureau must ensure that consumers' rights are respected. To do this, the bureau oversees these people:
- merchants in general (A merchant is someone doing business.)
- travel agents
- collection agents
- sellers of pre-arranged funeral services.
To protect consumers when they deal with these people, the bureau can take these steps:
- investigate business practices and conduct
- inspect places of business and documents
- take legal action in the courts to
- have these people ordered to pay fines, or
- stop certain illegal practices
You can get information specific to your personal situation by making a request to the bureau. They can provide these kinds of information:
- legal information
- referrals to other organizations working on consumer issues
- information about what to do or not to do
- warnings about risks you might face
You can request information in several ways:
- by visiting one of the bureau's offices
Information on Merchants
The bureau lets you to consult background information on merchants with whom you'd like to do business. This information will tell you the following:
- whether the merchant has ever acted illegally
- the type of complaints received about the merchant
- how those complaints were settled
- whether the merchant has the permit required by law
The bureau issues and oversees the permits, for these people, which are required by law:
- travel agents
- door-to-door merchants
- money lenders
- debt collection agents
- merchants operating physical fitness studios
- merchants offering extended warranties on cars and motorcycles
- vehicle recyclers
|Important! A permit is not a guarantee of the quality of products or services merchants offer. But it does allow consumers to be compensated if a merchant gave security (an amount of money) to get the permit or if the merchant can no longer respect its responsibilities.|
Reviews Complaints from Consumers
If you can't agree with a merchant on how to settle a problem about a product or service, you can file a complaint with the consumer protection bureau.
To file a complaint, you must first call the bureau and speak to an agent. The agent will tell you the procedure to follow. The bureau might ask you to send documents relating to your complaint, such as a bill, contract or product warranty document.
Getting a complaint can encourage a merchant to settle a situation. But the bureau is not a court: it cannot force a merchant to resolve a problem with a consumer.
Helps Consumers Settle Disputes
Legal Action in Court
The consumer protection bureau can take legal action against a merchant to have it fined or to make it stop doing something illegal. However, the bureau's role is not to take legal action on behalf of individual consumers.
Therefore, if you have still not come to an agreement after making a complaint to the bureau, it is up to you to take legal action against the merchant. If you decide to do this, you can ask the court to resolve the situation.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.