Have you registered for a course or social activity for work or to fill your spare time? You might be taking dance, language or personal growth classes, intensive first aid training or have signed up with a matchmaking agency. Your goal might be to build knowledge and skills or to expand your social network.
In all of these situations, the law protects you when you make a contract with a merchant to receive these services over a period of a few days, weeks or months.
The rules in this article only apply when you go in person to sign a contract with a gym or weight-loss clinic. If you make a contract at a distance, for example, by Internet or telephone, the rules might be different. Check the website of the Office de la protection du consommateur (consumer protection bureau) to find out more.
Important! Health clubs, that is, "gyms" and "weight loss clinics" that help you lose weight, must respect rules that are different than the rules explained in this article.
Important! The rules explained in this article do not apply to courses and social activities offered by these institutions and people:
A Written Contract Is Required
The contract for services that you enter into when you register for a course or social activity must always be written. It must also include this information:
- your name and address
- the name and address of the person or company giving the course
- the date and place of the contract
- a description of the services offered
- the date at which the services will be offered for the first time
- the length of the contract
- the number of hours, days or weeks during which the services will be provided (for example, two hours a week for eight weeks)
- the rate per hour, day or week (the rate must be the same during the whole length of the contract)
- the total price of the contract
- how you can pay for the services (cheque, credit card, etc.)
The merchant must include a cancellation form with the copy of the contract that she gives you. This form lets you end the contract if you choose to.
You can also ask a court to cancel the contract if it doesn't have all of these elements and the failure to include them has truly caused you harm.
Paying for Your Course or Social Activity
You don't have to pay until you've started to benefit from the services mentionned in your contract.
Usually, the merchant must give you the chance to pay in two or more payments. These payments must be roughly equal and spaced evenly apart in time.
There are two exceptions to this rule: the merchant can require you to pay in one payment in these situations:
- the total cost of the contract is $100 or less
- no matter what the amount of the contract is, the services will be offered over three consecutive days or less
Cancelling Your Course or Social Activity
You can cancel your registration for a course or social activity at any time. The consequences of cancelling depend on your situation:
- If you haven't started your course or activity, you can cancel your contract without any penalty or fee.
- If you've started your course or activity, you must pay the following:
- for the services that you've already received
- a penalty equal to the lower of two amounts: $50 or 10% of the total price of the services that you haven't yet received
Your Spanish course costs $80 a class and you've registered for 10 classes for a total of $800.
If you decide to cancel after two classes, you must pay for the classes that you've already taken (two classes X $80 = $160) and a penalty of $50. The cost of the classes that you haven't taken is $640 ($800 - $160) and 10% of this amount is higher than the fixed penalty of $50.
If you decide to cancel your course after six classes, you must pay for the classes that you've already taken (six classes X $80 = $480) and a penalty of $32. The cost of the classes that you haven't taken is $320 ($800 - $480) and 10% of this amount ($32) is less than the $50 fixed penalty.
To cancel your registration for a course or social activity, you must cancel the contract you made with the merchant by sending one of the documents listed below, ideally by registered mail:
- the cancellation form included with the copy of the contract that you were given when you registered
- a written notice saying that you're cancelling your course, training or activity
The merchant must then give you back any money that you paid in advance. This reimbursement must be done within 10 days of your cancellation. Obviously, the merchant can deduct any amount that you owe her, as explained above.
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.