Filing a consumer complaint

Read about how to file a consumer complaint with the Ministry of Consumer Services and write an effective complaint letter. 

How to make a complaint against a business

There are 3 steps you must follow:

  1. Review your rights
    See if your complaint falls under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) or the other consumer protection laws that we are responsible for.
    If you have questions about your rights, call us at:
  2. Write a complaint letter to the business
    You should write a complaint letter to the business before the ministry can get involved. Send your letter by email or by registered mail so you have a record of when you sent it.
    • Here’s a sample letter you can use as your template (PDF)
      You can also include a notification of consumer complaint (PDF) with your complaint letter. This notification tells the business that you have started the complaint process and explains the consequences of ignoring a complaint that may fall under the CPA.

      When you write your complaint letter:

      • type it or make sure your handwriting is neat and easy to read
      • explain what happened
      • be specific about how you want to resolve the problem. For example, request for a refund, return, etc.
      • specify the date by which you want a response (3 weeks is reasonable)
      • keep it short and to the point
      • be firm but polite
      • include copies (not originals) of receipts, invoices, contracts, or other relevant documents
      • include your signature and date
      • keep a copy of the letter
      • keep a record of its delivery. For example, send it by registered mail, fax or email
         
  3. Submit your complaint to the ministry
    If a letter to the business doesn’t resolve your issue, you can file a complaint with us by choosing one of the following:

After you file a complaint

We monitor all complaints and inquiries to track patterns of misconduct by a business or sector. Once we receive your complaint and all required supporting documents (receipts, invoices, contracts, etc.), we’ll be able to know how to help you. 

Mediation and investigation
The ministry may mediate or investigate complaints if the business violates a law we are responsible for, and:

  • your dispute (or a group of similar disputes) involves more than $500 including tax
  • we see a pattern of complaints about one business or sector

When we mediate, we contact the business on your behalf and try to find a solution for your dispute.

The ministry may begin an investigation if mediation is not successful. In some cases, it can lead to charges against the business.

If a business is found guilty under the Consumer Protection Act:

  • a corporation can be fined up to $250,000
  • a business owner can be sentenced to a term of imprisonment up to 2 years less a day or be fined up to $50,000, or both

If your complaint doesn’t meet the criteria for mediation or because of the nature of your complaint, it may be resolved through the small claims court process. We can help you understand your next steps.

If you don’t have a lawyer, you may contact one through the Law Society Referral Service.

Consumer beware list

We may add a business to our Consumer Beware List if they don’t respond to the ministry about your complaint, or if they were charged or convicted under the CPA or other laws we’re responsible for.

Other resources

If your complaint does not fall under the CPA or the other consumer protection legislation that we are responsible for, it may fall under one of these regulated business sectors:

You can also contact the Better Business Bureau to use their mediation services or search their database for business reviews.

Updated: April 17, 2014