Your rights when signing or cancelling a contract

Under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), most agreements for a product or service that costs more than $50 must be in writing. See what should be included in a contract and how you may be able to cancel one.

Under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), you must get a written contract for transactions that cost more than $50 if:

  • you purchase any product or service at home from a door-to-door salesperson
  • you sign up for a membership (e.g. from a fitness club or buying club)
  • you get a subscription (magazine, music, etc.)
  • you hire a business or individual, like a general contractor or mover or snow removal services

This contract must contain all the details of the purchase and any credit terms you’ve agreed to.

Always remember to read and understand the terms and conditions before signing.

Rules about contracts under the CPA

Contracts are different depending on their purpose. But under the Consumer Protection Act, all contracts must contain a few common details to make sure your rights are protected.

All terms of the agreement

A contract must clearly show the terms of your agreement with the business.

All fees and charges must be what they say they are. For example, a business may not add a $20 surcharge for a “tax” that does not exist. Make sure you understand what each charge is for and that it’s valid.

If your contract has a cooling-off period, the contract must mention this information. It must also include details on how they will deal with the cancellation if you change your mind within that time.

Estimates in the contract

If a written estimate is included in the contract, the final price cannot be more than 10% above the estimate, unless you agree to a new price and sign a change to the contract. Make sure that any written estimate you receive is part of the contract, so that this 10% rule will apply.

If you are charged more than 10% above a written estimate without agreeing to it, you can demand that the final price be adjusted.

If a business refuses to adjust the price, you can file a complaint with the Ministry of Consumer Services.   

Your right to seek help

Some businesses add clauses to a contract that say that you must use a private arbitration process to resolve complaints instead of going to court or seeking assistance from the Ministry of Consumer Services. You are not bound by these clauses, even if you have accepted the agreement.

You always have the right to seek help for your dispute by contacting us or taking legal action.

Credit terms must be fully presented

The contract must show all financing charges and the annual interest rate for any financing agreement with the business. It must also explain how any extra charges would be calculated if you failed to make the payments.

Changing, renewing or extending without your permission

The business must provide you with written notice of any changes that they want to make to your contract. This includes renewing or extending it. They must also provide you with the option to not accept the changes to your contract.

Under the CPA, a written notice must include:

  • all proposed changes to be made to the contract
  • the date on which the change, renewal or extension would become effective
  • how the consumer must respond to the notice (mail, email, fax, etc.)
  • what would happen if the consumer failed to respond to the notice

If a business doesn’t follow these rules, any changes to your contract are invalid. You don’t have to pay for any charges or fees that are a result of invalid changes to your contract.

In these cases, you can write the business to ask for a correction or refund. If a business refused to correct the mistake, you can file a complaint with the Ministry of Consumer Services. 

Cancelling a contract

When you cancel a contract, any other arrangements you made with the purchase, like a financing agreement, are also cancelled.

Under the Consumer Protection Act,  you have the right to cancel a contract and have your money returned if one of the following applies to you:

  1. The contract has a cooling off period

You always have a cooling-off period when you sign a contract in your home. Other contracts may also have cooling-off periods

In those cases, you can cancel the contract for any reason within 10 days of receiving a written copy of the agreement. Send your cancellation letter by email or by registered mail so that you have a record of when you sent it. Be sure to keep a copy of your letter.

For most contracts, the company has 15 days to return your money. For payday loans, the company has to give you a refund within 2 days. If the contract was for a product, they are responsible for picking up the product or paying for it to be picked up if they want it back.

Use our guide to writing a cancellation letter within the 10 day cooling-off period (PDF)

  1. Unfair business practices

If the business has represented their goods or services in a false, misleading or deceptive way, you can withdraw from  the contract by writing to the business within 1 year and get a full refund.

Follow our sample letter for misrepresentation (PDF)

A business can’t bill you for goods or services that you did not request or that is different from what you agreed to in the contract. You don’t have to pay for these goods or services. If you already paid (for example, through debit or credit), you can demand the return of that money.

If a business refuses to give you a refund, you can file a complaint with the Ministry of Consumer Services or take legal action.

If there is a dispute over unclear or vague language, the law will interpret in favour of the consumer.

Here’s a sample of a letter for unfair business practices (PDF)

  1. Deliveries are not made on time

The company has to deliver any products or start any services in a reasonable time period. If your contract gives a date on which you can expect the delivery your products or services, the company has 30 days from that date to provide them to you. If they don’t, you can cancel the contract at any time before they deliver or start the services.

If your contract doesn’t give a date on which you can expect the products or services, the company has 30 days from the date you signed the contract to deliver on products or services.

In both cases, you lose your right to cancel the contract if you accept the delivery after the 30 days.

Use this sample of a late delivery letter (PDF)

Updated: April 17, 2014