How we address consumer complaints
Learn about actions we may take when you submit a complaint against a business.
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The Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery addresses consumer complaints on a case-by-case basis to determine what actions, if any, are required. The ministry’s actions may involve:
- educating the business and consumer
For businesses that have not complied with consumer protection legislation repeatedly, the ministry may:
- issue an administrative action
- issue a compliance order
- conduct an investigation
- adding the business to the Consumer Beware List
The ministry’s actions will depend on the facts and the evidence available.
If your complaint is not covered by the consumer laws that we enforce, we will do our best to help you find an organization or government office that can assist you.
If we determine that the business may have contravened consumer protection legislation, we may attempt to mediate a resolution between you and the business. Mediation is free of charge.
If we decide to mediate:
- Both parties will be asked to sign an agreement to mediate form that sets out the terms and conditions of the mediation.
- Parties also may be asked to share documents with the mediator assigned to the file, if they have not already done so.
- If a resolution is reached, you will receive a written record of discussion, which describes what the parties agreed to do to resolve the complaint.
Be aware that mediation is voluntary and we cannot force the business to respond or resolve the complaint. If the complaint remains unresolved, you may pursue the matter in court.
Educate the business and the consumer
We may educate the business about how to be compliant with consumer protection laws and the consumer about their rights, as well as other laws that may apply to their complaint.
Take administrative action
If the business is a registrant, licensee, or appointee regulated by the ministry, the Registrar may review the complaint to determine whether administrative action is necessary. This typically involves requesting information from both the complainant and the business to determine whether, in the Registrar’s opinion, the applicable consumer protection law was broken.
If the Registrar believes that the business has broken the law, the complaint will become part of the business’ compliance history and inform future decisions about enforcement, registration, and licensing of that business.
Depending on the severity of the violation, the Registrar also may determine that specific administrative action is necessary to bring the business into compliance.
Administrative actions include:
- written warnings
- imposing terms and conditions on licences and registrations
- compliance orders
- suspending or revoking licences or registrations
- monetary penalties
In some cases, administrative actions may result in remedies for the harm suffered by the complainant. However, in many cases, administrative action may have no direct benefit to consumers.
The ministry's goal is to help businesses comply with their obligations under the law while supporting consumers with complaints that are permitted under those same laws. Given the business compliance focus, the Registrar does not provide regular status updates on complaints to consumers.
Compliance order (director’s order)
If the designated director believes, on reasonable grounds that a business has broken any provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 2002, an order may be proposed or issued to require compliance. For example, the director can order the business to stop distributing materials that are believed to be false, misleading or deceptive and to retract or correct the misrepresentation.
If the director has proposed or made an order to comply:
- the business has the right to request a hearing before the Licence Appeal Tribunal
- the request for a hearing must be made within 15 days of the date when the order is issued
- if the business does not request a hearing, a proposed order will be issued and become legally binding
- an order for immediate compliance takes effect at the time of issue
If the director has made or is considering making an order to comply, the business can agree to enter into a written undertaking of voluntary compliance. The undertaking may require the business to:
- provide compensation to the consumer
- correct and stop non-compliant activities
- take any action that the ministry considers appropriate under the circumstances
Investigation and prosecution
If the ministry has reason to believe that a business has committed an offence, it may conduct an investigation. If the investigation finds evidence of an offence, and it is in the broader public interest, the ministry may recommend a prosecution. Ultimately, an independent prosecutor will decide if a prosecution should proceed.
If a business is found guilty of an offence under the Consumer Protection Act, 2002:
- a corporation can be fined up to $250,000
- an individual associated with the business can be sentenced to a term of imprisonment up to 2 years less a day or be fined up to $50,000, or both
Our approach to enforcement action
The ministry regulates industries, with a mandate to promote and encourage a fair marketplace. We take our role as regulator seriously, particularly when addressing allegations of businesses or individuals that violate our legislation.
The purpose of any enforcement action, including prosecution, is to respond to risk of harm to the broader public, and to deter the supplier and others responsible for that risk from violating the law.
Enforcement action is not designed to advocate for individual consumers or to remedy their circumstance. For this reason, not every complaint will result in enforcement action.
Consumer Beware List
The Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery maintains an online Consumer Beware List which is a searchable archive of businesses that have either:
- not responded to the ministry after they were sent 2 notifications about a consumer complaint
- been charged or convicted in relation to the Consumer Protection Act, 2002 or other acts of the ministry
Information about a business will remain on the Consumer Beware List for 21 to 27 months.