Overview

We examine complaints on a case-by-case basis and determine what action should be taken. The ministry’s involvement may include:

  • referral
  • mediation
  • educating the business and consumer
  • administrative action
  • compliance order
  • investigation and prosecution
  • adding the business to the Consumer Beware list

We can’t guarantee we will take any of these actions in a given case. It will depend on the facts and the evidence available.

Referral

If your complaint isn’t 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.

Mediation

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:

  1. Both parties will be asked to sign an agreement to mediate form that sets out the terms and conditions of the mediation.
  2. Parties may also be asked to share documents with the mediator assigned to the file, if they haven’t already done so.
  3. 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.

Educate the business and the consumer

We may educate the business about ways 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, they may consider the severity of the violation and the compliance history of the business to determine what administrative action may be taken.

Administrative actions include:

  • written warnings
  • imposing terms and conditions on licences and registrations
  • suspending or revoking licences or registrations

In certain cases, the Registrar may issue compliance orders regarding business materials, information or advertisements that the Registrar has reasonable grounds to believe break applicable laws or are misleading.

In all cases, a complaint where the Registrar believes a violation has occurred will form part of the business’ compliance history and inform future decisions about enforcement, registration, and licensing of that business.

In some cases, an assessor may also issue administrative monetary penalties.

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 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 that it is issued

If the director has made or is considering making an order to comply, the business can agree to enter 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 in 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

Consumer Beware List

The ministry may place the business on the Consumer Beware List if certain required conditions are met. The Consumer Beware List is maintained by the ministry and is an online list of businesses that have contravened or been charged under consumer protection legislation or have failed to meet certain requirements for responding to consumer complaints.