Modelling and talent agencies: your rights
Learn about your rights before you sign up with a modelling or talent agency/agent and how to avoid common scams.
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You’re protected under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) if:
- you sign a modelling or talent contract that requires you to pay $50 or more in advance
- you work with a supplier who is in the business of providing modelling and talent services
Most complaints about modelling and talent services are about scams. Three common ones include:
Fake talent agents
If you are approached out of the blue in public by a talent agent, this should be a red flag. Most reputable talent agencies do not approach models and actors this way and rarely represent you if you have no experience or training.
If you see a casting call on an online classifieds site or in the newspaper, be careful. Reputable talent agencies usually don’t advertise their services to the general public.
In this scam, a talent agency tells you that you need an expensive portfolio of photos in order to get modelling or acting jobs. The agency will say you have to work with a specific photographer or studio, and they will pressure you to purchase photos on the spot.
If you already have a portfolio of photos, the agency will refuse to use it or will pressure you to add more photos.
After the agency collects your money, you typically never hear back from them about any work.
Legitimate agencies don’t require you to buy photos or insist that you only use a particular photographer. If a talent agency wants you to pay for photos up front, walk away.
Avoid dealing with any talent agency that says you must attend their classes or lessons. In most cases, this means that these agencies are just interested in collecting course fees.
Reputable talent agencies expect you to already have experience and training. The one exception to this is “background agencies” that hire “extras” (walk-on performers who do not have speaking roles) for films and commercials. Background agencies look only at your appearance, wardrobe and availability, and not at your experience.
Under the Consumer Protection Act, your contract must include:
- your full name
- the modelling or talent agency or agent’s name and address
- a full description of the services you are purchasing
- conditions of cancellation and renewal
- the total amount that you will pay, the number and amount of payments you will need to make and any additional charges
- the start and end date for each service that is part of the contract
- the dates when the contract begins and ends
Make sure you read the contract before signing. Contracts can’t include sections that ask you to give up your basic consumer rights. For example, a contract can’t make you give up your right to seek help or take legal action.
If you feel you’ve been wronged by a modelling or talent agency or agent, find out how to make a complaint.
Fees and charges must be clearly outlined in your contract
All fees and charges must be what they say they are. For example, an agency may not add a surcharge for a “tax” that does not exist. Make sure you understand what each charge is for and that it’s valid.
A limit on initiation fees
Modelling and talent agencies or agents may require you to pay an initiation fee.
The total amount for initiation fees cannot be more than twice your total annual fees.
The modelling or talent agency or agent must give you the option of paying any annual fee for their services in monthly installments.
The modelling or talent agency or agent can charge up to 25% more than the total would be if payment were made upfront — but there’s no danger of a big loss if the business goes bankrupt.
Cancelling a contract
You have the right to cancel a contract for modelling or acting development within 10 days of receiving a written copy of your contract. You don’t need a reason to cancel. All you need to do is to provide notice to the supplier.
- cancel in writing and keep a copy of your cancellation letter
- keep proof that the cancellation letter was sent (if you send the letter by registered mail, keep the receipt, and if you send it by fax, hold on to the confirmation receipt)
- keep records of all communication with the business
- give the company about 10-15 days to answer your concerns
It’s always best to cancel in writing so you have proof of the date you cancelled. If you cancel by phone, make sure to note the date and details of the conversation and keep a copy for your records. You also have the right to cancel your modelling or talent contract within one year if it doesn’t include certain information or if you don’t get a copy of the agreement.
Renewing a contract
All contracts must end after one year.
Contracts may be renewed only if the modelling or talent agency or agent follows certain rules, including:
- sending you a renewal notice at least 30 days, but not more than 90 days before the contract expires
- giving you a copy of the contract that clearly notes all changes the modelling or talent agency has made to the contract
If you received a renewal notice and do not respond to it, the modelling or talent agency or agent has the right to renew and bill you under the renewed contract.
If your modelling or talent contract is renewed without notice, it is not a valid contract. You may send a letter of cancellation to the modelling or talent agency or agent.
Before signing up
- do your research — check the agency’s reputation before you sign a contract (check the Consumer Beware List)
- don’t rush into anything — be wary of pressure tactics to convince you to buy expensive photos, video shoots and courses
- read the contract — know what is being promised
- treat guarantees of work as a red flag — no reputable agency will guarantee they can find you modelling and acting jobs
- ask for recommendations – talk to people familiar with the industry (for example, models, actors)
Ask the right questions
- can I take some time to review the contract and show it to a lawyer before signing?
- are photo and video shoots included in the contract?
- what fees do you charge?
- what expenses will you cover?
- if I want to cancel my contract, will there be any fees?
- how will you contact me about renewing my contract?