The Consumer Protection Act applies if you or the online business you are dealing with is located in Ontario when the transaction takes place. The most common type of online transaction is the purchase of a good or service, but there are other types of transactions including leasing or trading.

Learn more about your rights under the Consumer Protection Act

Buying online: your rights under the Consumer Protection Act

When you make an online transaction, like a purchase from your favourite online business, you are entering into a type of consumer agreement known as an Internet agreement. If you are spending more than $50, the Consumer Protection Act has rules that apply.

The business you are purchasing from must disclose certain information to you before you complete the transaction. This disclosure often comes in the form of a confirmation page that summarizes your purchase before you complete it. In this case, the confirmation page must include:

  • the name of the business (and the name they conduct business under, if different)
  • the business’ contact information
  • a fair and accurate description of the goods or services, including technical requirements, if any
  • an itemized price list, including taxes and shipping charges
  • a description of each additional charge that applies or may apply, such as customs duties or brokerage fees, and the amount of the charge if the business can determine it
  • the total amount you must pay (alongside the amount and frequency of payments, if applicable)
  • the terms and methods of payment
  • the delivery address, date, cost and method (if applicable)
  • the rights, if any, that the business agrees you will have in addition to the rights under the Consumer Protection Act as well as the business’ obligations, if any, in addition to those under the Act, in relation to cancellations, returns, exchanges and refunds
  • if a trade-in arrangement is included, a description of the trade-in arrangement and the amount of the trade-in allowance
  • the currency that amounts are expressed in (if not Canadian currency)
  • any other restrictions, limitations and conditions that would be imposed by the business

The Consumer Protection Act also applies to any services that you purchase online (like electricity for your home). In this case, before you complete the transaction, the agreement on the confirmation page must detail:

  • all of the above items
  • the date(s) on which the services would start, continue for and end
  • where and how the service would be performed (if applicable)
  • the name of the person performing the service (if the business plans to have another person perform the services on their behalf)

Before you complete an online purchase or transaction, the business must provide you with an opportunity to accept or decline the agreement or correct any errors.

The business must provide you with a copy of the Internet agreement in writing within 15 days of you completing your online purchase or transaction. If this copy is transmitted via the Internet, the business must ensure that you can retain, print and access it for future reference. This often comes in the form of a confirmation e-mail that you will receive. The copy they provide you with must include:

  • the above items
  • your name
  • the date on which the agreement was entered into

Tips for safe online shopping

When shopping online:

  • know who you’re dealing with – the website should provide basic information such as the business’ name, and its address, phone number, email address, etc.
  • do not risk buying when the details (like size, materials, colour options, certificates or seals of approval, and warranties or guarantees) are not clear
  • check the reputation of the business by reading reviews of their website and the item
  • remember to look at the full cost of the item, which includes all applicable taxes, shipping and handling charges, and duties
  • check that information on how to submit complaints is available on the website
  • print or save all agreements, receipts and related documentation in case your item is not delivered or if you need to return it
  • make sure that your credit card number and personal financial information are being sent over a secure and protected website and server

When shopping on an international website, make sure:

  • you know which currency the prices are displayed in and are aware of the exchange rate
  • the good(s) meets Canadian safety standards
  • you check international shipping costs for the transaction and for returns
  • the website has email or social media channels that offer customer service internationally
  • you check refund and exchange policies, and warranties that apply to customers internationally

Whenever possible, it is always recommended to deal with businesses that have a location in Ontario. Should a problem arise, it will be easier to remedy if the business has a location in the province.

Learn more about online shopping safety