February 2010

An unexpected Christmas gift

On December 2, 2009, Québecers received a Christmas gift from the National Assembly when bill 60 amending the Consumer Protection Act was passed, granting more power to consumers, especially with regards to wireless services.

One of the major changes to the Act is retailers' new obligation to provide clients with a service's total cost including all fees, even those specified in fine print in advertisements. The consumer is therefore certain to pay only the advertized price and applicable taxes. The Act also prohibits businesses from including an expiry date on their gift certificates and charging fees for the use of a prepaid card.

Another amendment stipulates that retailers must advise consumers of the legal and manufacturer warranties when selling any additional warranty coverage.

One of the most appreciated aspects of the Act is the fact that retailers can no longer unilaterally modify or terminate a contract of successive performance, such as one for wireless service. Any amendments brought to a contract by a seller must be approved by the consumer, who is free to terminate the contract at no charge. In addition, such modifications may not affect essential contract elements such as the price or nature of the service. In fact, the new Act clearly specifies the penalties for terminating a contract.

It seems that the changes brought to the Consumer Protection Act have truly attained their objective of setting clearer consumption regulations in Québec, especially with regards to wireless services. However, this gift from the government only comes into effect on June 30, 2010. It is therefore best to review your contracts and agreements very carefully until then to avoid any unwelcome surprises.