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Consumer Problems and Recourses

As a consumer, we are bombarded with advertisements for various products and it requires due diligence on our part to get the best value for the price we pay. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we can be left with a lemon. Some people may be capable enough to make lemonade in such scenarios, while others are left to search for refund and exchange policies to correct the situation. This post will look at some of the steps that one could take to address the problem.

Refunds and Exchanges

Many stores (especially clothing ones) have a refund and/or exchange policy for items that a consumer does not like or finds a defect in (or realizes the hit to their monthly budget at a partner’s insistence!) after purchasing them. However, it is likely that there is a limited time period for such refunds/exchanges (typically, 7 or 14 days).

Most stores will replace a defective item, repair it or provide a refund. For non-defective returns, it is good practice to ask a store employee before the purchase or check the receipt (may be too late already). Some examples of items that may not be returned include certain electronic items that have been opened, open box items, ski lift tickets and personal wear such as undergarments.

It should be noted that private sales such as those involving items purchased on Kijiji may not have any recourse in the event of a problem as they are not covered by consumer protection laws.

Lowest Price Guarantee

Currently, many stores such as Best Buy and Future Shop offer a price match or lowest price guarantee. The price match can take different forms: starting from mentioning a competitor’s price before a purchase and getting the lowest price to going back to seek a lower price by comparing to a competitor’s offering within 30 days of purchase. Nonetheless, if an item goes on sale after a consumer has purchased the item, the policies differ. For example, Future Shop will provide a refund for their own price differential if the same item goes on sale within 30 days but it might not be the case with every store.

Editors Note: Some free credit cards, like the MBNA Smart Cash World or Capital One Aspire Cash World card offer price protection as part of the benefits insurance package.

Measurement Discrepancies

Although not common (based on limited media attention to this topic), there may be instances when a consumer suspects an inaccurate meter (e.g. gas pump) or scale (e.g. an electronic balance) that may have been manipulated. The first step is to express the concern to the establishment manager or owner to resolve the problem (assuming the suspicion turns out to be valid).

In the absence of a direct resolution, a consumer can register a complaint with Measurement Canada through one of their local offices. However, it is worth noting that Measurement Canada only reports the findings of the investigation and does not get involved in the subsequent course of action; that is left to the individual parties to decide.

Consumer Recourse Information

Every province has its own consumer protection division, board and/or commission to regulate the local marketplace in an efficient manner and help its functioning in an ethical way. This page provides links to every provincial body’s website; the individual links offer detailed overviews of that province’s business practices, legislation and recourses available. The link above also offers resources that discuss the Canadian government’s role and how it deals with consumer affairs across different areas.

Have you been in a situation that required the intervention of a third-party to solve a consumer problem? Or, were you able to find resolution directly with the establishment? Either way, please share your experience in the comments.

About the Author: Clark works in Saskatchewan and has been working to build his (DIY) investment portfolio, structured for an early retirement. He loves reading (and using the lessons learned) about personal finance, technology and minimalism. You can read his other articles here.

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About the author: Clark works in Saskatchewan and has been working to build his (DIY) investment portfolio, structured for an early retirement. He loves reading (and using the lessons learned) about personal finance, technology and minimalism. You can read his other articles here.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader May 29, 2013, 9:49 am

    My suggestion would be to shop at Costco – best return policy in the business, you don’t even need a receipt! As mentioned, using a credit card with proper insurances can help a lot – price protection, extended warranty, flight insurance etc.

  • SST May 29, 2013, 11:33 am

    What if the seller has a ‘zero liability’ clause on it’s product, such as with the financial industry?

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