A proposed bill would make life more affordable by strengthening consumer protections and helping businesses succeed.
A Better Deal for Consumers and Businesses Act would support a level playing field for businesses and improve protections for Albertans making big purchases like buying or repairing a car, buying concert tickets, taking out a loan or getting medical care for their pets.
If passed, the bill would also empower shoppers with more information and put bad actors on notice, with strong recourse for consumers if a transaction goes wrong.
“Albertans deserve a government that looks out for their interests. That’s why we are strengthening consumer protections to make life more affordable. And we are bringing in smart rules to support businesses, because they should not be undermined by bad actors that don’t play by the rules. Bottom line, stronger protections boost consumer confidence, and that’s good for business.”
~Stephanie McLean, Minister of Service Alberta
The Better Deal for Consumers and Businesses Act would:
- Put fans first by helping prevent ticket fraud and gouging through measures including: banning ticket bots that allow scalpers to buy tickets in bulk, requiring that ticket sellers carry out due diligence to identify any ticket purchased by bots, and requiring re-sellers to offer full refunds for tickets that are cancelled, counterfeit or purchased by bots.
- Introduce strong rules for buying a car and standards for car repairs. Regulations would require sellers to disclose vehicle history, use a standard bill of sale and follow minimum warranty protections for repairs.
- Better protect borrowers against high-cost credit by licensing high-interest lenders and establishing disclosure and advertising requirements so consumers know what they are signing up for.
- Support pet owners in finding quality care by requiring fee disclosure and getting customer approval before administering veterinary services for pets.
- Strengthening oversight of the auto sector by transitioning the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC) board to a public agency, and enabling the minister responsible to oversee governance issues to ensure the auto regulator is properly protecting consumers and building integrity in the industry.
- Boost consumer confidence when shopping by creating a Consumer Bill of Rights to let Albertans know their rights, require consumers to be informed and consent to any contract changes, disallow clauses that prevent consumers from posting negative business reviews, and enable government to publicly release information about charges, convictions and other enforcement actions taken under the act.
“There is widespread feeling among Albertans that the ticketing system is rigged against them. We believe fans deserve a fair shot at tickets to see their favourite artists. And they deserve to feel confident that when they buy a ticket, they are not getting gouged or scammed. So we are putting fans first by banning bots to build a trusted marketplace for fans and entertainers.”
~Stephanie McLean, Minister of Service Alberta
“Any time we can help the consumer and artist, it’s a good thing. It’s about time laws were put in place to hold people (bot users) accountable – this will bring fairness to the consumer.”
~Ron Sakamoto, president, Gold and Gold Productions, and promoter for Keith Urban, Faith Hill, Bryan Adams, Shania Twain and Tim McGraw
“The failings of the so-called secondary ticketing market are global in scale, and though FanFair Alliance is focused on the U.K.’s live music business, we welcome and support all measures – including these in Alberta – that aim to make ticket resale more transparent and consumer-friendly.”
~Adam Webb, manager, FanFair Alliance, supported by a range of music businesses including managers of Mumford & Sons, Ed Sheeran and Arctic Monkeys
“We thank the Alberta government for the continued work in the area of high-cost credit and consumer protection. Too often, we see situations where short-term relief of immediate cash can turn into long-term grief and a challenging cycle of debt. That’s why we support the latest policy recommendations that would make lending safer and fairer for all Albertans. We are encouraged by this work, and look forward to more positive changes to address issues of financial vulnerability.”
~Jeff Loomis, executive director, Momentum
“Better Business Bureau’s vision is to create an ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers can trust each other. BBB hopes these legislative changes in Alberta will help advance marketplace trust by giving businesses a framework for operating ethically, calling out those who don’t and giving consumers confidence that they’re protected from unethical players.”
~Mary O’Sullivan-Andersen, president and CEO of BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay
“BBB is very excited for these proposed changes. As an organization whose goal it is to promote a fair and honest marketplace, any changes that look to increase transparency between customers and businesses are a step in the right direction.”
~Ron Mycholuk, marketing manager, Better Business Bureau serving Central and Northern Alberta
“Alberta retailers support today’s announcement as a meaningful way of enhancing consumer confidence and ensuring that all Alberta businesses compete on a level playing field. As an active contributor throughout the stakeholder process, the Retail Council of Canada believes that the legislation being presented will help safeguard the very important relationship between Alberta consumers and businesses.”
~John Graham, director, Government Relations, Prairie Region, Retail Council of Canada
“Consumer confidence and fair competition are essential for a vibrant and healthy economy. Businesspeople understand this, and the vast majority treat their customers fairly. The Chamber hosted sessions to ensure our members’ voices were heard through these consultations. This legislation shows that government was listening, and we’re confident it will foster even greater trust between consumers and the business community.”
~Janet Riopel, president and CEO, Edmonton Chamber of Commerce
About consumer protection changes
If passed, the bill would improve protections in the following areas, which were the most popular topics raised during public consultations over the summer.
A refocus of the Fair Trading Act to protecting consumers
- Rename the Fair Trading Act as the Consumer Protection Act to focus the intention and purpose of the act.
- Enable the minister to create a bill of rights that will be a guideline to recognize and respect consumers’ rights, and inform buyers of their rights and support them in making informed purchasing decisions.
- Ban the use of bots and to help enforce this ban, ensure that businesses and consumers who are harmed have the right to sue bot users.
- Require sellers to provide refunds for consumers who buy their tickets on the secondary market from places like StubHub when the ticket is cancelled or is counterfeit.
Buying or repairing a car – regulations will
- Require sellers to disclose vehicle history.
- Require a standard bill of sale.
- Establish minimum warranty protections for repairs.
- Require repair shops to provide written estimates, upon request, prior to beginning work.
- Require repair shops to obtain consumer authorization before beginning work.
- Define high-cost credit as 32 per cent and above (e.g., pawn shops, rent-to-own furniture, high-interest instalment loans).
- Establish disclosure and advertising requirements such as a standard format for information to be disclosed in high-cost credit transactions and only advertising in the name under which they are licensed.
- Require the use of standard contract formats or contract terms so consumers clearly understand the nature of high-cost credit and, as a result, can make more informed decisions.
- Establish licensing requirements for high-interest lenders, giving government a stronger ability to enforce marketplace rules through a licensing framework.
- Require disclosure of fees before administering any veterinary services or treatments for household pets.
- Enable advertising or posting of fees.
- Require customer approval prior to administering veterinary services, unless it is an emergency.
Improve oversight over auto industry
- Strengthen the oversight of AMVIC to better protect the interests of consumers and ensure integrity in the automotive industry.
- Transition AMVIC into a corporation subject to enhanced oversight by the minister.
- Enable the minister to set the composition of the AMVIC board, regulate the appointment of specific roles such as board chair, establish rules for how the board makes decisions and address other similar issues.
Fairness between consumers and business
- Require consumers be notified about and consent to any changes to contracts.
- Disallow clauses that prevent consumers from posting negative business reviews.
- Give consumers who file complaints in good faith or who issue a negative review a new right of defence against lawsuits.
- Give consumers an expanded right to sue in instances of losses.
- Enable the public release of information about charges, convictions and other enforcement actions taken under the act.
The government will also work on setting up a new consumer protection office next year, to consolidate its consumer protection activities – consumer protection call centre, public education, investigations, regulation administration – to enable more proactive actions (e.g., consumer alerts, investigations, anticipating marketplace issues) and preventive measures in addressing consumer trends.
- The Fair Trading Act ensures transactions between businesses and consumers are conducted fairly. The act came into force in 2000 and has not been significantly updated since 2005.
- Service Alberta investigates potential violations of consumer protection laws, reviews complaints for transactions between businesses and consumers and takes enforcement action where legislative breaches have occurred.