Not Knowing Your Consumer Rights Can Be Costly

From pre-paid cards to buy now, pay later purchases to gym memberships

I overhearI Smith photo newd the following conversation at the a bus stop outside a pharmacy.
Person #1:  I think that I was just overcharged for the bars of soap by this store.   The sticker on the shelf said $2.99 but when I got to the checkout counter, the cashier charged me  $4.99.
Person #2: If that is the case, go back and say something.  People do make mistakes.
Person #1: Well, by the time I get back to the cash and ask for a price check, I will miss the bus.  It is not worth my time and effort.  Besides, it is only a difference of $2.
Little does Person #1 know that it is not a difference of $2 but $5!   Yes, $5Pre
According Quebec consumer law, Person #1 has the right to a complete refund of the amount of money that the store charged for the bars of soap and not the difference in the two prices.
Going through the Éducaloi website (, there is a great collection of useful tips that will inform you on your rights which will lead you to save money.  Here is a selection of major tips for the following types of purchases:

Purchases with Prepaid Cards

Prepaid cards are classified as a card, cheque, certificate, etc. that allows a person to acquire goods or services in exchange for a payment made in advance.  This include: a mobile telephone card, a bus pass, a prepaid credit card, gift certificates, a card that can be exchanged for a particular item or service and a card that is valid at all businesses in a given place (ex. a shopping centre).
The common issue that most individuals have with using prepaid cards is what to do with balances that cannot be used to purchase goods and obtain additional services.
If you have less than $5 left on your prepaid card, you have the right to ask for the amount in cash from the merchant.  Unfortunately, this right does not apply to mobile telephone cards or prepaid credit cards.

  Door-to-Door Purchases

Door-to-Door sales people are very rare these days; however, they do still exist depending on the nature of the product or service that they are selling.
It is important to know that any sales person must have a permit issued by the Office de la protection du consommateur and the municipality that he or she is operating in.
In the event that you select to purchase an item or obtain a service, it is essential to get a detailed written contract, a statement of consumer cancellation rights and a cancellation form.   If the sales person is not prepared to provide all of these documents, do not proceed with the purchase.
Are you in the market for furniture or an appliance?   Chances are that you will see a great deal of “Buy Now, Pay Later” promotions.   This marketing technique is very useful for stores; however; not knowing the small details can lead to major headaches for consumers in the future.
Since the store is being supplied with financing by banks or other financial services companies, you will probably be asked to sign two sets of contracts at the time of your purchase.   As a result, you will be dealing with two entities or just the bank if you fail to make a payment or if the interest rate changes.
Although the  “Buy Now, Pay Later” offer implies that you will have the item in your home with the understanding that payment will be made in the future, ownership remains with the store until you make part or entire payment.   In the event that you need to resell the item due a need of cash, you are responsible for making the payments and not the individual that agreed to purchase the item from you.

Memberships at Gyms and Weight-Loss Clinics

Thinking of joining a gym to stay fit or get into shape?  There are details to be aware of before using a piece of gym equipment or starting to talk to an advisor.  Did you know that: a) a membership can only last one year, b) you do not have to pay until you start using the gyms’ or clinics’ services and c) If you have not yet received any services or if the goods and equipment are not yet available to you, you can cancel your contract without fees or penalties.

In the next issue of Community Contact, I will discuss the issues of pricing labelling and accuracy.

Disclaimer: This article is meant provide a general view of consumer rights in the province of Quebec and should not be considered as legal advice.