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Ontario proposes to change consumer protections, double fines for businesses

TORONTO — Ontario plans to give people a new way to exit timeshare agreements, make it easier to get out of a gym membership, and prohibit businesses from making false claims about prize offers, under new legislation.

Public and Business Service Delivery Minister Todd McCarthy introduced a new consumer protection bill Monday, saying the laws haven’t been comprehensively updated since 2005, and in that time practices have changed a lot, including the use of apps and increasing online shopping.

McCarthy says most people know someone who has dealt with an unscrupulous business, in the home renovations, appliance installation, and timeshare industries, and the rules need to be simpler, clearer and “reflective of a dynamic and increasingly digital-first marketplace.”

The legislation would allow owners to exit a timeshare contract after 25 years, if they want – no mandatory exit right currently exists – and would also set new rules for long-term leases for heating, ventilation and air conditioning appliances, setting limits on termination costs if a consumer wants to end the contract early. 

It would also ban businesses from using language in contracts to deter consumers from publishing negative reviews, prohibit businesses from “creating unnecessary barriers” when people try to cancel a subscription or membership, such as for a gym, and give consumers the right to three times the amount of a refund owed by a business if they’re forced to take that company to court to get their money back. 

The maximum fines for a person or business convicted under the Consumer Protect Act are $50,000 and $250,000, respectively, and the new legislation would double those amounts.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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