Unfair trading practices are prohibited when you purchase goods for yourself, your family or your home. You are protected when you purchase a vehicle for your personal needs or purchase a water heater for your home. You are protected when you hire someone to paint your home or fix your television set. You may also purchase a family membership in a social, or gym club and be protected against unfair trading practices.
The Fair Trading Act does not apply to goods used for business purposes. Other type of purchases such as a house and land or stocks and bonds are dealt with differently and you should consult a lawyer if you have any concerns regarding your purchase.
The kinds of unfair trading practices that are prohibited under the Act include the following:
Misleading statements about the purchase are the most common unfair trading practice. The seller cannot tell you anything about goods or services that may deceive you. The following list includes examples of misleading statements:
Negative option practices are also prohibited by the Fair Trading Act. A negative option practice is where a seller sends you goods or services without your consent and then demands that you pay for it. For example, someone cannot offer you a free subscription of magazines for 3 months and then charge you after the 3 months without your consent to continue the subscription.
You may take legal action against someone who sells you goods if you have suffered a loss or damage(s). Look at your contract to see if you agreed to arbitration to settle any disputes. If not, you may bring your action in the Civil Court Division of the Provincial Court of Alberta, or the Court of Queen’s Bench. The Small Claims Division of the Provincial Court will hear your matter where the dispute is $50,000 or less. You should consult a lawyer if you want to bring your action in the Court of Queen’s Bench. You will also have to serve the Director of Fair Trading if you use the Court of Queen’s Bench. The Director may decide to take your matter to Court for you, or start a Court action if it is in the public interest to do so.
You should also file a complaint with the Consumer Investigations Unit through the Consumer Contact Centre in Edmonton at 780- 427-4088, or toll-free from anywhere in Alberta at 1-877-427-4088. The Consumer Investigations Unit, or CIU, may choose to investigate the matter at no cost to you. They may fine the seller, however, they will not award you personally with any remedy.