Consumers are protected under the Consumer Protection Act and other consumer protection legislation.
Many of your rights as a consumer are protected by the Consumer Protection Act. The act covers general consumer protections, as well the most common consumer transactions, like online shopping, gift cards and warranties.
When you buy a product or service, the Consumer Protection Act provides you with a number of consumer protections:
- the seller has the right to sell the product
- you as a purchaser will be able to own the product without hassle
- a third party isn't owed money for the product
- when you buy something based on a description, you’ll receive something that matches that description
- if you tell the seller how you want to use what you want to buy, and rely on the seller's skill or judgment in this area, what you buy will suit your needs in a reasonable way
- when you buy something based on seeing a sample, the product you receive will match the sample in quality
- the goods are in good quality to be sold, unless the seller has listed any defects
- the goods are new and unused, unless the seller states that they are used
- the services will be performed in a skillful and workmanlike way
If you receive a product or service you didn’t ask for, you don’t have to pay for it.
Contracts should be clear and straightforward. They should contain all the information you need to feel comfortable about your purchase and what you must pay.
Even if you discover you've signed a contract that states your rights don't apply, they still do. You should report the company to Service Nova Scotia.
Gym membership contracts
Make sure you read and understand contract terms and conditions before signing. Contracts for gym, dance, diet, sport, and other health-related memberships include the following rights:
- you’re allowed a 5-day cooling-off period after buying a membership
- contracts can be no longer than 1 year
- contract requirements must be clearly laid out
- initiation fees can be no greater than twice the total annual membership fee
- you must be given the option to pay monthly, and this option can only cost up to 25% more than a lump sum payment
Contracts for health, fitness, modeling, tanning, diet, sport, dance or other similar memberships have a 5-day cooling-off period. For payday loans, it's 1 day. For prepaid funeral services, you have 10 days.
A cooling-off period means you have the right to cancel the membership within a specific number of days after receiving a written copy of your contract. You can use the service during the cooling-off period. You don’t need a reason to cancel. You must notify the business within the cooling-off period to get all your money back.
Online purchases must include a confirmation page that summarizes your purchase before you complete it, including all costs, and gives you the choice to accept or cancel the purchase.
The confirmation page must include:
- business name
- business contact information
- accurate description of the goods or services being purchased
- refund or cancellation policy
- list of any other charges (for example, delivery, currency conversion and taxes)
You may cancel your purchase if a contract is not provided, or if goods or services are not delivered within 30 days of the delivery date.
Gift cards cannot have an expiry date. This means a gift card can be used to its full value no matter when you decide to use it. All gift card rules must be disclosed (directly on the card or in writing at the time of sale).
Service fees cannot be charged on gift cards, except for customizing or replacing a card. Dormancy fees, sometimes called inactivity fees, are fees taken off the balance of the card after a certain number of months that the card is not used. These fees cannot be charged.
If no dollar value is indicated on the card, the business must do 1 of the following:
- honour the card for the good or service (for example, a manicure)
- clearly disclose to the consumer that if the card is not used within a certain time period, additional charges may apply
Prepaid credit cards like Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Diners Club are more like banking products than gift cards. As a result, they don’t fall under the Consumer Protection Act and may expire.
Before you purchase an item, make sure to check the terms and conditions of the item’s warranty. A warranty that appears in an advertisement is considered to be part of the contract.
A warranty can be transferred with the purchase of a used car. No fee can be charged for a warranty transfer.
Credit terms must be disclosed in full. If you borrow money, you have the right to be given comprehensive information that will help you decide whether you want to apply for the loan. This information must include:
- total cost of borrowing
- any fees on the loan
- interest rate you will be charged
Sellers are not allowed to use negative option billing. This is when a seller tells you they will start providing you with a product or service that you’ll have to pay for unless you contact them to say you don’t want it.
Negative option billing (when consumers are charged for a new product or service before they have consented) is not allowed. If this billing format is used, you don’t have to pay for the product or service.
Paying back debt early
Lenders (including payday lenders) can't charge you a fee to pay back a debt early. Mortgages are different. You may be charged fees or penalties for early payments.
Advertising by lenders must be truthful and reflect the full cost of borrowing.
To legally operate in Nova Scotia, the following businesses must have licences:
- direct sellers
- payday lenders
- mortgage brokers and mortgage lenders
- cemetery operators
- funeral directors
Licence holders must have a mailing address and place of business where you can contact them with concerns or complaints.