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Shopping on the Internet

Shopping on the Internet has become very popular but how safe are your purchases?

Most provinces and territories have a sale of goods act, created to provide some protection to consumers.

However, the caution here is that these acts vary from province to province (and territory). Some of the acts may provide better protections than others, although generally they are similar.

Many provinces and territories also have an electronic commerce act that informs of what is needed to constitute an electronic transaction.

Sale of goods act

Most provincial and territorial sale of Goods acts direct how a contract is formed between buyer and seller, price, conditions and warranties, effects of the contract, performance of the contract and breach of contract. However, mostly it’s to give buyers of goods some conditions and warranties to protect their purchase.

However, these acts mainly talk about the provision, buying and selling of goods and not services.

Electronic commerce act

This act outlines the rules of electronic transactions. Simply put, you cannot have a contract without consent. Depending on what the act states in the respective province or territory, there may be an “out” clause of an electronic transaction. If you made an error in purchasing something you may be able to back out but you’d have to prove it.

Many of these acts also set out compliance obligations for the agreement in electronic transactions. Often there have to be verification steps taken before something will be seen as a sale.

Again, each province and territory has their own legislation which may vary from each other and may dictate different rules and obligations.

What to watch out for

The Federal-Provincial-Territorial Consumer Measures Committee has published a guide that aims to help consumers protect themselves from scams.

The guide gives the following tips:

  • Know exactly what you are buying;
  • Know who you are dealing with;
  • Know what you are agreeing to;
  • Know what you are paying;
  • Know what information you are giving to the vendor and why, and more.

The most important tip is to be an informed consumer. For example, a valid and reputable online vendor will always put a lot of information about the company on the website. You should see information such as location, phone number, fax number, etc., on their website.

If you are having an issue with a purchase you made online, you may want to contact the consumer affairs/protection bureau for your province. If you suspect you may have been victim of fraud or a scam, you may want to contact the police or a lawyer.

Read more:

Canadian Consumer Handbook

Office of Consumer Affairs

Sale of Goods Act Alberta

Sale of Goods Act Yukon

Electronic Transactions Act British Columbia

Electronic Commerce Act Ontario