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What are unsolicited goods and services?

Numbers on a banking card
Stock photo of a banking card from iStock/Getty Images.

Everybody loves to receive packages in the mail. What if you have never ordered an item, but are being charged for it anyway?

Or how about someone washes your car without your knowledge or consent and then expects payment?

Often unsolicited mailings or provisions of goods are seen as scams in Canada. So is providing services that the customer didn’t even ask for. Most provincial legislation will tell you that you do not have to pay for goods or services that you didn’t ask for nor order.

Unsolicited goods

Goods, in this case, are actual things that are sent to you. The unsolicited part means that you didn’t ask for these things. You don’t have any obligation to pay for things that were sent or given to you, but which you didn’t request.

However, that does not mean you get to keep the merchandise, just because you didn’t ask for it, and therefore didn’t pay for it. If you want to keep it, you will likely have to pay the sender - unless the sender lets you keep it, which is doubtful.

Many provinces or territories allow you to send the merchandise back at the sender’s expense. Note, if the sender asks for it back because you refuse to pay (as you didn’t ask for the product), you have to send it back.

Unsolicited services

Services are things that someone usually does on your behalf or helps you do. So things like shovelling snow, mowing grass, or repairing your car.

Again, if you didn’t ask for these things to be done on your behalf, then most provinces will tell you that you won’t have to pay for these services.

However, make sure you don’t accept these services after they have been done, because then you will obliged to pay.

What if I’m part of an organization and I’m being sent goods or given services that I didn’t ask for?

It is always advisable to check any contract you sign to be part of a club or organization that is in the business of selling something.

If you suddenly receive things in the mail or services from these entities, and think you never agreed to it, check the contract you may have signed with them.

Regulations of unsolicited goods and services

Provinces and territories have regulations when it comes to unsolicited goods and services. Most of those regulations say that if a customer is provided with goods or services they didn’t ask for, they don’t have to pay for them.

For example, in British Columbia, the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act regulates this in division three of its act. S. 12 states:

  • (1) A consumer has no legal obligation in respect of unsolicited goods or services unless and until the consumer expressly acknowledges to the supplier in writing his or her intention to accept the goods or services.
  • (2) Unless the consumer has given the acknowledgment referred to in subsection (1), the supplier does not have a cause of action for any loss, use, misuse, possession, damage or misappropriation in respect of the goods or services or the value obtained by the use of the goods or services.

Do Not Contact Service

The Canadian Marketing Association has a free service called the “Do Not Contact” service. This limits unlimited mail being delivered to you. Mail-marketing members will be instructed to take you off their lists. Be advised though that only marketers who are part of this association are going to stop sending you things. Those that do not, will not.

Watch out for mail fraud

If you see offers such as “free gifts”, but ask for tax payments or registration fees, or your employment information, be suspicious. Anything that offers you something for nothing, and asks for your credit card or bank account number, or you need to pay a fee to access the service are usually to be scrutinized. If you accept free gifts you may actually have to pay for them.

Lately, there have been scams involving receiving letters, phone calls or emails that look to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). They tell you that you are owed a credit or there is an issue with your account, and ask for your personal information and financial information. They can even threaten that you may go to jail.

The CRA doesn’t ever ask for personal or financial information from taxpayers. If you are suspicious, call the CRA to verify whether this communication even came from them.

Read More:

Competition Bureau

Canadian Consumer Handbook