Understanding BC’s Consumer Protection Laws

As a small business owner, are you aware of your obligations under British Columbia’s consumer protection laws? If you engage in any consumer transaction, there are rules and regulations that govern that sale to ensure it works smoothly for both parties. Certain types of businesses (such as travel agents) must also follow specific rules that apply to their sector.

In this article, we’ll detail British Columbia’s Consumer Protection Laws while clarifying your obligations as a business owner.

Let’s dive in.

Why are Consumer Protection Laws Important?

Consumer protection laws act as the glue that holds together a reliable economy. They protect consumers from fraudulent business practices, defective products, and dangerous goods and services. They also allow customers to make well-informed and confident decisions about where and how to spend their money.

Without the protection afforded by these rules, consumers would feel less confident in spending money. It’s in a business owner’s best interests to ensure they’re compliant.

The British Columbia Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act (BPCPA)

The British Columbia Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act (BPCPA) is our province’s primary legislation governing consumer protection. This act provides a robust set of protections for consumers that allow them to shop with confidence. The BPCPA defines a consumer as any individual who acquires or uses goods or services for personal, family, or household purposes.

Business Obligations under the BPCPA

If you’re conducting business in British Columbia, you must meet the following obligations under our consumer protection laws.

  • Fair Trading – Businesses must not engage in any unfair or deceptive practices that can mislead or deceive consumers
  • Product Safety – Businesses must ensure that the products they sell are safe for consumers to use and meet all applicable provincial safety standards
  • Advertising and Marketing – All advertising and marketing materials must be truthful and not misleading. They must also disclose all relevant information about the product or service on offer, including any terms and conditions, fees, or restrictions
  • Contract Terms – Under the BPCPA, all contract terms must be fair and transparent. They must not contain any hidden or unfair clauses that could harm consumers
  • Refunds and Returns – Businesses must provide consumers with a clear and accessible policy for refunds and returns, including any applicable fees or restrictions
  • Unfair Practices – Businesses must not engage in any practices that are considered unfair, such as using high-pressure sales tactics or charging unreasonable fees
  • Consumer Contracts – Businesses must ensure that consumer contracts are written in plain language and are easy to understand

The Role of Consumer Protection BC

Consumer Protection BC is a non-profit organization responsible for enforcing the BPCPA and other consumer protection laws in British Columbia. They provide a variety of services to consumers, including education and outreach programs and complaint resolution services.

Consumers who believe a business has broken any of the rules laid out above can file a complaint online with Consumer Protection BC. They will investigate the complaint and take appropriate action to enforce our consumer protection laws.

What Types of Businesses Need Additional Licensing?

Under the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act, certain specialized businesses must conform to additional regulations before being licensed to conduct business in BC. These licensed businesses are subject to additional rules and are monitored to ensure compliance.

Businesses include:

  • Travel Agents
  • Wholesalers
  • Telemarketers
  • Payday Lenders
  • Bailiffs
  • Debt Collectors
  • Debt Repayment Agents
  • Home Inspectors
  • High-Cost Credit Lenders

Further Reading

Motor Dealer Act

Regulates the sale of motor vehicles by motor dealer businesses. All motor vehicle dealerships, salespeople, broker agents and their representatives, and wholesalers must be registered under the act.

Ticket Sales Act

Governs how tickets to recreational, sporting and cultural events in BC can be sold or re-sold by businesses.

Sale of Goods Act

The Sale of Goods Act defines the rights and obligations of consumers and businesses when physical goods and services are sold and purchased.

Contract Rules for Selling Online or Over the Phone

Selling goods or services over the phone, or by email or fax, is considered a distance sales contract. Learn more about the regulations governing this growing market.

Future Performance Contracts – Know the Facts

If you are a business that is selling goods or services that your customers don’t get right away or don’t pay in full upfront, your contracts may qualify as a future performance contract.

Small Business BC is Here to Help

SBBC is a non-profit resource centre for BC-based small businesses. Whatever your idea of success is, we’re here to provide holistic support and resources at every step of the journey. Check out our range of business webinars, on-demand E-Learning Education, our Talk to an Expert Advisories, or browse our selection of business articles.