Ontarians Will Benefit From Stronger Consumer Protection in 2008



    Numerous Consumer Protection Initiatives Improve The Lives Of Ontario
    Families

    QUEEN'S PARK, Dec. 31 /CNW/ - The McGuinty government has kept its
promise to raise awareness of unfair business practices, Government and
Consumer Services Minister Ted McMeekin said today.
    "We had made a commitment to improve consumer protection throughout the
province and make Ontario families safer - and we delivered," said McMeekin.
"This year has been an important one for initiatives like ensuring that payday
lending customers are better informed so they can make better choices and
banning expiry dates on gift cards."
    The government has taken a number of steps to protect consumers across
the province - all under the framework of Ontario's consumer protection and
safety legislation.

    
    Steps taken include:

    -   Changes to the Liquor Licence Act to allow the licensing of
        additional areas of bars and restaurants so that patrons can monitor
        their drinks, as well as additional authority to suspend or revoke
        liquor licences
    -   Real estate fraud provisions that protect homeowners from losing
        their property, a fraudulent sale, or a counterfeit power of attorney
    -   New rules for consumer gift cards prohibiting expiration dates and
        fees other than for replacement of a lost card or to customize a card
    -   Steps to combat identity theft by allowing consumers to request
        credit reporting agencies to place "fraud alerts" on their files
    -   New payday lending requirements that ensure all payday lenders fully
        disclose the terms and conditions of their loans
    -   New regulations requiring electrical products to be certified and
        labeled
    

    Anyone with questions regarding these or other consumer protection
initiatives should contact the province's toll free consumer hotline at
1-800-889-9768 (in Toronto at 416-326-8800), or visit the Ontario Consumer
Protection website at ontario.ca/consumerprotection.

    
                           Disponible en français

                              www.mgs.gov.on.ca



    BACKGROUNDER
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

                       CONSUMER PROTECTION IN ONTARIO
    

    The Consumer Protection Branch of Ontario's Ministry of Government and
Consumer Services is very active in investigating unfair business practices
and bringing charges against suspect businesses violating consumers' rights.
    Operating with authority created under the Consumer Protection Act 2002,
the branch has made significant contributions to over 930 convictions within
the last four years. These convictions, sought through Ontario's provincial
offences courts, are pursued according to several guiding principles that form
the basis of all branch investigations:

    
    -  marketplace fairness;
    -  reliable disclosure;
    -  fair value to consumers; and
    -  a regulatory environment that is responsive to the needs of businesses
       and consumers.
    

    Engaging in unfair business practices is prohibited in Ontario. The
Consumer Protection Act contains 92 separate sections under its regulations
covering issues relevant to consumer agreements, including, but not limited
to:

    
    -  disclosures in various types of agreements;
    -  cancellation rights;
    -  timelines for receiving and issuing refunds;
    -  monetary threshold for agreements;
    -  calculation of annual percentage rates inside credit agreements; and
    -  public record/disclosure of information.
    

    Anyone with knowledge of or information about the use of unfair business
practices in Ontario should call the Consumer Protection Services Bureau
toll-free at 1-800-889-9768.
    The Ministry of Government and Consumer Services works to ensure that
Ontarians know their rights. There is a wide variety of consumer information,
including printable brochures, available online at www.gov.on.ca/MGS.
    Another tool to educate consumers is the Smart Consumer Calendar updated
annually with relevant information. The 2008 Smart Consumer Calendar provides
consumers with helpful tips and resources, while educating them about frauds
and scams in the marketplace.

    
    -  The ministry will distribute 275,000 English and 30,000 French copies
       of the calendar to individuals and organizations across Ontario
    -  The calendar will be available at all MPP constituency offices, and at
       all ServiceOntario/government information centres
    -  The calendar can be ordered by individuals and groups, free of charge,
       by calling 1-800-668-9938, or by ordering online at
       www.serviceontario.ca/publications.
    -  The calendar can also be downloaded from the ministry's website at
       www.ontario.ca/consumerprotection.
    

    Consumers can also visit the Ministry of Government and Consumer
Services' website at www.gov.on.ca/MGS to access information to protect
themselves against companies using unfair business practices. The Consumer
Protection Branch posts information regarding consumer-related charges and
convictions online at www.ontario.ca/consumerprotection. The Consumer Beware
List, also posted online, is a public record database containing a
comprehensive collection of operators and businesses in Ontario who are known
to employ unfair business practices, or fail to respond to Consumer Protection
Branch inquiries.

    
                           Disponible en français

                              www.mgs.gov.on.ca
    




For further information:

For further information: Media contacts: Greg Dennis, Minister's Office,
Office: (416) 327-3072, Cell: (647) 281-4403; Ciaran Ganley, Communications
Branch, (416) 325-8659

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