Introduction to Consumer Protection (11:I)

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A. Introduction[edit]

This chapter provides a general discussion of consumer protections laws in British Columbia.

While parts of this chapter are concerned with the rights of sellers, the main objective is to aid consumers who want to enforce contractual obligations, get out of contractual obligations, obtain damages for a breach of contract, or file a complaint with the appropriate regulator. This chapter should also help in determining contractual and other obligations of the parties, and whether or not those obligations are enforceable.

B. Common Law vs. Statute[edit]

An aggrieved party may have remedies under statututory law, the common law, or both. B.C. statutes provide better protection to consumers than is afforded by the common law. Since legislation takes precedence over the common law, it is crucial that students check all relevant statutes when faced with the legal matters of consumers. For example, some contracts that are enforceable at common law are rendered unenforceable by relevant statutes.

C. Governing Legislation, Regulations, and Resources[edit]

1. Legislation and Regulations[edit]

The statutes to consult include the following:

Sale of Goods Act, RSBC 1996, c 410 [SGA].

  • This legislation regulates contracts for the sale (or lease) of goods, but not services. The SGA is not concerned with the ethics of the transaction unless there is also a defect in the manner in which the contract is carried out (e.g. if the goods are not delivered, are damaged, or are unfit for the purpose for which they were sold). The protections are stronger for new goods than for goods that the purchaser knows are used.

Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act, SBC 2004, c 2 [BPCPA].

  • The BPCPA is concerned with the ethics of a transaction, such as deceptive and unconscionable practices as well as information requirements for many types of consumer contracts. The BPCPA also gives consumers the right under some circumstances to get out of contracts in which the consumer has ongoing obligations under the contract, such as time share, gym memberships, and book of the month contracts. If the client wishes to get out of future obligations under a contract, see Section V.A: Direct Sales, below. In addition, the Act regulates businesses that offer such contracts and other transactions that are open to abuse, such as direct sales and payday lenders. One of the key features of the Act is that it provides for statutory causes of action for certain kinds of consumer transactions.

Motor Dealer Act, RSBC 1996, c 316 [MDA].

  • The MDA contains important disclosure requirements for dealers selling to consumers. It requires disclosure of the prior history of a car (for example, its use as a taxi) and any damage suffered over $2,000, and other important information. The administration of this Act became self-regulated as of April 1, 2004. Clients with consumer complaints regarding car dealers should now be directed to the Motor Vehicle Sales Authority of British Columbia.

Personal Property Security Act, RSBC 1996, c 359 [PPSA].

  • The PPSA governs all security agreements as well as chattel mortgages, conditional sales, floating charges, pledges, trust indentures, trust receipts, assignments, consignments, leases, trusts, and transfers of chattel paper that secure payment or performance of an obligation. A security interest is an interest in goods or other property that secures payment or performance of an obligation for a lender. It used to matter who retained title; however, recent cases abolished title as an important factor. See also Section VI: Conditional Sales Contracts and Security Agreements.

Bills of Exchange Act, RSC 1985, c. B-4, ss. 188-192.

  • This Act states that a promissory note is a written promise to pay a specified sum of money, at a fixed time or on demand. These are commonly used in conjunction with executory contracts, where one party has fulfilled his or her material obligations and the other party still has some or all outstanding.

2. Resources[edit]

Consumer Protection BC (previously the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority)

Toll-free: 1-888-564-9963


  • Consumer Protection BC operates at arm’s length from government and has responsibility for a range of licensing, inspection, investigation, and enforcement activities. If consumer protection legislation appears to have been violated, the aggrieved party can phone Consumer Protection BC to report the infraction. This is the office to contact for students (on behalf of clients) seeking action by the Director under the statutory causes of action found in consumer protection legislation. This office also has a mandate to receive and act on consumer complaints generally.

Motor Vehicle Sales Authority of British Columbia (formally known as the Motor Dealer Council of BC)

Telephone: (604) 574-5050


  • This is the office to contact if one believes that the MDA has been violated or one has questions regarding the provisions in the MDA.

Better Business Bureau

Telephone: (604) 682-2711


  • Businesses voluntarily join this association, which provides self-policing of the business community. Complaints against a member company can be made at this office, which offers an extra-judicial resolution process for conflicts between consumers and member companies. Information about a specific member company can also be obtained.


Telephone: (604) 687-4680


  • This service provides pre-recorded summaries on the law pertaining to a wide variety of issues in consumer law. Some useful tapes include:
Door-to-Door Sales: 255 Buying Goods by Mail Order: 256
Purchasing Defective Goods: 257 Car Repairs: 198
Deceptive Trade Practices: 260 Leasing a Car: 196
Credit Cards: Unsolicited, Lost or Stolen: 259 Buying a Used Car: 197