Preventing Consumer Problems
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by People's Law School in March 2017.|
When you buy something or hire someone, there are things you can do to reduce the risk of legal problems down the road.
Do your research
If you’re buying a product, gather information on the product from credible sources. For example, if you’re buying a car, try the Canadian Black Book or AutoTrader.ca to learn the average price of the vehicle models you are considering.
Read reviews from trustworthy sources. Consumer Reports is an independent, non-profit source of product reviews.
If you’re hiring a service provider such as a contractor or tradesperson, ask for the names and phone numbers of people they have worked for in the past. Phone these references and ask them: what was the quality of the work, was it done on time, and was it within budget?
Contact the Better Business Bureau to find out what they know of the service provider or company you’re thinking of doing business with (see the "Where to Get Help" section for contact details).
See what other people are saying about the service provider or company by searching online for their name and the word "reviews" or "complaints".
Negotiate with confidence
When you make an offer to the seller or other party, say it with confidence. Be polite and reasonable, but firm.
Have a contract
Even when the law doesn’t say that you have to have a written contract, you should have one if you are exchanging something that is worth a substantial amount of money. For example, a written contract is a good idea if you are:
- buying or selling a car
- hiring someone to do home improvements
- buying or selling an electronic device
If a problem arises, you can go back to the written contract rather than argue over “who said what” when the agreement was reached.
A contract doesn’t have to be pages long and full of legal terminology. In fact, it’s better if the contract is concise and in language all parties understand. See www.peopleslawschool.ca under "Consumer" for contract templates and tips on how to write a legal contract.
Read and understand any contract
Read the fine print on any contract before you sign. Don’t take the signing of this document lightly.
- Go over every section of the document, including any text on the reverse side of printed pages.
- Ask the other party to explain what things in the agreement mean if you don’t understand them.
- Fill in all areas of the document or put a line through them if there are blank spaces.
Don't rush the decision
If the other party makes a counteroffer to your original offer and you’d like to think about it, that’s OK. You can simply stop the deal if you feel like you’re being pressured into paying too much or buying additional features.
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