TORONTO – MPPs Tom Rakocevic (Humber River – Black Creek), Terence Kernaghan (London North Centre), Doly Begum (Scarborough Southwest) and Faisal Hassan (York South-Weston) will reintroduce legislation Tuesday to improve consumer protection in Ontario by creating an independent Consumer Watchdog.
“Ontarians are experiencing an affordability crisis right now, with the cost of everything going up,” Rakocevic said. “Even worse, we are seeing individuals, businesses and even entire industries taking advantage of consumers. Right now, when consumers get ripped off or scammed, they don’t have reliable help to turn to. Many who file a complaint with Consumer Protection Ontario are told to just get a lawyer — which a lot of people can’t afford.”
The legislation proposes that the Ontario Consumer Watchdog be a one-stop shop to handle consumer complaints, and hold the power to investigate businesses or other entities on consumer protection laws or practices. The Consumer Watchdog would have the power to release public reports similar to the Auditor General or the Ombudsman of Ontario, and to level fines or other penalties against businesses found to be in violation of consumer protection legislation.
“The current consumer protection system in Ontario is broken. When consumers go up against multi-million-dollar corporations, far too many people are forced to go it alone,” Kernaghan said.
“At a time when the cost of everything is skyrocketing it is more important than ever to make sure people are not taken advantage of,” Begum said. “The establishment of a Consumer Watchdog is to help address that gap by helping people across this province know their rights, and providing comprehensive organization that is dedicated to consumers' protection.”
“The Ford government should pass this legislation to make Ontario’s consumer protection system the strongest in Canada,” Hassan said. "Establishing a Consumer Watchdog would give Ontarians a protected place to go when they’re cheated by businesses individuals, or organizations, one that has teeth to take real action.”
Ellen Roseman, former consumer advocate columnist for the Toronto Star:
"When I started my journalism career in 1975, I decided to focus on consumer issues and advocate for people who needed help resolving problems with large companies that were shutting them out. I'm semi-retired now, but I still hear from desperate people seeking advice. Many of us find it hard to avoid losing money to misleading online pitches, service suppliers that promise refunds and never pay up, multi-page legal contracts that are impossible to understand and too-good-to-be true credit deals full of hidden fees. So I heartily support Bill 77, the NDP's proposal to set up an independent consumer watchdog organization in Ontario. The world of commerce is more complex than ever and can rob citizens of their financial security. Let's give them more help to stay solvent and stay clear of obvious traps."
Barbara Captijn, Consumer Rights Advocate:
“The Ontario Consumer Watchdog Act is a light for consumers in the current feeble state of consumer protection in Ontario. The patchwork of legislation, regulations, and legal grey areas in the current landscape is difficult for consumers to navigate.
This bill addresses a much-needed area for modernization, and can help fix injustices and imbalances in the current system, and could help improve the lives of everyday Ontarians.”
Dr. Karen Somerville, President of Canadians for Properly Built homes:
“CPBH enthusiastically supports Bill 77, the Ontario Consumer Watchdog Act.
The decline in consumer protection across the board in Ontario over the years is well recognized. Where new home construction is concerned, despite numerous studies over the decades finding serious shortcomings with the mandatory warranty monopoly Tarion, the same problems persist. It’s obvious to most that Tarion is beyond repair. And now, the new Home Construction Regulatory Authority (HCRA), known broadly as “Tarion II”, displays many of Tarion’s problems.
Consumers with lived experience say that these organizations, that are supposed to protect consumers, are not on the consumers’ side at all. Ontario’s Ministry of Government and Consumer Services is paid yearly by Tarion and HCRA to oversee them, but it consistently fails consumers in this role. Ontario’s consumers should not be ripped off when they buy a newly built home. They should not be saddled with homes riddled with building code violations. They should not need lawyers and the courts to get what they paid for in years-long nightmares.”
Rhona Desroches, Chair FAIR Association of victims for accident insurance reform:
“Ontario consumers pay high premiums for car insurance and expect it to be there when they need it. That's just not happening for many car crash survivors who end up without recovery resources after a serious injury. Bill 77 and a Consumer Watchdog would create the ability to hold rich auto insurance companies to account because when they don't pay, the taxpayers do. We support Bill 77 so the auto insurance we are mandated to buy will have value and protect us when we need it most.”