Consumer Protection

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Consumer Protection Resources

Particularly in these hard times, it is even more important than ever that consumers know their rights and are protected from aggressive or even illegal business practices.  There are a number of resources that suggest they would be of assistance.  Here are some of them:

The list in the last portal has one resource where the link to the website is missing, somewhat surprisingly, at the time we write this.  That is the reference to the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority of British Columbia.  The website does exist and there you can learn that

The Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority (BPCPA) is a not-for-profit corporation that delivers consumer protection services throughout British Columbia.  BC’s consumer protection laws provide the framework to help the BPCPA protect consumers and encourage a fair marketplace in the province.

There is even a Consumer Corner  and in the past, there have been some useful tips:

Buyer Beware

The interesting aspect of the above resources, almost without exception, is that they usually have two objectives.

  • To set out good business practices, which in some cases may have associated legislation.
  • To provide consumers with advice on how to take care of themselves.  In some cases, there is also a Complaints process.

What is rarely provided is a list of companies whose practices are questionable, or even the subject of complaints. This seems to be a field left to private individuals.  However via the Internet and through the social media such as Twitter such information is becoming more available.

Freedom of Information

Thankfully there is increasing openness in society and governments and their agencies must respond, even if it takes legislation to enforce this.  For example, Larry Pynn in the Vancouver Sun through freedom-of-information legislation learned that Collection agencies, retail outlets and travel agents easily led the top-10 list of consumer complaints received last year by the Business Practices & Consumer Protection Authority of B.C.

Collection agencies were the source of 2,591 phone and mail complaints/inquiries, followed by retail sales at 1,861, and travel agents at 1,008 (136 of whom involved unlicensed agents).

Other sectors on the dubious top-10 list: automotive sales, 551; funeral service, 447; telecommunications, 436; credit/financing 440; credit reporting, 390; contractors, 371; and telemarketing, 367.

You should consult the article for names if you are interested. The BPCPA defends this lack of communication and prefers to work directly with companies to ensure better behavior.  However in this age of Twitter, many ways of communicating what is known are having to be rethought and this area of consumer protection may well be one of them.  Nothing can ensure better business consumer practices faster than by the perpetrators knowing that everyone is watching.

Perhaps the new watchword should be Seller Beware rather than Buyer Beware. It is not something that is difficult to accept since satisfied consumers are the key to better sales growth.

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