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Research Reports

Our most recent reports:


How Free is “Free”? Setting limits on the collection of personal information for online behavioural advertising
The services offered by technology companies might seem free but they are not. In exchange for a social media account or to browse online, consumers must accept to give personal information and to be followed whenever they are online. This data, amongst other thing, is used to target advertising to users on their devices.
72 pages, 2015
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Paradise at the end of your days: A review of the retirement planning tools offered by financial institutions
Do consumers receive sound advice when it comes to retirement planning? While financial institutions are the main source of information for consumers on this issue, Option consommateurs found some problems regarding the information on retirement planning provided by financial institutions in brochures, website and videos.
48 pages, 2015
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The views of Canadians on the harmonization of consumer protection standards
Improve the protection of consumers when they buy online from a merchant located in another province. Study the possibility of harmonizing gift card regulations while including the most protective practices. Prohibit mandatory arbitration clauses in consumer contracts in all the provinces. These are some of the recommendations that can be found in this report.
146 pages, 2015
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Virtual debit cards and consumer protection
Do you know whether you can use your debit card to buy items online? It might be the case. Many canadians have a virtual debit card, which allows them to have access to the visa network to buy items online. In a report, Option consommateurs studied this new financial product that many canadians have access to it wihtout even knowing it.
54 pages, 2014
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Undersizing: trends and regulation in Canada and abroad
What could be more shocking than to discover, once you get home, that the box of cereal you just bought contains 20 grams less than the one you bought last week? Especially since you paid the same price! Has something like that ever happened to you? It may very well be that the product you purchased has been undersized.

Are Canadian consumers protected against such tactics? There are a couple of legislative tools available at the moment for comparing prices and quantities. However, one of these does not seem very effective in counteracting undersizing , and the other is only available in Quebec. All Canadians should have access to such a tool.

Is undersizing legal? From the standpoint of current Canadian laws, it would seem so. On the other hand, the practice goes against the ethical codes established by marketing experts and is contrary to the spirit of consumer protection laws. If our regulations were formulated more along the lines of those in force in the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom, we would be able to give more teeth to our legislation and better protect consumers.

Is that what we should do? We think so. Although the reduction in quantity is usually not significant, undersizing is no trivial matter. It has an impact on the consumer’s purchasing decisions. It also has an impact on competition. And who knows where that could lead!

57 pages
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Energy efficiency Knowledge Transfer to Low-Income Consumers: Best practices
This research focuses attention on the best practices for improving the energyintensive consumption behaviour of low-income households with a view to making them more energy-efficient. We begin the report with a brief explanation of why energy efficiency programs are so important for low-income households in North America. We note that such households in Canada are not only more severely affected by high energy prices than more well-to-do households, but also that, in general, their behaviour is the most energy-intensive of all classes of Canadian households.
97 pages, 2012
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Bait and switch selling: the regulatory framework in Canada and the United Kingdom and data collection in the retail sector
Consumers are generally attracted by low prices. Merchants know this and, to generate in-store traffic, often advertise very attractive discounts on certain items (loss leaders)1 - on certain articles. This practice is completely legal and testifies to the effectiveness of the market economy.
However, there are other merchants who, while appearing to be using the same tactic, have no intention of selling the products advertised at the bargain price. Once in the store, consumers are directed to other products whose sale is more profitable for the merchant. This deceptive commercial practice, known as bait and switch, is illegal in Canada and in the UK.
90 pages, 2012
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Umbrella Mortgages: the Pros and Cons of the Hypothecary Loan Contract

Since 1994, under Article 2797 of the Civil Code of Québec, mortgage agreements have increasingly stipulated that the mortgage will be used not only as security for the mortgage loan itself, but also the present and future obligations of the consumer and sometimes those of a third party, such as a spouse. This is called a hypothecary loan contract, (or deed of hypothec) loosely referred to as an umbrella mortgage.
This type of mortgage does not automatically terminate when the mortgage loan is paid off, because the mortgage stands as security against the borrower’s future obligations. Obtaining additional loans is conditional on repaying part of the mortgage, or an increase in the value of the property. To qualify, the consumer must make an application to the lender and satisfy the latter that he fulfils the requirements.
There are many questions raised by this new kind of mortgage agreement. What are its advantages and disadvantages for consumers? Does it allow consumers to save on interest charges? What is the difference between the umbrella mortgage agreement and the traditional mortgage agreement?
70 pages, 2012
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Bloggers or Floggers? Undercover advertising exposed
Since 2006, there has been an explosion in the use of social media. A 2011 study1 confirms that social media have become an important source of information for consumers. Everything points to the fact that companies are turning to social media in addition to other more traditional modes of communication in an effort to attract consumers' attention. However, a number of questionable business practices are current in the social media.
The aim of this study is to identify the phenomena of flogging and astroturfing, to determine their legitimacy and ethical value, to analyze their impact on consumers, and finally, to make recommendations to legislators to ensure that Canadians are protected against such practices.
64 pages, 2012
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Class Action Suits: model claim forms to facilitate access to justice. A case study
Class action suits and their resulting settlements (judgments) have a significant legal impact on the rights of a large number of people. They allow one consumer to obtain compensation on behalf of a group of people who, like himself, have suffered damage. As part of this process, members of the class action are often required to fill out a form to obtain compensation. And since this claim form reflects a transaction, the more complex the transaction, the more complex the form is likely to be.
A significant improvement to these forms is definitely required. We therefore set our sights on improving the claim forms and the perception that people have of them. With this aim in view, and with the assistance of three experts in writing, graphic design and readability, we redesigned three claim forms related to three class‐action suits in consumer law.
265 pages, 2011
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