Formal notice – Directions for use

You may have already heard that you should send a formal notice if you have a dispute with a merchant. But what exactly does this mean? When should you use this type of letter? What should you write? What should you expect after it has been sent?

Let’s take a closer look.



A formal notice is an official letter sent to a merchant to describe why you’re dissatisfied and what you expect as a settlement, for example to be refunded the purchase within a given period of time.

In other words, the purpose of the formal notice is to notify merchants that you’re giving them one last chance to resolve the problem before taking legal action.

The formal notice can be sent to any merchant, whether the good or service was purchased or leased online or in person.

In all cases, the objective is to avoid legal proceedings and to reach a settlement to save time and money.



  1. Before sending the formal notice, you should first try to settle your dispute with the merchant. To do so, you can communicate with the merchant through its social network, its chat system, in person at its location, or by telephone. The objective is to contact the merchant and to try to reach a middle ground. If you want to cancel a contract or get a refund, you can also send a more formal request. Click here to download our model letter.
  2. If you can’t reach the merchant or if you’re still dissatisfied, it’s time to write a formal notice. Click here to download our model letter created to help you.  Just fill out the sections highlighted in yellow to explain your situation. (For certain issues related to online shopping, such as an undelivered package, you may wish to ask for a charge back instead. Click here to consult our tools!)
  3. Send your notice using a method that provides proof of receipt, such as registered mail. Keep a copy of your letter.


“I’ve sent the formal notice, what now?


Scenario 1: “I sent a letter and reached an agreement with the merchant within the requested time period.”

Next step: Celebrate and put it behind you! All’s well that ends well!


Scenario 2: “I sent the letter over 10 days ago and I still haven’t heard anything/the merchant refused.”

Next step: You can bring legal proceedings against the merchant. Refer to the Small Claims Division at the Court of Québec if the amount in dispute is $15,000 or less.


Scenario 3: “I sent a letter and received a prompt response from the merchant. It wants to settle the matter, but it will take more time than what I gave in my letter.”

Next step: You alone know how much you’re willing to negotiate. It’s always better to settle, so talk with the merchant and find a middle ground.


Useful information:

  • The formal notice must state the time period within which you seek to settle the matter. The law does not stipulate a precise time period, as long as it is reasonable in the circumstances. It’s for you to decide!
  • The time period to settle indicated in the letter will begin after the merchant receives it.
  • A formal notice is sometimes mandatory for legal proceedings.