Learning from the pandemic to better protect consumers in the face of climate change

Montreal, February 20, 2024 - The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted gaps in consumer protection when merchants are unable to provide services. In light of climate change, it is becoming imperative to expand consumer rights to reimbursement in the event of a catastrophic event, and to impose specific deadlines for doing so, reveals a study made public today by Option consommateurs.


During the pandemic, rather than refunding consumers, many retailers preferred to issue deferred vouchers, extend the duration of subscriptions or offer deferrals in cases where health measures prevented them from providing the service. Many consumers were faced with interminable delays in obtaining a refund, and a lack of communication on the part of certain companies.


TheOption consommateurs study reveals that while retailers have had the opportunity to fine-tune their policies in the wake of the pandemic, their terms and conditions of purchase are sometimes ambiguous as to what happens in the event of a catastrophic event. Some companies also stipulate clauses that could hinder consumers' ability to receive full reimbursement in the event of a catastrophic event, for example by allowing themselves to deduct fees from the amount remitted.


"Due to climate change, emergency situations are likely to become more frequent and intense. The consumer protection framework must be modernized to take account of this new reality," says Alexandre Plourde, lawyer at Option consommateurs and author of the report.


Option consommateurs therefore recommends the introduction of a consumer protection regime for events of this kind, including extended cancellation and refund rights for consumers, clear deadlines for the payment of compensation, and a ban on the imposition of charges for refunds.


Research " Anticipating the unexpected - Consumer compensation measures during catastrophic events "was carried out with funding from the Contribution Program for Non-profit Consumer and Voluntary Organizations of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.


About usOption consommateurs

Option consommateurs is a non-profit association whose mission is to defend the rights and interests of consumers. It focuses on issues related to personal finance, business practices, financial services, privacy, energy, debt and access to justice.



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