Unfair practices

Examples of unfair trade practices

What is an unfair trade practice in Alberta’s marketplace?

Abuse

  • intensively pressuring or influencing a consumer to buy
    • example: A salesperson spends 4 hours in a consumer’s home trying to sell a vacuum cleaner
  • taking advantage of a consumer who doesn’t understand a transaction
    • example: A seller convinces a consumer who can’t speak or read English to sign a multi-page contract

Misrepresentation

Quality

  • representing that goods or services are of a particular quality, style or model if that representation is untrue.
    • example: A furniture dealer says a coffee table is solid wood when it’s actually particleboard
  • making false or misleading statements about the condition of used goods
    • example: The seller tells a consumer that a car has 100,000 kilometers on it and the true mileage is 200,000 kilometers
  • representing goods as new when they are used, deteriorated, altered or reconditioned
    • example: A computer is sold as new, but the seller has reconditioned it

Pricing

  • stating that a specific price benefit exists if it doesn’t
    • example: A business advertises that an item is on sale or the price is ‘20% off’ if the item has never been sold at the regular price
  • Representing the price of goods or services in a manner that leads consumers to reasonably believe the price refers to a larger package of goods or services.
    • Example: A company advertises it will build a complete fence for a home for $2,000 when the fence project is for the rear of the house only. Adding two more sides would cost $1,500 more.

Availability

  • misrepresenting the reason why or how goods or services are available
    • example: The seller says the goods were bought at an estate auction to convince potential buyers they’re looking at great deals when they were actually purchased as regular inventory.

Services

  • stating that a part, replacement, repair or adjustment is needed or desirable when it isn’t.
    • example: A shop replaces a dryer motor when only the belt needed replacing.
  • implying that the supplier is asking for information, conducting a survey or soliciting when that it isn't true
    • example: A door-to-door salesperson asks a consumer to fill out a home care survey when the salesperson actually wants to sell a vacuum cleaner

Overcharging

  • charging a price that grossly exceeds the price of similar goods that are readily available without informing the consumer of the difference and the reason for the difference
    • example: A contractor charges a homeowner $7500 for roof repairs that would have been be done by competitors for $2,500
  • charging a price for goods or services that is more than 10% – to a maximum of $100 – higher than the estimate given unless the consumer has specifically agreed to the increase.
    • example: A repair shop says it will cost $150 to fix an item, but the final bill is $400

Lying

Quality

  • making an untrue statement about a good’s prior history or use
    • example: The seller tells the consumer a car was only driven by the owner of a dealership, when it was a lease-back from a rental company
  • making claims about a product’s performance, capability or length of life without proper testing to prove it
    • Example: A business states that a device installed in your vehicle will reduce gas consumption, without basing their claim on proper independent testing

Pricing

  • giving an estimated price for goods or services if they can’t be provided for that price
    • example: A renovation company tells a homeowner that it can replace the garage door for $500 when it knows the price for parts alone is $700

Availability

  • claiming that a particular number of  goods are available if they aren’t
    • example: A store advertises it has 35 stereos for sale when in fact it has 1 stereo in stock

Services

  • claiming that a voucher from one supplier can be used at a different business for goods or services when the first supplier knows (or ought to know) the voucher won’t be accepted.
    • example: A company sells a coupon book knowing that some of the businesses won't honour the coupons
  • telling a customer that goods or services will be available at a stated time if the supplier knows (or ought to know) they won’t.
    • example: A hot tub company promises a tub will be installed on Christmas Eve when it knows the installation staff will not be available
  • telling a consumer they will be rewarded for finding other customers even though they won’t get any reward
    • example: A marketer agrees to give you a reduced price on your next order when you refer a friend to the company, but it never gives you a reduction

Contact this service

1-877-427-4088
(toll free in Alberta)

Northern Alberta (north of Red Deer):
ciu.north@gov.ab.ca

Southern Alberta (Red Deer and south)
ciu.south@gov.ab.ca

8:15 am - 4:30 pm (Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)