What’s ahead for Canada’s consumers? No red carpet but no brick wall, Michael Janigan says

”(PIAC) Executive director Michael Janigan is optimistic that he can get action from the new government. … Despite their standard response to let the market take care of consumer problems, the Conservatives will turn to regulation when they think their voting base is affected, Janigan argues. “We’re not expecting a red carpet to be laid down in front of us,” he says about the coming four years, “but we don’t expect to run into a brick wall,” Ellen Roseman reported for the Toronto Star on May 4.

Quebec-style consumer protection: New MPs may push for better Canadian laws

“Quebec leads the rest of Canada in enforcing consumers’ right to fair dealing when buying goods and services. It’s the first province to limit cancellation charges by cellphone providers when buyers seek an early exit from their contracts,” Ellen Roseman wrote for the Toronto Star on Apr. 26 2011
“The Public Interest Advocacy Centre, an Ottawa-based consumer group, has called on other provinces to impose higher standards on planners than what was required by self-regulatory bodies. Quebec’s rules should be used as benchmark, PIAC said in a 2009 report, applauding a ban on operating businesses under confusingly similar titles to financial planner, such as financial adviser and private wealth consultant,” The Toronto Star reported.

Health Canada too timid: Anu Bose, Option consommateurs

“Health Canada is being criticized for being “timid” about safety after it didn’t follow up on concerns of its own staff about the potential hazards of a bassinet and a portable bed for babies. … “Anu Bose of the group Option consommateurs called Health Canada’s “timid” approach to staff opinions as “alarming.” “It should trigger followup action. It’s this whole mode of being proactive instead of reactive,” said Bose, who wondered whether there’s a culture problem at Health Canada or if it’s question of resources,” Postmedia News reported on Apr. 14.

PIAC supports Ontario bill aimed at curbing wireless ‘bill shock’

“Bill 133, introduced by MPP David Orazietti, aims to erect laws similar to what Quebec passed last year even as competition from startups such as Wind Mobile and Mobilicity nudges incumbents into adopting more consumer-friendly practices nationwide. In an interview, Mr. Orazietti, the Liberal member for Sault Ste Marie, said market forces alone are not doing enough,” Jamie Sturgeon wrote for the National Post on Apr. 13.
“The question is whether there should be measures put in place across the board for wireless,” said Michael Janigan, general counsel for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Ottawa, whose research helped convince Mr. Orazietti to introduce the bill. “I think the legislation is still necessary,” the National Post reported. The “Wireless Phone, Smart Phone and Data Service Transparency Act” passed second reading on Apr. 14.

Sony PlayStation: Consumers need more protection when when corporations lose personal information

“Industry Minister Tony Clement said Friday he’s open to the idea proposed by Canada’s privacy watchdog to give her the power to slap corporations with huge fines if they don’t protect the personal information of their customers,” Postmedia News reported on May 6.
“This is welcome news for John Lawford, a staff lawyer for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre who participated in the earlier review of the private-sector privacy law.
“He supports Stoddart’s push for powers to slap fines on companies in cases of big data breaches, but Lawford said there’s an even bigger problem with last year’s proposed amendments. “You’ve got to fix the first part,” Lawford said, of the discretion given to companies to decide whether a breach meets the test for mandatory reporting. And until this loophole in the reporting rules is closed, Lawford said, “you’ve got nothing to fine and no one to fine,” Sarah Schmidt wrote for Postmedia News

CRTC rural broadband decision: CRTC’s roadmap upside down

“Consumer group the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) said gaps in Canada’s broadband access will endure and that the commission didn’t go far enough to promote rural broadband expansion.
“If there is no rural broadband now, there will not be any more thanks to this decision,” PIAC counsel John Lawford said in a press release. “You’re on your own Canada — see you at the bottom of the OECD broadband lists,” Lawford added,” a May 3 Wire Report story said.
“PIAC said the CRTC’s removal of basic service objectives in urban and suburban areas means customers will no longer receive basic service elements such as phone books.  “If this is a roadmap to the future, the CRTC is holding it upside-down,”  The Wire Report quoted Lawford on the “May 3 CRTC 2011-291 “obligation to serve decision.
Option Consommateurs: Cette drogue qu’on appelle crédit
« Les organismes comme Option Consommateurs sont aux premières loges de ce qui risque de se produire lorsque les taux d’intérêt se mettront à grimper. Car si cette variable-là est encore sous contrôle, d’autres frappent sans crier gare. Une séparation, une perte d’emploi, même une simple réduction des heures de travail peuvent avoir un effet dramatique lorsqu’on n’a aucune marge de manoeuvre financière, » Ariane Krola écrit pour La Presse le 23 avril 2011.>

Does the election mark Common Sense Revolution 2.0?

PIAC board member Armine Yalnizyan and senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) told the Toronto Star:  “We’re at a turning point where the global economic crisis might have triggered a different look at where we’re heading. But everyone wants to blame everyone else, and they’re blaming all the wrong actors,” Olivia Ward reported on Apr 30 2011.

Smart electricity meters spark privacy questions: B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre

PIAC board member Jim Quail and “executive director of the B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre, said the concern is that if meters can identify patterns of electricity usage at homes in a neighbourhood, which could be a problem if criminals were able to hack into the system. “So if someone wants to know what houses to break into in a subdivision some weekend, and if they can hack into meters in the area they can tell,” Quail told in an Apr. 29 Vancouver Sun report written by Derrick Penner.>

Food packages hide reduced contents

“Don’t be fooled by food containers – check the per-unit price on shelf,” the Montreal Gazette reported on Apr. 29. “As Montreal consumer advocate François Decary-Gilardeau, of the non-profit consumer rights group Option Consommateurs, puts it: “Things are getting smaller all the time, but the prices never go down. It’s not illegal, but…,” Susan Semenak wrote for the Montreal Gazette.

Lancement du guide « Prévenir les pièges financiers de la retraite » d’Option consommateurs

Est-il prudent d’emprunter pour investir dans son REER ? Comment choisir un planificateur financier ? Quelles sont les principales fraudes dont les personnes retraitées peuvent être victimes ? Afin d’aider celles-ci à mieux protéger leur patrimoine financier, Option consommateurs est fière de publier le guide Prévenir les pièges financiers de la retraite.
« Les personnes retraitées manquent souvent d’information en matière de budget, d’investissement et de planification financière, ce qui ne leur permet pas de faire des choix éclairés, affirme Me Caroline Arel, responsable du Service budgétaire à Option consommateurs. Par exemple, au Québec, 40 000 retraités auraient droit à une aide financière du gouvernement et ne la reçoivent pas. Souvent, parce qu’ils en ignorent l’existence. »