The provincial government wants businesses to hand out copies of a two-page document to customers that contain all the changes the province has made over the past four years to the Consumer Protection Act.
The document aims to help consumers understand their rights and give them resources in case they've been treated unfairly.
The government has made a total of seven changes to the act, which include changing consumer protection laws to ban problems like ticket-buying bots and introducing standards for vehicle sales and repairs; changing payday lending rules to ban unmanagable interest rates; banning aggressive or misleading door-to-door sales tactics; introducing a price cap on electricity; introducing protection for new home buyers; bringing in condominium regulations; and improving the Utilities Consumer Advocate.
“I think it's a great idea to put some of these protections in a simple document that people can refer to if they're unsure,” said St. Albert NDP MLA Marie Renaud.
Renaud said some parts of the act were more complex than others, such as the new condo rules, which allow potential buyers to keep their deposits held with a lawyer in a trust. It also changed the way condos are governed internally.
The rules are part of the Condominium Property Act, which was first passed in 2014. At the time, the province said it was rolling out more than 50 supporting regulations.
According to Renaud, more consultation was needed among stakeholders across Alberta for that rule than for other parts of the consumer protection laws.
James Mabey, realtor and broker of Century 21 Masters, said the changes have helped realtors educate and direct potential buyers, but it’s been difficult to say whether the rules have had a big impact.
“It’s hard to tell whether the changes that we've seen are from the Consumer Protection Act or as a result of the substantially soft condo market,” he said.
“So many projects were turning to completion just as the market turned poor.”
When it comes to having a document outlining the different laws and resources, Mabey said he thought it was a good idea.
“I think it is confusing for consumers, with so many different layers of authority and licensing and regulation, that they don't know where to start a complaint,” he explained.
Renaud said she feels it is important to have the two-page document in an easy-to-read format so consumers can know their rights. Not only does it clarify how consumers are to be treated, it helps them know where to turn if they’ve been wronged.
She said another complex piece of legislation was creating better homebuyer protections. Along with consulting home owners, the government spoke with developers and other stakeholders in the housing industry.
With the changes, people looking to build a home can access a list of approved homebuilders in Alberta. This protects homeowners from living in houses that have been built with shoddy workmanship.
According to Renaud, some new homeowners are living in houses that are already falling apart – even though they’re only a few years old.
“Any kind of consumer protection, there's absolute value in that. And sometimes it's sad, we don't really understand the value of it until we get to a place where we are quite desperate,” she said.