New Reforms to Strengthen Protection for Ontario Consumers
The proposed Stronger Protection for Ontario Consumers Act would, if passed, provide consumers with stronger protections in four main areas:
- Real estate fees and commissions
- Transparency in real estate transactions
- Door-to-door water heater rentals and sales
- Companies that offer debt settlement services
Getting What You Pay For in Real Estate Transactions
Real estate consumers may find that in paying the traditional all-inclusive commission, they are not receiving the kind of flexibility they want in terms of services provided and how they pay for those services.
The proposed legislation, would, if passed, allow:
- Home sellers and buyers to negotiate a combination of fees and commissions when working with a real estate professional, tailoring the cost with the services they want
- Real estate professionals to charge a combination of a fee and a commission, giving them more flexibility in how they do business
Currently, the province does not allow real estate professionals to charge both a fee and a commission for services. Typically, consumers pay for all-inclusive services from real estate professionals through a commission based on the sale price.
Under the proposed legislation, real estate professionals would be able to charge a fee, a commission, or a combination of both for the services they offer.
Keeping Real Estate Bidding Transparent
The vast majority of real estate professionals in Ontario act ethically.
The new legislation would, if passed:
- Require real estate salespersons and brokers acting on behalf of a buyer to only present offers that are in writing
- Prohibit real estate professionals from indicating they have an offer, unless they have that offer in writing
- Require brokers acting for the seller to retain copies of all written offers received
- Permit anyone making a written offer on a property to ask the Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario to report the number of written offers on that property
Falsifying information or documents related to real estate is already an offence under the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002. However, there is no requirement to keep competing offers. Requiring brokerages to keep all competing written offers would enhance the Real Estate Council of Ontario's ability to inquire into claims of false offers, making it easier to take action against real estate professionals who falsify or fabricate offers.
Taking the Heat Off Door-To-Door Sales
Water heater companies often present consumers with hard-to-understand contracts, and salespeople may use aggressive, high-pressure sales tactics.
To protect consumers, the proposed legislation would, if passed:
- Double the existing 10-day cooling-off period to 20 days for water heaters, providing consumers more time to consider their decision
- Ban delivery and installation of water heaters during the new 20-day cooling-off period
- Allow rules to require sales to be confirmed by making scripted and recorded telephone calls to the customer
- Provide new consumer protections when the rules are not followed, such as requiring the supplier to pay all cancellation fees when the 20-day cooling-off period is not observed
Settling Debts Fairly and Honestly
There are currently 22 companies and 38 credit counselling providers offering debt settlement services in Ontario. Some debt settlement services charge customers large upfront fees and describe the services they will provide in hard-to-understand contracts - but fail to deliver the promised reduction in debt.
To protect vulnerable, indebted consumers, the proposed legislation would, if passed:
- Ban companies from charging upfront fees for debt settlement services
- Limit the amount of fees consumers are charged
- Require clear, transparent contracts
- Establish a 10-day cooling-off period, providing consumers more time to consider their agreements with companies offering debt settlement services
- Allow the licences of non-compliant companies to be revoked