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On June 23, HRAI VP of Government and Stakeholder Relations Martin Luymes and GR Specialist – Ontario Dorothy McCabe presented to the Ontario Standing Committee on General Government.  This committee is reviewing Bill 159: Rebuilding Consumer Confidence Act, 2020.

Schedule 3 of this bill seeks to amend the Consumer Protection Act, 2002 to add “administrative penalties” to aid in enforcement of specific provisions related to “direct contracts” -- contracts secured between contractors and customers in the home (or anywhere other than the vendor’s place of business).

On June 17, HRAI convened a group of Ontario member contractors, representing small, medium and large businesses, to review the proposed amendments and to help inform HRAI’s submission.  Members were generally pleased with the idea of administrative penalties as they finally introduced some ‘teeth’ to make the regulations previously worked out with industry work more effectively.  This was a specific request in HRAI’s previous submissions on regulations aimed at tackling door-to-door sales.

While applauding the government’s past and previous efforts to reign in disreputable contractors – particularly those engaged in door-to-door sales practices -- HRAI did express some concerns about the proposed Administrative Penalties provisions. The fines start at $2,500 and escalate for repeat occurrences, but some of the triggers for non-compliance charges were seen as problematic.  In particular, one requirement states that every contract must provide precise dates for installation, a condition that cannot always be met for reasons beyond a contractor’s control.  Another requirement is for contractors to provide an itemized list of all products and services, including separate pricing for each, which might effectively prohibit bundled pricing for packaged systems.

Mr. Luymes also expressed concern to the Standing Committee about the lack of clarity regarding how these administrative penalties could be administered and disputed.  As currently worded, the proposed legislation appears to expose the industry to potential abuse if consumers (or worse, government officials) are given free rein to invoke these penalties frivolously, as there is no stated process for appeal or rebuttal.  HRAI submitted in its presentation that the intended purpose of these penalties should not be to open the door to arbitrary attacks on legitimate contractors (especially for what might be simple paperwork errors): “it is critical to strike the right balance.”

HRAI committed to the Standing Committee that the association would draft some proposed alternative wording in its final written submission, which will be made before the end of August.

For more information, contact Dorothy McCabe, Government Relations Specialist -- Ontario, at dmccabe@hrai.ca, or call 905-602-4700 ext. 274.