Consumer Protection - News

  • – 2018-10-01 –

    Canada, the United States and Mexico have reached agreement on a new trade agreement to replace NAFTA.  Now called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (the USMCA),  the Agreement includes both an Intellectual Property Chapter and a Digital Trade Chapter.  

    The digital provisions include gains and losses that will require changes to Canadian law, but also preserves the status quo on issues of importance to Canada:

  • – 2018-09-28 –

    CIPPIC has filed its intervener factum in the Supreme Court in Telus v Wellman, SCC No. 37722, an important case addressing the disparate impact of mandatory arbitration clauses on consumer and business customers.  CIPPIC's argument focuses on access to justice considerations and the differing way that consumer protection laws protect consumers and other vulnerable groups encountering standard form contracts in circumstances characterized by disparities in bargaining power.

    Profesor Marina Pavlovic and Cynthia Khoo (LLM Candidate and CIPPIC researcher) are acting for CIPPIC in this intervention.

  • – 2018-09-23 –

    CIPPIC has been granted leave to intervene in a trio of appeals in which the Supreme Court has invited submissions on standard of review:

    The Court is of the view that these appeals provide an opportunity to consider the nature and scope of judicial review of administrative action, as addressed in Dunsmuir v. New Brunswick, [2008] 1 S.C.R. 190, 2008 SCC 9, and subsequent cases. 

    Minister of Citizenship and Immigration v. Alexander Vavilov, SCC No 37748Bell Canada, et al. v. Attorney General of Canada, SCC No 37896 and National Football League, et al. v. Attorney General of Canada, SCC No 37897 will be heard together over a three day hearing from December 4-6.

    CIPPIC is working with University of Ottawa alumni James Plotkin and Alyssa Tomkins.  Justice Bastarache - co-author of the plurality decision in Dunsmuir, is of counsel.  CIPPIC's intervention will focus on the rule of law and limits on deference in judicial review.

  • – 2018-08-23 –

    The Supreme Court of Canada has granted CIPPIC leave to intervene in Telus v Wellman, SCC No. 37722, an important case addressing the disparate impact of mandatory arbitration clauses on consumer and business customers.  CIPPIC's intervention, consistent with its historical work on consumer rights and standard form contracts, will focus on access to justice considerations.

  • – 2018-06-06 –

    In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court has overturned the result reached in the Ontario Court of Appeal (and the court of first instance) and stayed an Ontario defamation action in favour of Israel as the most appropriate forum.

    CIPPIC intervened in the case, and was represented by CIPPIC Director David Fewer and co-counsel Professor Marina Pavlovic and Professor Jeremy de Beer.  CIPPIC's intervention focused on access to justice, forum shopping concerns, and technological neutrality.

    The dissenting justices, Chief Justice McLachlan (as she then was) and Justices Moldaver and Gascon, picked up on CIPPIC's access to justice arguments in their forum non conveniens analysis:

    [215] While the plaintiff in this case is wealthy, access to justice concerns are implicated when considering fairness, and must be considered. For many non-wealthy plaintiffs, being denied access to the courts of a particular jurisdiction — typically their home forum — means being denied justice altogether. In those cases, fairness would weigh even more heavily in favour of the plaintiff’s choice of forum.

  • – 2017-11-02 –

    CIPPIC contributed to Citizen Lab's submission to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Dubravka Šimonović, who is seeking best practices for addressing technology-facilitated violence, harassment and abuse against women. The submission highlights the need to acknowledge the real-world harms that flow from technology-facilitated abuse—harms which are too often disregarded or trivialized. The atmosphere created by such abusive conduct operates at to exclude women and girls from critical digital spaces, can have professional consequences and can leverage technical capabilities to wage long-ranging and persistent harassment campaigns. Often, technology-facilitated abuse does not, however, fall neatly within existing causes of action or criminal prohibition, which poses a challenge for those seeking to leverage legal powers to find relief from such abuse. The online platforms on which technology-facilitated abuse too often plays out present an equally challenging landscape for women and girls facing online abuse. Voluntary mechanisms adopted by these platforms to address online abuse are opaque, highly inconsistent, and continue to fail those who attempt to rely on them. Other private actors compound technology-facilitated abuse of women by actively feeding a robust commercial stalkerware market that facilitates violent and harassing conduct and allows for pervasive surveillance of women by abusive partners. Citizen Lab's submission can be read at: https://citizenlab.ca/2017/11/submission-un-special-rapporteur-violence-women-causes-consequences/

  • – 2017-06-23 –

    In a 4-3 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Douez v Facebook, Inc. 2017 SCC 33, that Facebook’s efforts in its terms of service to require Canadians to pursue grievances with Facebook in California courts instead of Canadian courts is unenforceable.

    The case involved a class action against Facebook alleging violations of BC's Privacy Act. The class action could not proceed, however, as Facebook argued that its terms of service require disputes to be resolved in California courts and under California law. Historically, the Supreme Court of Canada's jurisprudence favoured enforcement of these “forum selection clauses” on the rationale that holding sophisticated commercial parties to their jurisdictional choices advances the underlying principles that private international law seeks to achieve.

  • – 2016-08-25 –

    CIPPIC's application for leave to intervene has been granted in Douez v Facebook Inc, SCC File No 36616, an appeal that raises fundamental questions regarding the nature of online jurisdiction, e-consumer protection and privacy. Specifically at issue is a forum selection clause imposed by Facebook onto all of its customers, on a take it or leave it basis, mandating that all disputes be brought against it in California. On the basis of this clause, it was held that a class action launched against Facebook in BC and alleging violations of BC privacy laws cannot proceed.

    Managing online jurisdiction-where services can have significant global presence and impact on a largely virtual basis-has strained digital policy since the early days of the world wide web. However, CIPPIC's proposed intervention intends to argue that forum selection clauses are ill-suited as a means of navigating the challenges posed by global online services. A mandatory, non-negotiable forum selection clause effectively opts a service provider out of Canadian standards and laws as foreign courts tend to apply their own rules and standards. As forum selection clauses are ubiquitous and non-negotiable in online services, their universal enforcement could effectively deprive Canadians from domestic protections in relation to digital activities that are increasingly critical to their daily lives. In addition, it could force any Canadian individual embroiled in a dispute with a global online platform to undertake the expense and inconvenience of suing in a foreign court.

  • – 2013-02-12 –

    As part of ongoing proceedings set to establish a 'Wireless Bill of Rights' for customers of Canadian wireless services, the CRTC held a hearing seeking input on what protections should be included in such a document. CIPPIC, appearing alongside its client in the proceeding, OpenMedia.ca, called on the CRTC to take strong steps towards alleviating growing customer frustration with a highly concentrated and difficult to navigate mobile service landscape. This requires, CIPPIC argued, simplified and standardized point of sale information on the nature and cost of services. It also requires that mobile service providers deploy real-time usage management tools that help individuals avoid bill shock. This includes handset-based notifications that kick in as individuals approach their usage limits, as well as a customizable 'hard' notification that will temporarily cut off usage as individuals approach excessive usage fees ($50, for example).

    In addition, effective protections will lower switching costs that currently keep customers locked in to their plans long after their smartphone battery expires, long after their frustration with changing fees or inadequate customer service raises their level of frustration to new heights, long after the wireless market has evolved to offer cheaper and more responsive service offerings. Lock-in, which, uniquely in Canada, is typically for three year terms of service, is achieved by a combination of technical measures preventing an individual from using their handset with another service and hefty fees (which can amount to hundreds of dollars depending on how far the individual is into their contract) levied at individuals seeking to leave their contracts early.

  • – 2012-12-18 –

    CIPPIC has submitted comments in Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2012-557, a proceeding which seeks to establish a set of rights of customers of wireless services across Canada. The proceeding was launched after the Commission decided, in Telecom Decision CRTC 2012-556, that wireless customers were in need for greater protections at the national level. CIPPIC's submission, filed on behalf of OpenMedia.ca, focused on the need to address many shortcomings in the Canadian wireless landscape and the need to facilitate competition. Specifically, CIPPIC called on the CRTC to restrict termination penalties and hardware lock-ins.

    Using a combination of technical lock-in mechanisms and excessive penalties for breaking contracts, providers prevent customers from switching outside 2-3 year contractual cycles. At the same time, these lock-in mechanisms prevent effective competition on handset prices. Providers have no incentive to ever compete on handset prices, as higher-seeming handset prices make handset subsidy-based three year lock-ins appear a fantastic deal for customers. In reality, however, customers end up paying more for the handset and more for their monthly services, while providers are insulated from actually having to compete to keep their customer base. An effective Wireless Consumer Protection Code will address this deficiency.