Consumer Protection BC spokesperson, Tatiana Chabeaux-Smith, said that not panicking and trying to negotiate is the best option during the ongoing pandemic. (Pixabay photo)

No laws in B.C. to force businesses to offer refunds, even during a pandemic

Black Press Media talks to Consumer Protection BC on how to navigate during COVID-19

As business owners navigate this unprecedented pandemic, in B.C. and around the world, consumers are also having to figure out how to balance their bank accounts, including the return of merchandise or cancellation of services.

But British Columbians should be prepared to see some companies, big and small, denying them full refunds – even if the service didn’t happen due to COVID-19.

“In B.C., there is no law that dictates that a business has to give you a refund, exchange or return,” explained Consumer Protection BC spokesperson Tatiana Chabeaux-Smith.

“A store gets to set their own policy.”

ALSO READ: Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis

Chabeaux-Smith said a consumer should always understand the terms and conditions laid out by a business, but noted that it wouldn’t be unusual that a business didn’t have a policy for these unforeseen times. That has made for a difficult situation for the thousands of consumers who may be having to pull back financially and the businesses trying to stay afloat.

“Start with the business, ask them what is possible,” Chabeaux-Smith advised. “See if you can get somewhere. Be patient with one another. There is no guideline.”

Consumers look to buy gift cards in order to support local

With many businesses forced to shut doors until further notice, the Better Business Bureau and other business groups are encouraging consumers to buy gift cards as a way to support the business financially now, and cash in on the service once this pandemic is over.

Chabeaux-Smith said gift cards can’t expire, but warned that gift certificates for a specific service can, as long as the expiry date is clearly listed.

The length of expiry can vary and is completely up to the businesses’s discretion, because “the cost of delivering a service changes over time.”

Regulations dictate that a business has to be upfront about when a gift certificate expires. If it does expire, there are no guidelines that dictate a business owner must allow the dollar amount to be used as credit.

“If you want a gift card that doesn’t expire, my advice would be to go for a dollar value,” Chabeaux-Smith.

But her advice comes with one caveat – if a business is forced to close, don’t expect that money back.

“If they declare bankruptcy, all the creditors get put into a big bucket, and rent or something else will get priority,” she said.

Price gouging can be reported: here’s how

While there is no regulation on refunds in the province, there is a law on price gouging and that’s where Consumer Protection BC can step in.

Anyone who suspects a business is taking advantage of the pandemic by drastically increasing the prices on certain items can report them to the regulator online. Chabeaux-Smith said that photos and other evidence of alleged price gouging helps the investigator.

If a business is found to be at fault, the regulator starts first with education but can escalate enforcement to cease and desist letters.

READ MORE: B.C. bans ‘shameful black market’ of food, medical supplies; limits buying quantities


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chilliwack trustee removed from committees, district invites

Barry Neufeld’s censure involves four forms of reprimand due to recent Facebook post

Chilliwack RCMP support Special Olympics athletes

This year’s torch run aiming to raise $30,000 for B.C.’s athletes

FVRD activates its emergency operations centre to monitor Fraser River levels

FVRD activates its emergency operations centre to monitor Fraser River levels

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

New platform allows readers to make a one-time or ongoing donation to support local journalism

Body of Maple Ridge man recovered near Harrison Lake

21-year-old last seen on May 16 when he fell into Silver Creek

B.C. retirement home creates innovative ‘meet-up’ unit for elderly to see family face-to-face

Innovative ‘purpose-built’ unit keeps residents safe when seeing family for first time since COVID-19

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

New platform allows readers to make a one-time or ongoing donation to support local journalism

Fraser Valley libraries to offer contactless hold pick-ups

FVRL Express — Click, Pick, Go service to be offered at all 25 locations starting June 1

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Nanaimo senior clocked going 50 km/hr over limit says her SUV shouldn’t be impounded

RCMP say they can’t exercise discretion when it comes to excessive speeding tickets

United Way allocating $6.6M in federal funding to help with food security, youth mental health

Applications from Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland charities being accepted for the emergency funding

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

Most Read