Digital businesses | Canadians band together against additional fees

(Vancouver) People who buy items online are accustomed to the practice: they agree to pay a certain price, but when they go to the digital checkout, the price has been inflated by new fees and surcharges.

For example, Canada Post may decide to impose a “fuel surcharge” of nearly 25% for sending a package. When you buy a movie ticket, flowers, or travel reservations, the bill can add up due to hidden fees.

The practice may be known as partial pricing. There Competition law recalls that “the indication of a price which is not achievable due to fixed mandatory costs added to it constitutes a false or misleading indication”.

Consumers have just filed various collective actions to fight against this practice.

Saro Turner, a Vancouver lawyer whose firm is involved in some of these lawsuits, predicts more will be added.

“The average consumer is not a mathematician. Companies with a large sales volume must indicate prices in a respectful manner, without deception or lure,” he emphasizes.

The lawyer says that these are undoubtedly the first class actions to be launched following the changes to the Competition law which paved the way for private legal proceedings.

Me Turner mentions that the authorities cannot present all cases of partial price indication due to a lack of resources. But recent changes to the law allow law firms and consumers to file lawsuits themselves.

“When you are a small consumer, you only lose $1.50 or $3, these are only small amounts for a large corporation. How to enforce the law? Class actions allow lawyers to bring together people who have suffered a small loss to launch a lawsuit. And there, suddenly, the economic arguments bear fruit. »

Class actions have also been brought against the florist Bloomex, the travel site Omio and Cineplex.

Another lawsuit has been filed against Canada Post. The complainants accuse it of imposing a fuel surcharge of 24.5% regardless of where the package is sent.

In the past, Canada’s Competition Bureau has sanctioned a number of companies for adopting this practice. In 2017 and 2018, he forced car rental agencies to pay millions of dollars for misleading claims.

In November last year, it fined Ticket Nation $825,000 for advertising “tickets at unattainable prices.” He was also accused of promoting impossible-to-obtain discounts for tickets.

And last year, the Competition Bureau launched a lawsuit against Cineplex for the reservation fees imposed on consumers.

“Consumers expect to pay the advertised price. We are taking legal action against Cineplex because deceptive tactics like partial pricing mislead and cause harm to consumers, Commissioner Matthew Boswell said at the time. For years, we have urged businesses, including ticket sellers, to display the full price of their products up front. »

Canada Post, Omio and Bloomex did not respond to requests from The Canadian Press. The person who launched the lawsuit against Canada Post declined to comment, as did Canada’s Competition Bureau.

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