Common Questions - Consumer Information
Q.1 What does Service Alberta do to help consumers?
- We respond to consumer enquiries by providing information (see our publications) or referring them to agencies or organizations that may be of help.
We investigate complaints when one of our consumer laws may have been broken (see list of Acts). We also license or register certain types of businesses (see our publication Licensing and Registering Your Business) (pdf).
Q.2 I have a complaint about the way my insurance company is settling my claim. Can you help me?
- Complaints against insurance agents, brokers and adjusters are handled by the Alberta Insurance Council (external site). Consumers can call the Alberta Insurance Council at 780-421-4148 (Edmonton); 403-233-2929 (Calgary); or 1-800-461-3367 toll-free (province-wide).
Complaints about insurance companies are handled by the Superintendent of Insurance at Alberta Finance and Enterprise. Consumers can call the Superintendent of Insurance at 780-422-1592 or dial 310-0000 and the number for toll-free in Alberta.
Q.3 My complaint is about the way my realtor handled the sale of my house. Do you investigate real estate complaints?
- The Real Estate Council of Alberta (external site) handles complaints about real estate agents, salespersons, appraisers and mortgage brokers. Consumers can reach them at 1-888-425-2754.
Q.4 Where do I go to get information about planning a funeral, or to complain about the way a funeral was conducted?
- The Alberta Funeral Services Regulatory Board (external site) has excellent free information on funeral planning and handles complaints against funeral homes, funeral directors, embalmers, and pre-need salespeople. Consumers can call 780-452-6130 (Edmonton); 1-800-563-4652 toll free (province-wide) or contact email@example.com.
Q. 5 I am looking for the grave of my great-grandfather. Is there a central government registry that lists where everyone is buried in Alberta?
- There is no central location for this type information. Individual cemeteries are responsible for maintaining records for burials at their site. If you know where your relative was from, Service Alberta can provide contact information for the cemeteries in that area. You must then contact the cemetery to verify a burial record. The Registration of Death available through Vital Statistics indicates the location of the burial. However, this information is a fairly new addition to the form so it would not help in locating the cemetery if the death occurred many years ago.
Q.6 I just bought a vehicle and put down a $1,000 deposit. Now I don't want the car as I've found a better deal elsewhere. How many days do I have to cancel the deal?
- You have no right to cancel under these circumstances, and the dealership will probably keep the deposit as damages if you do. They could even hold you to the whole contract. The only exception is if the deposit was made with conditions and the conditions were not met (for example, the vehicle must pass a suitable inspection or that financing was available). The Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC) may mediate a dispute involving a deposit that was given unconditionally.
Q.7 I bought a stereo and it doesn't work, but the store won't give me my money back. Can they do that?
- It is important that you find out the seller's policy on repairs and returns before you buy. If the product has a warranty, review the terms and conditions to find out who will be responsible for repairs or replacement. If you encounter problems with a product and the business does not honour their posted repair or refund policy, you can file a complaint. If a product warranty is not being honoured, you can file a complaint. Depending on the nature and value of the loss, you may also want to consult legal counsel.
Q.8 I attended a public auction and purchased an item. Can I return it?
- There are no refunds or exchanges for “as is” items purchased at an auction. Under contract law, the sales agreement is binding on both parties. However, if there are problems with the item auctioned (for example, it was misrepresented), people can pursue the auctioneer or the seller for damages. For more information see our publication Auctions – Buying and Selling (pdf).
Q.9 I received a gift that I would like to exchange for something else. I have the bill, so the store has to exchange the gift, right?
- Most stores allow exchanges to maintain good customer relations, but they are not required by law to do so. Before you buy any item that you might wish to exchange, make sure you know what the store's policy is. Some stores will only exchange items under certain conditions (for example, only if you have the bill, or only within 30 days). For extra security, get the store clerk to write the policy and conditions on the back of the bill and sign it.
Q.10 I purchased what I understood to be a ‘new’ computer from a salesperson. When I turned it on at home it has someone’s information stored on it already. Can I return it?
- This store is making untrue statements about a “goods” prior history or use when it is clear this computer has been refurbished. The Fair Trading Act states: Representing goods as new when they are used, deteriorated, altered or reconditioned is an Unfair Practice. Return the computer to the store and ask for a new computer or your money back. For more information see our publication Unfair Practices - the Fair Trading Act (pdf).
Q.11 What protection do I have if I gave a renovation contractor a deposit before the job was finished?
- If the contract was entered into at your home (or away from the contractor’s place of business) and if you give a deposit, the contractor must have a provincial licence and post security. Always check to make sure a contractor is licensed before you pay a deposit. Under the Fair Trading Act, you may cancel a contract entered into at your door, for any reason, within 10 calendar days. For more information on choosing a contractor, see the publication Home Renovations (pdf).
Q.12 A bill collector has been harassing me for payment. He calls me at work, insults me and uses foul language. How can I make him stop?
- Bill collectors are allowed to speak with you up to three times in any seven day period. If you ask them to stop contacting you at work and make and keep arrangements to speak with them at another time, they cannot call you at work. However, if the calls are very frequent or abusive the collector may be breaking the rules of the Fair Trading Act. Speak to the collector's supervisor, or register a complaint with Service Alberta. For more information on dealing with bill collectors, see our publication Bill Collection and Debt Repayment (pdf).
Q.13 I bought an expensive vacuum cleaner from a door-to-door salesperson and now realize I just can't afford it. What can I do?
- Under the Fair Trading Act you have 10 days to cancel a door-to-door direct sales contract. The best way to do this is by registered mail, but you can use any method, including email, that gives you proof of the date on which you cancelled. If the seller was not provincially licensed, you may have up to one year to cancel. The seller has 15 days to refund your money after cancellation. See our publication Dealing with Door-to-Door Sales (pdf).
Q.14 I was asked to make a donation to a cause that sounded very worthy of my money. When I asked how the money would be spent and where it would be going, they did not know. How do I find this information?
- All charitable organizations or fund-raising businesses that ask for contributions must provide information to donors or potential donors about how and where the money will be spent. For more information see our publication Charitable Fund-raising (pdf).
Q.15 I recently signed a contract for electricity or natural gas and now have second thoughts. What can I do?
- You can cancel your contract for any reason within 10 calendar days from when the marketer gets a copy of the contract you signed. A consumer who commits to a contract over the telephone may cancel the contract up to 60 days after the first billing statement is received from the new retailer. For more information see our publication Electricity and Natural Gas Contracts (pdf). You can also consult the Utilities Consumer Advocate website at http://www.ucahelps.alberta.ca/.
Q.16 I want to purchase a gift card for my friend’s birthday. If they don’t use it right away, will it expire?
- Expiry dates are not allowed on gift cards. A card will not expire until the entire value has been used. This does not include pre-paid/gift cards issued by a financial institution and cards that are issued for goods or services rather than a dollar amount. For more information, see our publication Gift Cards (pdf).
Q.17 What do I do if I think my identity has been stolen?
- If you think someone else is using your identity, there are things you can do:
Identity theft is a crime and you should let your local police know as soon as possible if you think you have been a victim. You will need to file a police report. Take action immediately and keep a record of whom you’ve talked with and what was said. Keep copies of all correspondence. Download a copy of the Identity Theft Statement from Service Alberta’s website and use it to notify financial institutions, credit card issuers, credit reporting agencies and other companies that you have been a victim of identity theft.
For more information see our publication Identity Theft (pdf).
Q.18 I recently made a purchase online and when the invoice came, I was charged additional costs. Can they do that?
- Any online business must provide an itemized list of the prices you will be charged as well as any additional charges. For more information see our publication Internet Shopping (pdf).
Q.19 I recently purchased a used vehicle. When I took it in to be serviced by my mechanic, I was told that the odometer had been rolled back. Who can I talk to about this?
- You can report the odometer problem to the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC) if you bought the vehicle from a licensed dealership or business. AMVIC licenses sales people and dealerships and will investigate odometer reading complaints involving an automotive business. If you bought the vehicle through a private sale and cannot resolve the issue with the seller, you may file a police report, file a court claim or contact a lawyer if the seller will not refund your money. For more information see our publication Odometer Fraud (pdf).
Q.20 I took a loan from a payday lender and was given a cash card. I have repaid the amount I borrowed but still have money on the card. The payday lender says they do not have to return any money left over. Is this correct?
- If you have repaid the loan in full and the card has expired or if there is less than $25 on the card, the payday lender must pay you the balance in cash if you return the card. For more information see our publication Payday Lending (pdf).
Q.21 I need help repaying my debts. Who can help me?
- Money Mentors is a not-for-profit consumer debt counselling service that offers a number of debt repayment options. They are the only organization in Alberta legislated to provide the Orderly Payment of Debts program. For more information see our publication What Creditors Can Do If You Don't Pay (pdf).
Q.22 My application for a loan was turned down because of a poor credit rating. Where do I go to check my credit rating?
- This information usually comes from reporting agencies such as Equifax Canada Inc. and TransUnion of Canada. You have the right to request a copy of your credit report once a year for free. If you find information on your file that you disagree with, you have a right under Alberta’s Fair Trading Act to explain or dispute what you found. For more information see our publication Your Credit Report (pdf).
Q.23 I am thinking of buying a home and probably should have it inspected before I sign the contract. How do I know my home inspector is qualified and insured?
- On September 1, 2011 the Home Inspection Business Regulation comes into force. The regulation will require home inspection businesses to be licensed with Service Alberta and to carry errors and omission insurance. Home inspectors will also need a licence and must be qualified to conduct home inspections. They will not qualify for a license if they do not have the ability, education and experience to conduct proper home inspections.
Q.24 I am looking for a new job or for new employees.
- Any person attempting to secure employment in Alberta for someone or secure employees for an Alberta employer must be licensed. Employment agencies are prohibited from charging people for finding them a job. For more information see our publication Employment Agencies (pdf).
Q.25 I am thinking of buying a condominium. What should I know before I make a decision?
- The Condominium Property Act and Regulation establish the framework for the development and operation of condominium property in Alberta. The Act sets rules for the condominium corporation, represented by the board, and individual unit owners. Service Alberta's Buying and Owning a Condominium publication provides an overview of key topics that you need to be aware of when buying and owning a condominium.