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)

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

Cedar Valley Lodge, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers at the LNG Canada Project site in Kitimat. The most recent outbreak among workers at the project site was just declared over. (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
Second COVID-19 outbreak at LNG Canada Project site declared over

The outbreak was first declared on Dec. 16, 2020

CGL has closed down the two lodges affected to everyone except the essential staff. (Black Press file photo)
All COVID-19 cases associated with Coastal GasLink outbreak deemed recovered

Outbreaks occurred at CGL project accommodation sites in Burns Lake and Nechako Local Health Areas

Prince Rupert Branch of BC SPCA has partnered with the Greater Massett Food Bank to provide pet food to guardians in need during the pandemic, Joe Griffiths manager of BC SPCA said on Jan. 6. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Greater Massett Food Bank partners with BC SPCA

Greater Masset Food Bank has recently received more than 800 kg of pet food for those in need

A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Louisa Jordan Hospital in Glasgow, Scotland, Tuesday Dec. 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-POOL, Jeff J Mitchell
Social gathering, events to remain banned in B.C. as daily COVID-19 cases stay high

Extension comes as B.C. sees 761 new infections, eight additional deaths due to the novel coronavirus

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Black Press media file
Port McNeill driver tells police he thought the pandemic meant no breathalyzers

Suspect facing criminal charges after breathalyzer readings in excess of 3.5 times the legal limit

Most Read