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

A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary. March 2021. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Reports of student attendance ‘dwindling’ at Surrey schools: teachers’ association

STA president said he’s heard from staff that students might not attend in-person for 4th quarter

(Photo: MOSAIC/Facebook)
Organization receives $10K from B.C. government to tackle racism in Surrey, White Rock

Funding to go toward forum for International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

A police officer aims a radar gun at oncoming traffic during a school-zone speed trap traffic blitz outside Peace Arch Elementary in 2017. (File photo)
White Rock council heeds residents’ plea for better speed signage

Roper Avenue concerns note proximity of two elementary schools

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

Most Read