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Interview
Consumer Protection and Standards: Q&A with Tayt Winnitoy

July 22, 2021

Consumer Protection and Standards: Q&A with Tayt Winnitoy

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Interview
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Q.

Can you tell us a bit about Consumer Protection BC and what it is responsible for?

A.

Formed in 2004 through the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority Act, Consumer Protection BC is an independent, not-for-profit, cost-recovery organization that operates in BC at arms’ length from government. It is responsible for administering the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act, the Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act, the Motion Picture Act and associated regulations.

Consumer Protection BC’s 40 employees are responsible for licensing and regulating certain sectors in BC (cemetery, cremation and funeral service providers; debt collectors and repayment agents; payday lenders; home inspectors; video retailers, distributors and theatres; travel agents and wholesalers; and telemarketers); classifying all movies and trailers shown in BC theatres; overseeing laws specific to certain kinds of purchases (such as contracts, credit reporting and gift cards); investigating alleged violations of BC’s consumer protection laws; and administering British Columbia’s trade practice law (deceptive or unconscionable acts and practices).

Q.

What is the link between your work as a regulator and standards?

A.

Standards impact consumers in different ways – from the businesses they interact with on a day-to-day basis, to the specific products and services they purchase and use. Having well developed, harmonized and widely adopted national standards is a foundation for effective consumer protection in Canada.

As a regulator in BC, Consumer Protection BC is responsible for licensing businesses that engage in specific transactions with consumers. These businesses often provide services that must meet a particular code or standard to ensure their services are safe. This can range from health and safety standards in funeral homes, to standards for home inspections. Our job is to work with businesses to ensure they are providing services that are consistent with the standards adopted in consumer protection laws.

 

Consumer Protection BC also deals with consumer complaints and ensures that all businesses in BC, and in some cases outside BC, are fair, transparent and accountable for the goods and services they provide. Standards create a common frame of reference for these transactions.

Without clear and consistent standards, consumers can find it difficult to make informed decisions, and businesses can, intentionally or unintentionally, misrepresent their products or services. In BC, it is illegal to engage in a deceptive act or practice where a supplier represents “that goods or services are of a particular standard, quality, grade, style or model if they are not…”

Q.

You are a member on the SCC Governing Council, what led you to be interested in being on the council? What is something you have learned through this role?

A.

I was drawn to the SCC through my regulatory work in BC. I have been with Consumer Protection BC for more than 20 years, and I am familiar with the role of standards in provincial laws, and how those standards support businesses and protect consumers. I was very curious how the national standards system worked and, how the standards are developed, shared and adopted throughout the country. I saw a powerful link between the work of the SCC and how consumers in BC, and across the country, are impacted.

I was also very interested in how standards can help businesses become more efficient, effective and ultimately competitive – both at home and abroad. While my focus has been on consumer protection, I recognized and was impressed by the role the SCC plays in fostering innovation and internationally positioning Canada to be a leader in standards development. This helps businesses in Canada thrive, and when this happens, consumers ultimately have more choice, and access to a greater range of goods and services.

Q.

The pandemic has led many consumers to do more online shopping. With this change have you seen a change in the questions and support you give consumers?

A.

The pandemic has had a profound impact on the consumer landscape in BC. There have been seismic shifts in how people transact online, in the expectations consumers have of businesses in terms of contracts (like fitness clubs, travel services) and of course, in the pricing of essential goods during a crisis.

Our prime focus for online transactions has been to ensure refunds are paid when goods or services are not delivered. Our team has responded to thousands of related inquiries over the past year and helped consumers navigate laws that require refunds when goods or services are purchased online. We have also offered support to consumers having trouble with packages not delivered, and even offered tips on how to deal with debt collectors and things to watch for related to online payments.

Interestingly, we also saw an uptick in direct sales (door to door) complaints as many businesses that had to close commercial locations moved to a different service model.

We have many blog posts on our web site aimed at helping consumers with all things online – and beyond. https://www.consumerprotectionbc.ca/blog/

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