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

Name of victims ‘ripped down’ from Victoria display

Organizers feel the act is ‘malicious’

Government Street becomes pedestrian-priority corridor

One block of downtown street closed to cars entirely

‘The face of Belmont’: Custodial staff at Langford school pivot to support parents, students

Staff serve as point of contact for parents, students with school

Saanich teen launches free online tutoring website

School Helpers matches volunteer tutors with students

VIDEO: View Royal resident spots cougar in nearby backyard

B.C. Conservation notified about early Thursday morning sighting

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

POLL: Are you sending your children back to school this month?

Classrooms looked decidedly different when students headed back to school for the… Continue reading

Cortes Island affordable housing project hangs by a thread

Regional decision makers resort to COVID-19 concerns despite virtual meeting option and push hearing to September

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

North Island recreation camping site closed due to vandalism

Damage happens every year, forcing site manager to reallocate improvement budget to repairs

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

Man found dead in his tent at Island homeless camp

Facebook posts tell of personal struggles and attempts to stay clean and sober

Most Read