Dear Premier Ford,
You stated this week, in answer to allegations that lobbyists have direct access to you and direct influence over your policy-making: “No one can influence Doug Ford or our cabinet.”
That’s good to hear from you directly.
The optics over the past year in the media indicate something different, however. We’ve seen building industry and real estate lobbyists in photo ops at Queen’s Park, presenting their public submissions to Ministers, and later applauding your new legislation, such as the “More Homes More Choice” Act.
You promised in many of your speeches to be “For the People” and “to Protect What Matters Most”. Many are still hoping this is more than a slogan.
By means of this Open Letter, I’m asking you to consider making an amendment to what seems to be a gap in Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act, (CPA).
Currently, the Consumer Protection Act, S.O. 2002, Chapter 30, Schedule A, says no business can force a consumer to agree to arbitration to resolve disputes, or prevent them from engaging in a class action suit. Your Consumer Ministry’s website says: “You are not bound bythese clauses, even if you have accepted the agreement.”
However, the Act excludes real estate transactions from these protections.There is also no ‘cooling off period” allowed for freehold new home purchases, as in the case of condos.
The Act states, under “Exceptions”, Part 1, (2) (f): “This Act does not apply in respect of: (f) consumer transactions for the purchase, sale or lease of real property…”
Why are real estate transactions excluded from the Consumer Protection Act? A new home is often the largest purchase many Ontarians make in their lifetime.
If you buy a fitness club membership, it seems, you have more dispute resolution options than if you buy a new freehold home. This doesn’t make sense.
No one to date, either lawyers, legal academics, current Ministers or Opposition MPPs I’ve spoken to has been able to explain how this exception got into the Act in 2002. Where’s the consumer protection in this?
I am asking you to consult with consumers, and consider an amendment to the Act, taking out this “exception (f)”, and including real estate purchases under the protections of the CPA. With the growing concern about complex, developer-friendly new home contracts, the legislation seems weak in achieving its overall intent of consumer protection.
I hope you will take action on this. If not, can you provide your reasoning?
Independent Consumer Advocate