An Empirical Study: The Missing Hyperlink—Can Canadian Laws Effectively Protect Consumer Purchasing Online?
Canadian consumer protection legislation applicable to online transactions generally works by a two-pronged method: first, private international law rules ensure that in most cases, consumers can sue in their home province under that province’s law; and, second, a wide range of substantive obligations are imposed on merchants, and failure to comply with these obligations provides consumers with a right of cancellation. This study considers the private international law rules applicable to online consumer contracts, and discusses the unique jurisdictional challenges presented by online transactions. This study also provides an overview of Canadian legislation applicable to online consumer transactions, and examines the provisions of the Internet Sales Contract Harmonization Template that were incorporated into the consumer protection legislation of several provinces. Given that there is little to no hard data on whether current consumer protection is actually effective in protecting consumers, an empirical study was designed to assess the limits of current legislation and offer recommendations to improve e-businesses and online consumers’ experience. The study’s main finding is that not a single business complied fully with its legal obligations. This suggests that in order for Canadian consumer protection law to have a significant impact on e-businesses’ practices, substantive obligations imposed by the legislation must be combined with a more effective coercive mechanism. State intervention is required to reshape legislation and ensure the protection of consumers’ basic rights.