CHRONICLE / For many, the arrival of spring sounds the starting signal of all kinds of projects in view of the beautiful season it announces. So in the next few weeks, you may well join the ranks of consumers who will be active around projects of various kinds that have been simmering all winter in their minds.
In many cases, these impulses will result in the conclusion of major contracts involving large sums of money: new windows, swimming pool, landscaping, spa, garden furniture, etc. At the time of entering into the contract, most merchants require a down payment and consumers should be careful to avoid mishaps.
Down payment: no rules?
Is the practice of down payments allowed? Is it subject to rules defined by the Consumer Protection Act (CPA)? How much is it appropriate to pay? Can we demand reimbursement in case of cancellation? What happens if the trader does not respect his obligations? These are very pertinent questions that should be clarified before concluding the contract.
It is important to mention that, with some exceptions, the practice of down payments is in no way regulated by the CPA as regards the amount that the merchant may claim. It is up to the parties to agree: 10%? 20%? Naturally, the consumer has the advantage to be cautious and to negotiate so as to pay a modest down payment, a question of protecting against a potential defeat of the merchant.
The level of protection of down payments from consumers varies greatly depending on several factors such as the business sector of the business. The remedies in case of closure of the company could be difficult to exercise even illusory as the case may be.
Payment more than two months in advance: attention
Let us mention a general rule imposed on merchants with regard to installments, and this, regardless of the nature of the property. In fact, when it is stipulated on the contract that more than two months will pass between the payment of the deposit and the delivery of the goods stipulated in the contract, the merchant must respect the rules set out in the CPA in this matter.
For example, in March, you sign at the bottom of a contract to sell a pool to be installed in June? Any money collected by the merchant as a down payment must be deposited in a trust account until the moment of delivery.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, it is possible for a trader to avoid this obligation to the extent that he pays to the Office of Consumer Protection (CPO) a bond that will provide financial protection to consumers who have paid a deposit.
You can check with the OPC that a trader has complied with these rules before concluding the transaction.
sectors , others not Certain sectors of activity are well governed by specific rules aimed at the financial protection of consumers in case of glitches. For example, advance payments made under contracts with an itinerant merchant are protected by a similar arrangement to the extent that the merchant is in possession of a valid license.
The field of home renovation is also well supervised and provides protection to consumers. Entrepreneurs in this sector of activity must, among the conditions of obtaining their license, deposit a bond with the Régie du bâtiment du Québec in order to protect the down payments made by the consumers and guarantee the fulfillment of the obligations resulting from the contracts that they conclude with them.
Other areas are the subject of a specific regulation aimed at the financial protection of consumers who entrust the merchant in advance with significant sums even before the merchant fulfills his obligations. This is particularly the case for the travel and funeral services sector.
In conclusion, it must be remembered that, with regard to the payment of a down payment, the consumer has a duty of vigilance and that he has every opportunity to negotiate with the merchant in order to look after his interests and to minimize the risks of losing his money in case of collapse of the trader.
Gary Frost is director of Client Services at the Office of Consumer Protection