A contract is a written or spoken agreement between two or more parties intended to be enforceable by law. Contract law is a complex topic and can be confusing for both consumers and businesses alike. Your provincial or territorial consumer protection office has jurisdiction over contract law.
Generally, a contract is binding when the following is true:
- the parties intend to make a contract
- there is an offer and an acceptance
- the parties receive something in return for their promises
In most cases, a consumer will sign a contract to gain ownership of or access to a good or service. In return, the company selling the good or service will receive financial payment or access to the consumer's data.
Before signing a contract, keep the following in mind:
- always read the contract carefully, including the fine print
- only sign if you understand and agree with everything in the contract
- pay close attention to what you are responsible for and what the company must provide
- research the company and check reviews
- make note of any automatic renewals or cancellation dates in the contract which could cause additional fees or charges
A deposit is usually a lump sum of money required to reserve or hold a product or service. Whether it's a deposit on a vehicle, a hall rental, a grad outfit or for a photographer's service, be sure that you want the product or service. If you change your mind, you are not, by law, entitled to get your money back. Be sure to ask what the conditions are before you put down a deposit, and only put down the minimum amount required.
If a deposit is required:
- ask if the money deposited will count toward the final price of what you're buying
- find out what will happen to the deposit if you cancel the contract
When possible, consider having a lawyer or a trusted professional review anything that you intend to sign.
In some provinces and territories, there is an automatic cancellation (cooling-off) period for contracts, such as, but not limited to:
- health club memberships
- credit cards
- door-to-door sales
The cooling-off period is defined as a specific period of time in which you may reconsider your decision and cancel the contract—for any reason. Remember this only applies to certain kinds of contracts and the rules may vary by province and territory. Don't sign unless you are positive you want the product or service.
Contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office to learn more about the cooling-off period.
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Published by the Consumer Measures Committee, a working group of federal, provincial and territorial governments, that helps educate and inform Canadian consumers.
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