When you buy a good or service online, you enter a contract with the seller. Below are tips to help you resolve a problem with a seller about an online purchase.
Need to know
- Alberta laws set out rules that sellers must follow when dealing with customers.
- The seller must provide you with a copy of the contract within 15 days.
- There are special rules about internet sales contracts for goods or services you buy online for over $50.
- You can cancel an internet sales contract within a certain time frame, depending on the situation.
- There are steps you can take to prevent an online purchase problem from coming up.
Learn how to prevent an online purchase problem
Below are a few tips for preventing an online purchase problem:
- Before buying anything online, research the item and seller in advance.
- Gather information from credible sources on what you are buying. Check what other people are saying about the product or company.
- Search online for the product or company name and the words “review” or “complaints”
- Be aware that all positive reviews on search engines or on retailer websites may not accurately reflect the good or service. Some positive reviews may be ways to promote a product or service.
- Consumer Reports is an independent, non-profit source of product reviews.
- You can search for a business and view complaints on Better Business Bureau.
- Know what you are agreeing to before buying.
- Read the contract’s fine print.
- Understand the return and cancellation policy, and any warranty terms or guarantee.
- Clarify your full costs – including shipping and handling. If you are buying from another country, add in duty, taxes, and exchange rate.
- Find out how long it’ll be before you receive your order or service starts.
- Pay by credit card if you can.
- If you cancel an internet sales contract, you can ask your credit card provider to reverse charges. If the seller doesn’t refund your money, your credit card company must reverse the charge if you ask them.
- If you pay by cash, cheque or money order, you don’t have this same protection.
- Guard your personal information.
- Only enter your credit card information online in a secure environment.
- Look for https:// in the URL window as the “https” means the site is secure. (The “s” stands for secure.)
Get a copy of the contract
Within 15 days of entering into the contract, the seller must give you a written copy of the contract. The contract must have:
- the required information from the seller before you bought the goods or services
- your name
- when you entered into the contract
The seller must make the information available so that you can keep a copy of it. The seller may send you a copy of the contract by e-mail, mail, or fax.
Know the rules for internet sales contracts
When you buy a good or service online and you paid over $50 for it, you enter into an internet sales contract. Special rules apply to these contracts. Before you buy online, the seller must give you the following information:
- the seller’s name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address (if available)
- a fair and accurate description of the goods or services, including any technical or system specifications
- the total price as well as a breakdown of the purchase price, taxes, shipping charges, and other charges like customs duties and brokerage fees
- the currency you are paying in
- the payment method, terms, and conditions
- when the goods or services will be delivered or begin
- how the goods will be delivered to you such as delivery arrangements, shipper, transportation mode and delivery place
- the seller’s cancellation, return, exchange and refund policy
- any purchase restrictions, limitations or conditions
Immediately before you enter into the contract, the seller must allow you to accept or decline the contract and to correct any errors.
Know how to cancel an internet sales contract
You can cancel an internet sales contract, but you must do so within a certain time frame:
|Situation||When you can cancel|
|You do not get what you ordered within 30 days of the goods delivery date or services start date||Any time before goods are delivered or services start|
|Your online order does not have a delivery date, and you don’t receive what you ordered within 30 days of the contract date||Any time before goods are delivered or services start|
|For travel, transportation or accommodation services, the supplier does not begin services on the services start date in the contract||Any time before services start|
|You did not get what you ordered or services did not start by the amended delivery or service start date that you agreed to with the seller||Any time before goods are delivered or services start|
|Seller does not give you a copy of the written contract within 15 days of the contract date||Within 30 days of entering the contract|
|Seller does not give you required information before your purchase||Within 7 days of receiving a copy of the contract|
|Seller does not allow you to accept or decline the contract and to correct errors immediately before entering into it||Within 7 days of receiving a copy of the contract|
How to resolve an online purchase problem
Step 1: Decide what you want as a resolution
So, you have a problem with an internet sales contract.
The first step to resolving the issue is deciding what you want to see as a resolution:
- Do you still want to receive the good or service? You can first try reaching out to the seller and ask about the status of the good or service.
- Do you want to cancel the contract and get a refund? Remember, if you want to cancel the contract, you have a certain time frame to do so.
Step 2: Notify the seller
If you decide to cancel the contract, notify the seller that you want to cancel the contract. Send the notice by email, fax, courier, or registered mail so you have a record of when you sent it. You can also cancel over telephone or by personally delivering a notice. It’s a good idea to communicate with the business in writing so you have a written record of the purchase problem.
If you received your goods, you must return them unused and in the same condition as when they were delivered. You must return the unused goods within 15 days of delivery or cancellation, whichever is later.
The seller is responsible for paying the reasonable cost of your returning the goods.
Keep a copy of the notice of cancellation and proof of when you sent the goods to the seller (for example, a registered mail receipt).
Step 3: Wait 15 days
The seller must give you a refund within 15 days after you give notice that you’re cancelling the contract.
Step 4: If you paid by credit card, contact your credit card provider
If you don’t receive a refund from the seller, you can ask your credit card provider to cancel or reverse the charge. The provider must refund the charge plus any interest within two complete billing cycles or 90 days, whichever is earlier.
Your request to your credit card provider must be in writing or electronic form. Include the following information:
- your name, credit card number and credit card expiry date
- the seller’s name
- the date you entered into the internet sales contract
- the amount charged to the credit card
- a description of the goods or services
- the reason for cancelling the contract
- the date and method of cancellation
- a statement that you did not receive a refund from the seller after cancelling the contract
There is a template request below. You can make a request by personal delivery, registered mail, courier, facsimile or e-mail. Your credit card company must acknowledge your request within 30 days of receiving it.
Tip: you can often initiate a charge cancellation or reversal by logging into your credit card account (or bank account, if your credit card provider is a bank). Your credit card provider may have an online form that you can fill out. They may reach out to you to get more supporting information.
Template request letter
Below is a template to make a request to your credit card provider to cancel or reverse the seller’s charge. To use it, copy the text into a typable document and insert your words in place of the prompt words in the square brackets.
Dear [credit card company],
My name is [your name], with credit card number [credit card number] and credit card expiry date of [credit card expiry date].
I ask that you cancel or reverse the [amount charged to the credit card] for the internet sales contract that I entered into on [date you entered into contract] for the following:
[description of goods or services – for example, you can include the goods/services name, quantity, order/item number, service duration etc.]
I cancelled the contract with the seller on [cancellation date] through [cancellation method] because: [reasons for cancellation, for example:
-the seller did not provide required information before my purchase
-the seller did not provide a copy of the contract
-the seller failed to deliver the goods or services]
It has been 15 days since I cancelled the contract with the seller and I still have not received a refund from them.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. You can reach me further at [your contact information].
Step 5: Other actions you can take
If you have already notified the business about your online purchase problem and contacted your credit card company, here are some further actions you can take:
- File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau if the seller is listed or accredited on their website. The organization’s online complaint process may help facilitate or speed up a resolution for your problem.
- If you think the seller has breached consumer protection laws, consider filing a complaint with Service Alberta’s Consumer Investigations Unit (CIU).
- Know your legal rights and responsibilities, as well as options for taking legal action. Review information about consumer protection laws and know where to get legal help. Refer to the Who can help section.
What happens if I refuse delivery or am not available to accept delivery?
The law considers a seller to have delivered goods under an internet sales contract if:
- they tried to deliver but you refused the delivery
- they gave you reasonable notice of the delivery but when they tried to deliver, no one was available to accept the delivery
The law considers a seller to have begun services under an internet sales contract if:
- they tried to start service but you refused
- they gave you reasonable notice of when services would begin but when they tried to start service, no one was available to allow them to start
I want a refund because I have a problem with a good or service that’s already delivered or a good or service that I have already used. What can I do?
First, check the seller’s cancellation and refund policy. See if you are still within the window for a cancellation or refund. If it’s an issue that you discover while using the product or service (for example, a product defect), check if it’s covered by any warranty terms or guarantee. You may wish to notify the seller of your concern and try requesting a cancellation or refund following the steps above.
Some online sellers may be flexible in cancellation or refund policies. Ask politely, and respectfully explain your concern to them. It doesn’t hurt to ask for a refund or cancellation even if you think you missed the return or cancellation deadline.
I tried to cancel the contract with the seller but they didn’t give me a refund. I didn’t pay by credit card. What can I do?
If you did not pay by credit card and did not get a refund after giving proper notice to the seller to cancel, you may consider making a complaint about the seller and taking legal action to recover the refund from the seller as a debt. Refer to the Who can help section for more information.
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