LCO Consumer Protection in the Digital Marketplace Consultation Paper (2023, DOC) – Accessible Word Version
Backgrounders – LCO Consumer Protection in the Digital Marketplace Consultation Paper (2023, DOC) – Accessible Word Version
The LCO’s Consumer Protection in the Digital Marketplace: Consultation Paper was released on June 22, 2023.
The LCO’s project considers updates to Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act to improve notice, consent, terms of service, and access to justice in light of rapid changes in technology and the digital marketplace in Ontario.
The project responds to the growing sense that the “fine print” in today’s digital marketplace may not be working as well as it could.
Hardly a day goes by that consumers in Ontario are not asked to click, tap, scan, or otherwise confirm “I ACCEPT” when presented with a contract for an online product or service.
Yet consumers, businesses, and government alike express increasing concern that this framework no longer meets contemporary needs.
- For consumers, these contracts are nearly impossible to read, frequently change without notice, have a huge cumulative footprint, and may trigger big consequences from comparatively minor transactions.
- For businesses, there is a risk of regulatory compliance, a risk to reputation, and uncertainty over terms and practices that may be deemed deceptive or unfair.
- For governments, there is an interest in maintaining consumer confidence in a robust digital marketplace, ensuring a fair playing field for businesses, and fostering laws which are in tune with the times.
Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act was enacted in 2002 and has not been substantially amended in 17 years. Significantly, the Government of Ontario appears committed to consumer protection reform. The provincial government acknowledges that there is need to “strengthen protection for consumers, adapt to changing technology and marketplace innovations” and that more must be done to “to ensure that the laws governing the marketplace are in tune with our times.”
The Consultation Paper was prepared by the LCO following considerable research and informal consultations with our project Advisory Committee and many other individuals and groups representing a broad cross-section of perspectives.
Broadly speaking, the Consultation Paper asks two sets of questions.
First, the LCO considers if or how Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act should be updated to better protect consumers considering the new, complex, and expansive range of consumer risks in the digital economy. As such, the Consultation paper addresses what might be considered classic or traditional consumer protection issues and contracts principles, including:
- Notice and disclosure
- Deception and unconscionability (unfair practices)
- Unilateral changes to contracts
- Contracting with youth and vulnerable groups
- Access to justice, dispute resolution, and systemic oversight.
Second, the Consultation Paper considers the effect and impact of important new technological and business practices that may be unfamiliar to many consumers. This includes deceptive “dark pattern” software and contract practices, network effects, platform lock-in, monetization practices, and algorithmic content shaping. These developments challenge many traditional principles of consumer protection law, often with inconsistent and unpredictable results.
The LCO’s research also suggests an emerging consensus around key law reform principles and proposals that form the basis of our Consultation Paper. These are sometimes described as being part of a “new consumer agenda” which has gained significant momentum in the United States, European Union, and UK.
The LCO wants to consult with a broad array of stakeholders, including legal and consumer rights experts, government and justice system leaders, industry representatives, and individual Ontarians interested in consumer protection issues.
The consultation period for this project will run June 22 – September 1, 2023.
This project will produce an independent, evidence-based, and comprehensive analysis of consumer protection in the digital marketplace. The LCO’s final report will recommend reforms to laws, policies, and/or practices where it is appropriate to do so.
How to Participate
The LCO will be organizing several consultation processes over the summer of 2023:
The LCO encourages written submissions. Written submissions can be sent to the LCO’s general email address at LawCommission@lco-cdo.org.
The deadline for written submissions is September 1, 2023.
The LCO is committed to sharing ideas and building constructive dialogue. Accordingly, the LCO will post written submissions on our project webpage, subject to limited exceptions. Individuals or organizations wishing to provide a written submission may want to contact the LCO for further information prior to their submission.
The LCO expects to organize a wide range of meetings, forums, or workshops on consumer protection issues over the next couple of months. The LCO is strongly committed to partnering with interested organizations and stakeholders to develop consultation initiatives. Individuals or organizations interested in working with the LCO are encouraged to contact our Project Lead.
Project Lead and Contacts
The LCO’s Project Lead is Ryan Fritsch. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The LCO can also be contacted at:
Law Commission of Ontario
2032 Ignat Kaneff Building
Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
4700 Keele Street Toronto, Ontario, Canada M3J 1P3