Federal-Provincial-Territorial Meeting of Ministers responsible for Consumer Affairs


CHARLOTTETOWN, November 13, 1998 -- The federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for consumer affairs met today in Charlottetown. This is the third meeting in as many years as the ministers continue to improve protection for consumers on several fronts. They approved a Cooperative Enforcement Agreement on Consumer-Related Measures. They also launched an information sharing network for enforcement agencies, Canshare, and announced public information campaigns on deceptive telemarketing and loan brokers' scams. Ministers also took stock of progress made in harmonizing cost of credit disclosure rules. In their discussion on electronic commerce, ministers agreed to work together to improve consumer information and protection in a borderless marketplace.

Working Together to Combat Fraud

      Consumer ministers continue to work together to enhance the capacity of consumer protection and law enforcement agencies to crack down on cross border fraud and scams and to better inform consumers about deceptive telemarketing. The Cooperative Enforcement Agreement on Consumer-Related Measures sets out procedures for information sharing from one jurisdiction to another on such issues as licensing and enforcement. Consumers can be assured that cooperation continues among consumer protection officials across Canada.

      Canshare, a state of the art Internet-based network for law enforcement agencies, was officially launched. Canshare will reduce the number of scam victims and will prevent financial loss through an early warning alert notice to consumer protection and law enforcement agencies. The Agreement and Canshare together will enhance the sharing of information on a broad range of consumer protection issues and in particular, will allow faster tracking of deceptive telemarketing and other kinds of scams, through better intergovernmental cooperation.

      Ministers recognized and applauded the efforts of the Deceptive Telemarketing Prevention Forum. The Forum, composed of government and private sector members, introduced the first phase of a social marketing campaign by releasing a poster and pamphlet entitled "Stop Phone Fraud - It's a Trap". The full campaign kicks off in January 1999, the United Nations International Year of the Older Person.

      Mitch Murphy, Attorney General of Prince Edward Island and co-chair of the meeting, praised his colleagues and the Forum for their diligence in alerting Canadians to deceptive telemarketing. "Scams, especially when they affect seniors, have to be stopped. The obvious cooperation we see today from the provinces, the territories, the federal government and the private sector partners will help to put scam artists out of business."

      A public awareness campaign on deceptive loan brokers is underway to warn consumers about offers for loans that require advance payments. Ministers cautioned consumers to be aware that loans from these brokers rarely materialize and consumers would lose their advance payment.

Harmonization of Cost of Credit

      The Agreement on Internal Trade, Chapter 8, on Consumer-Related Measures and Standards calls for harmonized rules governing the disclosure of the cost of credit information to consumers. Ministers agreed to strengthen efforts to harmonize a set of rules by the end of the year 2000, regarding the cost of credit information provided by financial institutions, merchants and automobile leasing firms. With these new rules, consumers will have access to more information from business when they are borrowing money, buying merchandise on credit or leasing a car, allowing them to make more informed choices in the marketplace. Business and consumers will have a harmonized set of rules which apply in every jurisdiction - improving efficiency and reducing costs.

Electronic Commerce

      Ministers recognized the importance of working together to address consumer protection issues in electronic commerce. "Electronic commerce has phenomenal growth prospects" said Minister Manley. "Working here with my colleagues from the provinces and territories, as well as with the private sector, has set us on course to develop a plan that will build trust and confidence among consumers. Consumers need the same protection on the Internet as they have in the traditional marketplace."

      Ministers directed the Consumer Measures Committee (CMC) to review consumer issues related to electronic commerce and to examine options with respect to consumer education, industry self regulation and consumer protection legislation. Ministers asked CMC to provide them with a report for their consideration when they meet again next year.

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For more information please contact:

Jennifer Sloan
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Industry
Government of Canada
(613) 995-9001

Eric Goodwin
Manager, Consumer Affairs
Department of Community Services
    and Attorney General
(902) 368-4585