Good News for Consumers: Ontario tightens debt settlement and real estate transaction rules

Newmarket Era

If you’re using debt settlement services or entering into a real estate transaction, new Ontario consumer protection rules will make sure you get a fair shake.

As of July 1, debt settlement service providers will face limits to how much they can charge a debtor who comes to them for assistance. The new rules also:

• ban debt settlement companies from charging fees before a debtor begins making payments to a creditor;

• require clear contracts;

• provide a 10-day cooling-off period for any debt settlement services contract entered into on or after July 1, 2015; and

• permit licenses of non-compliant companies to be revoked.

Debtors should know their rights before they sign contracts and they should not make payments until they get results.

In real estate transactions, new rules are being implemented to address the issue of “phantom bidding.” As of July 1, real estate salespeople and brokers will not be allowed to indicate that an offer exists unless it is in writing. Records of offers will have to be kept for at least one year, allowing concerned buyers to ask the Real Estate Council of Ontario to verify the number of bids received on a property.

Protecting consumers by supporting a fair, safe and informed marketplace is part of the government's economic plan to build Ontario up, Markham-Unionville MPP Michael Chan said.

The four-part plan includes investing in people's talent and skills, making the largest investment in public infrastructure in the province's history, creating a dynamic and innovative environment where business thrives, and building a secure retirement savings plan.

“These two important changes will have a significant impact on improving consumer protections for debt settlement and real estate services,” Chan said.

“It’s important that our government protects consumers by providing them with a fair and safe marketplace,” Richmond Hill MPP Reza Moridi, said. “These new rules will deliver transparency, therefore assisting consumers who are already in difficult and vulnerable situations to make decisions with the best economic outcomes.”

Vaughan MPP Steven Del Duca said the initiative enhances the rights of vulnerable consumers and addresses abusive and unfair practices in the marketplace.

Quick Facts

• There are currently 22 companies and 38 credit counselling providers offering debt settlement services in Ontario.

• The average consumer debt in Ontario is more than $29,000 per person, according to 2014 statistics from TransUnion.

• According to, the total number of resale housing units in Ontario is predicted to exceed 210,000 in 2015.

Source: Ministry of Government and Consumer Services

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