Shopping online is convenient.  But when you buy goods or services from a business online you are entering into a contract, so know your rights before you buy!

Nova Scotia’s Consumer Protection Act has special rules that apply to these ‘internet sales contracts’.  These rules apply to online purchases of $50 or more, whether you are buying online in Nova Scotia, or elsewhere.  They don’t apply to internet sales between private individuals (rather than a business), or where you download or access online goods or services immediately.

When buying online you have a right to:

  • detailed information about and a copy of the contract
  • cancel the contract within a certain time and under certain conditions, and
  • get your money back or have any credit card charges reversed if you validly cancel the contract. 

Businesses selling goods or services online must give you the following information, in a format you can save or print:

  • the seller’s contact information, including name, address, telephone number, and, if available, email, and fax number. Just providing an email address is not good enough
  • an accurate description of what you are buying
  • a price breakdown, including taxes and shipping charges, and details of any extra charges like customs duties
  • the total amount you have to pay, or, if you are buying the goods over time, the amount of each payment
  • how payments will be made, and in what currency if you are buying outside Canada;
  • the delivery date for goods or start date for services
  • details about how and where delivery will happen, who will deliver the goods, and who will pay for delivery
  • any cancellation, exchange and refund policies, and
  • any other contract restrictions, limitations or conditions.

An online contract must have all of the above information, as well as your name (or customer number/other identifier) and the date the contract was entered into.  The seller has 15 days to give you a copy of the contract – by email, fax or regular mail, for example. 

Read and keep your copy of the contract!

If you do not get a copy of the contract you can cancel the contract within 30 days of entering into it.

You may also cancel the contract in the following situations:

1.    If the seller did not give you the information they are required to provide (outlined above), or did not give you a chance to accept or decline the contract before entering into it, you can cancel the contract at any time up to 7 days after you get a copy of the contract.

2.    You can cancel the contract any time before delivery of the goods or start of services if the contract has a specific delivery or service start date, and

  • the seller does not deliver the goods within 30 days of the delivery date in the contract or another date you and the supplier agreed to in writing or electronically; or
  • the services are for travel, transportation or accommodation, and the seller does not start the services on the date in the contract or another date you and the supplier agreed to in writing or electronically.

3.  You can cancel the contract at any time before the delivery of the goods if there is no delivery or services start date in the contract, and the seller does not deliver the goods or start services within 30 days after the contract was entered into.

A seller is still considered to have delivered goods or started services if they try to deliver or start them:

  • and you refuse to accept the goods or service; or
  • no one is at your home to accept delivery or allow service start up, even though you were given reasonable notice.

If you decide to cancel it is a good idea to cancel the contract in writing, and to keep a copy of the cancellation for your records. Once a contract is cancelled the seller has 15 days to give you a refund, and you must return any goods you got within 15 days of cancelling the contract, or within 15 days of delivery of the goods, whichever is later.  The goods must be unused and in the same condition they were in when you got them.

If you paid by credit card and your money is not refunded within 15 days of cancelling the contract, you can ask your credit card company to cancel or reverse the credit card charge.  Your request must include:

  • your name, credit card number, and card expiry date;
  • the seller’s name;
  • the date the internet sales contract was entered into;
  • the amount that was charged to your credit card;
  • a description of the goods or services;
  • the reason you cancelled the contract; and
  • how and when you cancelled the contract.

Your credit card company may require you to sign a sworn document (affidavit) to prove your request.

Once you provide the required information your credit card company must cancel or reverse the credit card charge, including any interest, within 2 complete billing periods, or 90 days, whichever comes first.

If you cancel the contract and don’t get your money back within 15 days, you can take the seller to court.  You might want to talk with a lawyer if you are thinking about going to court to try to get your money back. Equally, if the seller feels it is unfair for you to cancel the contract (for example, feels that you did not follow the contract terms or cancellation rules) the seller can take you to court.

If you have questions or concerns about an online shopping contract, you can contact Service Nova Scotia at 902-424-5200 or 1 800 670-4357, or go to Service Nova Scotia online.  Service Nova Scotia administers the Consumer Protection Act, and deals with consumer complaints.

Finally, you’ll find tips for protecting your privacy and avoiding scams when shopping online at:

Updated November 30 2016