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Initiating Investigations

Consumer Protection BC investigates complaints received from consumers or other individuals when it appears the business may be in violation of BC’s consumer protection legislation.

  • To initiate an investigation, you must submit a complaint in writing to our Inquiry department outlining your concerns. Please include a copy of any documents you may have that would assist us, such as a copy of a contract or bill of sale. Click here for more information on how to submit an official complaint.
  • In response to your complaint, we will review the information received and determine whether an investigation is warranted. If so, we will assign the complaint file to an enforcement inspector.

Enforcement Inspectors' Authority

The Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act, Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act and the Motion Picture Act give the enforcement inspectors their authority. Generally, the enforcement inspector is permitted to make any inquiries necessary to help determine whether or not there is a violation of the legislation. The enforcement inspector is permitted to enter a business and ask questions, seek copies of relevant documentation and temporarily take possession of any material in order to examine it and make copies, if necessary.

Steps Taken During an Investigation

  • The enforcement inspector will likely contact you in order to clarify your report and ask questions to assist him/her in understanding the issue.
  • The enforcement inspector will also contact the subject of the complaint (business) and provide him/her with an opportunity to respond to your allegation(s).
  • The enforcement inspector will complete the investigation and review the findings. If the evidence indicates a violation of the legislation, the enforcement inspector will make a decision on the appropriate course of action to take.
  • The enforcement inspector may decide that no enforcement action is warranted. Or, if the business agrees to satisfy your complaint by, for example, cancelling the contract or reimbursing money, the enforcement inspector may close the file with a warning letter.
  • Depending on the seriousness of the situation, the enforcement inspector may issue what is known as a Compliance Order, which forces the business to comply with the Act and possibly reimburse you for any money lost. In extreme circumstances, the enforcement inspector can cause bank accounts to be frozen and initiate civil action. However, those cases are rare and usually involve large and more serious situations, often involving numerous consumers.
  • Finally, the enforcement inspector can also recommend that charges be laid in the criminal courts if it is felt that sufficient evidence exists and the circumstances warrant that course of action. While the enforcement inspector can recommend that charges be laid, the final decision regarding prosecution of the case rests with the Crown.
  • When warranted, Consumer Protection BC may post the results of the investigation on our website as a consumer alert or an information bulletin, and may also distribute the results to the media.
  • You may be contacted several times during the investigation to clarify information. You will also be notified of Consumer Protection BC's findings and the status of the file. You are welcome to contact the enforcement inspector at any time with questions.