How to handle a false advertisement from across the border?
August 23, 2005 7:48 PM   Subscribe

Recourse Filter: I bought a product from a Canadian company. I realized upon it's arrival that it’s incorrect and was falsely advertised. Discussions with the company haven’t went well at all . Advice and suggestions on the possibility of getting things corrected?

I’m a Google neophyte and all of my attempts to research the proper procedure for addressing possible recourse haven’t lead to anything helpful. Perhaps someone here knows where and how to start pursuing something like this, specifically with the "international" aspect of it?

Here’s what happened so far:

1) Several months ago I read an announcement from a company that a product was available, notably with a certain, well-known finish that I like. All of the specifications sounded dead-on for what I was after, so I bought it for U.S. $2,100. (a fair price)

2) It arrived recently with a finish that’s different than what was advertised. I would not have bought it had I known about this in advance.

3) Company says first that the finish was a “variation” of what it was supposed to be, but later begins saying that it *is* in fact what was advertised. Things are spun by the company to sound like I’ve simply changed my mind and don’t want it anymore (inaccurate). I’m happy with everything else about it, just not the incorrect finish.

4) I tracked down the actual part numbers of the finish (a pearlescent “wrap” that’s adhered to the product), and sure enough, what I have is different than what was advertised. No question about this.

5) Talked to the company about it again, and this time they say “Maybe you can sell it on eBay or something.” As if that statement wasn’t ridiculous enough on it’s own, I’d be sure to take a big financial hit by doing this because it’s now considered “pre-owned.” They’re unwilling to exchange it for a properly-built product, they’re unwilling to take it back and redo the finish correctly and they’re unwilling to give me my money back.

And that’s where we are as of today. I have all of our email correspondence, including where they admit that the finish is a “variation” of what it should’ve been, and also that they’re not willing to take care of things. Sadly, I didn’t think ahead to record any of the telephone conversations, though. The company is in Vancouver, B.C. and I’m in Minneapolis; this is where I’m running into difficulties, what with the “international” aspect of taking legal action. I believe that they’re a small operation, possibly even a “one man shop,” if that means anything.

I’m assuming that this would have to take place in Canada’s legal system? I don’t have a clue where to start or what to expect, so I’m initially wondering about the following:

How on earth do I track down a reputable Canadian lawyer? How much upfront money (roughly) might be necessary to get the ball rolling? Will any of my incurred expenses for this action (travel, legal fees, etc...) possibly be recoverable? Are there any good resources I could peruse to educate myself a little more in the mean time to get a better overall feel for the actual realities of any end-result success?

This is a real drag. Anything at all that anyone could suggest would be greatly helpful. And I love email too!!

Thank you,
posted by peewee to Law & Government (6 answers total)
I'd recommend you don't start getting lawyers involved - this sounds like a good case for small claims court, which (in B.C.) is good for up to $10,000. I'm not sure whether you'd have to make your claim locally or in B.C., but if you call the B.C. Small Claims court (contact numbers), they'll be able to tell you. As for fees, you'd probably be paying C$200-$300 for filing, record searches, and having the person served. I'm not sure whether those fees, travel expenses, etc. are recoverable.

Even warning the company that you're considering small claims court may get some action out of them - it's worth a shot, anyway.
posted by pocams at 8:14 PM on August 23, 2005

Generally, as a foreigner: no, your travel and other expenses will not be recoverable even if you win. Your costs will be at least as large as your outlay. Write it off. If you relly need to sue, there's always this site.

I live in Vancouver and could check out the shop if you like.

You do, however, have the option of making a complaint under the Competition Act, which doesn't cost you anything.
posted by solid-one-love at 8:19 PM on August 23, 2005

Did you not use a credit card? If you did, cancel that payment posthaste. If you used a personal check, the bank may be able to recall it (call your bank officer first thing in the morning and be very polite and patient and have all of the details). If you used paypal, well there isn't much recourse. You could probably give some bad feedback somewhere, but that is probably it.

If they continue to give you trouble (but not your money back) give them trouble. This sounds like a niche product, so a few well placed letters to the trade or specialty magazine's editors may make a dent in the company's business.
posted by jmgorman at 8:52 PM on August 23, 2005

I'm dying to know what the mystery product is. Anybody else feel the same way?

If you paid with a Visa card, you can get Visa to intervene for you--they'll call the merchant for you and pressure them to replace the product, or just cancel the charge completely. Just call the number on the back of the card; they're actually really helpful. Especially when you're talking about a $2100 product; that's not chump change.
posted by bcwinters at 9:18 PM on August 23, 2005

This all depends on how much different BC law is from Ontario law, but there are firm limits on how much lawyers cost for certain work.

If you can convince a lawyer to take on your case you may find BC has a limit as to what the lawyer may charge you similar to Ontario.

Although, because of such laws you may simply find it impossible to hire a lawyer for small claims court. In Ontario the maximum charge is (probably now was) $300 for a defence small claims lawyer. It may/may not be open season for your side, though.

It can't hurt to email a lawyer in BC and see what you're going to be looking at. I'd expect you'll be spending at least $500 to get this done with a lawyer. Perhaps a lot more.

One last thing to note is that in some Canadian provinces (not mine, but maybe BC) you must be represented by someone that has passed the bar. That ups the cost considerably. Otherwise, a paralegal will do and that will keep the cost back down on earth.

You could always get a default judgement against them in your own state, although that's a little pointless since at worst they wouldn't be able to open a store in your state until they pay up...

Best of luck!
posted by shepd at 11:51 PM on August 23, 2005

Hey, uh, this machine wouldn't have anything to do with time travel, would it?
posted by redteam at 9:43 AM on August 24, 2005

« Older What's good to make with canned tuna fish?   |   Distance learning for programming languages Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.