Learn about Regulatory Bodies and Consumer Protection

Learn about Consumer Protection, Regulatory Bodies and Your Rights

Consumer Protection

Consumer protection is the term used to describe the safeguarding of the public when they purchase and receive goods and services.

Whether a shopper in a store or someone buying a house, or a patient seeing a doctor or massage therapist; to ensure their safety, strict rules apply.

The Canadian Regulatory Guide was developed by current and former regulatory professionals to inform the public about regulatory bodies and  promote the work they do to protect the public.  The information contained on this website was developed in consultation with numerous regulators across the country between 2018 and 2020.

Regulated Professions

In Canada, there are dozens of professions that are regulated, meaning that by law, a license is required to practise that profession.

To become a professional of a regulated occupation, people are required to meet high academic qualifications, usually pass an exam administered or approved by the regulatory body, and have their professional conduct monitored once in the occupation.

People can also be removed from an occupation if their professional conduct fails to meet the profession’s standards. If removed, it is illegal for them to continue practising that profession and consequences for illegal practise can range from significant fines to serving jail time.

The Role of Regulatory Bodies

In Canada, there are a number of different kinds of regulatory bodies. Some are government agencies and others are self-regulated.  This website primarily focuses on self-regulating organizations.

Self-regulating organizations are typically established by a provincial or territorial government, and their primary goals are to protect the public by enforcing legislation and codes of conduct that oversee a specific profession.

They do this by:

  • Setting the standards people need to achieve to enter a profession, which includes determining the type of education required and administering or approving an entrance exam once the training has been completed;
  • Enforcing professional conduct by ensuring legislation and codes of conduct are followed; and
  • Overseeing and managing a complaints and discipline process which includes investigating allegations against professionals, managing disputes and tribunals, and determining whether any punitive actions should be taken against a professional which could range from skills training to removal from the profession.

Self-Regulation

Self-regulating organizations are regulatory bodies that were established by governments who put their trust in professionals to oversee their own profession and ensure that their peers fulfill their professional duties in ways that protect the public and maintain the integrity of a profession.

Self-regulating organizations are non-profit and independently run, overseen by a board of directors (also known as councils) that are represented by members of the profession as well as the public. Though the organizations are run independently, they are typically required to maintain close relationships with a specified government department and from time-to-time report their operational outcomes. Self-regulation is considered a privilege not a right and government retains the power to revoke the privilege at any time if it feels the public is better served if regulated by government.

Self-regulating bodies are funded through licensing fees and other revenue generating methods, typically charged to professions. This reduces the burden on public expenses and increases the onus to operate an effective organization.

There are almost 500 self-regulating bodies in Canada. Most oversee professions at provincial and territorial levels, though a few have federal mandates.

Unlawful Practice and Use of Title

Regulatory bodies set very strict rules on their professionals, and most often, forbid the use of a term that describes their professionals, such as Professional Engineer, Social Worker, Immigration Consultant, or Real Estate Agent unless an individual has met the requirements to enter the profession and is registered by the organization.

Your Rights as a Patient and Consumer

There are laws at all levels of government that prescribe how patients and consumers are to be protected, and while laws differ in each jurisdiction, the fundamentals of consumer protection are the same.

Consumers and patients have the following rights:

  • to be in a fair marketplace
  • to be safe and free from harassment or exploitation
  • to receive accurate and timely information
  • to receive service or treatment from a qualified professional
  • to receive a service or product from a service provider or vendor who abides by the law and any applicable codes of conduct
  • redress if rights are violated

Public Information

To allow the public to make informed decisions as consumers and patients, most regulatory bodies have websites with extensive information that often include:

  • A public register that lists every person in the profession.
  • information on how to file a complaint
  • upcoming hearings to resolve complaints filed against professionals
  • a list of previous disciplinary decisions