BY TAMMY FLORES
Between 2005 and 2007, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, made decisions that gave room for 407 ETR to ignore consumer protection laws. Those decisions now affect thousands and thousands of people negatively in the Province of Ontario and it’s about time these wrongs were made right by the Province. The Province can and should intervene in 407 ETR’s abuse of power. The contract 407 ETR signed said the company had to follow all the laws of Ontario and Canada in its operations. Do the lower court rulings make Consumer Protection laws null and void? The short answer is no.
In 2005, 407 ETR took the Province to Court and won. In the lower court decision, the case essentially gave the company the right to charge whatever it wanted. The company has exploited this to the full and arrogantly refused to provide documentation to back up their claims for thousands and thousands of dollars, to unsuspecting victims, because they say they can charge whatever tolls, fees and interest it wanted and it didn’t matter when they sent out an invoice to collect. As long as one was sent out eventually was all that mattered and the details were not necessary.
In 2007, 407 ETR took the Province to Court and won again. This time the Court gave the company the right to place a person in Plate Denial without proving lawful charges. The Court told the Province they have to blindly honor the company’s request. The company exploited this to the full as well because it was now up to the consumer to prove why they shouldn’t have to pay whatever the company was charging them. Kind of hard to do that when the company didn’t bill you correctly to begin with because the details were not necessary.
Both of these cases, allowed the company to continue arrogantly in its abuse of power until recent court decisions brought them to a screeching halt.
In two landmark decisions, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Superior Court up held the Limitations Act. Both statutes cover the way a business is to conduct themselves in the face of consumers that find themselves in financial troubles. One could ask, what about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our ability to travel freely within our own country and Province? What about the Consumer Protection Act and the Collection Agencies Act? If 407 ETR failed to act within the two year period it had to act within, why are they allowed to keep people in debtor’s prison forever until they pay whatever usury amounts the company claims is owed to them? Why is the company still in control of who and when someone is placed or released from Plate Denial?
I am sure all of these questions will be answered in time, but the Province can simply change the 407 Act and force the company, in plain language, to follow consumer protection laws.
Unfortunately, so far the Province has chosen to say that their hands are tied and there’s nothing they can or will do about it.
This is why actions before the courts are so significant. It produces evidence that the company has been ignoring consumer protection laws. Is that not a violation of their contract? In the face of mounting evidence, how much longer can the Province say their hands are tied? Hopefully, they will intervene soon.