Legal affairs

October 31, 2021

E-bikes can prove costly when it comes to insurance claims

Although both motorists and cyclists don't seem to crazy about them, electronic bicycles (e-bikes) are flying off the shelves these days. They're cheap to buy, cheap to run and don't leave much of a carbon footprint.

They are, however, subject to provincial traffic laws; that is, they can ride in traffic with motor vehicles, like scooters, and their operators mustn’t drive recklessly or under the influence of alcohol. Here's a good summary of the existing rules.

More importantly, they also don't need a license or insurance, according to a recent Ontario Court of Justice ruling. But taking that latter option at face value might be shortsighted, warns My Insurance Shopper

"Like any motorized vehicle, there is a liability risk attached with owning this type of vehicle. If you're an owner of this type of motorized vehicle you need to know that you may have no liability coverage if you get into an accident, and you could find yourself without coverage if you cause property damage or worse, injure another person."

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September 19, 2021

Unpaid child support from deadbeat parents continues to swell

Unpaid child support is a huge financial problem for custodial parents, as well as the public purse which must supply assistance to children with little or no support and try to prosecute those failing to pay.

Unpaid child and spousal support in Ontario, for instance,  now tops $2 billion, according to recent government data. That figure has grown by $500 million in the past three years alone, with some 135,000 support payment cases now in arrears.

A few years ago, Ontario's Family Responsibility Office (FRO), which enforces child-support payment collections, started a website designed to shame parents into paying up. But it's had limited success.

The FRO's Good Parents Pay website has only managed to collect something like $470,000 over the past seven years from just 62 parents, according to recent reports. But private sites like CrappyDads lay claim to better results ... although it's not clear just who is auditing their results.

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September 06, 2021

If someone gave you too much change, would you tell them?

So you're at the grocery store paying for your purchases. When you get your change and count it, however, you notice that you've been given change for a higher bill than you actually used.

Do you alert the cashier and give the money back or would you think "well, it's their fault for not being more careful" and keep it?

Does it matter whether you're shopping at Loblaws or your favourite farmers market?

Well, for many people, the answer seems to be ... it depends.

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August 28, 2021

Ouch! Employee fakes illness to skip work and then gets fired

Every year, sites like Careerbuilder and Workopolis ask hiring managers and HR professionals about the wildest excuses they hear when employees call in sick. And there's no shortage of whoppers, particularly since something like 50 percent of workers admit that they call in sick when they're actually not.

No big deal? Everybody does it, right? Well, the boss is on to you.

One survey found that 29 per cent of employers say they regularly check up on an employee to verify that the illness is legitimate, usually by requiring a doctor’s note or calling the employee later in the day.

In addition, another 18 percent have had co-workers call a suspected faker, and 14 percent have even gone so far as to drive by their home for a closer look.

All in all, some 17 percent of employers say they've actually fired employees for giving a fake excuse about being sick.

And you could be next. That's what happened to an Alberta technician who asked his employer for a day off to play in a baseball tournament despite being told that he couldn't have the time off. 

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August 20, 2021

Canadians entitled to settlement from class-action suit against yogurt maker

Yogurt-eating Canadians are now eligible for a little windfall from Danone Inc., thanks to a class-action lawsuit challenging the company's claims that Activia yogurt or DanActive probiotic drinks could aid digestion or prevent colds because of bacteria they contain.

During the proceeedings, Danone denied any wrongdoing, but ulitimately agreed to the settlement to avoid further court costs.

This is not the first time Danone has come under fire for its advertising practices on products. It settled a similar suit in the US as well.

Any class members in Canada who make a declaration that they purchased the products after April 1, 2021 and before November 6, 2012, will qualify for $30 in compensation, according to the terms of the agreement.

Anyone with an actual proof of purchase could qualify for up to $100, depending on the amount of yogurt they actually purchased.

To qualify, you need to fill out a claim form and send it in electronically to For further information, call 1-800-287-8587. 

The completed and signed Claim Form and the necessary supporting documents must be received before August 27, 2021.

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money

August 14, 2021

Consumer proposals slowly replacing bankruptcies: report

Having lost a bit of its stigma, declaring personal bankruptcy has long been a viable option for people sinking under the weight of unmanageable debt.

So much so that roughly 118,000 Canadians went broke last year, according to the most recent statistics.

It may have a certain 'get out of jail free' appeal, but bankruptcy isn't necessarily an easy — or pleasant — fix for those who fall behind in their payments.

First off, you'll need to a hire a trustee to balance both your and your creditors' rights. Something of a referee, the trustee is there to make certain you understand the rules and that they're applied fairly.

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July 16, 2021

What constitutes full disclosure when selling a house?

Would you want to know if the house you were buying had once had human ashes buried in the back yard? I would, but no one would have to tell me it seems.

Recently, one Toronto couple bought a midtown house with plans to demolish and rebuild it. They were in the process of obtaining permits from the City of Toronto when someone alluded to the house's history.

It turned out that the widow of a previous owner had buried her husband’s ashes in the back yard even though they'd originally been stored in a cemetery vault.

After awhile, the couple found and removed them. But they were worried, since the back yard had been used temporarily as a burial ground for human remains, whether the property was 'stigmatized' -- in other words, whether they would have to fess up to future buyers.

No, they don't, explains Toronto lawyer Bob Aaron.

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June 24, 2021

Groupon to settle class-action lawsuit

Groupon, the biggest seller of so-called daily deals, has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging the expiration dates on its discount coupons are illegal.

Typically, the policy governing daily deals allows for the customer to be able to redeem an expired coupon but at the purchase price as opposed to its face value. Apparently, that's not the way it's supposed to work, according to most provincial laws.

For instance, if you paid $25 for a $40 Daily Deal voucher, then you are still entitled to redeem it after the stated expiry date for the $25 purchase price but not the $15 promotional value, explains the various law firms representing the group.  

Think you've been had by the local nail boutique? Then you better get on board.

To make a claim about an unused Daily Deal you'll have to certify that you have an unredeemed and unrefunded Daily Deal voucher that expired prior to March 8, 2013. You must also certify that you either attempted to redeem your voucher at the merchant, or that it's not possible for you to attempt to do so.

A good portion of the settlement money will be going to the legal team, of course -- but you never know.

Good luck.

Gordon Powers, MSN Money


June 18, 2021

Is not hiring smokers actually good for business?

There’s been a lot of rumbling recently over the legalities and ethics of employers implementing “no smokers” hiring policies as a means of promoting a healthy work environment and trimming group insurance premiums.

Estimates suggest that employees who smoke cost on average $3,396 more per year than non-smokers in lost productivity, higher absenteeism, and increased insurance.

At one Ottawa high-tech company, not only is there absolutely no smoking on company time, but employees aren't allowed to smoke in their off hours either.

“We drink. We swear. We don’t fucking smoke,” the company proudly declares on its values pages. Light up, and you can expect to hear about it pretty quickly. 

Larger corporations are following suit, it seems. In the US, a number of healthcare companies have instituted no-smoking policies as part of their recruiting strategies, with some going as far as to announce that they would concurrently implement nicotine testing as part of their hiring process.

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May 21, 2021

Criminal record can come back to haunt

Thinking of volunteering or seeking new employment?

Well, if you have a previous criminal record you may want to double check that record before your prospective employer does.

According to Pardon Applications of Canada, those Canadians who received an absolute or conditional discharge prior to July 24, 2021 may find they still have a criminal record attached to their name.

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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...