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Simon Shields, Lawyer

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Since 2005

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Identifying Which CPA Rules Apply to Your Situation

Ok, this is complicated but it is crucial to properly understanding and applying Consumer Protection Act (CPA) rules.

First, let's take the concept of an economic 'sector'. This, quite logically, is the main topic by which consumer agreements are categorized under the CPA. Sectors include such economic activities as "motor vehicle repair", "chattel leases", 'loans' etc. I have set the 'sectors' chapters out in Part B and this is the first place most of you will have headed. This is an entirely natural, but also quite WRONG way to understand the CPA, because:

Even if you have found a 'sector' chapter that fits with your situation, you cannot assume that all the rules set out in that chapter apply to your situation.

This is because the CPA superimposes a second type of categorization overtop of all sectors of consumer agreements, based on the 'form' of the consumer agreement, and each 'form' has its own rules - some of which may conflict the 'sector' rules.

The different 'forms' depend on the manner in which the consumer agreement was created (ie. as a 'direct agreement', a 'remote agreement' or an 'internet agreement') or by whether it is a 'future performance agreement' [categorizing your situation by 'form' is explained in Ch.3: 'CPA Forms of Consumer Agreement"].

In fact, one consumer agreement could fall into one sector (typically just one), and then into one or even more 'forms'. Plainly this can lead to confusion and even conflict in the rules. Because of this the CPA provides for 'Rule Conflict Resolution', which - when conflict arises - determines which rules apply [see Ch.4].

Oh right, and there are sectors which are fully (or partially exempt) from CPA rules as well.

Below I do my level best to try to lead you through this. Assuming that I haven't screwed it up, you will probably screw it up the first time - so be persistent. Here are the steps:

Step 1
Review Part A, Ch.2 ["CPA Exemptions from Coverage"] to see if you can locate your consumer situation in any of the s.2,3 or 4 exemption types (ie. fully CPA-exempt, partially CPA-exempt or under federal jurisdiction).

. if the sector is fully exempt or under federal jurisdiction, see if you can locate a chapter covering it in Part B. If you can - use it. If not it is because I haven't written one yet and you are on your own. Sorry.

. if the sector is not mentioned in Ch.2, proceed to step 2.

. if the sector is mentioned but is 'partially exempt' proceed to step 3.

Step 2
If your situation does not fall into an identified consumer sector don't be surprised, lots don't. But if you are sure it is a consumer situation [ie. a goods or services transaction made for "personal, family or household purposes" - rather than for business purposes: CPA 1] - then it may be covered by the CPA general rules covered in Part A, Chapters 5 to 10.

Proceed to Step 4.

Step 3
If the economic sector that covers your situation is 'partially-exempt' from the CPA, read the details of those exceptions in Part A, Ch.2, s.3 ["CPA Exemptions from Coverage: Partially CPA-Exempt Categories"]. Subject to those exceptions, your situation may be covered by the CPA general rules covered in Part A, Chapters 5 through 10.

Proceed to Step 5.

Step 4
Review Chapter 3 ["CPA Forms of Consumer Agreements"] to determine if your situation falls into any one or more of the four 'form' categories explained there (ie. future performance agreements, direct agreements, internet agreements or remote agreements).

. if it does not fall into any of these four forms, then your situation is probably governed by the general CPA rules covered in Part A, Chapters 5 to 10.

. if it falls into one (only) of the 'forms', then your situation is probably governed by the rules of that 'form' and the general CPA rules covered in Part A, Chapters 5 to 10.

. if it falls into two or more of the 'forms', then go to Part A, Ch.4 ["CPA Rule Conflict Resolution"] and follow the explanation there to determine which of the 'sector' or 'form' rules are paramount, or if they can co-exist together. Your situation is probably governed by those Ch.4-generated rules AND the general CPA rules covered in Part A, Chapters 5 to 10.

Step 5
Review Chapter 3 ["CPA Forms of Consumer Agreements"] to determine if your situation falls into any one or more of the four 'form' categories explained there (ie. future performance agreements, direct agreements, internet agreements or remote agreements).

. if it does not fall into any of these four forms, then your situation is probably governed by the general CPA rules covered in Part A, Chapters 5 to 10, subject to the applicable sector partial exemptions set out in Part A, Ch.2, s.3 ["CPA Exemptions from Covererage: Partially CPA-Exempt Sectors"].

. if it falls into one (only) of the 'forms', then your situation is probably governed by the rules of that 'form' and the general CPA rules covered in Part A, Chapters 5 to 10, subject to the applicable partial exemptions set out in Ch.2 ["CPA Exemptions from Covererage"].

. if it falls into two or more of the 'forms', then go to Part A, Ch.4 ["CPA Rule Conflict Resolution"] and follow the explanation there to determine which if the 'sector' or 'form' rules are paramount, or if they can co-exist together. Your situation is probably governed by those Ch.4-generated rules and the general CPA rules covered in Part A, Chapters 5 to 10, subject to the applicable partial exemptions set out in Ch.2 ["CPA Exemptions from Covererage"].


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