This article is about consumer protection against TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival). Thanks to Canada’s Competition Act, it is easy to determine the legal price you should pay for goods in certain cases. Hint: Lowest price will be a good guess.
Sept 1st update: The problem has been resolved. See below for more.
Over the last few years my Toronto friend, I call her my “TIFF Fairy”, has shipped many souvenirs Toronto International Film Festival programs, t-shirts, bags, etc to me in Calgary because she knows I love films and I call myself a documentarian. To thank her for her thoughtfulness, I have taken photos of the souvenirs and wrote about them in the past (see 2010 souvenirs and 2009 souvenirs). This year, unfortunately, the experience is not cool at all.
Bad TIFF 2011 Experiences
Last week she ran into some unexpected bad experience with TIFF when she tried to buy 2011 souvenirs for me.
First, the usual box office had only TIFF programs but not t-shirts, etc. She was then sent to another store where she was told would have all the 2011 TIFF souvenirs in stock for purchase. Unfortunately, that store didn’t have the 2011 t-shirts! Unable to buy the t-shirts, she decided to buy some bags for me. When she tried to pay for the two $9.95 TIFF bags (see photo above, as indicated on the tags of the bags), a TIFF sales lady and her supervisor insisted the price was $13 (posted on a sign near the bags) instead of the price of $9.95 as tagged on the bags. Since she was in a rush, she bought the bags and left. (update: see below for further points of clarifications from my friend after she read this article.)
“Double Ticketing” at 2011 TIFF
In Canada, consumers are protected by the Competition Act (PDF). Suppliers of goods are prohibited by law to sell goods to consumers at “a price that exceeds the lowest of two or more prices clearly expressed in respect of the product“. In the words of Competition Bureau (emphasis added),
Section 54 of the Competition Act is a criminal provision. It prohibits the supply of a product at a price that exceeds the lowest of two or more prices clearly expressed in respect of the product.
Any person who contravenes section 54, is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment up to one year on summary conviction.”
You see, Double Ticketing is actually a section 54 criminal offence under Competition Act (PDF). Yes, section 54 is a Criminal Provision that carries a potential penalty of “imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year”. Here are the easy to read official legal wordings from C-34 Competition Act (emphasis added),
54. (1) No person shall supply a product at a price that exceeds the lowest of two or more prices clearly expressed by him or on his behalf, in respect of the product in the quantity in which it is so supplied and at the time at which it is so supplied,
(a) on the product, its wrapper or container;
(b) on anything attached to, inserted in or accompanying the product, its wrapper or container or anything on which the product is mounted for display or sale; or
(c) on an in-store or other point-of-purchase display or advertisement.
Offence and punishment
(2) Any person who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or to both.”
I hope TIFF will understand the seriousness of Double ticketing and properly train their employees to do the legal thing in the future. Secondly, I have tried to reach out to TIFF and hope TIFF will do the right for the troubles my friend and I have to go through in this case. Sure, I enjoy writing this article and sharing my knowledge about Double Ticketing and Competition Act with other Canadians, but my time and energy can be better used in other areas if Toronto International Film Festival had actually done the legal and proper thing in the first place.
On top of this article, I have tweeted and raised my concerns directly to @TIFF_NET and @cameron_tiff. Will see what happen, stay tune.
*** Update with further points of clarifications from my Toronto friend:
“- Due to my past experiences that the first day might not have all the souvenir products ready, I called TIFF on Aug 23 morning first to inquire about the availability of the TIFF 2011 souvenirs. The person on the phone put me on a hold and after a short wait, I was told that the TIFF 2011 souvenirs would be set up / ready by 4 pm that day (i,e, Aug 23).
So on the next day, Aug 24, I went to the Festival Box Office (225 King Street West) and found out that that location only had the Programme Book, not souvenirs. (In the previous years, I always bought the Programme Book and the souvenirs in the same place; no more one-stop shopping this year.) I then walked to the gift shop – TIFF Bell Lightbox Office (350 King Street West). * Note you will see that this location closes on Aug 22 on the website* Fortunately this was a 2-block walk of short distance. Tho it was raining lightly, the walk was not a big problem.
– the “supervisor” (with the Sales) may not really be an actual supervisor of the TIFF souvenir shop, but one could argue that she was playing a “supervising” role, or, the sales seeked her advice and let her see my receipt and let her explain to me that “the price on the tag doesn’t matter; there is a price list for the recycle bag” and basically “dismissed” my questioning when I noticed the price difference on the tag vs my bill.”
Sept 1st update: I am glad to report that Jeff Patterson, TIFF Director of Patron Services, got back to me on Tue Aug 30th after @Cameron_TIFF forwarded him my article. I reemphasized to Jeff that, based on my understanding, the price tag, even though labeled as MSRP, is not a loophole for TIFF as the Competition Act is pretty unambiguous. I am happy to hear that Jeff told me he had talked to the TIFF store staffs and instructed the double ticketed price tags be removed. Finally, to Jeff’s credit, he promised to send my friend and me two complementary t-shirts to ease the troubles we experienced.
If there is one lesson here, I think it is important for us Canadian consumers to know our rights and protection under Competition Act. And for stores to clearly know their responsibilities and what are required of them by law.
Sept 8th, 2011 update: The t-shirts arrived today. I appreciate what TIFF did to ease the troubles we experienced.