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Sick of extra fees online? It's drip pricing, and Canadian shoppers are fighting back



Shopping online has become a common practice for many Canadians. But what happens when the price you agree to isn't the final price you pay? This frustrating experience, known as drip pricing, has left many consumers feeling deceived. 


Drip pricing is when additional fees and surcharges are added to the originally quoted price during the checkout process. For instance, ordering a package delivery through Canada Post might seem straightforward until you realize there's a hefty "fuel surcharge" attached, nearly 25% of the total cost. Similarly, buying movie tickets, flowers, or making travel plans could all come with unexpected fees tacked on at the end.


Critics argue that drip pricing is misleading and unfair. Vancouver lawyer Saro Turner, involved in lawsuits against this practice, emphasizes that the average consumer shouldn't have to be a math expert to understand the true cost of a purchase. Recent changes to the federal Competition Act in June 2022 have provided consumers with a legal foothold to challenge drip pricing through class-action lawsuits.


Turner's firm is currently pursuing cases against various companies, including online florist Bloomex, travel site Omio, and entertainment giant Cineplex. These lawsuits allege that these businesses engage in deceptive advertising practices by not disclosing additional fees upfront.


Canada Post, in particular, is under fire for its fuel surcharge policy. Despite offering different shipping options with varying base prices, Canada Post adds a 24.5% fuel surcharge to all shipments, significantly inflating the final cost.


The Competition Bureau of Canada has already taken action against several industries for drip pricing violations, imposing hefty fines on companies like Ticketmaster and StubHub. Recently, Ticket Nation was fined $825,000 for misleading advertising inflated by undisclosed fees.


In response to mounting pressure, proposed amendments to the Competition Act aim to empower consumers further by allowing them to seek damages from companies abusing their market dominance or engaging in deceptive environmental claims, a practice known as "greenwashing."


While public officials may not be able to pursue every case due to resource constraints, these changes enable private law firms and consumers to hold companies accountable through class-action lawsuits. Turner highlights the significance of these legal actions, stating that they level the playing field for consumers against powerful corporations.


Ultimately, the fight against drip pricing represents a broader push for transparency and fairness in consumer transactions. As consumers become more aware of their rights and take collective action against deceptive business practices, companies will face increasing pressure to provide clear and upfront pricing, sparing shoppers from unpleasant surprises at the checkout.


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