What these class-action lawyers say they’d be careful buying in Canada


Purchasing potentially defective products or experiencing unwanted side effects or harm are risks consumers always take.

But they can hold companies accountable through class-action lawsuits, legal action undertaken on behalf of a number of complainants.

“For consumers, class action is an important way of providing them access to justice because usually in a consumer case the damages are relatively small and it doesn’t make sense for an individual to take it on by themselves,” said Linda Visser, partner with the class-action group at Siskinds Law Firm in London, Ont., in a video interview with

“But the benefit of a class action is that you can group a large number of people together and it does make it economically feasible to bring some of these claims and it’s a helpful mechanism to making companies accountable for any harms that they do to consumers.”

Based on their experience in court, class-action lawyers often have a good sense of what types of products can be problematic, so asked for information on what they’ve learned.

When it comes to shopping, the class-action lawyers who spoke to said they would either avoid purchasing the following products, or be careful before buying them.

Toys and baby products

“I don’t know if there are things I would never purchase, there’s things I would be more thoughtful and careful about purchasing,” Visser said.

One of those things she’d be careful about is toys and other products for babies and older children. Her advice is to watch for recalls.

“I would be mindful about what recalls are out there to try to buy toys that are safe and baby products that are safe. We see recalls quite often on like car seats or little bouncy chairs.”

Big home-related purchases 

Consumers should spend more time researching and reading reviews about companies and their products or services if they are expensive, such as roof repairs and plumbing, she advised.

“We’ve done a case where it deals with defective plumbing products,” she said. “I’m not saying never replumb your house, but just do research and try and figure out what you can about trying to make sure that the product that you’re putting into your house is a good product and that it will hold up in the long term.”

Medical devices 

Visser said Siskinds deals with many cases involving medical devices, such transvaginal meshes used to treat pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence in women, which are inserted inside the body to address medical conditions.

“We’ve had a number of cases where those have led to bad results for people,” Visser said. “So I would do a lot of research and ask a lot of questions before I installed one of those devices.”

It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of the product before using it, she said.

“Just ask questions before. Make sure you talk to your doctor. Make sure you assess: Is it necessary or are there other less invasive options that are available to me? … What are the (potential) side effects? What happens if this goes wrong?”

Pharmaceutical drugs 

People should avoid certain pharmaceutical drugs like OxyContin unless they absolutely need to take it, she said. “We’ve done a class action about the addictive nature of OxyContin and it’s still being prescribed to people,” Visser said.

All-natural labels

Jeff Orenstein, an attorney with the class-action law firm Consumer Law Group, which has offices in Montreal and Ottawa, said he would be wary of products with labels like “all-natural,” “chemical-free,” “organic,” and “made with real …”

Orenstein recommended consumers to read the ingredients carefully, look up any ingredients that they don’t recognize and visit websites that can guide them like, run by consumer health advocacy organization Environmental Working Group.

Similarly, he said he’s wary of products that have scientific claims of efficacy such as “50 per cent reduction in …”

“Often the science is based on studies that are not published and/or peer-reviewed,” Orenstein said in an email to

Short warranties 

He says he would avoid products and services from companies with a short warranty.

“Always look for the longest and most comprehensive warranty,” he said. “This means that the company will stand behind their products or service.”


Orenstein added that consumers should check whether the items they’re thinking of buying are already the subject of a class action.

“This can be discovered from an internet search,” he said. “A class action means that consumers have become angry enough to sue.”

Hidden fees

For all products and services, he advised people to watch for potential hidden fees on all products and services.

“Read the fine print and check for other charges,” Orenstein said.

In general, Orenstein said people should do their own research and not blindly trust companies’ claims. Consumer and professional reviews such as on and the Better Business Bureau website could be helpful, he added.

When things go wrong

If something goes wrong with a product or service, documenting the situation is important, such as recording symptoms and side effects as well as expenses or losses, say class-action lawyers.

People can file a complaint with the company. If it still isn’t resolved after that, people can file complaints with a consumer protection office and speak to a lawyer to get advice.


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