New online tools are now available for people looking to solve disputes between businesses and customers.

The Consumer Rights Pathway is part of a new project by the Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority to help ease some of the stress caused by those disputes.

The pathway takes users through a series of questions in order to guide them through a problem, including what rights customers have and what obligations are needed from a business.

Denny Huyghebaert, Executive Director of the Consumer Protection Division at the FCAA, details what the hopeful outcome of that journey would be.

"The goal at the end of that pathway is to help both parties determine if the dispute is valid and if the business has a legal obligation to remedy a potential harm or may have a legal obligation to remedy a potential harm as a result of that transaction."

The second part of the new tools comes in through the Resolve My Consumer Dispute option if both parties can't reach an agreement.

"Through a consumer Saskatchewan account, what they would do is after going through those pathways, they could file a dispute. They would choose the business that they've transacted with and file their dispute and so this online system it's to assist the parties in resolving their dispute in a neutral, confidential, and secure online environment. It enables the parties to negotiate within the platform amongst themselves, sort of a party-to-party negotiation if you will."

"In the event that they aren't able to resolve it themselves, they can request a staff member from our office who has experience in facilitating these sorts of resolutions to assist them. Even after there's a facilitator who isn't able to resolve it when appropriate we have the ability to assign an independent trained third-party mediator to assist the parties."

Huyghebaert gave the example of a used car dealership that had sold a car to a customer with no apparent history of crashes, only for the customer to find an accident on record later on.

The customer would then be able to use the dispute tool to find that the dealership was obligated to give that record, with the dealership also able to check if that obligation was valid.

From there, the two parties could agree to their own solution or go through the second part of the online tools to negotiate with each other.

The process would certainly be more convenient time-wise for users and the FCAA, says Huyghebaert.

"These types of cases would otherwise be assigned to one of our investigators. There's several back and forth trying to obtain documentation, that sort of thing, so certainly it's faster, it's more efficient. Consumers can do this and businesses can do this on their mobile devices." 

"The result of the system will assist those consumers and businesses and resolve those complaints. We've only just recently launched and so it's hard to say what the impact will have in terms of volume and workload for our office but we anticipate that will assist us in that regard."

More info on the new online tools can be found on the FCAA's website.