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(NC) As financial consumers, Canadians are lucky. They benefit from strong consumer protection standards when dealing with financial institutions.

This, of course, does not mean they should let their guards down.

If you have ever ended up with a credit card you didn’t consent to, you know this first-hand. You may have learned the hard way about the importance of knowing your financial rights and responsibilities.

For example, a bank must obtain your express consent before issuing you one of their products, such as a credit card. And, if you provide consent orally, they must provide you with confirmation in writing of your consent without delay.

Moreover, banks must provide you with information, such as the interest rate and other fees associated with the card, that is clear, simple and not misleading. This information must be displayed in a written information box, which makes it clear what you’re signing up for.

As a consumer, you also have a responsibility to take the time to read and understand any documents before you sign them, including terms and conditions. This kind of information can be complex. So, if anything isn’t clear, ask questions.

Also, take the time to explore your options. In other words, shop around for your financial products and services. Most lenders will negotiate and even match the rates or fees of their competition, especially if you have done some homework and tell them what the competition is offering.

Shopping around is especially important when it comes to mortgages. We all know home ownership is probably the biggest investment most people will ever make, so take your time.

And if you think your financial rights have not been respected, take it up with your bank or lender. If the issue continues, contact the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, which is responsible for protecting consumers of financial services and products.

The government organization also provides a wealth of online information about your rights and responsibilities when dealing with financial institutions and various financial products. Find more information at canada.ca/money.

To read more articles like this, check out our Dollars and Sense page.

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