Quebec's language laws complicate online shopping
With the holiday rush soon upon us, many Canadians are opting to avoid the crowds and buy online.
But in Quebec, shoppers like Amy Dessaulles have discovered several large retailers such as Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Urban Outfitters and Club Monaco aren't letting them shop.
“It’s frustrating. At the end of the day, I can understand the language laws when it’s in terms of a physical store, but online it doesn’t make sense for the simple fact it is online, it should be accessible by everyone so to have that restriction is annoying,” she said.
The stores have blocked Quebecers from browsing their goods online after hearing from the Office de la langue francaise, which received complaints their websites aren't bilingual.
“If they have a place here, a place of business, then the law applies and they have to have their website in French,” said spokesman Jean-Perre Le Blanc.
The companies say they are working on changes, but for now, they have shut down e-commerce activities in Quebec.
The language watchdog says it doesn't troll online for violations, it only acts on complaints.
Last year, there were 400 related to websites.
“Usually it is settled in collaboration between office and the company. We give them time to do it, we're not coming and saying it has to be tomorrow,” Le Blanc said.
In February, a Chelsea shop owner was threatened with a hefty fine if she didn't translate her Facebook page to French. She complied.
As for not being able to surf the sites, Dessaulles says it's all gone too far. She pointed out that even though she could just go to the store, shopping online offers specific advantages.
“You always want to do your research first, you want to compare, you want to look at reviews, and you can’t really do that in the store,” she said.
Until the web pages are fully bilingual, it seems the most accessible option for Quebecers is going straight to the store.