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Canada Canadian Tire stops charging controversial eco fees

Customers head in and out of a Canadian Tire store location in Scarborough, Ont.

Canadian Tire customers won't be charged Ontario's controversial eco fees starting Tuesday, largely because the program is too complex and was mishandled by both government and retailers, the store chain announced Monday.

The fees, which have been mired in confusion since retailers started charging them on thousands of new items July 1, were the victim of a "botched" roll out and "poorly handled" by everyone involved, said Mike Arnett, president of Canadian Tire Retail.

Waste Diversion Ontario set up a very complicated structure for charging eco fees and left much of the interpretation up to the retailers, he said in a release.

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Arnett acknowledged that Canadian Tire, which apologized last week for overcharging some of its customers, didn't do a good job of implementing the fees either, largely because of how complex they were.

"Although we quickly fixed any incorrect fees, we still have customers every day asking us why two nearly identical products have different fees," he wrote.

"We don't have good answers - because the program itself isn't built to be intuitive for either customers or retailers."

The store won't be charging any eco fees until "we can sort out a better system with Stewardship Ontario and the government of Ontario," he wrote.

The fees were supposed to be collected by manufacturers and retailers to help fund a recycling program that diverts potentially hazardous items, such as fire extinguishers, household cleaners and paint, from Ontario's landfills.

But there was no public warning that the eco fee, which was first introduced in 2008, would be slapped on thousands of new items earlier this month.

Stewardship Ontario, an industry-led organization that oversees the program, collects certain fees from retailers and manufacturers. They, in turn, determine the fees that they pass on to consumers.

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The fee can be embedded in the product or the sticker price, which means in some cases, shoppers won't know when or how much they're being charged.

Some have been scratching their heads about why certain items are subject to the levy, such as fish bowls, grass seed, kids' bath toys and environmentally friendly products that use natural ingredients.

Canadian Tire's decision to scrap the fees should be applauded, but Premier Dalton McGuinty should have never allowed the industry to effectively regulate itself with respect to the eco fees, said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

"The McGuinty government dropped the ball, it's now up to the government to pick up the pieces and ensure the companies that profit off this waste should be responsible for getting rid of it - not their customers," she said in a statement.

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