Understanding BC’s Public Health Accountability and Cost Recovery Act (Bill 12): Implications for Business Owners in British Columbia

The Government of British Columbia’s introduction of the Public Health Accountability and Cost Recovery Act, commonly known as Bill 12, marks a significant step towards the province’s efforts to hold companies accountable for the “promotion, marketing and distribution of products that are harmful to adults and children in British Columbia.” While the intentions of Bill 12 seem reasonable and well intended, the Bill, according to its current draft, is vague and could result in potentially severe implications for a broad range of businesses serving BC. 

The proposed Bill was tabled on March 14, 2024, and is scheduled to be debated during its second reading in April. If enacted in its current form, this legislation, similar to laws in other jurisdictions, expands the government’s ability to seek compensation from businesses and individuals it deems responsible for causing or contributing to damages resulting from unsafe products or from unsafe use of products.

For business owners in British Columbia, understanding the key provisions and implications of Bill 12 is challenging but essential to navigate the evolving regulatory landscape and protect their interests.

Overview of the Public Health Accountability and Cost Recovery Act Bill 12

According to The Legislative Assembly of British Columbia’s Bill 12-2024: Public Heath Accountability and Cost Recovery Act Explanatory Note: This Bill establishes for the government of British Columbia and the government of Canada a direct and distinct action against a person to recover the cost of health care benefits caused or contributed to by a health-related wrong. 

Particularly Concerning Provisions

Expanded Liability: Bill 12, the Public Health Accountability and Cost Recovery Act, establishes an expanded framework for holding companies accountable for harm caused by products or services a business distributes, sells or promotes. If enacted, the legislation will apply to social media companies and product and service providers. It enables both the provincial and federal governments to pursue financial compensation from businesses whose products have caused harm (including but not limited to mental or physical illnesses, addiction, injuries, or death) to an individual or group of individual healthcare benefit recipients within BC. The Bill would allow companies and individuals to be sued if the government deems the products and services they provide and promote to cause, contribute to or risk injury, illness, addiction, disease or death to specific consumers or groups of consumers.

Broad Targets: The stated goal of this legislation is to promote greater corporate responsibility and ensure that companies prioritize the safety and well-being of consumers and communities. While social media platforms and tobacco and drug companies are the province’s stated targets, if enacted in its current form, the Bill could potentially have implications for a broad spectrum of businesses serving BC, placing all types of product and service providers at risk of liability.

Retroactive and Expanded Limitation Periods: The provincial and federal government could hold companies and company owners/directors retroactively liable for harm caused by products and actions carried out in the past, so long as it’s within 15 years from the date the Bill is enacted. 

Reduced Burden of Proof: The government would not be required to name the specific individual injured, prove that the accused company’s products caused the injury, or provide evidence of the healthcare or injury-related costs incurred by any specific individual. Instead, statistical information establishing causation or a Minister’s Certificate could suffice as proof of costs incurred or to be incurred due to harm caused.

Prior Settlements Not Considered: This provision could allow companies to be held accountable for damages regardless of any pre-existing or past judgements or settlements. 

Bill 12 underscores the importance of maintaining high product and service safety standards to prevent harm to consumers. Businesses are expected to adhere to regulatory requirements and common laws, conduct rigorous testing and quality control measures, and take proactive steps to mitigate risks associated with their products and services. Failure to meet these standards may result in legal liabilities under the new legislation.

Potential Implications for Business Owners in BC

For business owners in British Columbia, the Public Health Accountability and Cost Recovery Act (Bill 12) has potentially significant implications for operations, risk management, and legal compliance. While the Bill in its current form is vague and difficult to define, it serves as a warning to businesses to prioritize product safety, quality assurance, and consumer protection to avoid potential liabilities and regulatory scrutiny. It also reminds companies to be mindful of how they promote their products and how their marketing efforts could be perceived and scrutinized. While the Bill’s current draft doesn’t offer a lot of direction for companies, there are steps BC businesses can take to help mitigate the risk of consumer harm and possible litigation.

Important considerations include:

Compliance Monitoring: Stay informed about the municipal, provincial and federal regulatory requirements that govern your industry and ensure compliance with applicable laws and standards. This may involve regular monitoring of product safety regulations, updates to manufacturing processes, product labelling, packaging and marketing requirements and limitations, and keeping records of your company’s compliance efforts.

Risk Assessment: Conduct thorough risk assessments to identify potential hazards associated with the products and services you produce, distribute, sell or promote and implement appropriate risk mitigation measures where necessary. This may include product testing, quality assurance protocols, and monitoring of consumer feedback and complaints.

Legal Preparedness: Maintain readiness to respond to potential legal challenges or enforcement actions related to public health harms caused by products. This may involve consulting legal counsel, developing crisis management plans, and establishing procedures for handling product liability claims.

Consumer Communication: Establish transparent communication channels with consumers regarding product safety, potential risks, and available recourse in case of harm. This may include providing clear labelling, warnings, and instructions for safe product use and facilitating access to customer support and complaint resolution mechanisms.

Consulting with a Lawyer: Understanding how laws like Bill 12 apply to your business and situation can sometimes be confusing or challenging. It’s pertinent that companies of all sizes bring any questions and concerns up with a trusted business lawyer. The right lawyer can help ensure your protocols and official documents, including contracts, are in accordance with local rules and regulations.


In summary, the Public Health Accountability and Cost Recovery Act (Bill 12) underscores the importance of corporate responsibility in safeguarding public health and holds businesses accountable for the consequences of their products. By embracing these principles and adopting proactive measures to address potential risks, business owners can uphold their obligations to consumers and communities while minimizing legal liabilities and reputational damage.

If You Have Questions, We Can Help!

If you’re an employee or employer within BC with questions about BC laws affecting your business, the lawyers at Spraggs Law are here to help. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at 604 359 1618 or online today.