Proposed Criminal Interest Rate Regulations to Impact Commercial Loans

January 5, 2024

Newly proposed Criminal Interest Rate Regulations will impact lenders across Canada, and in particular, commercial lenders 

On December 23, 2023, the federal government released its proposed Criminal Interest Rate Regulations (the “Regulations”) in the Canada Gazette, Part I. While the proposed Regulations will impact lenders across Canada, commercial lenders, in particular, must pay close attention to the proposed changes and their application to commercial loans. This is important to ensure full compliance and understand the parameters within which the proposed Regulations apply to commercial lenders.

Background & Rationale

The proposed Regulations follow the amendments introduced by the Budget Implementation Act, 2023, No. 1 which amended Section 347 of the Criminal Code by lowering the criminal interest rate from 60% effective annual rate to 35% annual percentage rate (“APR”). These amendments are not yet in effect.

In lowering the existing criminal interest rate, the government aims to curb predatory lending practices and address the cycle of debt that traps many Canadian borrowers.

Under the proposed Regulations, the government seeks to exempt commercial loans (among other loan types) from the criminal interest rate, where in the government’s view, such loans do not lead to predatory lending practices or trap borrowers in a cycle of debt.

Commercial Loans

The Regulations propose the following limits for commercial loans in which (a) the borrower is not a natural person, and (b) the borrower has entered into an agreement or an arrangement for business or commercial purposes:

  1. Where the commercial loan is valued at $10,000 or less, no exemption would apply and the interest rate would be limited to 35% APR.
  2. Where the commercial loan is valued above $10,000 and up to $500,000, the interest rate would be limited to 48%.
  3. Where the commercial loan is valued above $500,000, no criminal interest rate limit would apply.

In creating the above exemptions to the new criminal interest rates on commercial loans, the government aims to “avoid contractual frictions and ensure healthy and productive investments in areas of venture capital and private equity”.

The government also addressed the reasoning behind eliminating criminal interest rates from commercial loans valued above $500,000 by indicating that “commercial lending transactions above $500,000 represent a level of sophistication that does not require protection through the criminal interest rate provisions”.

Other Changes Brought by the Proposed Regulation

The Regulations are not limited only to commercial loans. If enacted, the Regulations propose imposing other changes such as a new federal limit on the cost of borrowing for payday loans, limiting the amount that can be charged by payday lenders for a dishonoured cheque fee, as well as a limit of 48% APR for small dollar, non-recourse collateralized loans, commonly referred to as pawn loans.


The proposed Regulations will undergo a consultation period until January 22, 2024, in which the government will be gathering comments from the public and the lending industry.

While the enactment date of the Regulations has not yet been established, the government indicated that the proposed Regulations would come into force three months following publication of the final Regulations in the Canada Gazette, Part II, and would align with the coming into force of the amendments to the Criminal Code to lower the criminal rate of interest.

Once in effect, the proposed Regulations will apply to all loans entered into on or after the date on which the Regulations come into force.

Key Take-Aways

  • Ensure your new lending arrangements take into account the lower criminal interest rate;
  • Review new credit agreements and ensure they contain provisions that address potential criminal interest rate issues; and
  • Keep an eye on the dates in which the Regulations and the amendments to the Criminal Code come into force to avoid potential liability.

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