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Enforcement is legal action PEO takes against individuals or entities who practise engineering without a licence, or offer engineering services without holding a Certificate of Authorization (C of A). With only a few exceptions, only people who are licensed with PEO can practise professional engineering, and only people or entities holding Cs of A issued by PEO can offer or provide professional engineering services to the public.

Sections 39 and 40 of the Professional Engineers Act give PEO the authority to take action. Section 40(1) sets maximum fines for individuals and firms practising without the necessary licences (P.Eng., and/or C of A). These fines are $25,000 for a first offence and $50,000 for each subsequent offence. Section 40(2) authorizes fines of up to $10,000 for a first offence and $25,000 for each subsequent offence, for people who:

  • use the title "professional engineer" or an abbreviation or variation as an occupational designation;
  • use a term, title or description that will lead to the belief that the person may engage in the practice of professional engineering; or
  • use a seal that will lead to the belief that the person is a professional engineer.

Section 40(3) states similar requirements for those entities that do not have a C of A.

When a potential enforcement matter is brought to PEO's attention, staff investigates and takes whatever action is appropriate. PEO is also taking several proactive measures in this area:

Yellow Pages - This project involves staff checking the Ontario Yellow Page directories under the heading of "engineers" and "engineers-consulting" and cross referencing these names to see if they are holders of Certificates of Authorization. The names of offenders are furnished to the Yellow Pages publisher, who advise the companies that they cannot be listed in "engineering" categories in future editions. PEO also writes directly to those offenders, who use "engineering" in their company names. These companies must obtain Certificates of Authorization, legally amend their names to delete the term "engineering", or furnished proof that they are no longer operating.

Classified Advertising - PEO scans the classified advertising sections of major newspapers daily, and writes to companies who place classified ads for such positions as "quality engineer", "industrial engineer", or "software engineer", but which do not appear to require that a professional engineer fill the position. These letters explain proper use of engineering titles under the Act and possible consequences for employers who use them inappropriately. Recently, PEO also began writing to employers who place classified advertising that specifies the requirement for professional licensing through PEO. These letters point out the efforts the association is taking to combat misuse of the job title "engineer" among employers, and thank them for including in their ads the requirement for P.Eng. licensure. The letters conclude: "The association appreciates your support of its efforts to protect the integrity of the term "engineer".

PEO and the practice of natural science

PEO has no jurisdiction over the practice of natural science. Under the Professional Engineers Act, it regulates the practice of professional engineering. Where PEO is concerned, a person not licensed by PEO might be practising professional engineering in addition to natural science, the Natural Sciences Advisory Group will be consulted.

Misleading certifications

PEO has also taken action against the use of the term "engineer" by several software companies. With Banyan Systems, PEO negotiated revisions to their training materials to replace the term "Certified Banyan Engineer" with "CBE".

In 1997, PEO advised Microsoft Canada Inc. that use of its terms "Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer" and "Microsoft Certified Professional Systems Engineer" violate Section 40 of the Act. We also advised them that the Federal Registrar of Trademarks has given public notice of the adoption and use by the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers of the marks "engineer" and "engineering". In 2001, CCPE reached agreement with Microsoft such that Microsoft has advised MCSE and MCPSE Lan holders in Canada that they must use only the acronyms in this country so that they will not violate licensing laws. We have asked that Microsoft replace their current terms with others that do not use the word "engineer", to avoid violating the Professional Engineers Act and trademark legislation.

On July 25, 2002 Microsoft Canada announced that they will continue to use the term 'engineer' as part of the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) designation. For more information, click here.

Software engineering

The explosive growth of information technology has created particular challenges for the association in the area of enforcement relating to the use of the terms "software engineer" and "software engineering". At present, many people who develop computer software refer to themselves as "software engineers" and to their work as "software engineering", even though they have never studied engineering and are not licensed or regulated in any way. PEO believes that this is a problem because it misleads the public. Because in Ontario you cannot call yourself an engineer, or say you practise engineering unless you are licensed by PEO, the public clearly perceives that a civil engineer, mechanical engineer or computer engineer is capable of providing services within the practice of professional engineering and that they are accountable to their regulatory body for the success and safety of their work. There is no reason to believe that the public's expectations of software engineers are any different. Unless the title "software engineer" is applied only to those who are licensed professional engineers, the public will never know whether their faith has been misplaced. For more information on software engineering, click here.

More information

Contact information

If you have concerns about either the work of an engineer, or suspect that a person or a company is practicing engineering and may not be licensed, you can contact PEO's Enforcement hotline at: 416-840-1444 or 800-339-3716 ext. 1444 or enforcement@peo.on.ca