Angry about ads on Rogers Yahoo email

November 20 2008 by Ellen Roseman

People are angry. They say Rogers has no right to add advertising to their email. It’s another cash grab, one that is most unwelcome.

Rogers says it’s similar to what you find on Hotmail or Gmail. But these are free services, unlike the Rogers email that costs about $50 a month.

Have your say on this issue here. Also feel free to comment on the CRTC’s decision today not to stop Bell from throttling Web traffic for its wholesale customers.

How to cut back and be frugal

November 19 2008 by Ellen Roseman

Businessweek ran a cover story recently on the new age of frugality. Maclean’s magazine followed with its own cover story, which speculated that we could become happier and healthier if we had to live within our means.

As we head into tough times for the economy, it makes sense to start saving more than we do already. But where do we start? Can we pull back without causing pain?

There are two approaches to saving. The Latte Factor, popularized by author David Bach, involves cutting the discretionary spending on fancy coffee and everything else that makes us feel good but doesn’t add much to our welfare — takeout meals, cigarettes, candy, entertainment or sports. We all have a Latte Factor, even if we brew our coffee at home.

I prefer the second approach, which involves paying close attention to your monthly bills. I’m talking about bank and credit card statements, insurance, telephone, cable TV, Internet, electricity and gas or oil for home heating. Go through the bills to see what you’re paying for and whether you’re paying too much.

This means questioning all the charges. Are they correct? Mistakes are common, so call and ask if you don’t recognize something.

Then, ask if you have the best plan for your needs. Has a better plan been introduced? Can you bundle and save? Are there any areas where you can save money?

This might be enough to get you a better deal, especially when it comes to cellphone plans and banking packages. But if not, you have to start shopping around and looking for better deals elsewhere.

Once you locate a lower-priced provider, you can go back to your current provider and say you’re thinking of moving. Never threaten, but just suggest that you might be going elsewhere. Then, wait for your current provider to match or beat the deal you said you were going to get.

This kind of negotiation is best done if you can reach a company’s retention department. People working there are authorized to offer whatever it takes to keep you as a customer. That’s when you hear about ultra-low prices or free contract extensions that are unavailable when you call customer service.

Unlike the Latte Factor, which requires daily sacrifices, the get-out-your-bills approach needs to be done annually at most. Once you renegotiate your pricing, the savings follow through month after month.

Tell me about how you save money or practice the new frugality. I also want to hear examples of how you can get penalized if you don’t call the companies you deal with periodically to ask about how you can save money.

I’ll start the conversation by posting Linda’s list of money-saving tips. Then, I’ll post a story about someone who found her elderly parents were paying exorbitant long-distance phone rates because they didn’t know that better plans were available.

Where do you stand with “chip and PIN” credit cards?

November 10 2008 by Ellen Roseman

Canadian credit card issuers are moving to a new security system. By 2010, you will have to use a four-digit password to validate a credit card sale in a store or restaurant.

The problem is this: Who’s responsible for credit card fraud or unauthorized transactions?

Visa, MasterCard and American Express have zero liability policies for credit card users. They say this will continue.

But some Visa card issuers are sending new terms and conditions to cardholders. They’re saying you may be held responsible if it appears you have not taken care of your personal identification number (PIN).

This is worrisome, since it’s eroding your rights. There are no laws or voluntary codes to say how the credit card issuers will decide who’s right and who’s wrong in these cases.

If such an important issue is still up in the air, why are the banks sending out chip and PIN cards already? And why are they sending out unilateral changes in card terms and conditions?

The banks are reluctant to respond when I ask them. They defer to Visa and MasterCard, who say the zero liability policy will stay. But Visa and MasterCard don’t deal with customers. Only financial institutions deal with customers.

Check out my previous columnshere and here too — and tell me what you think of this new development.

Who will fix my appliances?

November 5 2008 by Ellen Roseman

I bought a new refrigerator a couple of years ago, replacing my 20-year old energy hog with a more efficient model. But the LG I chose (because it was recommended by a salesperson) had a problem. The freezer door did not seal properly when closed.

I had the fridge fixed under warranty, but now I can’t get free repairs. And the door seal is still acting up.

This is the dirty secret I discovered when doing a column about buying major appliances. The manufacturers give warranties as short as one year and wash their hands of problems that appear later on.

The reaction from readers made me sad. Many are living with serious quality issues that the manufacturers refuse to address. Some people are throwing away their expensive new appliances that just don’t run properly. So much for energy efficiency.

What about the omnipresent computer chips inside the new fridges, stoves, dishwashers, washing machines and dryers? Do they make appliances run better? And is it at the cost of making them harder to fix?

I think the appliance repair system is in need of repairs. I spoke to Miele Canada, a German maker of vacuum cleaners and other machines, which has redesigned its business model to keep in closer touch with customers.

When you buy a Miele appliance at one of our authorized Chartered Agents, your transaction is actually directly with us. From payment to delivery to installation to service, we’ll make sure you’re well taken care of.

Our records are kept current with your exact models and service plans, as well as your preferences for contact information. We also have a large, dedicated customer care centre located at our headquarters in Vaughan, Ontario, where our expert staff will handle your needs. We believe that all our customers deserve the very best in service.

I’m posting some readers’ laments below, so you can see why they’re so upset with appliances that break down and stay broken.