He faces $150,000 lawsuit for speaking out

January 29 2013 by Ellen Roseman

Stephan Brandt thought his home insurance company was shortchanging him. After a major fire at his income property, the insurer applied a 35 per cent depreciation rate to his claim on both materials and labour.

He started a blog to draw attention to the company’s tactics. As a result, Saskatchewan Mutual Insurance is suing him for up to $150,000 in damages for defamation. His story hit the local media last month.

Fighting back against large companies can be rewarding. But complaining loudly in a public forum can also lead to corporate retribution. The trick is to find the balance between private success and public recrimination.

My new book, Fight Back, tries to help consumers find their voices when they perceive an injustice. Here are a few links to media interviews I’ve done and events yet to come.

— Blogger and TV personality Preet Banerjee talked to me in his podcast, Mostly Money, Mostly Canadian.

— U.S. financial journalist Chuck Jaffe talked to me on his MoneyLife Show (Jan. 28).

— Natalka Falcomer, lawyer and host of Toronto Speaks: Legal Advice, invited me and class action lawyer Daniel Bach to answer viewers’ questions (Jan. 28).

— My interview with CBC personality Kevin O’Leary about his new personal finance book is up on YouTube. I did the interview at the Kobobooks office in Toronto.

— I’ll be answering questions on CBC radio’s Ontario Today with host Kathleen Petty (March 1). It was scheduled for Jan. 31, but a late-breaking interview with Ontario Premier Designate, Kathleen Wynne, led to a postponement.

— I’ll be appearing on City TV’s Breakfast Television on Jan. 31

— I’ll be interviewing departing BMO economist Sherry Cooper at the Toronto Public Library’s Appel Salon (Jan. 31).

Next month is also busy with book-related events. Check out my speeches at several Toronto Public Library branches.

Attention, personal finance bloggers. Please let me know if you want to review the book and give away one or two to your readers.

Her cruise wasn’t smooth sailing

January 18 2013 by Ellen Roseman

A cruise line loses your luggage. You get it back only when you’re ready to go home. You have almost nothing to wear and can’t find a bathing suit in your size.

Your Caribbean cruise is ruined. It’s not relaxing, as you hoped. You spend the week shopping and fuming.

When you complain, the cruise line gives you $500 to buy new clothes. Do you deserve any more compensation?

This week, the Star ran an excerpt from my new book about Debbie Boukydis’ lost luggage.

There was a lively debate in the comments section. Some people felt more compensation was warranted. Others said her $500 clothing coupon was enough.

Boukydis was successful in fighting back. When offered a small discount on a future trip, she won a voucher for two free cruises.

But her voucher has a one-year expiry date and runs out soon. She hopes to get an extension. Is it fair to give such a short window for travel?

I heard from many people who love cruises and sent suggestions for thriving on a giant ship in the ocean. I’m posting a few of their comments below.

Kevin O’Leary promotes his book on video… and I promote mine

January 13 2013 by Ellen Roseman

It’s not enough to write a book. You also have to promote it on video, even if you’re not a trained TV performer.

Kobo Books invited me to its Toronto head office to interview Kevin O’Leary about his new book, The Cold Hard Truth about Men, Women and Money.

Our chat is now up on YouTube.

Here’s a photo from the Kobo blog and a description of O’Leary’s tough love approach to personal finance topics.

I recently did a couple of short videos for my book, which are posted at Wiley’s channel on YouTube.

In the first, I talk about why I wrote the book and how customers can fight back.

In the second, I talk about how to save money on your telecom services.

You can see the Toronto Star newsroom behind me. And you can find an excerpt in the Moneyville section.

Ignoring 3-cent balance leads to mortgage denial

January 6 2013 by Ellen Roseman

Diane Lowe is paying thousands more in interest on her mortgage, all because she didn’t pay a few cents on a credit card she had already cancelled.

As I reported last month, Capital One reported an outstanding balance on a Hudson’s Bay credit card to Equifax Canada. It was only a few cents, but it wasn’t paid.

As a result, Diane Lowe couldn’t get the mortgage she wanted on her new house. Nor could she get a line of credit to pay a deposit to the builder.

She learned about her blemished credit, as many people do, when applying for financing. The bank pulled the rug from under her, forcing her to find another lender in a hurry.

Many readers felt the credit reporting system needed reform. Why send damaging information to a credit bureau before trying to clear things up with the customer? Some people reported having similar experiences with the Bay. See their comments below.

I also wrote a column about extended warranties, a popular and profitable sideline for retailers. That brought some interesting responses as well (see below).

Finally, I’m giving a copy of my new book, Fight Back, to the reader who responded within seconds to my offer. Congratulations, Alya.

Stay tuned for more book giveaways.

Newegg improves offer after failed promotion

January 1 2013 by Ellen Roseman

Aftr waiting Friday to hear from Newegg, I got a reply Dec. 31 from the company’s headquarters in City of Industry, California.

The earlier $25 gift card offer has been sweetened, said Jenny Chai, senior PR manager at Newegg Inc.

“Hi Ellen,” she said. “I understand you reached out to us on Friday for comment regarding an issue we had with customers who placed an order for an LG 42” LED TV that we had on sale on the Newegg.ca site.

“Below is our statement about the situation.”

This situation arose when Newegg was caught off guard by the unusually high volume of orders that this offer generated.

To compound the situation, due to holiday closures at our suppliers’ businesses, we were initially unable to secure sufficient inventory to fulfill orders for the LG 42″ LED TV.

Orders for the TV were subsequently voided and customers were refunded their original form of payment.

Since then, we have been diligently working to attempt to fulfill these original orders or provide customers with a reasonable accommodation.

As a result of our efforts, we were able to secure a very limited quantity of the LG 42″ LED TV. We are now contacting customers in order, based on the date and time that their order was placed, to offer them a chance to purchase the TV at the previously advertised sale price of $400.

Because we have procured a very limited supply of the TV, orders will be filled on a first come – first served basis until the supply has been exhausted.

We are also offering two additional options to the customers affected by this issue.

Customers can choose to purchase a comparable LG 42″ LCD TV for $349.99. This product does not have the 3D capability of the original product, but we’re offering it at a deeply discounted price to offset the difference.

Alternatively, if the customer prefers not to purchase either TV option, as a gesture of apology, we are offering a $100 Newegg Gift Card that may be used on any order in the future.

Newegg remains committed to offering a superior shopping experience and outstanding customer service to all of our customers.

We sincerely hope that all those customers who were affected by this issue will be satisfied with the steps we have taken to remedy the situation.

So, if you’re a customer, please let me know what you think of this improved offer. Now I have a media contact there, I can also transmit your comments and requests.

I know it’s frustrating to deal with a company that provides no easy access and deletes Facebook posts if they’re critical of corporate practices.