Happy holidays to my readers

December 25 2010 by Ellen Roseman

Now that I have a blog at Moneyville, I’m not writing here as often as before. But I’m committed to keeping this one going.

You may have noticed it’s been going down a lot. The traffic was crashing my outdated virtual private server.

I’m happy to say I’ve switched to a new hosting service, which should be more reliable. Just in time, too.

Last Monday, I found all the comments (close to 8,000) had disappeared. Imagine losing that collective wisdom from readers. Luckily, they were recovered in a few hours.

This was a terrific year for news at the blog. In January, I talked about Rogers raising prices on home phone service and cutting internet limits for subscribers.

Some of the comments explored a question that came up in April as well: If companies record your phone conversations, do you have a right to tape them yourself?

In May, I heard that MBNA was raising minimum payments for credit card customers who had been promised low rates indefinitely. Many saw this as a breach of contract, since they would lose the low rate if they couldn’t come up with the minimum payments. The conversation has attracted more than 120 comments, both pro and con, and still rages on.

In June, the Canada Revenue Agency started charging penalties to people who had taken money out of a tax-free savings account and replaced it in the same year. I felt the rules hadn’t been explained clearly enough. Many readers disagreed with me, saying they had no sympathy with those who owed as much as $1,250 in taxes.

Luckily, Ottawa backed down on its demands for payment in the first year.

In July, Ontario imposed a disastrous regime of environmental fees on household products. Canadian Tire started charging customers — and often overcharging them — without advance notice.

Again, thanks to the publicity created here and elsewhere, the government backed off. Unfortunately, eco fees (or taxes, as they should be called) still remain on electronic products, tires and paint.

That same month, Enbridge Gas bungled its budget billing plan, sending big bills to customers who weren’t expecting them in the summer. More than 60 people wrote comments here.

I continue to get complaints about Enbridge and Direct Energy, both of which upgraded their billing systems at the same time and lost track of some accounts for a number of months.

In September, I wrote about how hard it is for some people to exercise their legal right to check their credit reports for free at Canada’s two credit bureaus. The issue lingers on, awaiting stronger rules that would establish a single source for ordering credit reports (as in the United States).

In October, I talked about the frustration many readers feel when trying to call Rogers Communications. Since then, my Rogers contacts have kept in close touch with me to make sure that readers’ problems are resolved. They also tell me that call waiting times are going down. Do you agree?

Another hot topic that month, as furnaces were being inspected and some were being tagged for repairs, was the cracked heat exchanger scam. Surely, not every furnace that gets this diagnosis really deserves it.

In November, I started looking more closely at Canada’s consumer movement. It’s down, but is it out? Can it be revived? What would it take to restore the balance in the marketplace between big businesses and busy, overstressed, time-starved consumers?

Check out my speech about consumer activism to the Public Interest Advocacy Centre’s annual dinner here. It’s a subject I’ll return to in the upcoming year.

Hope you take time off during the holidays and usher in 2011 in style. Thank you for visiting, reading and posting. Please come again. Your comments are always welcome.

4 comments

  1. Cynthia

    Dec 26 2010

    Well, I can say Sudbury Hydro has dropped the big snowball here. They were transitioning to a new computer system this past fall. I bought my house at the end of September. We are on a 2 month billing cycle which includes our municipal water usage for the city proper. I have yet to receive a bill. Called mid-December, clerk said they hadn’t even gotten to that billing cycle yet because of the computer issues. I hope that the company responsible for this software is paying a penalty for it’s poor design and implementation. I suspect, my billing will be behind for quite sometime.

  2. Frances

    Dec 29 2010

    Cynthia, I hope you are putting money aside to pay the bills when they finally arrive.

  3. Cynthia

    Jan 3 2011

    Frances: yes, I have several months expenses set aside.

  4. Sarah

    Nov 14 2011

    It is amazing how much influence you as a journalist have had on decision making with the help of citizens. Speaks clearly of how the media in Canada is fulfilling its watchdog role.