More advice my readers want to share

I’m writing my fifth blog post in a week to celebrate my blog’s fifth anniversary.

It feels good to have lasted this long without accepting any ads or paid links. This is a place where readers can trade stories, facts and opinions and learn from each others’ experience.

Here’s another of my posts where I spread the word about marketplace traps, using cautionary tips from Star readers.

SR wants to tell everyone to get a home inspection before buying a property. His real estate agent insisted he do so — to his lasting benefit. Here’s his story.

I bought a condo/townhome on Lake Simcoe. Since it seemed in wonderful shape and less than 20 years old, I considered not having a home inspection, thus saving $400.

But my Coldwell Banker real estate agent, Pamela Park, was quite insistent. She said she was putting it in the offer. I would have to strike it out and initial it if I didn’t want the inspection.

So I decided to heed her advice. Am I ever fortunate I listened to her. (I also understand the seller’s agent said there had been very few inspections done on these resale condo homes over the years!)

The home inspector found the attic had been altered and some necessary trusses had been removed, thus changing the “structural integrity” (that is, the strength/support of the roof had been compromised).

I continued with my offer, but with a condition that the roof be put back to the original specifications and that a structural engineer sign off on it.

This was done by the seller at his cost (the original plans had to be reviewed and new wood had to be put in). And now I have some peace of mind.

Can you imagine what could have occurred with a heavy snowfall or when I went to sell it? This problem could have cost me $ thousands.

So, even if everything appears OK and there are multiple offers, don’t buy a property without putting a home inspection condition in in your contract. Caveat emptor!

Many people responded to my recent column about checking your bills for errors. They had chilling tales of companies overcharging them for years — and in some cases, undercharging for years and then sending a massive catch-up bill.

Greg Smith has a beef with Bell Canada (who doesn’t?). Here’s his story.

When we moved from Belleville to Barrie, Ont., we decided to bundle our phone and Internet services with Bell.

I checked with stores in both Belleville and Barrie and was assured that high speed internet was available at the address I was moving to (well within the city limits).

After nearly three months of no service, I was finally informed that service ended 100 miles away, but would be connected “sometime in the next two years.”

I asked for a refund and was told I was not eligible since I could have used dial-up.

Rogers was looking good, so I wrote to Bell (using the address on my account) and cancelled my service at the end of my contract period. The bills kept coming.

I kept calling. Eventually, I was told that I had to phone in and cancel. Writing is not considered a valid form of cancellation – and where had I found an address anyway?

I was then chased by Bell and threatened with all kinds of legal action and basically bullied into paying for three months of service I did not use.

When the nice telemarketers from Bell call, I politely decline, as I know they are not part of the scam. I do ask them if the offer includes three months of free services, though.

Never again.

Have you have wrestled with “bad bills” and managed to get them fixed and refunded?

If so, please let others know what worked in your fight to get attention.

Author: Ellen Roseman

Consumer advocate and personal finance author and instructor.

9 thoughts on “More advice my readers want to share”

  1. Have a Rogers/Bell story to share but a month long tale not yet concluded although I am now in my second consecutive day of DSL service from Bell after intermittent Bell/Rogers service since Feb 15.
    Rogers chose to eliminate all ‘mobile’ internet service (Cannot for the life of me figure out how a radio fastened on my roof up ten feet is mobile but so be it.) Rogers insisted the Rocket would work. It does, occasionally and only in the bedroom and only for computers in the bedroom. The case was escalated to their National Control Centre Feb 19 with no response.
    Will keep you posted on a) do I get billed for this Rocket that doesn’t work or b) do they ever determine that they chose to eliminate my service without any back up.

  2. We were raised to be very trusting of authority; after all, why would a reputable company want to do harm?

    Over the years, though (particularly with the advent of computerized customer service and accounting), I have become much more careful and scrutinize every invoice before paying.

    Although I have had no issues with Bell, a friend of mine related a story about cancelling the phone service at her cottage.

    There was no problem with the actual cancellation, but a review of her account showed that in the original contract she had unwittingly signed up for some kind of telephone handset insurance, and had paid a substantial amount over the years to insure a cheap, easily replaceable telephone against damage.

    That’s the kind of nickel and dime move that nets these companies huge profits at the expense of trusting consumers.

  3. I always have billing charges with Bell satellite and Bell internet.

    I used to pay an amount for extra bandwidth. I asked Bell to remove the extra bandwidth to save money. But it’s been 3 months and my internet hasn’t changed.

    The worst is the satellite bill. Some specialty channels are only available in packages.

    My wife doesn’t want to pay $20 for the two channels she wants (and the other 5 or so that she doesn’t). She called Bell to complain late last year.

    Bell stated that to satisfy her, they would give her the two packages ($20 worth) and give her a $20 credit per month for a year.

    Every month since then, she has been calling and arguing with Bell. We have never seen the credit and were charged at least one month for the specialty package.

    One agent even said, since he would apply the credit, to pay only $85 of our $125 bill. The next month, we got another $125 bill (no credits or anything) + $40 from the last bill (which would have been waived) + the interest on $40 unpaid.

    It’s like this every single month with the Bell satellite portion of our bill. So the credit that we should have gotten is adding up, the extra fees for the packages which were supposed to be waived are adding up.

    Every month, they say ‘it will be corrected on your next bill.’ But it never is. I hate them so bad.

  4. I have a nightmare of a situation with Bell.

    My husband and I both had cell phones on a 3 year contract from July 2005 to 2008. Every month for 3 years, the bill was paid. As of July 2008, we were month to month as the contract was satisfied in full.

    on Sept. 14, 2008, my husband called to cancel hs phone because the battery would not charge and a replacement one was not available.

    Bell advised us that there was a one month cancellation fee because theere was not a full 30 days notice. Ok, fine, September’s bill was paid with the one month cancellation fee.

    Come October, regular charges (2 phone lines still ok). He paid but called Bell to verify cancellation of his phone line for the previous month.

    It was verified cancelled, but because of a glitch in their system, the bill was not properly adjusted to reflect one phone. I was promised the overpayment would be credited to future bills on my line.

    November, same thing. December, once again, same thing. Called in every month and told the same thing.

    Have reference numbers, names, everything, including notes made while speaking with a representative.

    Mid-December 2008, spoke with a rep who finally promised to correct the situation immediately. He told me what the bill should have been for the last few months and the credit amount owing to me ($44.84/month as of October 2008, and don’t forget one month penalty on husband’s phone).

    Paid this amount on time every month (Jan., Feb., March, April 2009).

    On May 21, 2009, Bell terminated service because of lack of payment.

    I have proof of my payments. They are saying that we owe for 2 phones and yet it as terminated with ref # and rep # and names as proof.

    They are stating we owe them hundreds of dollars when it is actually the reverse beecause of the overpayments I had made in 2008.

    We are currently in collections with a company (Bell) that owes us a few hundred dollars.

    I have 76 messages back and forth with this company to have this issue resolved.

    Half a dozen hard core collection agencies have called and we have advised them and faxed them payment and messages betwen us and Bell.

    They All agree we do not owe Bell and it is completely the reverse.

    Even our mortgage broker had to call them and find out. It was verifed to her there was nothing owing and yet we have the worst credit score, all because of Bell’s inability to immediately correct a problem brought to their attention at the time of the issue.

    I will never use ther services again. Representatives are calling, begging us for business again. They even promised to clear any outstanding issues, but only on a 3 year contract once again.

    How’s that for blackmail?

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