The one-day wonder

September 16 2008 by Ellen Roseman

I write columns in both the Saturday and Sunday papers. So when I get into work Monday, I find a pile of problems that readers have sent me, waiting to be investigated.

All day, I send emails to different companies, asking them to review complaints and fix them. Smart companies snap to attention, hoping to get a favourable mention. Sometimes, they send me a reply within hours of hearing from me.

Y-S Columbus Leo, for example, wrote to me about a Citi Petro-Points credit card offer. He felt it was deceptive and he offered to fax me the terms and conditions. By the time I got his fax the following day, Citi had already given him back the money he felt he deserved.

I’ll let him tell his story below and I’ll provide some other stories of one-day wonders.

10 comments

  1. Y-S Columbus Leo

    Sep 16 2008

    It’s always good to read your columns in the Star on how you have helped the little people against many companies who are overcharging or not providing customer service.

    I have a situation to ask for your help.

    Earlier this year, Citi Petro-Point Master card mailed a letter about doing a balance transfer at a 2.9% rate and getting bonus points.

    I did read the Terms and Conditions section in the back of the letter, but there was nothing about any fee. So I wrote a $10,000 (my limit) balance transfer cheque.

    In the next statement, I was surprised to find a $100 fee in addition to the $10,000 balance transfer. I called and spoke to a supervisor. He had a copy of the letter and so did I.

    We looked for 15 minutes and did not find anything about a 1% charge. Eventually, I found ii in small writing, ABOVE the section of Terms and Conditions, about a 1% fee. I can fax the letter to you.

    While the supervisor did agree it was not written in the Terms and Conditions, he said it was written in the offering letter, so it was a valid charge. No matter what, he could not reverse the fee.

    The letter was dated Jan. 28, 2008. I received it and wrote the cheque in February. It also said the rate applied till July 1, 2008.

    (Remember you would have to repay the balance within less than six months. The actual rate is higher than 2.9% + 1%, because the offer is not for a full year. Anyway, that is just an aside.)

    The contention here is that the 1% fee is NOT spelled out in the Terms and Conditions.

    I immediately paid back the $10,000. I called again to ask them to reverse the fee. They again said it’s a valid fee. I asked them to cancel my Citi Mastercard.

    They still send statements to me, adding interest (on the $100 fee). Also, I didn’t get the bonus Petro-Points.

    Please help.

  2. Troy Underhill, Citi Cards

    Sep 16 2008

    Thank you for bringing Mr. Leo’s concern about his Citi PETRO-POINTS MasterCard to our attention.

    As promised, our customer service staff have investigated this issue and were able to provide information and a proposed solution.

    Last January, we were testing this balance transfer option to a small selection of existing cardholders. Mr. Leo is correct to point out that the only mention of a fee, in that printing, was on the back of the communication.

    We enhanced the level of disclosure as of the next mailing, in an effort to be more transparent with our customers about interest charges and fees.

    Since that change was made in May, all balance transfer offers mailed to existing cardholders have a mention of the fee on the front of the customer communication, as well as in the legal print on the back.

    As a goodwill gesture, a senior member of our customer service staff will be contacting Mr. Leo to let him know that we will waive his $100 fee and related interest charged.

    We are disappointed to have lost Mr. Leo as a customer and we hope he will consider becoming a Citi cardholder again in the future.

  3. Y-S Columbus Leo

    Sep 16 2008

    Wow, Ellen, your “magic touch” really works.

    Thanks for “going to bat” for me and getting a solid hit. Ha ha, I play and coach softball, so I like to say that.

    Before this, it was usually a 20+ minute wait before talking to someone at their Customer Service Dept.

    Even after speaking to supervisors, it was always “we cannot reversed the fees … the fee was in writing”.

    It leaves small customers helpless, and I guess most would just pay. But I’m glad you were able to help.

    I look forward to their “proposed solution” to reverse the fee and interest — which they should’ve done in the first place. I’ll also ask them to make sure any negative reports to credit rating agencies would be corrected.

    If they had done the right thing in the first place, they wouldn’t have lost me as a customer. Of course I was upset at that time, and therefore cancelled the card.

    Thanks a lot Ellen. Please keep up your great work, in helping the little people.

    Columbus

    P.S. Wish me luck as I go to my “old men’s” softball playoff game. Three weeks ago, I hit my first ever out-of-the-park homer. At age 48, I wasn’t sure if I really could hit one. Now I’ve done it, there’s hope there may be repeats. Thanks a lot.

  4. Michael K

    Sep 16 2008

    My Enbridge Gas bill has something called “NEW STOMP ENERGY CHARGES”. There is a description that refers to The Canadian Green Energy Alternative.

    It goes on to say STOMP your CO2 Footprint. The charge is $4.94 per month. This is in addition to the rate increase that took effect on July 1, 2008.

    Are you familiar with this new charge? Is it mandatory? Why has there been no publicity about the charge?

    I spoke to a customer service rep at STOMP. The result is that the charge is NOT mandatory and you can opt out.

    However STOMP hopes that everyone will participate to do their share for the environment.

    She took my name and account number and said she would advise Enbridge to credit the account and not to continue with this charge.

    But when I received my August Enbridge bill, I saw the adjustment to the July account was not made.

    A second charge for August now appeared, once again for $4.70 plus GST. And as well, a late payment charge for $0.06! How ridiculous.

    I called STOMP again. The person promised to cancel both charges. He doesn’t know why it wasn’t cancelled last month. He was unable to provide me with any details as to how these charges came to appear on my gas bill.

  5. Anthony Horton, Stomp Energy spokesman

    Sep 16 2008

    We’re a new company and we had some issues in July.

    About 45 customers were billed erroneously. It was our fault. Mistakes were made.

    We’ve been going back and forth with Enbridge to try and resolve this.

    Enbridge has changed its bills to allow other companies to include their charges. We’re one of about a dozen companies whose charges appear on the bill.

    See this link, https://portal-plumprod.cgc.enbridge.com/portal/server.pt?open=512&objID=901&PageID=0&cached=true&mode=2&userID=2

    We’re into month four of trying to cancel these charges and credit people’s accounts. We believe it will be resolved on the October bills, but we’re not sure.

    It’s been frustrating for us too. We made an error when putting the records into Enbridge to be credited and cancelled. Some customers got a credit but were not cancelled.

    We’re happy to correct this. We’re not being argumentative. So call us at 1-877-585-7183.

  6. Chris

    Sep 16 2008

    I have a problem with Rogers. Last July, I called them to cancel an email address because I had too much spam. Also, I asked them to upgrade my Internet.

    On Aug. 2, my bill came with a charge of $387, although my regular bill was $98.

    They had charged me $200 for a “one-time internet connection”, but they had no right to do this, since I had moved in here more than 2 years ago.

    I called them. They said that it was an error and I would get a credit.

    I asked who put that $200 charge on my account? She said that it was made automatically and it couldn’t be reversed, but I will get a credit of $225 ($200 + $25 for the movie network, they charged me for that, which was supposed to be a free trial).

    The credit had to be approved by a third level, since it’s more that $200, she said. I suggested that since I have a credit of $225, for 2 billing periods I won’t be charged, because my monthly payment was now like before, aprox. $98. She said that I was right.

    Then the Sept. 2 bill came, and no credit, just a charge of $65.02, like nothing happened. I called again, around 11 am, asked to be transferred to a supervisor, put on hold for 5 minutes, then he told me that I might be on hold for more than 25 minutes, due to a high volume of calls, and he would send a fax with a note “Urgent”.

    I called back and got a rep right away. She said that she had removed the preauthorized payment, so my credit card wouldn’t be charged and asked again for credit card info to put it back after the due date.

    Sounds like a plan, but after 2 failed attempts to get my money back I don’t expect too much…

    Can you help me get my money back?

    ——————————————————————————————-

    It’s amazing how quickly Rogers called me after you sent them my email. They finally gave me that credit.

    I don’t have to pay for this month and still get a $165 credit for the next 2 months or so.

    It seems they react fast when it comes to a prominent newspaper, but tend to delay for customers…

    Thank you for finding time to help me!

  7. SD

    Sep 16 2008

    For two months, I have been harassed by Bell Canada, sending a huge invoice for payment for one week of service.

    I have called their office several times and every time I have been told that the matter has been taken care of and I will get a revised bill.

    Instead of getting a corrected bill, I am getting letters from their collection department to pay the bill or they will send my name to the credit bureau.

    I subscribed to Bell Canada’s home phone, Internet and TV service after a sales call from Bell. They were calling their old customers back and offering a fantastic package with a great discount.

    There was no contract to sign and no cost to terminate the services any time.

    My telephone line was hooked up and a technician came to my house for TV. He informed us that there was a two-year contract for all the services.

    There were some channels promised during the discussion with the sales representative and we found out that they were not the part of the deal.

    Realizing that the services were sold on false grounds and we were misinformed in the name of “welcome back old Bell customers”, we called Bell Canada and cancelled all the services. We had to use the home phone for almost a week.

    Since then, I called Bell for a minimum of 10 times, but other than getting false promises, I could not gain anything.

    I am now wondering how a company like Bell can make money this way. Harass a customer by sending a bill and a collection department’s letter! Do not do anything upon getting a call!

    I spoke to their customer service manager, who promised that she would get back to me within 3-4 days. She never called me back and upon calling her after a week, I got her voice mail and ended up leaving a message. My voice mail remained unanswered.

    ————————————————————

    Hi Ellen. Angii Melfi from Bell Canada has helped me resolve the problem.

    Thanks again for your help.

  8. Lisa McCarney, Enbridge Gas

    Sep 19 2008

    We offer a billing service that allows other energy service providers to include their charges on the natural gas bill.

    Enbridge Gas has been working with Stomp Energy, a participant in the Enbridge Billing Service, to process transaction reversals for a small number of customers.

    Unfortunately, initial efforts to process the transactions were unsuccessful and the corrections have been delayed.

    We apologize for this situation and did offer to contact the customers involved directly. The corrections will be processed and we will reverse any late payment penalty charges associated with this situation.

    The current system for third party billing has some limitations that resulted in the delay in processing the corrections. As with any new system implementation, there can be glitches.

    The instructions around processing refunds should have been more clear. We will be making adjustments and communicating these to our other third party billers.

    However, at this time, we are not aware of any other billers who have had problems with transaction reversals.

    We are in the process of developing a new Customer Information System. When it is implemented in 2009, the billing solution for third parties will be more flexible and responsive.

    When introducing the Enbridge Billing Service, we considered different issues that could arise and identified ways to help address them. For example, customers need to contact their service provider directly if they have a concern about a service or charge they received.

    However, if the company is not appropriately addressing the concern, the customer can contact us and we will contact the service provider directly. If the situation is not appropriately addressed by the service provider within 60 days, we can take the charges off the bill until it is addressed.

    If a customer has agreed to receive a service or product and it’s billed on the Enbridge bill, the customer is responsible for paying it.

    If the charge is not paid in a timely manner (16 days after the billing date), a late fee does apply.

    However, gas service will not be disconnected for non-payment of charges from companies participating in the Enbridge Billing Service.

    If a customer is having difficulty paying their bill, we encourage them to contact us to discuss.

  9. Cynthia

    Sep 21 2008

    Just in response to the Enbridge answer. It amazes me that companies quickly and easily can make errors on customer’s bills, yet they can claim they are not so easy and quick to correct. Why not?

    When you owe them money, they want it NOW. Yet when they owe you money, you can wait.

    I think if an error is not corrected in one billing cycle, if there is at least one week’s lead time, you should get interest — just like you have to pay interest if you are late paying your bill.

  10. Lior

    Sep 22 2008

    I couldn’t have said it any better, Cynthia!

    Companies these days, whenever they make billing errors, want you to pay first and then, if the charge is disputed, patiently wait until they move their arses to resolve it. Why not just take a proactive approach to minimize the errors from happening in the first place?

    I remember once seeing on Silverman Helps on CityTV how Enbridge made a mistake and emptied a woman’s entire bank account, to the tune of $3,000, just because of a meter reading error by Enbridge’s stellar employees.

    The woman called Enbridge and they weren’t quick at all to reverse the money they took out, even though the woman said she needed the funds back in the account urgently for an overseas trip.

    When Peter Silverman got involved, the woman had a refund cheque the next day. If he hadn’t been involved, Enbridge would have taken their sweet time with the matter, just like all the other irresponsible companies out there with screwed up billing systems (hello Bell!).

    Valuable lesson was learned: never give any companies carte blanche access to your banking account!

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