Who has seen the wind?

December 30 2009 by Ellen Roseman

I’m talking about Wind Mobile, Canada’s newest cellphone competitor, which persuaded the government it was really Canadian-owned, even though a foreign company owned the bulk of its equity and debt. Still, Canadian owner Globalive held the majority of voting shares.

I find Wind’s pro-consumer rhetoric refreshing. “Join the conversation. We’re in this together.” Of course, it’s easy for a company to be populist when it’s just getting started and hasn’t made any enemies yet. A year from now, let’s see if the promise of simplicity, affordable plans and no contracts is really borne out.

Also want to mention that Globalive owns Canopco, a company that charges extraordinarily high prices for calls made from hotel rooms outside Canada. I get many complaints from people who weren’t warned by the hotel, Canopco or Bell/Telus (whoever issued their calling card) that the hotel would use an intermediary. If they had known, they would have spent less time on the phone or not made any calls from the room.

So, let me know what you think of this wireless carrier and whether you’re inclined to switch — assuming you’re not tied into a long-term contract elsewhere.

Hope you all have a healthy and safe 2010. To close off the year, I’m posting a few emails from my For Follow-up file. They’re from people who ask me questions I can’t answer or who want to share information with others. Let’s keep the conversation going.

9 comments

  1. EL

    Dec 31 2009

    Helical lamps are the (not so new) curly neon lamps that replace the old-fashioned incandescent bulbs in your light fixtures. They’re the expensive energy-saving lamps that the government wants us to switch over to: pretty soon we won’t be able to buy the old, cheap bulbs if the government carries out its threat.

    These lamps are in the $7 – $9 range and are replacing bulbs that can be purchased for less than a dollar and can last for 2,000 hours or more.

    However, when you take into account the savings in electricity, these lamps may actually be cheaper than the old bulbs in the long run. But only if they last around 10,000 hours.

    A few years ago, I bought one of these lamps from Home Hardware. After a few months, a hole blew out near the base. It was made by Sylvania and was replaced promptly.

    My latest problem was with a Noma lamp. I sent a message to Noma and their reply was that they do not sell in Canada, but another company uses their name.

    I sent the following message to hr.canada@woods.com on Sept. 14:

    “I installed one of your helical lamps (Fle25HT3/2/NOMA) on 2008/07/12. It failed on 2009/07/18, a total of 371 days.

    “This lamp was in my kitchen and it could not have been on more than an average of 8 hours a day. This is a far cry from the hours you advertised.

    I would appreciate a replacement. I would appreciate a reply.”

    So far, no acknowledgement of my complaint.

    Ms. Roseman, about 3,000 hours is nowhere near the 10,000 hours these companies advertise. Could you look into this? Are there problems with the lamps from other companies?

    At this time, I have a number of these lamps from G.E. that I purchased from Canadian Tire. So far, I’ve had no problems with them, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

    My Noma lamp was advertised to last 10,000 hours and it didn’t and I can’t even get a response from the manufacturer. Just think of the profit that can be made by cutting corners on an officially-required product, if no one calls you to account.

  2. AP

    Dec 31 2009

    Perhaps you can help with a strange situation with Onlinetel, a Toronto based company.

    I have been a customer for about 3+ years but recently haven’t been using their services much. They provide VOIP long distance phone service.

    The company has been double/triple billing me and when I call them, their call centre in the Caribbean seems to be uninformed and dissatisfied bunch of people. No apologies for wrong billing or any idea how and when it will be corrected.

    This led me to investigate Onlinetel and the story seems weird. Their Home Office phone is not in use. Their parent company, Newlook Industries, is on the TSX but their phones are not answered and no provision for voicemail for any of their officers – seems more like a ghost-operation.

    Onlinetel’s operations are ‘discontinued’ according to Newlook Ind’s annual report in 2008 – if so, what does that mean? Why are they still providing a service (which is intermittent) and yet billing or double billing us?

    The public should know what the status is so we can take responsible action. Hope you will be able to help.

    Some info:

    Onlinetel / Call Zone

    144 Front Street, Suite 700

    Toronto

    416 642 9335 (not in use)

    Parent company: Newlook Industries (same address as onlinetel)

    Tel: 416 477 5656 ext. 300 (no answer – no voicemail)

    http://www.newlookindustries.com/pdf/FinancialStatements.pdf – financial statement as of March 2008

    http://www.newlookindustries.com/bod.html – Newlook Ind’s board of directors (John Simmonds et al seem to have a high profile – yet something doesn’t seem to fit).

    ————————————————————

    My response:

    Hi AP, thanks for writing. I’m not sure if I have time to do this research. I can put it on my website and see if I get a response.

    I did a Google search and found other complaints:

    http://www.redflagdeals.com/forums/troubles-onlinetels-call-zone-546240/3/

    http://www.bbb.org/kitchener/business-reviews/telephone-communications/onlinetel-in-toronto-on-1132025

    Based on BBB files, this business has a BBB Rating of F on a scale from A+ to F.

    Reasons for this rating include:

    27 complaints filed against business

    Failure to respond to 6 complaints filed against business.

    2 complaints filed against business that were not resolved.

  3. Bell critic

    Dec 31 2009

    Earlier this year when Bell raised its modem rental fee, you wrote about this issue:

    http://www.thestar.com/business/article/594438

    Specifically, you wrote:

    “But there’s one key difference. Rogers customers can buy their own modems ($100 for standard, $149 for network), while Bell customers have to rent modems and pay monthly fees.”

    The Bell Service Modem Fee is governed by section 20 of the Bell Internet Service Agreement

    http://service.sympatico.ca/index.cfm?method=content.view&category_id=550&content_id=11013),

    which states:

    20. The Service Modem. A DSL or a Wireless Home Networking modem (collectively, the “Service Modem”) is required for use of the Service. If a Service Modem is rented to you by Your Service Provider, separate and additional Service Modem fees, as described to you prior to such rental, may apply (the “Service Modem Fees”).

    Obviously, the operative part of this clause is the “If” part.

    It seems very likely that numerous people (yourself included) have been misled and overcharged by Bell in this matter.

    http://www.redflagdeals.com/forums/bell-increaing-modem-rental-fees-almost-100-a-700665/

    http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r21850192-Modem-rental-fee-going-up

    In fact, contrary to the SA, in their “FAQ” Bell writes:

    http://www.bell.ca/support/PrsCSrvGnl_FAQ_Detail.page?FAQ_ID=77):

    “Customers may choose to use their own compatible DSL modem; however, the monthly modem charge will still apply on their bill.”

    Now there is a story, if I’ve ever seen one.

    I think it’s very likely that if this gets any publicity, they will simply re-write the agreement. Nevertheless, at the moment, it is what it is.

  4. Bob

    Dec 31 2009

    I am sure you must get 1000’s of letters pleading for help every day. Here is another. I am writing to you because I read your column and I don’t know where else to turn.

    I have a complaint about Sentry Select.

    In 2004, I purchased units of the Sentry Select Diversified Income Trust. This year, it wasn’t doing very well and Sentry decided to convert the trust to a mutual fund.

    They mailed some information about the conversion and a ballot that I could use to vote on whether or not I thought the conversion should take place.

    I voted against. Nevertheless, they announced that a majority had voted in favour and the conversion went ahead.

    Today I tried to sell some of those units and I was told that Sentry would impose a 5% redemption fee.

    I think this is totally unfair, if not downright illegal. The imposition of redemption fees was not an issue when I originally bought the units. There weren’t any.

    Apparently, Sentry created this fee when they converted to a mutual fund. Had I known, I would have tried to sell the units before the conversion took place.

    They say that the fee schedule for redemptions was spelled out in information brochures mailed to me, but if it was, then it was so buried in “boilerplate” that I didn’t see it. Not even my broker realized the consequences of the conversion, or I’m sure he would have told me.

    If they wanted to initiate such a redemption fee schedule, then the fair way would have been to honour existing arrangements and to apply it only to new purchases. I feel that Sentry and I had a deal which they have arbitrarily abrogated.

    I am hoping that you can help me by bringing some pressure to bear on Sentry.

    Even if you can’t help, I thank you for your advocacy. You are able to help a great many “little guys” who would be lost without you. And you write an informative column while doing it.

    Thanks for that.

  5. JF

    Dec 31 2009

    I searched for ‘Mobilia’ on your site but found no comments or articles on that subject. I am a little surprised.

    The Internet is littered with negative customer experiences involving Mobilia Interiors. Most of them relate to dishonest salespersons and delivery issues.

    I would like to share my story with you. I have not suffered any direct financial losses (‘direct’ being the key word), but I still feel like a victim of a poorly-run company. I will try to tell my story succinctly.

    Oct 31: My wife and I purchase 6 pieces of a bedroom set from the Mobilia Markham store at Highway 7 and Woodbine Ave. The 6 pieces consist of 1 queen bed, 2 night tables, 1 double dresser, 1 mirror, 1 armoire.

    The set is called ‘Florence’ and the manufacturer is Poitras, located in Quebec. The floor model inexplicably had 2 different sets of handles on the night tables and dresser drawers – one type was rectangular, the other more rounded.

    I asked Kevin, the sales manager, about this. He informed me that we would receive the furniture with the rectangular handles on the drawers. The rounded handles were older and they just happened to be on the floor model. That was fine by us – we preferred the rectangular handles anyway. We paid a 20% deposit as required.

    Nov 14: 5 pieces of the set are delivered to our home. The armoire was considered a ‘special order’ and would be delivered later.

    I noticed this immediately: 1 night stand had rectangular handles, 1 night stand had rounded handles, the dresser had rounded handles, and 1 drawer of the dresser was missing a handle altogether. The delivery guy supposedly documented this and asked me to make a written note of this on the invoice. A copy of the invoice would be forwarded to the warehouse for their awareness and action.

    He asked me to call the warehouse in a couple of days to follow up. I signed off on the invoice and they charged the 80% balance for those 5 pieces on my credit card.

    After that day, several phone calls to customer service and 2 visits to Kevin at the Markham store has yielded nothing. They have all claimed that something is being done about it, but no concrete answer is given.

    Nov 21: An attempt to deliver the armoire and charge me for the balance is made. I expressly stated to customer service on Nov 19 and Nov 20 that I would not accept the armoire until there was a resolution on the handles.

    Nov 22: I found out they charged my credit card for the armoire. I call them immediately to have it reversed as I did not accept the armoire. They are trying to convince me to take the armoire while the handles are supposedly being resolved. I refused.

    Nov 24: The armoire charge is reversed. Still no answer on the handles.

    In the meantime, our clothes and personal items have been sitting in a pile. We figured there was no point in using those drawers if someone was supposed to come from Mobilia and change the handles for us.

    We did not want some guy going through our drawers, moving around our clothing for us, in order to change the handles. Let’s not forget that one of the dresser drawers is not functional because it doesn’t even have a handle.

    Dec 4: I write an email to Melanie Kau (melanie@mobilia.ca), owner and president of the company. (I believe this is a private company that was / is family-run.) I tell her my story.

    The next day, she apologized and said they would look into it for us.

    Dec 7: I receive a call from customer service. The handles are being ordered from the manufacturer and mailed through a courier company. They anticipate they will receive it on Dec 10 and contact me then to schedule delivery of handles and armoire.

    Dec 11: Follow up call placed with customer service. No handles yet.

    Dec 18 (today): Still waiting. No handles, no armoire.

    What can I do? I would love to return all the products and start new with another furniture company that has more organized operations – from front to back. However, that would require charging me a 20% restocking fee.

    Further insult to injury is the $80 delivery fee. Yes, I know delivery fees are standard – but I paid for delivery of furniture showing mismatched and missing handles!

    It took them 2 weeks to deliver furniture after the initial transaction. It’s taken them an additional 5 weeks and counting for getting the right handles to me! How can that be?

    We have not been able to use our furniture in the meantime -although in hindsight if we’d known it would take this long we probably would have moved some of our clothing into the drawers and moved it out again before the handles were replaced.

    This has been a bedroom furniture nightmare for us.

  6. Melanie Kau, Mobilia spokeswoman

    Jan 7 2010

    We are aware of both cases as these customers contacted me. In each case, the Toronto warehouse has communicated with the customer and the situations are in the process of being resolved, we hope.

    We treat each customer with great attention whether they contact you, myself or their salesperson, as it is our aim to achieve their expectations of good customer service.

    Sometimes that does not happen despite our best intentions, as for example the customer that waited a month and ten days to get the handles for their bedroom. Although the delay was unacceptable, we have been in constant contact both with our supplier and the client.

    That being said, we are extremely conscious of the competitive world we live in and want each customer to return so our aim is always to do our best.

    We work with people and from that vantage point not everything gets done perfectly every time.

    We care deeply about how our customer feels about us and we do our utmost to be transparent in the sales and after service process as there is no point in misleading customers: that person will never return.

    We hope these customer issues will get resolved to the satisfaction of the parties involved.

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