What makes me angry

February 18 2010 by Ellen Roseman

There are so many things. Where to begin?

— Companies that make recurring billing errors. Instead of straightening out the mess, they crack down on customers who don’t pay.

— Investment professionals who push risky portfolios on clients, based on false information on their account application forms. Later, they deny blame when the client complains about unsuitable investment recommendations.

— Lawyers who try to collect money by harassing someone with the same name as the person they’re chasing.

You want to get angry too? Just read the stories posted here.

13 comments

  1. JP

    Feb 18 2010

    A few years ago, I responded to a Rogers advertisement offering a deal to switch to their home phone service.(A 3rd class mail brochure was delivered to my apartment building.)

    I called agreeing to take their service and was told no technician would have to visit my residence (could be assessed from the building’s telephone room).

    Nor would i have to cancel my present land line service. In the next billing period, my invoice would convert to Rogers(they would handle the switch completely).

    A week or so later, a post-it style note was left on the apartment building’s community door, asking me to call. After a considerable wait, I spoke with a person who told me a tech would have to visit my apartment.

    After a 40 minute wait, I hung up the phone. That was my last communication on this matter.

    My phone never switched to Rogers, but I did start to receive invoices. I made a couple of attempts to call and straighten this out to no avail.

    I am now listed in the credit bureau, owing some collection agency approx $250 in relation to this.

    I called Rogers describing this situation, which proved useless.

  2. JB

    Feb 18 2010

    I have hit a brick wall at Enbridge.

    I am the property manager of a 112 unit residential complex and we fall under the category of Non-Profit housing since we offer Rent-Geared-To Income accommodations.

    When I took over the position of property manager in September of 2009, I noticed that we had almost a $40,000 credit on our Enbridge bill.

    There was an investigation conducted a year prior to my arrival and Enbridge determined that errors were made in billing our account. This resulted in a huge credit, from which Enbridge was deducting the amount of our monthly usage.

    I contacted Enbridge and asked the credit to be refunded immediately. At the rate that we consume gas at the complex (we do not have gas heating and use gas to heat only hot water – 2 tanks and 1 meter), it would take years for the credit balance to be used up.

    I was told that a cheque would be issued, but had to go through the appropriate channels. I thanked them and waited. I was told that it would take approximately 14 business days to process and mail the cheque.

    After the 14 days, I was told that the cheque was already issued but had to be signed. The person responsible was away on vacation and I would receive the cheque within 10 days. Again I thanked them and waited.

    Two weeks later, I still haven’t received a cheque. I called again and was transferred to the customer advocacy department, which told me that Enbridge had to conduct an investigation because the amount of the credit was so high.

    I said they had already conducted an investigation and found we were being charged by error for the building next door. Enbridge issued the credit, which sat on our account for almost a year.

    I just wanted them to refund the money.

    I had about seven conversations with the customer advocacy person. Finally she said that someone would come out to physically inspect the property and the meter and conduct a new investigation. Great, so I waited again.

    A representative arrived 3 weeks ago and determined that there was definitely a problem. The building next to us, which has absolutely nothing to do with our complex, has a gas meter with our address on it.

    On Monday, Feb. 8, I received a letter from Enbridge, acknowledging that they have corrected our bill. Now we owe, as per their “juggling” act, $88,721.83.

    I don’t have to tell you I almost fainted. I have to answer to a board of directors on a monthly basis and they know the battle that I have gone through with Enbridge, but they want answers and their money back.

    How did we get from almost a $40,000 credit on our bill to an $88,721.83 balance? That’s a $125,000 difference that Enbridge has added to our account. And we use a very small amount of gas strictly to heat water, since all our heating is electric.

    The insanity of this has to stop. I am in a great need of assistance because the clerks that I am able to speak with will not transfer me to anyone with decision making power.

    I have now put a hold on our account and requested a face to face meeting with Enbridge upper management to get this resolved.

    ——————————————————————————————————

    Lisa McCarney-Warus, Enbridge spokeswoman:

    Just wanted to follow up on this complaint. Mr. B and our Ombudsman’s Office have booked a time to get together to review the account. The meeting will take place in early March.

  3. HO

    Feb 18 2010

    I want to share a story with you. It is such an outrageous story I have to share it even if you can’t help. I will try to be as brief as I can, but it’s a bit complicated.

    My late wife’s mother is an 83 year old widow living alone in Montreal. Her husband died in 1991 and her surviving two sons live away. Neither is experienced financially.

    Mrs. M’s late husband was a respected, ethical and conservative investment professional. At the time of his death, he left his wife an estate of $2 million.

    Mrs. M grew up in the Depression, was a housewife most of her adult years, and left all financial and investing decisions to her husband. She remains an intelligent and sharp woman, but an unsophisticated one financially.

    Her financial affairs were managed after her husband’s death by a partner of his. In January 2009, her son approached me because he was concerned that his mother’s net worth had taken a very severe pounding in the crash of 2008, a decline of over 50% of her net worth.

    This seemed odd to me, so I asked permission to view some statements. What I found was appalling. Her adviser, Mr. P, had complete discretionary control over her accounts, representing her entire life savings; she has no property or other assets or income, other than her government entitlements.

    Mr. P had her invested in a large number of equities I had never heard of, going on for some 40 pages in her statement. There were no household names, no blue chips of any kind. The average share price was in the $1-2 range.

    A quick look with Google revealed a Chinese ski resort, Egyptian construction companies, startups promoting new battery technology, and a host of mining and oil exploration companies.

    Her only bonds were high yield, very speculative and risky corporate bonds, some with yields of 13-16%, all companies I had never heard of.

    We have encountered nothing but aggressive defense of this situation from Mr. P, his superiors at the branch and later in formal complaints to the bsnk’s ombudsman.

    An initial request to review her holdings and provide a new financial plan, given her diminished circumstances and the realities of the market in Feb. 2009, was met with a market forecast, but no suggested change in strategy.

    Their response has been all along that this is how her husband used to invest (totally untrue, totally irrelevant and very cruel to Mrs. M to hear); and this is how Mrs. M wanted her funds handled (she signed documents yearly that Mr. P prepared for her, indicating she was a “knowledgeable investor” and wished to pursue a “capital growth” strategy.

    They said they made lots of money for her and she is only complaining after losses that were almost universal in 2008 and could not have been predicted

    Mrs. M does not deny signing any documents she was asked to. She is obviously not a knowledgeable investor. She would not have requested a growth strategy if she understood what it was, since she is very frugal and nervous about losing her money.

    In fact, given their relationship and her circumstances, IF she had asked for a growth strategy, it was Mr. P’s job to advise against it!

    To me, the fact that he prepared these documents reveals a mindset that he was anticipating possible problems and laying his defenses, as there can be no other reason to describe her as knowledgeable.

    In terms of the money they made for her, it was substantial. At one point her net worth in late 2006 had grown to close to $4 million, and her capital gains taxes, which had been paid from the account during the period from 2002 to 2007 represented approx. $600-700,000.

    However, other than paying taxes, she did not withdraw any of the money, never spent anything other than her meagre draw to live on (approx. $60,000/year, of which half went to rent) and thus never benefited from this paper profit.

    The point is that the strategy was wholly innappropriate, and was never reassessed, neither in good times nor bad.

    I do plan to complain on her behalf to OBSI. But the behaviour of the bank, from Mr. P right up to the ombudsman’s office, has been shocking.

    Besides denying wrongdoing, they have victimized her needlessly by continuing to assert that her late husband invested in this manner and alleging she is a sophisticated investor without speaking to her.

  4. TC

    Feb 19 2010

    It seems these days that so many companies, lawyers, whomever, think they can get away with any tactics they want. It is all about ethics and doing the right thing and that seems to have been lost somewhere between here and the bank.

    The lawyer in MB’s case were probably doing the same thing to everyone who was an “MB” because they could make money off of all of this. There was no down side to them.

    It is too bad that the government does not have a requirement that every “President”/”Owner” of any company/business must sign an “ethics” document that can be used against those businesses in court. But the sad fact is that doing that would just end up in abuse and companies would be held against for trivial reasons rather than for what it would be intended to do.

    I don’t think there is any real solution to this, other than to have advocates like Ellen who can bring these stories to the public.

    Sad, but true.

  5. Brian

    Feb 20 2010

    I read AA’s comments with interest (about being \bullied\ by Direct Energy). The teams of salespeople they periodically send out to aggressively try and get people to purchase their \services\ are \bullies\ of the first order.

    The last Direct Energy thug to come to my door wouldn’t take no for an answer until the 5th time I asked him to get off my front porch and stay off my property – now and forever.

    It is telling that, now, when marketers of any kind canvass our neighbourhood, the very first thing they say when you open the door is: \I’m not from Direct Energy\.

    Alas, spring isn’t far off and with the fair weather comes the door-to-door energy salespeople swarming neighbourhoods like locusts.

  6. MS

    Feb 20 2010

    To to your knowledge, has anyone taken a successful legal action against Direct Energy?

    I am seriously considering it, as I am tired of a 6 months old ongoing issue where I am billed for a water heater I have never used. I have never been a Direct Energy client for the same reason.

    Enbridge tells me they don’t care, they are just a billing machine (thanks to our Ontario government), acting on behalf of DE and thus happily collecting for two water heaters at the same time.

    Yes, it’s official, my family must be the cleanest one in the whole Canada … 🙂

    Would small claims court work? I want to be reimbursed, including my work time (one hour, making two calls for the last six months), because neither company takes calls after 5:00 pm or weekends.

    I seriously hope both companies would go bankrupt in the near future, which would be the ultimate win for the Ontario consumers.

    You know, what bothers me is not the fact that they have revamped their billing systems and that is causing errors (it can happen to any private corporation), but rather how they deal with the errors and the whole situation.

    If Toyota was reacting the same way as Enbridge and Direct Energy, they for sure would be declaring bankruptcy by now. But instead these two companies, they just keep rolling along with the help of our politicians, as if nothing is wrong ….

    The reason I mentioned small claims court is the fact that, while it’s great you help people to fix the errors and flaws, these two companies are getting too easy a pass, in my opinion, by just crediting charges they were not entitled to in the first place.

    Where are the hours of my work time I had to spend phoning around (and getting nowhere)? I guess they think it’s normal, right?

    In my opinion, people should be reimbursed for that as well. That’s the only way these flawed companies will learn their lesson.

    At least, that’s the way it works in my competitive business and I don’t see why they should not be held to the same standard.

  7. second opinion mike

    Feb 21 2010

    With respect to HO and his experience with the investment industry, I am not surprised he would be finding it difficult to find a resolution. The Bank/Brokerage employed Ombudsman works for the bank/brokerage as a damage control officer. The first action they take is to delay you and try to frustrate your demand for compensation. Officially worded letters will tell you you have no claim and, most importantly, they have reviewed the paperwork supplied by the bank and it is in order. It seems the Ombudsmen have become great “coaches” in how to get away with unsuitable investments as an advisor/salesperson based upon pasperwork. The key to appealing the ombudsman decision is to a) provide them with as little information as possible (they will use it to build the advisors defense) and b) once they have denied your claim provide full information to the “independent ombudsman” for the investment industry (which your salespersons ombudsman will provide information on as they are required to do so).
    When you approach the independent ombudsman you will need to provide some clarity on what regulatory rules were broken (most often suitability rules) and be specific. In your research you should ask the salespersons firm to deliver all documents/emails in their possession regarding any reference to you or your investments or the complaint process. There are some firms that can help you with the process if required without having to hire an expensive lawyer. Above all, be patient! You are likly looking at 9 months to a year to get an answer.

  8. stiffed customer

    Feb 21 2010

    Hello Ms. Roseman:

    Foot Solutions on Danforth Ave. in Toronto has sold me a pair of expensive shoes that are too large. I tried several times to return them to them. The shoes were still new, but they refused.

    They are arrogant, refusing to acknowledge error and be humble towards the customer. I need my money back! Please help. Much appreciated.

  9. tom

    Feb 27 2010

    AA – I don’t get why you believe that you should get a refund for a diagnostic that was done?

    I also work in the HVAC field and charge a diagnostic fee, as does everyone else in this biz. It cost money and time to go to your house and do a diagnostic.

    I still don’t get where the problem is. DE is not responsible for a furnace that is no longer supported by a bankrupt company. This is the first time I have ever heard an HVAC company refunding diagnostic fees and I have been in the trade for decades, both commercial and residential.