August 20 2010 by Ellen Roseman
Geoff, a reader, came up with this slogan in a comment yesterday on truth in labelling.
So, let me tell you, Geoff, and other readers too, that I don’t think all companies are bad and all customers are good.
The problem is that companies have too much power to bamboozle customers. If they can get away with it, they’ll do it.
In their promotion and advertising, companies only tell one side of the story. Any negative stuff that customers need to know is omitted or buried in the fine print.
Misleading advertising is rarely prohibited unless rivals complain about each other (that’s why Rogers now says “Canada’s reliable network” instead of “Canada’s most reliable network”).
Class action lawsuits are effective in stopping misleading advertising. But they’re hard to organize, so we don’t see them with great frequency in Canada.
This leaves a vacuum that companies can fill.
They can say what they want to attract you and then make it impossible for you to understand what you’re agreeing to.
They can avoid the use of plain language in their terms and conditions, deliberately making them difficult to read.
They can make you sign long-term contracts with high cancellation fees, inserting clauses that allow them to change the terms and conditions without penalty.
They can outsource their customer service departments and supply you with little in the way of help, support or advice, all in the name of efficiency and cost-cutting.
That’s why I’m standing up for the majority of customers who keep companies in business and want to see fair dealing.
I’m trying to give power to customers, instead of letting big business control all the plays.
Through the Internet and the Toronto Star, I can restore some balance to the lopsided relationship between companies and their customers.
And in my view, that’s a good thing.