Along with handling consumer complaints, I also help Star readers get answers to their questions. Here are two recent examples:
Ontario Energy Board
Alex Wilmot asked me why it was so hard to apply for the Ontario Energy Support Program, which was introduced last fall to subsidize electricity costs for low-income customers.
Her two attempts to apply online had failed. Each time, she was told an error had been made, but not what the error was.
After three calls and a visit to Toronto Hydro’s office, she obtained an application to send in the mail. Again, she was told it was incomplete — without an explanation of what was missing.
She tried to contact the Ontario Energy Board, which runs the program, but an unexpected error at the website wiped out her message.
Board spokesman Paul Crawford said the goal was to ensure that consumers could have their applications processed four to six weeks after they are received. Any errors or omissions delay processing.
Jordan Cooperman had an experience similar to that of Wilmot. His online application was said to be incomplete, but he didn’t get any details.
Several emails later, he learned his utility account number was wrong. His password was reset, which led to problems opening the application to change his utility account number.
“I’m technically trained (I build websites for a living), so I can’t imagine how much of a hassle the application is for the average person, he said.
The Ontario Energy Board told me that 550,000 households qualify for the subsidies. The board has received 127,000 applications, 90 per cent being sent online. Just over 61,000 people have been accepted so far.
Information is available at www.ontarioelectricitysupport.ca .
Government benefits may be subject to delays, but large companies can also drag their feet when it comes to refunds.
Fred wrote to me about his online purchase of a Dell computer, which didn’t work properly. He sent it back and was promised a refund in 10 to 12 days. That was in late November.
Dell confirmed receipt of his computer when I got involved. But it took a second intervention to get his money back on Feb. 9.
“Our general return policy guarantees once their system is returned, customers will receive a refund within 10 days,” said Janet Fabri, corporate communications manager of Dell Canada.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to meet this commitment for Fred, but are happy we were able to resolve the matter recently to the customer’s satisfaction.”
Chris Bayards wanted to know why he had to pay a large fee to discharge his mortgage. Before the last payment, he and his wife made several inquiries at their branch. No one could tell them anything.
He was annoyed to get a $600 bill only after his mortgage was paid off — and without a congratulatory message of any kind.
“While $600 is not a large amount, it’s our money,” he said. “It felt like a kick in the butt for working hard to pay on time for two houses over the last 26 years.”
When I forwarded his inquiry to BMO spokesman Ralph Marranca, Bayards received an explanation about the cost of closing off the bank’s lien on the property. He also heard from a vice-president, who promised to train staff to handle such inquiries.
“Since our situation was handled so poorly, she offered to cover the discharge fee, which we were happy to accept,” he said.
It’s my mission to help readers, but I can’t handle every complaint. Write to me only about companies with well-known names and policy issues that may affect a large group of customers.
Keep your emails short, but include key details such as dates, times and phone numbers. If your problem goes back more than a year or two, I probably won’t be able to help.