Author Ellen Roseman has an unusually good sense of what goes on in real life. She’s a consumer advocate for readers of The Toronto Star and her On Your Side blog.
Repeat When NecessaryMy brain gets overwhelmed when shown 81 ways of doing anything. I start looking for patterns and principles that usually work. Here are five steps to fight corporate bullies:
- Read before you sign (and ask questions)
- Keep records (including steps you taken with the company)
- Follow up
- Stay calm (and polite)
- Be persistent
More Is Less
Perhaps Ellen means for us to read the section that matters to us at the time. For instance if your current concern is your high phone bill, you don't need to read tips on fighting your bank just yet. Perhaps you use the book as a reference.
Very DifferentNormally, a business wants you to keep you as a customer since that’s more lucrative than finding a replacement. When new customers are enticed with incentives, they are less profitable. Maybe they’ll leave when the normal terms take effect. Your “loyalty” (or inertia) gives you leverage — if you ask.
Life and health insurance is very different (and outside the scope of Ellen’s book). If you cancel your coverage, the insurer makes money. That's because you've been paying premiums and didn't get any back (though you did have peace of mind). New products come with new conditions and higher rates.
With offerings like banking and Internet service, you experience what you're buying regularly. You can detect changes in performance and price. Even if you don’t, others might. That’s an advantage of buying a commodity-like offering. Combined voices are more powerful when singing in harmony. Social media spreads outrage quickly, which helps get results. Look at what we’ve achieved as Internet users through OpenMedia.ca.
With insurance, you get the financial benefits at the time of the claim ... which may never happen. If you cancel your coverage, you may face big penalties (much larger than for mobile phone contracts). If you buy again, count on paying more since you're older. Depending on your health and finances, you might not even qualify.
With insurance, the key is getting your claim paid, should you have one. You increase your odds with the right purchase since changes may not be possible later. Each life/health insurance case is unique and subject to privacy issues. It's difficult to show widespread problems and get mass support. In many ways, you’re on your own.
ImagineImagine living in a world of trust where the sellers put our best interests first. Until then, buyer beware. Thanks to Ellen, for fighting on our behalf for years and now giving us tools to fight back on our own.
- Ellen Roseman: website and Fight Back launch article
- Ellen Roseman makes financial basics lively
- The dread of going to the bank for a loan
- Interview: Fighting Back on CBC Radio (Mary Ito, Feb 23, 2013)
- Interview: Fighting Back on WhereDoesAllMyMoneyGo.com (Preet Banerjee, Jan 25, 2013)
- If you have/had/want money, read Pound Foolish
- Three keys to getting your insurance claim paid
- Check your pizza literacy
- Worse than fine print
- The word advisors imply ... but dare not say
- Three powerful protectors against corporate misconduct
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PS How do you fight back?