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Fighting Back Against Corporate Bullies

February 13, 2012

I am extremely proud that this week’s blog is a guest blog supplied by La Velle Goodwin, an independent consumer advocate who played a key and active role in bringing an end to one of Alberta’s largest consumer fraud schemes on record.

Fighting Back Against Corporate Bullies

Too many consumers assume they are too small to do anything about having been wronged by a corporation. We have been brainwashed by t.v. and movies to believe that taking action will be to our personal detriment. We reason that corporations have lawyers and the deep pockets to litigate us into bankruptcy if we attempt to fight back. That is simply not the case, and I am here to tell you that as an individual, you have more power than you imagine to hold corporations accountable for bad behavior.

The first thing to understand is that in Canada, there are provincial and territorial consumer protection laws in place for your benefit. These laws vary somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but in principal they are much the same.  To enforce consumer protection laws, governmental bodies function to take consumer complaints, investigate complaints and enforce the laws. Yes, they will even take the corporation to court if they have broken the law- so it will not cost you a nickel.

Unfortunately, consumers are generally not aware of what consumer protection laws exist or that there is anyone who will stand up for them and so, corporations are in a position to use that to their own advantage.

People can take steps to protect themselves from falling victim to unfair trading practices; and be better prepared to resolve an issue should one arise.

Take Time To Learn

Learn what common business practices are illegal in your jurisdiction.

If you are not a legal beagle, laws are often spelled out in layman’s terms on provincial websites. Take the time to learn what they are. (This, by the way, does not require that you read reams of documents, generally there is a list of 20-30 specific practices that are not lawful.)

Don’t Believe Everything You Are Told

One of the easiest ways corporate bullies get rid of a wronged consumer is to lie to them. Folks are typically too easily convinced that the company they are dealing with is not doing anything wrong.

Some of my favorites lies include a financial company that claimed to have been taking money from consumers because (the corporation claimed) they were “acting as agents for and collecting on behalf of the Canada Revenue Agency”; A telephone rep who claimed a payment was wrongfully taken from a consumer’s bank account because of “computers”. When the consumer pressed for a better answer she was told that the consumer’s “payment was taken on that day, as were all other payments.” And; contracts that state that if the consumer later declares bankruptcy, the debt to the corporation may not be included in the bankruptcy.

People need to think about what they are being told and know that if something does not make sense, it is probably not true. Don’t fall for tactics that are intended to make you feel stupid for not understanding what they are telling you. It is not stupid to press for answers that make sense to you- It is stupid not to.

Ask yourself questions about what you are being told. Does Canada Revenue Agency use non-bank financial lending and collection companies to collect money for them? No.

Does the answer being offered actually answer my question? “Computers”? Did something really happen to all of the computers that would cause all payments to be made on a particular day? No.

Can a contract alter bankruptcy laws? – Even if you signed it, the answer is no.  (Although it is not an uncommon practice to include statements like that in contracts; corporations can not contract out of the law. It is more an effort to convince the consumer of what the corporation wants them to believe than it is about what the reality is.)

Finally, many corporations understand that people are busy and most are not willing to put the time and effort into fighting back. Sometimes, a little game of runaround is all they have to do to make a complaint go away… don’t fall for that. Many corporations are getting away with allot of very bad behavior because for the most part, people don’t stand up for themselves.

If you have the sense that you have been wronged, chances are pretty good you are right. So check it out. Determine if what you are being told is truthful. Don’t be afraid to go over anyone’s head and know that if push comes to shove, you can file a formal complaint with a governmental body that can and will take action on your behalf if your complaint has legs.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is based on the writer’s experience in dealing with corporations which have utilized unfair trading practices in the Province of Alberta. The writer is not a lawyer and none of the information provided herein should be taken as legal advice nor substituted for professional counsel.

La Velle Goodwin

p: 403.803.1343 |  s: lavellegoodwin

e: lavelle@websavvylab.com | w: websavvylab.com

If you don’t have a security system or don’t have it monitored, call me for a free, no-obligation consultation. You will be glad you did!

Ulli Robson, Security Specialist, (780) 288-2986

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