Direct Energy tried to hide bad news behind good news when imposing extra charges for cancelling water heater rental contracts.
Many customers read only part of a letter announcing improvements and missed the part about new buyout fees, which came later.
“We have not communicated this initiative as well as we could have,” said senior executive Rob Comstock in calling off the new fees. Direct Energy isn’t the only company trying to downplay news that might harm customers’ interests.
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TD Canada Trust, for example, is quietly eliminating an account that offers free chequing and unlimited transactions to customers 60 and older.
The Plan 60 account, now offered only to existing customers, was replaced by a 25 per cent monthly rebate on three TD accounts:
• Value Plus (25 transactions a month), normally $10.95, reduced to $8.20.
• Infinity (unlimited transactions), normally $14.95, reduced to $11.20.
• Select Service (unlimited transactions, no-fee premium credit card), normally $29.95, reduced to $22.45.
Customers currently enrolled in Plan 60 accounts aren’t affected, unless they want a new or additional account, said spokeswoman Barbara Timmins.
“As with a lot of businesses, we’re looking to meet the needs of an evolving boomer demographic, and our offering needs to be as dynamic as they are,” she said in an email.
Is that double speak or what? Is TD doing a favour to those over 60 by giving a few dollars in savings on a basic, mid-range and premium plan?
The Plan 60 account gives free paper statements. TD is charging $2 a month for paper statements on its Value Plus and Infinity accounts, starting April 1.
Older clients avoid paying for paper statements only with the Select Service account at $269.40 a year. They also avoid paying a $2.25 a month fee to use a passbook for record-keeping.
Don’t forget the 13 per cent HST, says client Ed Schmeler, which makes the Value Plus account add up to $9.27 a month after tax.
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He translated Timmins’ comment about the evolving boomer demographic as follows: “There are more and more people over 60 as a percentage of the population. We can’t make enough money giving them a free account, so let’s rack up the fees.”
Scotiabank still has accounts with no monthly fees for seniors 59 and over. BMO has a no-fee Senior Plan for those 60 and over. CIBC has a 60 Plus Advantage Program with a no-fee chequing account.
RBC has already taken the rebate route, offering seniors $4 to $8.75 a month in savings on six bank accounts. Those with more than one RBC account get only one rebate.
RBC is making other changes, as well. Douglas Paul recently got a Visa bill that contained an “important message.”
The good news: He could book his own travel rewards flights online without paying a fee.
The bad news: He would pay a $30 booking fee, per ticket, to use RBC’s travel rewards department.
“I’ve had my gold card for years (for a $100 fee),” he says. “I chat with the nice people in the travel rewards department, who check airlines and get me the lowest price to fly from A to B and back.
“Hello! Did I miss the ‘great news’ here? Or could this be just another way for RBC to reduce staff or add another service charge?”
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Memo to TD and RBC: Your advertisements show you as customer friendly and concerned about quality of advice.
So, be honest about what you’re doing when you raise fees or cut service. Don’t hide behind slogans and meaningless good news.
You may fool some people some of the time. But the truth will come out eventually.
Image: SHANNON STAPLETON/REUTERS.