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Help for life’s pressing problems: Roseman

Most people can wait when seeking help with a consumer problem. But if swift action is needed, I try to respond right away and so do my corporate contacts.

Paola and Brock Anderson had a complaint where every minute counted. They ran into an unexpected roadblock when taking out a mortgage on their first home.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., which was insuring the loan, had found an outstanding debt of $ 2,300 to Rogers Communications on Paola’s credit report at Equifax Canada.

Rogers admitted that it was a case of mistaken identity. But it would take 30 days to correct the credit report. The Andersons needed their mortgage approved by the next day or they could lose the house.

I forwarded Paola’s emails at 10.30 p.m. to Equifax spokesman Tom Carroll. He replied by 6.35 a.m., and by 4.30 p.m. that day, Paolo wrote to say the mortgage had been approved after Equifax sent a revised credit report directly to the lender.

“Under provincial credit reporting legislation, we have 30 days to respond to consumers,” John Russo, vice-president and legal counsel of Equifax, said about the process of correcting mistakes.

“About 95 per cent of all our investigations are completed within that time frame — and we resolve three out of four disputes within 14 days, less than half the time required by law.”

You can speed up the process by contacting the lender directly and asking it to provide the credit reporting agency with updated information, Russo said. Mortgage investigations are a priority with Equifax. Consumers don’t have to go to the media to get their problems resolved.

Paola received an apology from Rogers and an offer of two free months’ service under her Fido cellphone plan.

“When someone raises a concern about a credit bureau report, we immediately investigate. If it’s found to be an error, we contact the credit bureau to have the item removed from the person’s credit file as quickly as possible. We were glad this came to a quick resolution,” said Rogers spokeswoman Veronica Noronha.

I also helped a 20-year-old college student get out of a contract signed last January with Goodlife Fitness in London, Ont. The payments were so high that she had nothing left in her bank account.

“She was worried about her weight and health. She was feeling vulnerable,” said her mother Jane (who prefers not to use the family name to protect her daughter’s privacy).

“After a free session with a trainer, she signed up for 144 sessions to the tune of $ 8,400 over a one-year period. Since she was not even in London for one-third of the contract time, she’d have to train 18 times a month during an eight-month period. She’d be Arnold Schwarzenegger after that.”

Carla Brown, manager of member accounts, agreed to cancel the contract a few hours after I contacted her. This meant no more biweekly payments of almost $ 300 apiece.

The student had paid a total of $ 4,141 — which included a $ 1,500 down payment — and had used 35 training sessions at $ 52 each. (There was also a borrowing cost to finance sessions over a year.) She still had 35 more prepaid sessions to use when she returned to London in the fall.

“Everyone at the branch was polite and responsive, but constrained by the Goodlife policies,” the mother said. “I felt they had no wiggle room to be autonomous in their decisions.”

Brown said she had been working on the case after the trainer reached out to her. She apologized for the student’s financial burden and stress, saying she should have talked to the family at an earlier date.

Ellen’s advice

Check your credit report regularly for mistakes. Don’t wait until you are applying for or renewing a loan. Call Equifax and TransUnion and order a free report by mail.

And read the contracts you sign. Fitness club deals can be tricky. Be aware that you have 10 days to cancel without penalty under Ontario’s consumer protection law.

Ellen Roseman writes about personal finance and consumer issues. You can reach her at or


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