Pick up an informative consumer services calendar

By MPP Toby Barrett

Each year at this time my office receives a popular and informative calendar from the Ministry of Consumer Services. The “Smart Consumer Calendar” provides ‘buyer beware’ tips that last the year through. Feel free to pick one up, or order extras at Service Ontario, 1-800-668-9938.

For example, the January page discusses senior’s rights, and the neglect and abuse of retirement home residents. Visit www.ontario.ca/retirementhomes

Turn the page to February for information on what to do when collection agencies come calling – call: 1-800-889-9768, www.ontario.ca/consumerservices

The Ministry of Consumer Services also sponsors calendar pages on hot water heater rentals, joining a gym, condo ownership and payday loans.

For example, when it comes to our hot water, the calendar reminds us that once a water heater is installed “you will have to pay some costs if you change your mind.” Don’t forget to ask about cancellation and removal costs.

And while we’re exercising for our health it’s also important to, “exercise your rights when you join a gym.” Remember that you aren’t required to pay for a full year’s membership upfront – you can pay monthly.

With regard to condos – understand that a condominium is a type of ownership, not a type of building. When buying a condominium, you also purchase an interest in the “common elements” of the complex. These may include: corridors, lobbies, elevators, parking areas, roofs and windows, landscaping and grounds, recreational facilities, and guest suite. Don’t forget that you also share the expense.

September’s focus on payday loans warns of the “expensive form of credit” we are buying into when we resort to a short-term loan from a payday lender for quick cash. That advance on your paycheque may cost more than it’s worth. Indeed you’ll be paying a maximum premium for borrowing of up to a maximum cost of $21 for every $100 borrowed. Remember too that if the loan exceeds $1,500 or lasts a period of more than 62 days, “the maximum cost of borrowing doesn’t apply. As the calendar suggests, if you’re using payday loans often, “consider asking a not-for –profit credit counseling agency for information on money management and other sources of funding.”

The Smart Consumers calendar provides some insight into the costs of auto insurance fraud. By simply being an “informed consumer,” you can, “reduce your premiums, avoid coverage that is not valid, and help eliminate scams. The first step in protecting yourself is ensuring you deal only with licensed insurance companies and representatives. For a list of licensed agents and companies, check out, www.fsco.gov.on.ca, while licensed brokers can be found at www.ribo.com?

For those buying or selling a home, the calendar provides information on how The Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) protects home buyers and sellers through the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002. The law sets out standards and rules for all real estate professionals in the province. Those with questions can phone 1-800-245-6910 or check www.reco.on.ca

Other calendar topics range from the Ontario Energy Board to the Canadian Health Care Anti-Fraud Association to www.pluginsafely.ca, www.funeralboard.com, and www.competitionbureau.gc.ca

These are handy calendars. Stop by to pick one up or give me a call at 1-800-903-8629. We have government and various agencies for a reason – here’s a resource you may find useful.