Tuesday, June 19, 2007

CanWest Steals Your Money

We've been on a spring-cleaning, simplifying and cost-cutting exercise at TDPC HQ recently, part of which was the decision to cancel a subscription to the Ottawa Citizen. Commonly this happens in the summer coincident with the end of woodstove season; we subscribe to the firelighting publication again as winter draws near.

With this seasonal cancellation I have been able to build up a pattern of billing practices from the Citizen that is consistent. Here's the deal. You pay your subscription by direct debit from a chequing account. A monthly payment is taken in advance from the bank and the newspaper arrives on the doorstep each morning. This part works. 

I've now cancelled a subscription four times and my experience has been the same every time. Cancelling is the easy part. The newspaper stops coming the next day. However, the billing continues. In the latest example, I cancelled well before the end of May, having been billed on May 19th for the coming month. Yesterday I was billed again - only this time I have just changed banks from TD to Scotia, so I incurred a $37.50 NSF charge on the old TD account, courtesy of CanWest.

On investigating with the Citizen's customer service line, it turns out that after the payment on the 19th May, there was a credit of $20 on my account - but their policy is that they don't return credit balances unless the customer asks. The customer service agent denied the new billing for June could have taken place, because it didn't show on the account. This might be because it was returned NSF?? I'm faxing the proof and hopefully we'll get that money back too. This has happened every time I cancel; it's always taken about 8 weeks to get them to stop billing and get our money back.

But how many other cancelled subscriptions have left credit balances in accounts and how much does the Citizen make from this fraudulent practice? How long do those balances sit waiting to be claimed before being absorbed into CanWest profit? Is this standard across all CanWest publications? Comments welcome from other cities...