Oakville Homes

November 13, 2013

Want to write a complaint against Mattamy or any other builder. Follow Roseman’s advice.

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I read a very informative column in the November 13th Toronto Star Business Section (B2) written by Ellen Roseman, a writer on personal finance and consumer issues.  I have copied it below as it is a very good article if you wish to lodge a complaint in public against a contractor, builder, developer or any business.  A lot of businesses want you to put POSITIVE reviews on various websites, some to the point of throwing extras at you (which can make any review somewhat suspect).  Some builders have been accused of winning awards by stacking the deck with freebies, good service, etc and have received good reviews.  Some people have written they regret giving these positive surveys as the good service and freebies disappeared once the survey was in.

These surveys are a two-way street and so are the websites builders want you to go to and put in a good word.  It also allows those of us shafted to speak the truth.  Some builders will use bully boy tactics and lawyers to go after those who speak the truth.  They don’t bother those who lie and put in wrong reviews that make them look good.

I myself have experienced the bully boy and lawyer treatment.  I had one Mattamy Homes lawyer yell at me in a truly unprofessional manner.  If I had done that at work, several agencies would have cut me a new one.

We all have the right of freedom of speech but it does come with some responsibilities.  In my case, I’ve spoken the truth and I am sure Mattamy Homes really doesn’t want the whole thing brought out into public – thus the gag order.  I am limited.  If you wish to put forward your displeasure, there are various avenues in which you can exercise your right.  A recent article in the Toronto Star notes that NDP MPP Rosario Marchese (  rmarchese-co@ndp.on.ca ) is trying to introduce a new bill that will correct some of the unfairness some experience with Tarion.  He states that “Ontarians deserve and need meaningful consumer protection on the largest purchase most of them ever make – a new home”.  Hopefully he will get the support he needs.  Why not email him and let him know the taxpayer in Ontario supports him.  I only wish they would pass legislation that would allow new homebuyers to hire a professional house inspector to monitor the construction and protect their interests.  The present system does not really give us the protection we need.

Below is Roseman’s column.  She gives good advice.  Just tell the truth.

Note:  Any Mattamy lawyer who feels I have not stated the truth, let me know and I will consider any complaint from you.  Just don’t use the Bully Boys again – they might upset the neighbours.  Also, for the record, I am not NDP and therefore not pushing or supporting Marchese for re-election but, I have to give him KUDOS for doing something our Liberal and Conservatives (who get money from the developers) have not done.

Nasty online reviews can lead to lawsuits: Roseman

If a company gives bad service, you might write an online review telling others to stay away. Make sure your comments are factual.

By:        On Your Side,        Published on Tue Nov 12 2013
You hire a contractor after seeing good reviews online. But when the work doesn’t measure up, you write a review warning others to stay away.

Be careful what you post. Bad reviews can result in retaliation.

If the company you target for criticism thinks you went too far, it may respond by posting nasty comments about you. It may call your home to harass you. And it may threaten to sue for libel or defamation.

I recently heard from a Toronto couple, who got into an online war of words with a contractor that escalated into the equivalent of a nuclear meltdown. The dispute was about a $400 repair job.

“We paid what we thought was a fair price and we got very poor service,” said the 2,000-word review they posted at several websites, giving the firm a rating of half a star (out of five stars).

The contractor responded by calling the review a toxic and aggressive rant, which served no purpose other than to cause damage, and saying it would litigate if the review were not removed.

The threat worked. The couple cut the review to 30 words, saying they had an unpleasant experience, felt intimidated at times and didn’t plan to use the company’s services again.

That wasn’t enough to satisfy the contractor, who posted another comment next to the revised review, saying the clients had mental health issues and wanted to get the job for free.

The online war turned into a phone war. Company representatives called and left several voicemail messages, saying they would come to their home with lawyers and the whole police division.

“I am scared and feel at my breaking point,” says the wife, who considered taking down the revised review, but decided not to give in to threats.

“This is a pretty extreme case,” says Monica Goyal, a lawyer who deals with HomeStars, a website where customers can leave reviews about companies (and where the couple’s original review was posted).

Her firm is working with HomeStars to help ordinary people understand the difference between a negative review and a defamatory review.

“A high quality negative review is one that informs other members of the community about your experience with a business,” says Goyal’s firm, Aluvion Law.

“A review that is defamatory exists mainly to express how angry or upset the reviewer feels and to damage the reputation of the business.”

The lawyers say consider five things before writing an online review:

  • Wait before you write.

Emotions run high after a bad experience. Let your mind clear and your anger abate before posting comments. Otherwise, you might say something you regret later.

  • Watch your words.

What you write online can be seen by anyone. And if you contradict yourself, writing one thing online and then denying it, this can be used against you in a court action.

  • Be honest and fair.

Don’t use malicious or hurtful statements against someone else (such as liar, crook, thief or fraudster). Don’t write anything that you can’t prove in court.

  • It’s about you, not them.

Focus on what happened, using your own perspective, and don’t use your experience to make generalizations about the company. “I was not happy with the service” is better than “they are known for ripping off their customers.”

  • Stick to the facts.

Provide concrete details that are hard to dispute: “The crew was supposed to start at 8 am, but didn’t show up until after 2 pm.” Quote specific promises that the company did not fulfill, such as cleaning up the dirt left behind at your property.

Corporate bullying does exist, says HomeStars president Brian Sharwood. He wants his content team to start flagging companies that systematically harass clients who post bad reviews.

So, here’s a warning to those who think a negative review is a substitute for going to court over a small dispute.

Make sure to write a review that is factual and fair. Angry online comments can lead to litigation, an outcome that you had hoped to avoid.

Ellen Roseman writes about personal finance and consumer issues. You can reach her at eroseman@thestar.ca or www.ellenroseman.com

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