Tagged With consumer advocacy


For many people, banks are large corporations which can be intimidating to deal with. But if they make a mistake or start giving you bad customer service, you'll need to speak up. Here are some tips from Lifehacker tipster Paul Fenwick, who recently got his mortgage provider to reverse a $400 charge they'd put on his loan without notice.

Paul's advice? Take notes, be unfailingly polite but persist in escalating your complaint, and be prepared to take your case to the ombudsman (BFSO) or appropriate body (such as VCAT in Victoria).

"As it happens, I've never had a case go to either the BFSO or VCAT, and that included our dispute with RHG. Why? Because it's much cheaper for the dispute department to roll over on a $400 dispute than it is to go through all the time and expense of a legal process. Even if they win, the time taken to bring a dispute through VCAT will end up costing them more than $400. This sort of process tends to be a very reliable way, albeit a somewhat time consuming one, to resolve a dispute with most large organisations."

Check out Paul's blog for the full story. And if you liked his hack, check out his previous Lifehacker tips - including how to declutter the web using Greasemonkey, and how to hack the best seat on an airplane. Thanks for the tip, Paul!

Beating up banks - a tale of success


I missed this piece from APC about a public meeting which eBay held in Melbourne to try to calm eBay sellers unhappy at its bid to force all eBay buyers to use PayPal (the payment service which, completely coincidentally, eBay happens to own). Angus Kidman did a great, colourful writeup of the night.Sounds like the company didn't do the greatest job of selling their plan to the audience, and they fell down when answering the crucial question of why eBay wants to remove the choice of payment options from users of the auction site:

"We're not allowing people to offer unsafe choices, just like in this democracy you can't go out and buy heroin on the streets."

I really hope the ACCC puts a halt to eBay's plan. Consumers should have a choice, and the fact that they're trying to mandate that buyers use PayPal, a company they own, makes it even more repugnant.

eBay boss: Not offering PayPal is like buying heroin

Predicting the future is near impossible -- but that doesn‘t stop us all from having a red hot go. Human beings have been predicting the future since the beginning of history and the results range from the hilarious to the downright uncanny.

One thing all future predictions have in common: they‘re rooted in our current understanding of how the world works. It‘s difficult to escape that mindset. We have no idea how technology will evolve, so our ideas are connected to the technology of today.


The Consumerist has published a thought provoking interview with American "customer service avenger" Ron Burley about his book "Unscrewed: The Guide to Getting What You Paid For". He says modern customer service attitudes treat the consumer as the enemy, so you need to be prepared for a battle.

One tip which he mentioned which I know from personal experience works is that you should take your problem to sales, not customer service. Burley says you shouldn't sit on hold for customer service for more than 5 minutes - it's a waste of your time. Call the sales number - you can guarantee that line is answered fast, by people who want to help you. As a plus, it's likely that even if the customer service line is outsourced to people outside the company (and country) the sales line is probably staffed by company employees who care more about resolving customer issues.Another point he makes is that you should make a judgement call about how long it will take to resolve the issue, and if it's worth your time:

"The quick thumbnail is figure out what you get paid per hour, double it, and that's how much your free time is worth... If you get paid $30 an hour, your free time is worth $60 an hour. If you're talking about a $100 dispute, you can pretty well figure out that if you have to spend more than 45 minutes resolving it, it isn't worth your time."

He notes that some of the more over the top tactics he advocates (such as handing out flyers to customers tellin them how the company screwed you) can backfire if you're too bombastic, citing a case in which a company boss refused to deal with him any more after he made his secretary cry (!).

Got any tips for getting your way with customer service without reducing anyone to tears? Share in tips please.

Interview with Ron Burley, Customer Service Avenger


The Coding Horror today wrote up a disturbing story sent in to them by a reader, who discovered that a (paid) Gmail archive tool, G-Archiver, was harvesting people's Gmail user names and passwords and emailing them to (presumably) the creator of the software. Deeply unethical, and possibly malicious.

It's disappointing to see that the app is still available for purchase from Brothersoft - (shareware $29.95). I'd hope that anyone selling this app will remove it from sale ASAP. It looks like well over 1,000 people had their Gmail accounts compromised - so hopefully an apology and explanation will follow from the publisher of the app.

I did a quick search of the Lifehacker archives, and it doesn't look like we've ever discussed or recommended G-Archiver. But it's worth noting - and remembering to take care that you trust where your apps came from!

A Question of Programming Ethics


Next time one of your appliances or pieces of electronic equipment breaks or dies on you, don't just check your warranty details - a quick Google search should be able to tell you if there's been a product recall on the item. You may just get a full replacement or refund out of it! Nice advice from Wise Bread.


If you're on the lookout for a new domain name, here's a trap to look out for. When checking domain availability via a registrar, ensure you're using a site you trust. Most domain registrars have a tool on their website which lets you search for available domain names (for example, Network Solutions WHOIS Search).

 But you may want to careful when you use WHOIS services - and here's why. Some domain registrars have been known to immediately register a site (for a period of a few days) when you query a .com domain for availability through their website - thus preventing you from registering it via any other registrar.

While operators doing this may claim they are doing it to stop someone else grabbing the domain while you're completing the shopping cart process, it's effectively a lockin, and it looks like it's against ICANN's registrar agreement too.

ICANN's registrar agreement says:

    3.7.4 Registrar shall not activate any Registered Name unless and    until it is satisfied that it has received a reasonable assurance    of payment of its registration fee. For this purpose, a charge to    a credit card, general commercial terms extended to creditworthy    customers, or other mechanism providing a similar level of assurance    of payment shall be sufficient, provided that the obligation to pay    becomes final and non-revocable by the Registered Name Holder upon    activation of the registration.

Thanks for the tip, Andrew!