A bad taste left in the mouth of a Chinese dinner at a restaurant in Qingdao has made waves in Chinese social media. The customer faced a bill shock when the restaurant slapped him with 1520 Yuan charge for a dish of pawns marked at 38 Yuan on the menu, citing an excuse that no one can accept. When he refused to pay, the restaurant owner reportedly pulled out a stick and threatened to beat him up. His complaints against this unscrupulous merchant with the local authorities – including the police and industry bureau ended in vain.
In a marketplace lacking robust consumer protection mechanism, his experience is just the tip of the iceberg. As an immigrant from China, I was stunned by the consumers’ vulnerabilities in my home country and feel blessed that I enjoy better rights’ protection as an individual customer in Canada. Plenty of mechanisms are available for Canadian consumers to file complaints and seek recourses – at no expenses of their own. The rising of the internet has empowered consumers to name and shame the few bad apples, fueling a more prevalent consumer protection culture in the Canadian retail landscape.
My victory battle with Bell – which I revealed in a consumer protection article has brought me one of the many trophies in my self-protection journey. Over the past, armed with the knowledge of consumer’s rights and holding a belief that justice prevails in the Canadian marketplace, I’ve launched numerous battles with business entities which I believed, have taken advantage of me, and I’ve won each and every one of them.
I experienced a bill shock early this year when I found a $50 bill for several months in a row on my credit card statement. It was charged by a streaming movie website that I mistakenly signed up for and wasn’t successful in canceling it as I assumed. Worrying that I would have a hard time to get my money back, I prepared for a fierce battle and rehearsed a persuasive speech several times before I picked up the phone and dialed the number on the credit card statement. Surprisingly, I’ve got an instant confirmation for cancellation and a promise of full refund just by telling them that I’d never watched a movie from the site. Two weeks later, a $200 credit appeared on my next statement.
If you think that I was innocent enough in this case that I deserved my money back, you might be less sympathetic when I asked for the reverse of a premium plan fee charged from my BMO account. I had failed to maintain the minimum balance to wave service fee– due to my unconscious mistakes. But unexpectedly, I’ve got a total refund of five months’ fees back, just through the help of a call center agent –who has gone out of his way to ensure that I remain a happy customer with the bank.
My article outlining my victory battle with Bell seemed resonating well with readers, with some sharing their success stories of fighting with business practices deemed unfair to them. One reader’s comment has immediately caught my attention: “(She) won't’ get a penny back if this thing happens in China.”
It is unsurprised that in a country where powerful elites and well-heeled individuals enjoy luxury services and quality products, the laws and regulations serve to protect the privileged few. Average Chinese consumers lack the financial means to seek redress, and the broken legal system fails to protect the victims.
Canada provides much stronger consumer protection system than China -- a country that leaves consumers vulnerable to the bullying and exploitation practices by unscrupulous businesses. Understanding consumers’ rights and using the knowledge to protect their interest is an eye-opening and exciting experience for many newcomers in the country. The trophies I claimed one after another as I embark on the self-protection journey have made me a very satisfied, happy and confident Canadian consumer.
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