Complaints pile up across the country against Yellow Pages

A 'pattern of complaints'

Small-business owners across the country continue to claim that Yellow Pages Ltd. fails to deliver on what it promises its customers.

More than 40 negative reviews against the company have been logged on SiteJabber.com in the last 12 months, warning buyers to beware of predatory sales tactics, unclear contract terms and poor customer service. The Better Business Bureau now warns potential customers of a “pattern of complaints” against the company, one that includes sales representatives not clearly outlining the services they’re offering, poor communication around how to cancel a contract and difficulty in trying to contact a representative or obtain a physical copy of a contract.

Yellow Pages was once the country’s largest publisher of telephone directories.

According to current and former customers, it locks clients into verbal contracts that aren’t fully clarified or agreed to. Business owners then face unexpected issues and additional costs when they try to cancel services. Many have also faced collection notices and lawsuits after refusing to pay the hundreds or thousands of dollars Yellow Pages claims they owe.

The sheer cost of disputing a small claim in court is often enough to encourage parties to settle out of court, regardless of whether a settlement seems fair or just.

In a few instances, customers have launched legal actions of their own. Yellow Pages is facing a class action lawsuit in Quebec and a potential civil suit in Ontario.

The former phone book giant also lost a Civil Resolution Tribunal dispute in B.C. last year.

“The trouble with the contracts is that I find they’re very cryptic as to what you’re actually getting involved in,” said Nick Greer, lawyer and firm principal of Collaborative Law Corp. in Nanaimo.

The firm brought an application to the CRT after it was unable to reach anyone at Yellow Pages to cancel a one-year advertising contract. The tribunal application noted that Yellow Pages continued to bill the firm for advertising that “was not of the quality agreed to,” and that attempts to correct errors in Collaborative Law’s online directory listing were ignored. Greer added that the firm was promised its listing would appear on the first page of search results, and that wasn’t always the case.

Yellow Pages didn’t respond to the dispute.

The CRT issued a default order to reimburse Collaborative Law more than $1,200 for advertising costs and $100 in CRT fees, which Greer confirmed has been done. The tribunal dismissed a claim for $1,500 to cover the firm’s time and effort spent trying to resolve the dispute.

“We’re assisting quite a few people now in getting out of Yellow Pages contracts,” Greer said. “There’s a little bit of an industry now that involves getting people out of the Yellow Pages contracts.”

The CRT began resolving most B.C. small claims disputes up to $5,000 in June 2017. Court Services Online data shows that Yellow Pages has been involved in more than 270 legal cases in B.C., most of which were small claims in the Provincial Court of British Columbia and brought forward by Yellow Pages before 2017. Unlike court, the CRT was created to be navigated by users rather than lawyers. Its fees are significantly lower, and disputes can be filed and managed remotely. A CRT dispute is by design a less daunting and costly proposition than a court action.

The issues Collaborative Law reported experiencing appear across hundreds of negative online reviews and comments against Yellow Pages. A major theme of those complaints is a lack of certainty around contract length and how a contract can be cancelled.

“We’re not going to get everybody happy, but I think we’re trying our best and still trying to run a business at the same time, because if we give everybody everything they want, of course, then we probably wouldn’t be profitable,” Sherilyn King, Yellow Pages’ senior vice-president of sales, marketing and customer service, said.

King said a lot of the challenges referred to online happen within the first year of a one-year contract. Yellow Pages bundles together a number of services offered at a discounted rate with a minimum 12-month commitment. She said Google (Nasdaq:GOOGL), Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq:FB) and other competitors will target Yellow Pages customers with deals of their own, which prompts customers to try to cancel pieces of their bundle or their full contract.

“We’ll try to work with them as best we can, but we also understand that we can’t please everybody because, ideally, they’re fully aware they’re in a 12-month contract,” King said.

While some customers sign paper contracts, most of the business owners who have spoken with BIV have signed up for advertising services over the phone. They are required to state that they agree to a verbal contract, said Treena Cooper, senior vice-president, secretary and general counsel at Yellow Pages.

“That’s a verbal contract conducted over the phone, but the sales rep does run through the terms and conditions with you – the most important terms and conditions.… The foundations of the agreement that are entered into between the two parties,” she said.

Customers are then sent a digital copy of the contract that lists all of the terms and conditions, after they have agreed to buy services over the phone.

Cooper says Yellow Pages is “vigorously defending” a proposed class action in Quebec.

Fashion brand Forever 21 returns to Canada with collections in Hudson's Bay stores

Forever 21 returns

The clothing brand Forever 21 is making a return to the Canadian market after an agreement with Hudson's Bay Co. allowing them to offer collections inside the department store.

Forever 21 debuts today at Hudson's Bay stores in Toronto's Yorkdale Mall and the Square One Shopping Centre in Mississauga, Ont.

Hudson's Bay says multiple stores across the country are expected to offer Forever 21 in the coming weeks, beginning in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

The brand will also be available to order on the Hudson's Bay website.

Forever 21, a low-cost fashion brand that is popular with younger shoppers, filed for bankruptcy in 2019 and shuttered all of its Canadian locations.

The brand, which is represented by YM Inc. in Canada, still has multiple standalone locations in the U.S.

Tourmaline Oil signs deal to buy Black Swan Energy worth $1.1B in stock and debt

Tourmaline buys Black Swan

Tourmaline Oil Corp. says it has signed a deal to buy Black Swan Energy Ltd. in a deal worth $1.1 billion in stock and debt.

Under the agreement for the privately held company, Tourmaline will pay 26 million shares and assume up to $350 million in debt.

Tourmaline says the acquisition of Black Swan and its assets in northeast British Columbia is part of its consolidation strategy in the North Montney region that it expects to be a key area of growth.

The company says it now expects to average approximately 500,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day of production by mid-2022.

The deal is expected to close in the second half of July, subject to regulatory approvals.

Tourmaline says its board has also approved an increase in the company's quarterly dividend of a penny per share to 17 cents, effective in the third quarter.

TSX, US markets all up in early trading

Broad rally on markets

Canada's main stock index climbed higher in early trading as strength in the base metals sector helped lead a broad-based rally, while U.S. stock markets also rose.

The S&P/TSX composite index was up 39.97 points at 20,089.44.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 106.87 points at 34,573.11. The S&P 500 index was up 7.48 points at 4,246.66, while the Nasdaq composite was up 9.25 points at 14,029.58.

The Canadian dollar traded for 82.55 cents US compared with 82.69 cents USon Thursday.

The July crude oil contract was up 19 cents at US$70.48 per barrel and the July natural gas contract was up 11 cents at US$3.26 per mmBTU.

The August gold contract was down US$9.80 at US$1,886.60 an ounce and the July copper contract was up nine cents at US$4.58 a pound.

'Unacceptable environmental effects:' New federal policy restricts thermal coal

Feds move to restrict coal

The federal government is making it more difficult to develop thermal coal in Canada with a new policy that says all such mines create "unacceptable environmental effects."

The move erects another roadblock for Coalspur Mines and its Vista mine expansion in Alberta, the only such mine in Canada currently before regulators.

Federal Environment Minister Jonathon Wilkinson said the move was made because of the need to stop burning coal for power — the single greatest source of greenhouse gases in the world.

"Phasing out thermal coal is the most critical climate change issue right now," he said.

The policy, released Friday, does not rule out such development. But approvals will be tough to get.

"The government of Canada considers that any new thermal coal mining projects, or expansions of existing thermal coal mines in Canada, are likely to cause unacceptable environmental effects," it says. "This position will inform federal decision making on thermal coal projects."

It says the federal cabinet must consider sustainability and climate change in weighing any new projects, regardless of size.

"What we're saying is this is something that does not fit from a public policy perspective," Wilkinson said. "A proponent can continue on through the process, but that's a pretty high bar to surmount."

Coalspur's Vista mine expansion project near Hinton, Alta., which would be the largest thermal coal mine in North America, has filed an application to the provincial regulator. Wilkinson has ruled the project should face a federal environmental assessment, although Coalspur is challenging that decision in court.

The company has been informed the new policy will apply to it, Wilkinson said. He added the policy gives more certainty to other companies considering similar projects.

Wilkinson said he believes the new policy lies within federal power despite its impact on natural resources, a provincial jurisdiction.

"We're comfortable this is something within our purview to do," he said. "The vast, vast, vast majority of Canadians would think that this is something that's a no-brainer."

Canada is a founding member of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, a group of countries trying to reduce the use of thermal coal around the globe. Wilkinson said permitting new mines would harm Canada's efforts in that forum.

"We've been the leader in the international community telling other countries that they should be phasing out thermal coal — and then we approve new thermal coal mines? People would say that doesn't make any sense."

The new policy does not affect metallurgical coal, the type of coal found in most of the controversial new coal exploration projects in the Alberta foothills.

The federal government has been asked to step in on many of those projects. Wilkinson has until July 1 to decide if he will request a federal assessment for Montem Resource's Tent Mountain mine.

Wilkinson called emissions from steelmaking a different issue.

"(Thermal coal) is a short-term issue," he said. "Our commitment with other countries is to help them phase out (coal) nine years from now. That's not much time."

Canada has promised to phase out the burning of coal for power by 2030.

Clothing retailer Roots reports $4.9M Q1 loss, but sales up nearly 25 per cent

Roots reports $4.9M loss

Roots Corp. reported a loss of $4.9 million in its latest quarter as its sales rose nearly 25 per cent compared with a year ago at the start of the pandemic.

The clothing retailer says the loss amounted to 12 cents per diluted share for the quarter ended May 1.

The result compared with a loss of $7.8 million or 18 cents per diluted share a year ago.

Sales in what was the company's first quarter totalled $37.3 million, up from $29.9 million in the same quarter last year.

Roots says its stores were closed due to the pandemic for about 30 per cent of the quarter compared with about half of the same quarter last year.

On an adjusted basis, Roots says it lost 10 cents per share in its latest quarter compared with an adjusted loss of 22 cents per share a year ago.

Statistics Canada says household debt-to-income ratio fell in first quarter

Canadians' debt ratio falls

Statistics Canada says the amount Canadians owe compared with their income fell in the first quarter compared with the end of last year.

The agency says household credit market debt as a proportion of household disposable income on a seasonally adjusted basis fell to 172.3 per cent in the first quarter.

The reading compared with 174.0 per cent for the fourth quarter of 2020 as an increase in household income outpaced an increase in debt.

The result means Canadians owed $1.72 in credit market debt for every dollar of household disposable income.

Meanwhile, the household debt service ratio, measured as total obligated payments of principal and interest on credit market debt as a proportion of household disposable income, fell to 13.45 per cent from 13.55 per cent in the fourth quarter.

The decrease came as the seasonally adjusted household savings rate rose to 13.1 per cent in the first quarter compared with 11.9 per cent in the last quarter of 2020.

Strong lumber markets allow Resolute to pay special dividend, spend and cut debt

Resolute dividend bonus

Resolute Forest Products Inc. says strong lumber markets are allowing it to pay a special dividend, spend US$50 million on its sawmills to support growth and repay US$180 million in debt.

The Montreal-based pulp, paper and lumber producer says the $1-per-share dividend will be paid July 7 for shareholders at the close of business on June 28.

The additional capital spending includes $22 million to modernize equipment at its sawmill in Senneterre, Que., $13 million to increase capacity at the sawmill in Thunder Bay-Fort William First Nation, and $15 million at a sawmill in Arkansas and another in Florida.

The U.S. investments are in addition to spending associated with the restart of its sawmill in El Dorado, Ark.

All projects are expected to be completed by the end of the third quarter of 2022.

The repayment of debt in the second quarter leaves the company with just $300 million owing in 2026 and liquidity of about $850 million.

"The cash generated with our lumber platform in these strong lumber markets provides the opportunity to share benefits directly with shareholders," stated CEO Remi Lalonde.

The forestry sector has benefited from record lumber prices.

Air Canada to recall 2,600 workers as demand for travel bounces back

Air Canada to recall 2,600

Air Canada says it will recall more than 2,600 employees as it prepares for an increase in demand for flights.

The airline says the employees being recalled will include various roles, including flight attendants, and will be brought back in stages in June and July.

Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick says the airline moved to recall the workers because it is seeing vaccinations increase, COVID-19 cases decline and governments ease restrictions.

He says the recall is part of its efforts to rebuild the airline's network and meet the expected demand for travel.

Air Canada laid off tens of thousands of workers as the pandemic swept Canada, including 16,500 last March, when the crisis began.

In April, the airline reached an agreement with Ottawa for a $5.9-billion aid package.

Vancouver Airport opens technology research hub in partnership with BCIT

YVR opens tech hub

A new research lab at the Vancouver International Airport is opening up for BCIT students and faculty to learn about new technology and technological processes in the airline industry.

YVR and the BCIT’s Centre for Internet of Things have partnered to create the Innovation Hub with the goal of encouraging innovation and growth in B.C.

The Internet of Things, or IoT for short, refers to physical devices such as cell phones or computers that are connected to the internet, collecting and sharing information.

BCIT’S Centre for Internet of Things works with emerging technology and digital transformation and it has recently begun researching how sensors that are added to electronic devices can increase their level of digital intelligence. As a result, devices can possibly communicate data without involving a human being.

“As we look to the future in a post-pandemic world, we see a real opportunity to drive innovation for the whole region,” said Lynette Dujohn, YVR’s vice-president of innovation and chief information officer.

“A focus of the Innovation Hub is collaborating with the community as we work towards turning our innovations into reality, which is why we are thrilled to be partnering with BCIT.”

Kim Dotto, dean of applied research and the centre for research and innovation at BCIT, said they are excited to partner with YVR on this project.

“We are excited to share our technical expertise with YVR - our students will gain real-world experience exploring the endless possibilities for innovation advancement in this new living lab,” said Dotto.

How to tell if a call from the CRA is legitimate or a scam

CRA call - legit or scam?

The scam is a common one: a phone call claiming to be the Canada Revenue Agency demanding an immediate payment.

If you think it might really be the government calling you about your taxes, you should verify it is before you do anything, experts say.

Cherolle Prince, a financial crimes expert at KPMG, says you want to trust, but verify you really are dealing with the CRA before you give out any information.

"Ask the right questions to yourself, does this call make sense," she said. "Why does the CRA need that information? Have I provided that to them already? What would they be doing with that information and why do they need it now?"

Prince says a red flag may be if the caller is asking for information over the phone that CRA should already have if they are calling you.

"Yes the CRA may ask you questions, but they aren't going to call you and ask for personal information. If you call them, they may ask for personal information as a way to identify you, it is part of their authentication protocol, but they would not call you for that information," she said.

CRA spokesman Paul Murphy says if you're unsure it really is the tax agency calling that you should to ask the caller for their name, which CRA office they are calling from and their phone number.

Then, Murphy says, hang up and contact CRA using the general inquiry number on the agency's website before you provide any information and ask them to verify that the call was legitimate.

"The call display option isn't always the best because these scammers will use technology to spoof that they are calling from Canada, that they are calling from Ottawa or what have you," he said.

Murphy says CRA will never demand immediate payment in Bitcoin or gift cards.

Another red flag, Murphy says, is if the caller tells you not to talk to anyone such as a family member or your accountant about the matter.

"That's not something a CRA employee would ever demand of you. You have a right to have representation, you have the right to talk to somebody about your personal tax dealings before you deal with the CRA," he said.

Just because CRA is calling it doesn't mean you're facing an audit. In most cases, the agency says, it is a routine check.

Depending on the circumstances, if you filed your tax return electronically, the agency may be seeking things like RRSP or charitable contribution receipts that would have been filed if you had filed a paper tax return.

Carmela Pallotto, a tax partner at KPMG, says an initial phone call from CRA is very rare.

"It is not unheard of, but normally they would correspond by mail and not by email either," she said.

"They do not email unless you've already entered into some sort of dialogue with them and you've asked them to email you something and even then they are extremely hesitant to email you anything, that's just not the way they operate."

Pallotto said if the caller is demanding immediate payment, that's just not how CRA works.

"It's never immediate. They usually give you a period of time to respond to a request because they understand you might not have everything readily available," she said.

"You shouldn't be afraid to have to call CRA back."

Energy sector leads TSX higher as oil tops $70 a barrel

Oil tops $70 a barrel

Gains in the energy sector helped lead Canada's main stock index higher in early trading as the price of oil topped US$70 per barrel.

The S&P/TSX composite index was up 44.80 points at 20,047.07.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 241.96 points at 34,689.10. The S&P 500 index was up 25.34 points at 4,244.89, while the Nasdaq composite was up 47.77 points at 13,959.52.

The Canadian dollar traded for 82.55 cents US compared with 82.68 cents US on Wednesday.

The July crude oil contract was up 54 cents at US$70.50 per barrel and the July natural gas contract was up five cents at US$3.18 per mmBTU.

The August gold contract was down US$1.10 at US$1,894.40 an ounce and the July copper contract was down five cents at US$4.48 a pound.

More Business News