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Breast implants sales pitch and truck driver training: CBC’s Marketplace consumer cheat sheet

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Miss something this week? Don’t panic. CBC’s Marketplace rounds up the consumer and health news you need.

Want this in your inbox? Get the Marketplace newsletter every Friday. 

Shopping for breast implants

Marketplace investigated how breast implants are marketed by plastic surgeons, and we followed a woman getting her implants removed because she believes they made her sick. We sent her implants for testing to find out exactly what went wrong. Canada’s health minister says she is “deeply concerned” by problems with implanted medical devices and has pledged to make changes.

Telecom complaints more than doubled

If there’s a massive difference between what you expect from your telecom service and what you get, welcome to the club. The federal watchdog for telecom complaints handled 14,272 complaints last year. That was a 57 per cent spike, and most of the complaints involved wireless providers. The main grievance was non-disclosure of information and bill surprises by wireless operators.

The federal watchdog for telecom complaints handled 14,272 complaints from consumers in 2017-2018. More than 40 per cent of them were about wireless service and 29.2 per cent were about internet service. (Shutterstock)

Truck driver training could have saved lives

What does it take to haul 80,000 pounds down Canada’s high-speed roads? In some provinces you need more training to give a haircut than to haul freight. Seven months after the deadly Humboldt crash, training is still optional for semi truck drivers in Saskatchewan. But the government’s own internal documents say more people will die until it becomes mandatory. Our hidden-camera investigation earlier this year revealed how Canada’s patchwork training and testing system leaves some new truck drivers ill-prepared to operate big rigs.

Former semi driving instructor Mel Meikle says the Saskatchewan government has known for months that mandatory training will save lives but has not acted. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

You probably shouldn’t eat your placenta

As it turns out, eating this temporary organ expelled from your uterus is risky. Health Canada is warning that consuming human placenta could lead to bacterial or viral infections in mothers or their babies. Some health claims allege that it can help prevent postpartum depression, increase energy levels and boost breast milk production — but Health Canada says there’s no scientific evidence to support such claims.

Health Canada is cautioning mothers and others who may be consuming human placenta preparations about potential risks for themselves and their babies. (Shutterstock)

Is Netflix still worth it?

You’ll soon be paying $3 more each month for your Netflix subscription. It’s the company’s biggest price increase yet for both new subscribers and current members. Netflix’s standard plan will now cost $13.99 a month, while the basic plan (without ultra HD video and streaming on only one device) is also increasing a dollar, to $9.99 a month. Netflix says the money will help fund upcoming TV series and films, along with overall improvements to the platform.

Netflix says the higher prices are effective immediately for new subscribers, while existing users will be notified by email before their bills rise in the coming weeks. (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

What else is going on?

A Burlington, Ont., man was told he’d lose a $1,500 flight over a misspelled name. Mo Shahin took on Expedia after the online booking agency told him that he’d have to rebook his non-refundable flight because a name on the booking was missing one letter.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is taking steps to prevent entry of lettuce suspected in E. coli cases. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it suspects romaine lettuce harvested in parts of California this month is the source of the outbreak that made people sick in both Canada and the United States.

This week in recalls

This Ikea extendable dining table could lead to injuries; these bicycle forks could pose a risk of injury to the rider; these wind-up toys do not meet Canadian safety requirements and could pose a choking hazard; these air freshener sprays are missing the required hazard labelling; these tahini products could be contaminated with salmonella. 

Marketplace wants to speak to you

We want to hear about your experience with short-term rental platforms like Airbnb as a guest, host or neighbour. Send us an email at marketplace@cbc.ca

We’re also on the hunt for Canada’s worst sale! Ever spotted a sale price higher than the original price? Items on sale all out of stock? Does the company use their pricing to make you believe you’re getting a better deal than you actually are? We want to hear about it. Send us your story at marketplace@cbc.ca

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Real Estate

Window repair or replacement is the responsibility of the condo corporation

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If the windows in your condo are hazy, drafty, or have rotting frames, it’s an indicator that they need repairs or outright replacement.

However, under the Condominium Act, it is the responsibility of the condo’s board to carry out such changes as a replaced window is a common element.

“Under the Condominium Act, a declaration may alter the maintenance or repair obligations of unit owners and the corporation but cannot make unit owners responsible for repairs to the common elements,” said Gerry Hyman is a former president of the Canadian Condominium Institute and contributor for the Star.

“A declaration for a high-rise condominium invariably provides that the unit boundary is the interior surface of windows. That means that the entire window — whether it is a single pane or a double pane — is a common element. Necessary repairs or replacement of a broken pane is the obligation of the corporation.”

According to Consumer Reports, selecting an installing windows replacement can be very overwhelming for homeowners. Therefore, if you aren’t covered by your condo’s corporation, it would be necessary to hire professional hands.

Wood, vinyl and composite windows need to be tested on how they can withstand various natural elements. For wind resistance, a window can be very tight when it’s warm but get quite cold too—especially when it begins to leak a lot.

Whatever the case may be, the bottom line remains that replacement windows can save you heating and cooling costs, but it’s best not to expect drastic savings.

Additionally, while getting a new window might help you save on your electric and gas bills, due to their expensive cost, it may take a long time to offset their cost.

Mid-last-year, the government withdraw a $377 million Green Ontario program that provided subsidy on windows to installers and repairers. Window companies had to install energy-efficient windows in order to qualify for the government subsidy that pays for up to $500 of a $1,000 to $1,500 window.

Due to the largely generous subsidies from the government under the Green Ontario program, a lot of window dealers were fully booked for months—even after the program had ended.

“We’re fine with the program ending, we just need more time to satisfy consumers,” said Jason Neal, the executive director of the Siding and Window Dealer Association of Canada, the industry group representing window dealers in a report.

According to Neal, the Progressive Conservatives acted hastily, making massive changes with no prior notice.

“No notification was given to us by anyone,” he said, noting he learned about the change through one of his dealers.

“It’s created a ripple effect.If they had just given us notice we would have pushed that down the line from the manufacturer right into the dealer right down to the consumer.”

Neal noted that he wasn’t particularly sad to see the Green Ontario program end, as it was “the worst rebate program in the history of the window industry.”

“It’s been horrible,” he said. “$500 a window has created such hysteria.”

However, despite the program ending about a year ago, numerous homeowners have been contacting window dealers consistently with concerns that they might not be able to afford replacement windows without the government’s subsidy.

“I understand their concern,” said window dealer Chris George. “I would suggest they reach out to their local representative of the government in their riding and let them know about their concerns.”

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7 Vancouver Real Estate Buying Tips

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The real estate market in Vancouver is turning around for good for everyone looking to purchase a home.

Previously soaring prices are now beginning to ease up, making it a perfect time for buyers—with real estate agents already getting ready for a very busy spring and summer season.

However, before splashing cash on a new property, there are some very important tips you need to know to ensure you make the most of the buyer’s market.

Here are some few expert tips that would guide you when purchasing a home in the sometimes frustration Vancouver seller’s market.

  1. Get adequate financing

It is very important that before you make the move to purchase a property, you put into careful consideration your credit score.

Normally, home buyers with lower scores use the secondary mortgage market to finance their purchase, as they’re more likely to pay a higher interest rate.However, it is advisable to get loan approval long before purchasing the house. This way, you are fully aware of how much you are able to spend—but never be tempted to borrow the maximum amount of money available.

“What’s your mortgage payment that you’re comfortable with? And take into the fact the taxes you’re going to have to pay, if it’s a strata – what the maintenance fees are, if it’s a home what type of maintenance are you going to have to pay in the future?” said Phil Moore, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver in a report.

Always be careful of the type of loan you secure and ensure that you can comfortably afford it over a long period of time.

  1. Get a real estate agent

Buying a property without professional help is a very risky move and can be likened to choosing to represent yourself in court without a lawyer. While you might trust your negotiation skills, only realtors are permitted to present offers directly.

Therefore, it is necessary to get a professional real estate agent in the area to represent you. So, screen a few agents and select the best one who has in-depth knowledge of the markets and has a great reputation.

“They’re there to protect you. They’re there to walk you through each step of the process,” Moore said.

  1. Sign up for automated alerts

Most—if not all—realtors have access to the Vancouver real estate board’s database which is updated approximately two days before the public MLS website.

Therefore, you can request from your realtor to sign you up for automatic real-time alerts of all new listings. Doing this gives you an edge as you’re among the very first to know about new properties.

  1. Do a thorough inspection

After receiving an alert for a new listing, it is necessary to push almost immediately for an inspection from your realtor. In this current market, buyers now have time to make an inspection.

Making a quick inspection eliminates any surprises—as there could be major maintenance or repair issues that could spring up. Therefore, you can now table your offer based on the outcome of the inspection, with clauses about claiming your damage deposit back if everything isn’t as was advertised.

Additionally, if you notice that renovations were done, you need to be sure that it was permitted work and carried out appropriately. Failing to do this would ultimately lead to further cost down the line and simultaneously affect the resale value.

  1. Have a back-up plan

There’s always the possibility that everything may not go as smoothly as you’d want. From the inspection being a failureto the property not living up to your expectations—or not being able to agree on the closing date that matches with your needs.

However, a professional real estate agent will definitely help you get past all of these things. If you plan on selling the property as you buy, you can table that and make it part of the deal.

“You’ve got an option, especially in a buyer’s market: you can put in an offer subject to selling your place. So maybe you want to have a place lined up,” Moore added.

Additionally, building contingencies into your buying plan is necessary. Things such as unexpected delays in closing the deal, closing cost and moving costs that could result in added living expenses if that’s your permanent home.

  1. Don’t fall for the buyer frenzy

The Vancouver market buying frenzy that caused a serious climb in the prices a couple of years ago has ended. Thus, it is important not to get caught up in bidding wars with properties that have been deliberately under-priced—with the hope of initiating multiple offers.

“Some of the sellers have been on the market for over a year and they’re eager to sell. So what I’m saying to consumers is: you have a lot of choices, you’re in the driver’s seat, let’s go out and take a look at what’s available,” said Moore.

  1. Never be wary of multiple offers

When purchasing a property, don’t be afraid of multiple offers as you have the same opportunity as anybody else.

Typically, there are just a few offers below the asking price: a couple priced fully, and two or three above the asking price—depending on how close the fair market value is from the asking price.

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Do you know what kind of condo you’re buying?

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(NC) Condominiums can come in all shapes and sizes. But it’s important to know that not all condos are created equal when it comes to warranty coverage.

Whether you’re buying a condominium townhouse, loft-style two-bedroom or a high-rise studio, they are all classified as condominiums if you own your unit while at the same time share access (and the associated fees) for facilities ranging from pools and parking garages to elevators and driveways, otherwise known as common elements.

The most common types of condos are standard condominiums and common elements condominiums. The determination of how a condominium project is designated happens during the planning stage when the builder proposes the project and the municipality approves it.

When you’re in the market to buy, you need to know how your chosen condo is classified because it affects the warranty coverage under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act. Standard condominiums have warranty coverage for units and common elements, but common elements condominiums only have unit coverage.

How could this affect you as the owner? If your condo complex has underground parking and, for example, there are problems with leaks or a faulty door, the condo designation will determine whether there’s warranty coverage.

If your unit is a standard condominium development, then the common elements warranty may cover the repairs. If it’s a common element condominium development, then repairs might have to be covered by the condo corporation’s insurance, which could impact your condo fees or require a special assessment on all the owners.

To avoid surprises, you should have a real estate lawyer review the Declaration and Description attached to your purchase agreement to be sure that you know the designation and boundaries of the unit you’re looking to purchase. Find more information on the types of condos and their coverage at tarion.com.

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