How to save during the holidays; fake products from Amazon: CBC’s Marketplace cheat sheet

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

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Ontario’s real estate regulator isn’t protecting homebuyers or sellers, according to a new report

We go undercover to investigate mortgage brokers and real estate agents perpetrating mortgage fraud for a fee, securing commissions by submitting fake documents for approval.

A new report from Ontario’s auditor general examined the effectiveness of the province’s real estate regulator and found it’s not protecting consumers the way it should be.

The audit looked into the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO), and raised concerns about the failure to track and analyze complaints, a lack of regular brokerage inspections, and the absence of any process to monitor if investigations are completed and whether appropriate action was taken, or any action at all. 

The report also found that RECO has never conducted a routine on-site inspection at 27 per cent of registered brokerages. Twenty-five per cent had not had one in more than five years.

RECO was created in 1997 to administer and enforce Ontario’s Real Estate and Business Brokers Act. Its stated mission is “to promote a fair, safe and informed real estate market for consumers in Ontario through effective, innovative regulation of those who trade in real estate.”

In RECO’s overall response to the report, it said it is committed to delivering on its mandate and to sharing its progress in a transparent manner. The Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery added that some legislative updates around the regulation of real estate professionals are already planned and will come into force on April 1, 2023. Read more

In case you missed it, Marketplace caught real estate agents facilitating mortgage fraud on hidden camera. You can watch the full investigation on CBC Gem

This family says Amazon shipped them a fake product, and wouldn’t refund them until a ‘correct’ item was returned

Family says Amazon shipped fake product, refuses refund until ‘correct’ item returned

Amazon refused a $690 refund for a Calgary family who received a fake product, with the e-commerce giant denying compensation until they return the real product — which was never received .

When Matthew Legault graduated from high school in June, his parents figured they’d recognize his hard work by buying the parts he needed to build his own personal computer.

They placed an order with Amazon and it arrived at their Calgary home quickly.

But when Matthew opened the graphics card — a $690 part — he discovered the plastic casing had been hollowed out and filled with a putty-like substance to give it weight.

“It was actually a bit of a shock,” he said. “Everything looked pretty official up to the point where I pulled it out and took a second look.”

The real shock came, though, when Matthew’s father tried to get a refund. 

François Legault followed Amazon’s return instructions and sent the item back, expecting a refund. 

Instead, Amazon said in an email there would be no refund until the “correct” item was shipped back.

On top of that, the Amazon rep said the returned, fake item had been thrown out, to protect other employees.

“It was absurd,” said François. “It’s just a piece of plastic so I doubt there’s any danger to their employees. And secondly … now they’ve destroyed the piece of evidence.”

It was only after CBC’s Go Public made inquiries that the company refunded François and apologized for taking almost five months to resolve the “unfortunate incident.” Read more

Two women are suing Apple, saying AirTags helped their exes stalk them

Apple has acknowledged that some ‘bad actors’ have tried misusing AirTags, pictured here. (Jae C. Hong/The Associated Press)

Two women in San Francisco have filed a proposed class action against Apple. The women say AirTag devices have made it easier for former partners and other stalkers to track down victims.

One woman said her ex-boyfriend placed an AirTag in her car’s wheel well. He later posted a photo online of her new neighbourhood with the hashtag, “#airt2.0.”

The second woman said her estranged husband tracked her by putting an AirTag in their child’s backpack.

The AirTag devices start at $39, and are intended to be attached to keys, or slipped into wallets and luggage so users can find them when they’re lost.

But Apple has acknowledged that “bad actors” have tried misusing AirTags.

In February, Apple announced planned upgrades to make it easier to find the devices and warn users more quickly that unknown AirTags might be “travelling with them.”  Read more

Have you had an experience with Apple AirTags, or any other type of trackers? We want to hear about it. Reach out to [email protected].

Here’s how to cut costs this expensive holiday season

Scaling back on large celebratory meals is one way to save money over the holidays. (Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock)

Inflation may be up, but so are the spirits of Canadians preparing for the festive season.

When it comes to food, Simon Somogyi, the Arrell chair in the Business of Food at Guelph University, says scale back on the large meal.

“What I’m hearing is more people are trying to cut back on excess,” he said. “Rather than cooking a massive turkey, it’s a slightly smaller turkey; rather than having five different types of sides, [have] three.”

Somogyi suggests planning your meal before you shop to avoid cooking too much food. “There might be some leftovers, but the leftovers aren’t going to go to waste.”

If you’re a baker, cookies may not be the cost-effective option they once were. Flour and butter have soared in price this year by more than 20 per cent, while eggs and sugar prices have also climbed.

Christmas trees are more expensive this year, and so are many of the gifts that might go under them.

While clothing and jewelry cost only slightly more than they did 12 months ago, toys and games will set you back nearly seven per cent more compared to last year.

But you’re in luck if you’re in the market for a tech gadget. Prices for tablets, smartphones, and smartwatches are down nearly 13 per cent from 2021.

Higher prices have some Canadians rethinking their gift purchases. Marianne Allaert of London, Ont., says she’ll be buying smaller gifts and gift cards for her family members this year.

“My parents are elderly, they rarely go to restaurants, so I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to get a couple restaurant gift cards,'” she said. “So it’s an outing, an adventure, as opposed to giving them a thing when, you know, they’re elderly, they live in a house with too many things.”  Read more

What else is going on?

There’s been another interest rate hike
But this time, the Bank of Canada says the 4.25 per cent rate may stick around for a while.

Tuning into Shark Week? Think critically, says new study
The study warns about fear mongering language used to talk about endangered species, even though shark attacks are rare.

Better tips may mean faster delivery when ordering from apps
Couriers can see your tip before they accept your order, and can decline if they don’t think it’s worth the trip.

Marketplace needs your help

(David Abrahams)

Botched Botox? Filler fail? Laser treatment gone wrong? We want to hear about your experiences with cosmetic medical procedures. Send us an email: [email protected].

(David Abrahams/CBC)

Have you recently hired a repair or tradesperson through an online platform or app? If so, we’d like to hear about your experience. Email us at [email protected].

(David Abrahams/CBC)

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