When the media get involved in customer service disputes, companies snap to attention. Suddenly, the lines of communication open up and the disputes get resolved.
In my Saturday column, On Your Side, I write about fights I’ve won on behalf of readers. But I only have room for a few of the many victories. You’ll find more details in this blog.
However, there’s one battle I usually lose. That’s when I go to bat for someone who signs a long-term contract and wants to get out early: Something comes up and there’s a need to switch. The company says too bad: You decided to sign and you’re stuck.
I’m reprinting a letter from a reader who wants to get out of his cellphone contract with Telus and the company’s response. Tell me what you think.
I signed a 2-year contract in January of 2007 and recently found out that I was awarded a job in Yellowknife and will be moving from PEI to Yellowknife this June. I called Telus to inquire about their services in Yellowknife and they told me that they simply have a roaming agreement with Northwestel. In order to have coverage up there, I would have to purchase a Canada-wide long distance plan and keep my PEI phone number.
They were unclear about the details, but this was not a desirable outcome since I will be living in Yellowknife indefinitely and don’t want to have to worry that local calls could be coming in as long distance. Not only would I lose all my current calling features and bonuses from my current contract renewal that I negotiated with Telus, but I will be forced to buy a plan that does not offer any of the features I rely on (call display, voicemail, etc).
I feel like this is unfair. My career is taking off and I’m moving to a new place, but Telus will not let me get out of a contract in which they cannot provide the proper service. Is there any way you can help me get out of my current Telus contract so that I am not forced against the ropes, so to speak?
Response from Julie Smithers, a Telus spokeswoman:
It will not be possible for TELUS to permit cancellation of the account without applying the full termination liability charge that is standard for cancellation of a term contract. As the customer indicates, he chose to sign a contract in January. This is entirely optional as clients can also choose to maintain service on a month to month basis, which allows them to cancel on 30 days’ notice without incurring penalty. For example, we do not encourage clients to sign contracts if they are in temporary living circumstances or actively looking for employment, which could include relocation, as it might make it difficult for them to commit to a contract term.
All clients have the option of transferring their contract to friends or family at their discretion. The client has also been informed of the termination liability charges that would result from cancelling the unit just months into the contract. Termination liability charges are clearly outlined in easily legible print on the front page of the contract he signed when selecting his service. Because of the two-year term commitment, he received his handset at a discounted rate. TELUS also incurs other up-front costs of bringing clients onto the network, including commissions to the sales force.
In TELUSâ€™ Service Terms, which are presented to clients prior to activation, TELUS expressly points out that it does not guarantee uninterrupted service. It is important for clients considering relocation to discuss their potential coverage needs with TELUSâ€™ client care staff either by contacting client care or visiting a retail location.