Send me your tips on how to fight back

I’m working on my book, 99 Ways to Fight Back: How to Hang On To Your Money and Protect Yourself from Corporate Trickery. It’s to be published early next year by Wiley.

I’ll be dealing with 10 topic areas: Banks, insurance, credit bureaus, financial advisers, telecommunications, travel, cars and major appliances, home renovations, fitness clubs and online fraud. (Have I missed anything you’d like to see there?)

Today, I want to talk about getting consumer justice from Canada’s big telecom firms, which are notorious for treating customers badly.

Here’s the story of Linda M, who wanted a refund from Bell for a high-speed Internet service she had paid for but hadn’t received. She eventually found someone to help her — but it took much time and trouble to get there.

Linda’s Internet service went down on March 25 of this year. Bell’s technical support couldn’t fix the problem and sent a technician to her home to install a new modem.

After connecting the new modem, the technician said her Internet was extremely slow. After he tested it, he said she was paying for high-speed Internet (Fibe 16) and receiving a fraction of what she should have had (0.5).

She finally pieced together what happened. Four days after receiving her high-speed Internet service on Nov. 18, 2010, she called to report a problem. Bell downgraded her high-speed Internet temporarily to try and resolve the problem, but never upgraded it again.

Naturally, Bell blamed her for everything. She was offered only a token refund after she paid for high-speed Internet for 16 months.

Since I had never called to complain about the speed, the only thing Bell could do was give me credit for one month’s free Internet service.

How could I complain my Internet was slow when I only had it for four days? I assumed this was what Bell considered to be high-speed.

When I did call technical support, I mentioned that my Internet was slow. But all they wanted to do was sell me more services for more fees. They didn’t offer to check to see if I was receiving what I was paying for.

Linda spent more than a month calling and leaving messages, speaking to the wrong people in the wrong departments, before getting Bell’s executive office to investigate and agree to a refund. By that time, she was getting ready to go to small claims court.

Her long and winding road to get action required the persistence of a marathon runner.

The first person who called me was a commercial Internet contact. He transferred me to a residential Internet contact, who wasn’t terribly helpful.

I spoke to her supervisor, who transferred me me to Terry, who transferred me to Todd in the executive office.

Todd was the correct person, but it took us three weeks to connect. He only seemed anxious to get hold of me when I left my last message, saying I would be taking my complaint to Bell CEO George Cope.

Dealing with Bell was like dealing with the government, but in the end I got a satisfactory result.

Bell isn’t alone n being hard to reach. Some Rogers customers also spend hours, weeks, months, on their arduous journey to get resolution and retribution. (You’ll find a story posted below about trying to unlock a Rogers cellphone after ending a contract.)

Are there any short cuts to getting attention? Does Twitter help? How about Facebook? How about YouTube? Have you managed to embarrass a company online?

Please send me your tips on how to jump the queue and reduce the tedium of escalating a complaint at Canada’s big telecom firms.

Author: Ellen Roseman

Consumer advocate and personal finance author and instructor.

4 thoughts on “Send me your tips on how to fight back”

  1. I cancelled my cellphone plan with Rogers, but found that Rogers refused to unlock the cellphone I owned.

    When I moved my service from Rogers to Koodo (way cheaper), I went to Koodo in the Eaton Centre to get the phone number transferred.

    I then went to the Rogers store in the Eaton Centre to ask about the process of buying out the contract.

    Rogers told me to call their 1-866 number to take me through the process. I learned I had to pay the cancellation fee on my iPhone 4S ($550), but Rogers could not unlock the phone.

    Why not? Because by contacting Koodo, I was no longer a Rogers customer — and only customers can ask that the phone be unlocked.

    My only recourse? I would have to reverse the process, become a Rogers customer again, unlock the phone and then cancel. Come on.

    The fact I had to be a customer to have my phone unlocked was not explained to me — ever.

    I had previously checked my contract and online and seen nothing.

    Later, I was advised that there was no posted policy on cancelling, as Rogers does not encourage that to take place.

    So, I paid $550 to cancel Rogers and keep the phone in the process, but they wouldn’t unlock it.

    It took a few weeks, but my phone is FINALLY unlocked. Rogers’ office of the President called it a “misunderstanding” and gave the green light to let it happen.

    I’m not convinced Rogers has adjusted its policies. I will be reviewing Ontario legislation to ensure that unlocking procedures are well covered.

    Rogers doesn’t want any disclosure (and there is none), in order to discourage any movement elsewhere. The process remains less than transparent.

  2. Ellen, just a suggestion…how about starting at the biggest and working your way down? Include in your book a section on the largest purchase one will make, their NEW HOME? The alleged warranty that is a monopoly and the dismal statistical outcome that one faces if you have major structural problems.

  3. Ellen,

    Re: Bell specifically, I have found, over the years of managing my parents’ accout and various services, that the only department outside of the executive office to be able to swiftly, and for the most part, effectively resolve issues is the retention loyalty department.

    Retention is key, as Bell has two other loyalty departments that are more junior to the Retention Loyalty Group. I don’t even bother dealing with anyone else, as they don’t have the power or authority that the Retention Loyalty and executive office folks do.

    I know that you will be dealing with large appliances separately, but here’s some info re: Sears. They, too, have a ‘Presidents Desk’ that is the only department or office that can deal with significant issues or customer complaints that the regular customer service folks can’t.

    They should provide you with the fax number to reach this office, but you need to insist and persist.

    I’ll provide more updates later. I worked in senior management in consumer goods for the bulk of my career, so unfortunately, I have heard many untold stories of poor customer service.

    As a customer or user, I never cease to be amazed at just how poo a job most companies do in delivering customer care, especially those in which the market is a duopoly or oligopoly.

  4. I have been with Rogers for a little more than three years. When I have issues, I have come to realise that dealing with their regular customer service reps is a completely useless exercise.

    I have had a lot of luck dealing with either their Customer Relations (retentions) department or their Facebook page. The reps on their Facebook page have been fabulous with solving my billing issues quickly.

    The added bonus is that by using Facebook, you automatically get things in writing, which can come in handy.

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