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.