Telecom troubles

Two years ago when launching this blog, I was singing the Bell Blues. The song goes on, but now it’s Telecom Troubles.

Lousy customer service is common among telecom providers. People are fed up with long waiting times on the phone and persistent billing errors that can’t seem to be resolved.

When a billing dispute lingers, telecom firms are quick to call in outside bill collectors, threatening to besmirch customers’ credit records.

There’s now a federal agency that handles complaints, but its powers are limited. Just check this confusing chart and tell me how easy it is to decipher. When you use words like “forborne” you’re not speaking the language of the consumer.

So, keep sending me those telecom complaints, since I can usually get them resolved quickly. Companies set up terrible systems to deal with ordinary customers, but they sure know how to get things done when the media are looking over their shoulders.

As for Bell, I’m still hearing frequent tales of woe. I wanted to ask Kevin Crull, president of residential services, about his progress. But alas, he’s not available for an interview, despite several recent requests.

Guess it’s hard to turn around a giant ship when the captains keep changing.

Author: Ellen Roseman

Consumer advocate and personal finance author and instructor.

36 thoughts on “Telecom troubles”

  1. Linda:

    It’s not uncommon for companies to charge an early cancellation fee for promotional offers. As a note for future dealings, if you are signing for a promotion with a company that gives you a discounted rate on a product for a certain period of time, ask about any early cancellation fees. They don’t have to send you a written contract to sign, but they should send you the terms of service and also perhaps a summary of the promotional plan you signed up for, which includes all the fees and whatnot.

    As for Telus, they have a solid reputation for brutal customer service (search online), and with them outsourcing more of their inbound staff to the Far East, expect the problem to get worse. CBC even did a segment about Telus’ poor customer service a few years ago. I doubt much has changed given the constant complaints you read online. As with other big corporations, Telus always blames the media and those “few” who complain for tarnishing their corporate image. LOLZ!

  2. Just use Teksavvy. Of them all, they are the best guys.

    All the blah blah in the world don’t help ya. Bell’s BS almost cost me my life and I proved they owe me 250$ and my own dad 209$. Every government agency knows and has done nothing.
    THEY (GOVT) are useless.

  3. > Lousy customer service is common among telecom providers.

    It may be common but it’s not universal. Like Kevin, above, I’m a satisfied customer of TekSavvy. The people there really care, they have the will, tools and experience to provide superb service. If only Bell and Rogers were 10% as good.

  4. I suppose George (Cope) was impressed with Kevin’s “showmanship” to keep him around a bit longer. With his corner office and bonus already in the bag, I think Kevin’s priority of his imaginary “metric proven customer service” has shifted to deciding what shade of lipstick looks best on George’s ass.

  5. My thoughts: are you talking about the Bell exec team? Well, truth is, every time I contacted Crull’s office things do get resolved and quickly.

    It’s just a shame that I’ve had to reach his office numerous times already to get things done. Most of my complaints should have been resolved at the call centre level.

    However, when you outsource your call centre to a slum where the employees can barely utter a word in English and just don’t have any pride in their work, except to meet volume targets for a fraction of the price it would cost here, that’s when things tend to go bad.

  6. Lior,

    I’m talking about Kevin and his promise to improve services dramatically. It was in 2006 or 2007 that customer furor peaked and he declared himself with rolled up sleeves the “go to guy”.

    Now it’s April 2009 and Bell is just as bad, maybe worse than it’s ever been.

    From the sounds of your troubles to the exec “team”, customer service seems even more bumbling and maybe highlights Kevin’s lack of control and/or management inexperience to tackle those issues. Rick Wagoner school of management, I wonder?

    In my world, those who don’t show any results in the first 60 days get tossed out. Kevin’s on an extended super honeymoon and we’re taking notice.

    As for your luck with the exec team, it’s just that, dumb luck. Customer feedback of their service and billing reconciliation from other sites and this one is nothing stellar. It ranges from satisfactory to plain Mumbai awful.

    Maybe George will seek a government bailout and take out an axe for all the rot that’s in his group. Lots of workers with parasitic tendencies who have overly developed bright kissers are still there.

    For starters some of them are easy to spot – they’re the one’s with pictures of themselves and their managers in the cubicle.

    It’s incredible that given this economic climate that group presidents and their underlings can be still so ineffective, careless and inept in improving customer service. My two cents.

  7. Readers who have recently activated or who have done a hardware upgrade with Bell Mobility should be aware that late payments WILL be reported to a credit bureau. For a long time this was threatened but never done, however, it is now being done.

    Considering accuracy in billing is not one of Bell Mobility’s strong points, be very aware that if you spot an error on your BM invoice and call in to have an agent correct it, you’ll still need to pay the improper amount in full and get the credit on the following bill. If you pay short and remit the difference, it will be considered a late payment and your credit will be affected. If the credit owed to you is large and you do want to simply pay the difference, make sure to advise the CSR you’re dealing with that you want to ensure that no late payment will be reported to a credit bureau as a result of paying less than the total amount owing on your bill.

  8. Hi Ellen:

    I just sent good old Kevin another email about Bell, this time about their telemarketing calls. They are coming 2-3x a day now. I mentioned in my email that we are on the DNCL, but because we are customers they can harass us. I also mentioned that I was unable to block this particular telemarketer’s # through my Bell Services: hmmmm. Just sent that email tonight, after the 3rd call today. I said I doubt that your telemarketing company is calling to reduce my bill, they wouldn’t be calling at all. I’ll see what kind of response I get from his office. If I get a call, I’m going to neogiate our phone bill down!

  9. Just a quick update before I head out the door this morning. Received a call from Bell’s Executive Office about my complaint email sent yesterday evening. They must be really on top of reading the emails. Might be running scared.

    Don’t have time to call back today, so I will follow up tomorrow and see what they do for me! After all, this phone has been active for 44 years.

  10. Just got off the phone with someone at the Bell “executive offices”, who indicated that my numbers have been placed on the internal do not call list. That should work, if they update it more regularly than every 30 days.

  11. Apparently they do not update their internal call lists daily. “They,” Bell’s call centre, called today.

  12. I received a cell phone bill from Telus for approx $140 today, for a plan that should have cost me $50/month, plus service fee of $6.95.

    When I talked to a customer service representative back in January to express my problems about my Blackberry Pearl not working (and I phoned in almost every month with a new problem), they bargained with me and I received another phone (downgraded Blackberry for $50, because my 1 year warranty expired a week before my call, but i was in the store before that & the sales rep said there was no need to bring my phone in & the troubleshooting on the phone with a representative was all I needed).

    After continuously arguing with customer service reps, I decided I should re-negotiate my cell phone bill as it’s typically $90/month in the past.

    After re-negotiations, I received what I thought was a good deal of $50/month, but obviously there was miscommunication between myself & the representative.

    Needless to say, I am really ticked off with Telus & the way they have handled the situation… every year I need to get a new phone because mine all of a sudden stop working (functions don’t work, software problems, etc.)

    I haven’t dropped the phones, bought protectors for them and have taken good care of them. I’ve paid them lots of money, being a long term client for the past 5-6 years & when I threatened to cancel my contract in Jan all that I had to pay was $450, now they are telling me $600 + my current bill.

    I think this is VERY unacceptable as a long term client who pays my bills on time (except for once). Now the phone I received in Jan is not functioning properly (and I had to pay $50 to downgrade from my Blackberry Pearl, which I believe I should have gotten a new Blackberry Pearl for no cost!).

    Please Ellen is there anything you can do to help me? I believe Telus is a good company. I’ve been with them for a long time & it would be a shame to go somewhere else.

  13. Be aware:

    The fact that Bell Mobility reports to a credit bureau your payment habits is nothing new among wireless carriers. When I helped my father get his credit-report from Equifax, he was surprised to find a trade line from Rogers Wireless reporting how he pays his mobile.

    So, yes, it is important to remind people out there who don’t pay their wireless accounts in full every month: your payment habits are reported to a credit bureau, and paying your bill consistently late will affect your credit score.

    I think I was a little bit too grand when it comes to praising Fido. Ellen helped me sort out a big mess on my first wireless bill with them. If you are migrating with any carrier from pre-paid to post-paid, watch the fees!

    When I went on the contract, I changed my phone number. Fido charged me an additional fee ($25) on top of the activation fee to change my number to a new one – twice! In addition, they charged me full price for the handset when in fact I suppose to pay only $50 for it because I went on a 2 year contract.

    Of course, all of this was hidden by a salad of credits and charges on the bill. I mean, you literally have to be an accountant to go through all the numbers and try to understand how they arrived at them. I guess it’s no wonder because Fido, having been acquired by Rogers, is now using the same billing platform as Rogers.

    Bottom line – watch your bill carefully.

    And this is also another helpful note for Fido subscribers on a plan: they $2 charge for paper bills. If you are thinking of signing up with Fido and going on a contract, make sure you ask to be put on online billing right away to avoid extra charges.

  14. Ellen, I would just like to say thank you for all of your help!!! I was contacted by a Telus executive & he helped me out a lot. Thanks again!!

  15. Does Bell Mobility report all accounts to the credit bureaus where payment is concerned, or just newly activated accounts and hardware upgrades?

    For instance, for an old account with Bell Mobility (since 2001), if a phone number change is done now, will that account also be reported to credit bureaus with regards to payments?

  16. “Does Bell Mobility report all accounts to the credit bureaus where payment is concerned, or just newly activated accounts and hardware upgrades?”

    They report virtually all wireless accounts that are active on their network. The logic is post-paid plans are like a revolving credit line – you pay after you use the service and in many cases there is no limit on how much you can use your handset.

    That’s why when you go on a post-paid plan, all carriers will perform a credit check before opening an account for you. Even if you have a fixed amount of minutes with your plan, there is limit in place that will just cut off your service once you go over those minutes. The wireless carriers, in turn, have to trust that you’ll pay for whatever service you’ve used up.

    As wireless is essentially a discretionary expense for most people (unless perhaps you run a business and absolutely require access to a mobile), wireless providers are taking a risk that a customer would pay back the charges.

    Unlike utility bills or rent/mortgage, which are considered fixed expenses as a person needs to pay for shelter and can’t really live with no heat, water, or hydro, wireless is considered a luxury. It is not something that many people actually need, but rather want.

    As such, you have to prove that you are trustworthy to repay the charges you incur when they become due. After all, when personal finances are tight, if a person for example has rent, hydro, and mobile bill due at the same time and they can’t afford to pay them all, under most logical circumstances, what items are they more likely to pay off first?

  17. In the above post, third paragraph, I meant to say there is NO limit in place on your usage. Ideally there should be one. Fido, for example, is kind of half way there by sending you a text message when you reached 75% of your allotted airtime. Note, however, that Fido states they’re under no obligation to ensure that you actually receive this text message and stay within your airtime. You’ll still be responsible for any extra charges you incur whether you receive this text message or not.

  18. Lior: Koodo has something like that; my koodo bill goes as high as $200, and once it hits that it gets cut off. Unfortunately their call center has been closed all weekend despite the recording saying their hours are from 9am to 7pm on weekends, and even their website say 12pm to 5pm on Sundays. Lots of inconsistencies, unfortunately.

  19. With regards to telecom troubles, clearly Rogers and Bell are the devil. I am currently with Teksavvy after Bell’s blues (double billing, cutting off service, technicians all from India who can’t speak English and rude as hell), but buyer beware.

    Teksavvy is good, I have only had my service cut off once. Pretty cheap too and fast downloads as well.

    However, their customer service is horrendous. Or, to be more accurate, it’s very “Canadian” since they’re rude and sarcastic.

    I complained to their manager via e-mail, who only responded that if I didn’t like them I could go with Bell or Rogers. You’ve got to love sarcasm like that.

    After all, anything is better than Rogers and Bell, but would it really cost you anything to be courteous to the people who help you get a paycheque? Nah!

  20. Hi, I am wondering if being overcharged on several occasions is grounds to get out of a Telus cell-phone contract?

    There are several other issues/reasons to cancel but this is the latest. Any information is greatly appreciated!

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