What I’m hearing from readers

May 7 2009 by Ellen Roseman

Thanks to this website, which received a record 256,000 hits last month, I’m getting more complaints and inquiries from readers than ever before.

Many people find me while doing a Google search for a specific subject. Here are the most popular searches in April, according to my website statistics:

— Wholesale energy scam (34)
— Direct Energy (31)
— QuickTax 2008 (31)
— Bell vs Rogers (18)
— Direct Energy scam (13)
— Bell (13)
— Aeroplan vs Air Miles (11)
— CIBC exchange rate (10)
— Rogers (10)

I love the emails that start this way: “I was looking for an ombudsman at Bell … or Rogers… and found your website.” That’s how many folks find their way here. Welcome, everyone. Too bad the telcos don’t believe in hiring an ombudsman.

My readers give me a wealth of material. What I can’t use in my Star columns often goes on this blog. Wish I had more time to do more frequent updates.

I’m posting some of the more interesting or offbeat complaints I’ve received lately. Hope you enjoy reading them.

34 comments

  1. MS

    May 8 2009

    I have been a Niagara-area Cogeco cable high speed internet customer for years, and, according to them, I am one of those voracious internet black holes sucking all of the bandwidth traffic away from “normal” users with my excessive usage.

    Besides the normal common internet activities, I download and upload unreleased music and music video recordings (but not illegally copyrighted materials). With my service package, my bandwidth usage cap is 60 gigs (about 15 dvd videos), with an allowance of near 100 before the bandwidth warnings appear.

    I usually use this allotment in full and shut the file-sharing down until a reset of usage at the beginning of the next month if I reach the 100G level.

    Now, without any warning save an email, Cogeco has decided to place a hard cap of 60G and charge $2.50 surcharge for each additional gigabyte of usage (a whopping $10 or so per dvd, to a maximum listed charge).

    In effect, this is a reduction of my alloted 100G to 60G, a huge percentage reduction in allowed service. If I pay for overage, that’s an additional fee almost doubling the existing rate for the same exorbitant service.

    It’s even more onerous for the lesser (in speed and quality) tier of service – a whopping $3.50 per gig, leaving those poor people to exceed the payments required for even the regular high speed service.

    It seems that this can ONLY be a blatant money grab – I certainly don’t think that the CBC and other networks can be happy about internet service providers. in effect, fatally compromising their revised business models of internet content delivery due to such unfathomable tariffs by the internet providers.

    The math is easy – pick a tv series, multiply by the number of episodes at their respective GB sizes and subtract from the hard cap.

    The offered solution is to step up to a more expensive package with an extended bandwidth allowance (interestingly at 100Gb!).

    It has been said in the past that the solution is available and relatively simple – increase capacity through capital investment, but obviously the easy way is to mercilessly gouge their customers.

    As usual, it is difficult to change providers, since the only alternatives are small independent outfits dependent on Bell’s merciless traffic-shaped resale bandwidth, slow dialup services, or hugely more expensive commercial grade packages. But I’m certainly shopping around, as should everyone victimized by this greed.

    This is a disgusting turn of events, as the Google-sourced discussions indicate – a lack of Government oversight, the absence of an open competive marketplace, and the unbelievable and endemic greed of these companies, especially in these dire economic times.

    Will our voices be heard, and will they make a difference? We’ll see.

    Thanks for letting me vent, and hopefully you can find a worthy topic here for your column.

    ————————————————————
    Hi Ellen,

    Here’s the story behind Mr. S’s letter to you:

    Starting in April, we announced that we would invoice any additional GB a customer would download past their bit cap allotment (download limit).

    We sent letters to all our customers informing them we were initiating this process and explaining the timeline, the fees, the way it would work and what options they had if they wanted to manage their usage or change their packages.

    We also provided customers with easy and secure access to a means of tracking their usage throughout the month. This is another means by which we can manage our network for the greatest benefit of the greatest number of customers.

    The fact is that we have always stated user capacity expectations: each of our High Speed Internet (HSI) packages clearly lays out how many GB are allotted.

    Up to now, we had not charged our customers because the usage patterns did not require us to. Prior to this announcement in April, a customer like Mr. S who downloaded more than his allotted bit cap (for example, more than 60 GB for our HSI Standard package, which Mr. S subscribes to) was not charged for the extra GB, except in some extreme cases of excessive use where we may have contacted a customer to notify them of their usage and its potentially negative impact on their neighbours.

    All our customers have now been informed and we have provided them a 2 month notice before we actually charge any extra GB to give them the time to decide how they want to manage their usage. Therefore, no additional charges will be paid before June.

    They can keep track of their usage in an easy, simple way on their profile in my.cogeco.ca/myaccount.

    So under our new system, Mr. S would start being billed an additional $1.50 per GB after he passed his 60GB limit in one calendar month (i.e. at 61GB he’d have $1.50 added to the bill) up to a maximum of $30 additional charges.

    The maximum limits the financial risks, so no customers will receive a large bill out that they don’t expect.

    Usage gets reset to 0GB on the 1st day of each calendar month. If Mr. S also subscribes to our Digital Telephony, it does not count in the monthly GB total – it’s a separate service.

    So Mr. S doesn’t actually see a reduction in his bitcap – he was always a High Speed Internet Standard customer who had a 60 GB limit and used more.

    Of course, Mr. S can always upgrade to the High Speed Internet Pro package, which gives him a 100 GB limit (a summary of our packages can be found at: http://www.cogeco.com/en/high-speed-internet-_o.html). Any extra GB in this package would cost him $1 each up to $50.

    Cogeco Cable is not doing this for revenue: it is only a small minority of our customers who use a lot more than their limit. And any revenue we make from this new policy would be reinvested in managing and enhancing our High Speed Internet services.

    Invoicing customers for extra GB downloaded is about us managing our networks and ensuring that the vast majority of our HSI customers are able to get the quality of service which they are paying for.

    And finally, I’d like to add that Cogeco Cable is not a monopoly. There are other Internet Service Providers in Cogeco’s footprint and Cogeco also complies with CRTC regulation to offer resellers access to our network to resell Cogeco services. We believe our packages are fairly priced.

    Best regards,

    Catherine Pleau

    Conseillère, Communications d’entreprise / Advisor, Corporate Communications
    COGECO inc.
    Montréal QC H3B 0B3

  2. Niraj Chandra

    May 8 2009

    Ellen: Would you like to take on the drug companies?

    During my research, I discovered that one of the biggest ripoffs is the over-prescription of Cholesterol medication.

    Read all about it at: http://www.wecanadians.com.

    Drug companies make billions of dollars out of this business. The research on the subject is questionable because it has all been done by the drug companies. In many cases, there are serious side effects and questionable benefits.

    Of course, it’s OK if someone with a history of heart problems needs this medication but there are millions of others who don’t.

  3. Apostille

    May 9 2009

    Wow such a huge number of hits you got.

  4. Cynthia

    May 9 2009

    The Irony of Bell. I just read the email from the downsized Bell employee. When I first complained about the phone outage, and lack of communication when 800 people were affected (that’s a lot of people for this city), I got a response from a lady in Quebec. I have to agree with the agent from Ontario, having a conversation with her was difficult, English was not her first language and she struggled to express herself. When I submitted a second complaint to bell and I got a call, it was from Ontario, the individual I spoke with was able to properly express herself in English. I think if Bell is doing what this individual is indicating then they should expect a backlash as bad, if not worst than what they experience when people can not get their issues resolved with dealing with their call centres in India. Here’s hoping Bell would actually listing to their customers. They are probably getting some kind of subsidy to bring jobs to Quebec. I’m sure that will come out in the news down the road.

  5. Lior

    May 10 2009

    Just called Bell about two weeks ago about a credit not being applied to one of my accounts. It’s quite remarkable how Bell charges certain items to your bill right away (in my case, a refundable security deposit for the receiver, which they said will reimburse the following month) and yet they take their sweet time to actually applying the credit to your account. I’m not in the business to lend Bell money for free, just to pay for the services that I use and nothing more.

    I called the E.O. because I was getting nowhere with their call center staff. One guy was telling me one thing, another guy telling me another thing, another one was telling me I shouldn’t expect any credit. The person I reached was a contact in the Executive Office that I dealt with before over a year ago. This time she was quite rude, telling me she can’t deal with the matter because she’s on an “important assignment” and she transferred me right away a Bell TV office here in Ontario I assume to speak with someone about the matter (turned out they indeed owe me just over $100 in credits which she promised to apply this coming bill – we’ll see if that happens). I’m like seriously considering transferring some of my services from them.

  6. FM

    May 11 2009

    For Lior…

    If you are on the “One Bill” system, Bell will credit your TV account, which takes probably three billing cycles to hit the “One Bill”. When they CHARGE you, they manage to hit the “One Bill” right away…amazing.

    I had this same problem, and was informed by the EO to insist the credit be applied at the “One Bill” level, and NOT the TV level, if you want the credit right away.

    They will give you a rough time, saying they are not authorized to do this, but insist they get a supervisor and do it anyway!

  7. Cynthia

    May 11 2009

    Imagine my surprise this morning when I open an email from Bell for my internet service with an amount owing of $39 and change a month.

    I agreed to a 3 year contract where my bill would be $35 and change. No notice that my account was going to be increased. I am cheesed.

    Sending another nasty email off to Kevin to get my billing back to where I agreed to.

  8. Lior

    May 12 2009

    FM: I told these idiots to put all my services on one bill but not to add the so-called bundle discount because I know that with some companies, bundling your services together and receiving a discount basically ties you to a fixed term contract. Obviously, for the sake of simplicity, I’d like to have my telephone service, Internet, and TV charges all on one bill so that I could pay it off in its entirety every month and not go through all the hassle of dealing with different account numbers. If they want to give me a discount for bundled services no strings attached, fine.

    For the past two months, however, I have received 3 bills with 3 different account numbers despite the fact that I’ve asked them to put all the services on one bill from the start. But they don’t listen.

    The credit issue is always something that bothered me and I hope Ellen pursues it further. Why charge me a refundable credit which they expect me to pay in cash right away and then I have to wait for three months for a programming *credit* on my bill? Why not just send me a cheque OR refund the amount back to my credit card (if I decide to use it instead of having the charge processed to my telephone bill) within ONE billing period? I’d also be looking to see if they will refund the tax portion they charged on the refundable credit.

    Cynthia: I *think* it may have something to do with Bell increasing the amount of the modem rental fee. You see, you can’t buy a modem from Bell and eliminate the rental fee altogether. They only rent them out and usually charge separately from your Internet service.

  9. Cynthia

    May 12 2009

    To Lior:

    I don’t pay a modem rental fee. So that’s not the issue.

    My bill does not show a modem charge. If there was a charge, it should show.

    I’m waiting to hear from the executive office for resolution. I refuse to pay $48 more a year than I agreed to pay starting in 2007.

  10. Lior

    May 12 2009

    CS:

    I admire you, sir. Keep breaking their balls because they wholeheartedly deserve it. I don’t think there has even been an instance where Ellen got involved and it turned out there wasn’t an issue. There is always an issue. It’s just that so many people pay their bills without even looking at the charges.

    It’s no wonder that whenever I call Bell, virtually every phone call typically ends up with “Bell offers you a convenient pre-authorized payment plan. Would you like to sign up now?” Imagine how many people out there blindly pay their bills and all the mistakes that come with it and never notice how they’re giving away money they don’t even owe.

    Cynthia:

    I still think the charge is the increased rental fee of the modem, which in your case may be bundled into the whole package, but let us know when you find out for sure.

  11. Lior

    May 13 2009

    CS: If you are getting a good connection with Bell, why not inquire with Teksavvy if they are available in your area?

    While I understand you’re pursuing the matter on principle, Teksavvy provide you with 200 gigs for $29.99 a month, or an unlimited bandwidth account for $39.99.

    The only catch is you have to buy the modem from them ($60 one-time charge, I believe) or provide your own DSL modem.

    If Bell are being so arrogant about it, just take your business elsewhere. It’s just not worth the aggravation.

    As you’ve said, you’re retired. You shouldn’t have to stress over b.s. like this.

  12. BargainMoose Canada

    May 15 2009

    I like seeing real-life customer complaints Ellen.
    Maybe your blog could be as popular as The Consumerist some day :

  13. Cynthia

    May 15 2009

    As I was searching the CRTC website to file a complaint against Bell for their breaking my contract. I was directed to this website: http://www.ccts-cprst.ca/en/Wiki.jsp?page=Membership

    You can file a complaint against Bell here if you have already attempted to resolve the issue with them. Rogers, Shaw and Eastlink are also members. There is a list of members.

    I sent a 2nd email to Kevin Crull’s office today, saying if I didn’t have a response by the end of business today, Fri. May 15th 5pm, I was filing a complaint. I’ll keep you posted.

    Might actually need Ellen’s help with this one.

  14. Cynthia

    May 15 2009

    Issue resolved, somewhat. It was a modem rental increase.

    Guess it helps to know that you actually have to go to download bill to see your line by line items.

    The EO tried to say that everyone was notified of the increase. I advised that was not true, nor did I feel they had the right to increase my costs during the middle of my contract.

    If you’ve had a modem/router for almost 4 years, it should be considered yours, to be honest. So I am getting my fee back to what my contract should be. If it’s not properly credited, I will be calling Joel back.

    It should be noted that he called at 4:42 pm on Friday of a long weekend. They obviously read the letter in its entirety as they knew that I was going to CC Ellen.

    I know when my exact contract ends and I will negotiate next round to pay no modem fees and keep my rate.

  15. Lior

    May 18 2009

    So I was right.

    For the record, I just got my bill for the Internet for this month, and it includes the new price for the modem rental. Like you, I was never notified by Bell and only learned about it through this site, as well DSLreports.com

    I’m expecting another call back from the E.O. this week and I will work out a similar deal to have the new fee eliminated, as I’m on a one-year agreement with them.

    If not, I’ll be leaving right away, just for the principle and because I think that $4 a month to rent a modem is a ripoff, especially when they don’t give you the option to buy the modem or use your own.

  16. Cynthia

    May 18 2009

    Lior, you were right, the biggest problem was I never got a paper bill and I never realized that, in order to see your bill correctly, you needed to download it in pdf to see the “true” bill.

    It should be laid out right there and I told the guy that. I actually had someone from Ottawa call me. I could see my credit right away online. So at least that was done.

  17. Been

    Oct 30 2009

    I would like to comment on the complaint about ACN. I am a customer. SATISFIED CUSTOMER..

    In response to the complaints of HR:

    The $305 for the video phone is totally wrong. It cost me $99 for the phone and set up fee plus the first month $24.99 a month (the $24.99 a month replaced my land line, keeping the same number, which was costing me $37) and with the video phone I have NO long distance charges. So, my monthly fee for the phone is $24.99 and NO long distance charge.

    If you switch back and there is a disconnect fee… what’s new? Any of your services: internet or cell phones, etc. have the same “termination fee” in your contract. And mentioning contracts, reread your contract. Even check it out online — it clearly states “with a 2-yr contract” just as your cell contracts, TV, etc. state.

    So, ACN doesn’t do anything more than the rest of your services elswhere do. You cannot blame ACN for not reading your contract.

    HR states: ” All the cordless phones and the video phone provide poor quality; it intermittently cuts in and out.”

    This is probably due to poor internet service. Has nothing to do with the video phone. Mine is clear and no delays and as a grandmother I use it DAILY. I have one at my business and use it daily. I take mine travelling and out of the country (Cancun.. etc.) and no problems whatsoever.

    “- You could even hear your own voice echoing when you were talking to someone else on the line.”

    Again, cells do this, also, at times. Has nothing to do with the video phone itself.

    “- My previous phone company charged me $22.49 for VOIP services and ACN charged me $305.27 for the first month and $37.28 after that.”

    Your first month’s charge is higher than mine and anyone else’s I know. Again, I paid $99 for the phone, then with shipping, set up fee and the first month’s bill my total was $201. And so has everyone else that I know of. Never, ever did anyone pay over $201 that I know of.. and I know a lot of people who have this service from FL to CA to Canada.

    “- ACN Iris 3000 video phone hijacked my phone line. Everything is connected to the phone. If I try to move the phone around, the rest of the phones are dead.”

    Sounds like you are trying to blame the video phone for a lot of other problems. This is not true.. it does NOT hijack other phones. I have the video phone and 5 other cordless phones in the house and they all work just fine.

    “- The video phone uses a lot of electricity to power it; I had to shut down every night to save my electricity bill from going over my head.”

    Oh, wow, this is going over and above… it takes no more power than computers, cell chargers, etc. This guy is just making up complaints… must have nothing better to do.

    “- I have cables running back and forth under my sofa.”

    Put the phone somewhere else. This is not ACN’s fault that you don’t know how to arrange your stuff. Where is your computer? Are those wires under your couch? If not, put the phone where the computer is. Problem solved.

    “This company profits from misrepresentation.”

    THIS IS A LIE. They have NOT mispresented the profits at all. Ask my attorney who did the research for me and my company. I could give you a list of people who are making money left and right and personal friends of mine… as well as yours truly… I bet you don’t have an income monthly coming in from anywhere else that would pay a $42,00 mortgage every month — and then some, without having to touch your paycheck?

    So, this site allows complaints and I am hoping it will allow rebuttals.

    And for the rest of you out there, don’t believe all you hear from me or the complainers… check it out and do your own research — or do as I did — hire an attorney or researcher to look into it before you believe anyone about anything.