That $2.80 touch tone charge on Bell bills

May 26 2010 by Ellen Roseman

Why do Bell customers pay $2.80 a month for touch tone service? Rotary phones are still around, but you can’t get a rotary phone hooked up in a new installation.

Last week, the CRTC ordered Bell to reimburse a select group of customers who weren’t supposed to be charged for touch tone service. The refund mechanism needs work, alas. But the decision is welcome.

Andrew Cyr was promised he’d never be charged for touch tone. Bell did grandfather him for many years, but arbitrarily added the charge last year (maybe thinking he wouldn’t notice). See his story below.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre has details of the CRTC decision here. If you’re owed a refund, make sure to put in your claim.

15 comments

  1. Cynthia

    May 26 2010

    So does this mean existing Bell customers who have been paying this charge should be seeing a credit on their bill?

    We have been paying it for over 20 years. I think we should get at least 15 years worth of credit back for this charge.

  2. Arthur Cyr

    May 26 2010

    Below is an email sent to Jim Myers of Bell:

    I personally have had a Bell phone for over 45 years. We moved into our current residence in 1988.

    We never applied for Touch-Tone service when it became available in our area. We were advised at some point that our area had been converted completely to Touch-Tone and that we had no choice but to use it.

    Since we had not requested the service, we declined to pay the charge and were told at the time that we would not be charged as long as we remained at this location (“grandfathered”).

    This went on until May 2009 at which point, without our knowledge, Bell began charging us $2.80 per month plus tax for Touch-Tone service.

    I called your “Customer Service” and was told repeatedly that I had no choice. I guess your intransigence worked in my case, as I didn’t want to waste any more of my time arguing with people who were well trained to ignore the question.

    Fast-Forward to April 19, 2010: We received a letter signed by you which, surprise, surprise, would indicate that you had no legal right to begin charging for Touch-Tone service as of April 22, 2009.

    Obviously, the CRTC has taken Bell to task on this issue. I have a number of issues relating to the current status initiated by your letter.

    Your letter, surprisingly, had no date on it (not very professional but understandable given your motives), yet it specified that I can have these charges reversed upon meeting the three criteria shown (which I obviously do) and by contacting Bell within the next 60 days – obviously a trap for someone who doesn’t respond in a timely manner – 60 days from when?

    On April 19th, the date I received your undated letter, I called 310-BELL and spoke to a person named Garoldine in the Philippines. She was very pleasant but pleaded ignorance to the existence of this letter.

    I was quite insistent and she put me on hold while she spoke to her supervisor, Stephane, in Montreal. She repeated “gobbledy-gook” from Stephane, e.g., the former service was no longer available (I was already told that over 10 years ago and was “grandfathered”), I had to be on an old-style party line for me to continue getting this service at no charge, etc., etc.

    I specifically asked to speak to Stephane directly and she said that that could not be done!

    Yet, on your web site, it specifically indicates that if you are not satisfied with your service from the representative, you can ask for your call to be escalated to a supervisor. I guess the catchword here is “ask – the fact is it is probably never allowed.

    Not satisfied with my previous encounter with your “customer service”, I called again on April 20th and spoke to Ashley in Hamilton. What luck.

    Ashley was aware of your letter and proceeded to explain what I would be losing if I reverted back to the old service. I told her I did not request or need Touch-Tone service and wanted Bell to abide by the CRTC directions and reverse the charge and cease and desist charging for this in the future. She reluctantly accepted and indicated I would see a credit on my next bill.

    Not unexpectedly, I received my May 16 bill on May 18th and there was no credit and no change to the charges!

    So, on May 19th, I called your “Customer Service” again and spoke to Soho in Costa Rica. He appeared to have a recap of my previous calls in front of him based on his responses.

    This time we got to the business at hand a little faster without as much “gobbledy-gook” as he assumed I’d heard the story before. He, like Ashley, agreed that Bell would give me one year’s credit at $2.80 per month (plus tax) and reduce my monthly charge accordingly.

    At this point, I was not clear on how long we had been paying the extra $2.80 and told Soho that if I had been paying for over 12 months I wanted full credit. My first bill was pro-rated from April 22, 2009 to my billing date of May 16, 2009 and then the $2.80 for May 16 – June 16 was also on the same bill.

    I FULLY EXPECT credit for ALL of the unauthorized payments!
    I find it difficult to comprehend why a company of your stature would put your reputation at risk for a lousy $2.80 per month.

    Obviously, depending on the numbers, it could be a significant amount of money, but how many neighbourhoods did this actually affect in this manner? Eventually, when I have to change my service, you will get your money then.

    Adding the Touch-Tone service was mandatory, so there was no additional cost to providing me the unrequested service. However, as a regular reader of Ellen Roseman’s column in the Toronto Star, I should not be surprised as Bell is mentioned often.

    I look forward to receiving our full credit and the elimination of the monthly charge on our June 16, 2010 bill.

  3. Arthur Cyr again

    May 26 2010

    This is the reply from Bell.

    —– Original Message —–
    From: “James Myers”
    Sent: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 11:16 AM
    Subject: Re: Touch-Tone Service

    Dear Mr. Cyr,

    Thank you for taking the time to forward me your concerns regarding your Bell Home Phone account.

    On behalf of Bell, I would like to apologize for any inconvenience this situation may have caused you.

    A Customer Relations Associate from my team will be contacting you to do everything possible to ensure your concerns are addressed and resolved.

    Your continued patience is truly appreciated. Thank you.

    Sincerely,

    James Myers
    Senior Vice-President
    Bell Residential Services

  4. Ellen Roseman

    May 26 2010

    No, Cynthia, this doesn’t apply to all Bell customers who paid the touch tone charge, but only to those who kept their rotary service or were switched involuntarily.

  5. bylo

    May 27 2010

    > On behalf of Bell, I would like to apologize for any inconvenience this situation may have caused you.

    “May” have caused? Huh? More Bhell b*llsh*t. The customer relates a long litany of failed communications with his drones and the best this Senior VP can apologize for is “any” inconvenience that the customer “may” have been caused? Mr Myers, get rid of those useless marketing spin doctors and replace them with people who are empowered to serve your customer.

    P.S. I’ve been on a grandfathered pulse line for the past 40+ years. I’ll be watching my bills like a hawk in case Bhell tries to pull this stunt on my line. And just so you know, Jim, such attempts on Bhell’s part will most definitely cause me inconvenience. OK?

  6. Lior

    May 27 2010

    Aww ZAH, you settled too cheap. I have the same package, plus I got them to give me an additional 40GB of bandwidth free (total bandwidth is 65 gigs). It’s enough for my usage and I actually get the full 6 mbits for speed.

    But I’m surprised their “Fibe” bull$%#& isn’t available in my area. This is a recently developed area. One would think it should have the latest technology installed in the ground to deliver a better speed than that.

    I called Rogers and they were offering almost the same package but for more money and that’s with a discount. So I figured for $31 a month + tax, it ain’t too shabby. Bear in mind I’m paying less now than when I first signed up for high speed Internet back in 1997.

  7. Ellie White

    Jan 14 2011

    I called Bell and asked them to remove the touch tone charge. I do not understand why any customer has to be this absurd charge.

    Bell is making millions per month on the touch tone charge alone.

    I thought there were laws against MONOPOLIES??!! I truly wish the government would step up and regulate Bell (and Rogers for that matter) and get rid of all these unjustified charges. Some day??

  8. Eric Tran

    Sep 25 2011

    Wow. I just contacted a Bell service provider, and they told me that the touch-tone charge is mandatory….

    Are you kidding me?

  9. Luba

    Oct 19 2011

    I just received the additional charge from Bell:

    Residence line — Monthly rate $1.62 for 34 days amount $1.84.

    By order #CRo1o8o8 Addition

    What is it? Is this another mandatory charge on top of the touch-tone charge? Check your bill and send a complaint!!!

  10. Caroline

    Jan 6 2012

    I just tried to cancel my touch tone service and was told is was mandatory for my phone to work. All my phones have a “pulse” option.

    Any one succeed in removing the touch tone service?

  11. Bob

    Jul 7 2012

    Is it time or is it possible to take Bell to court with a class action suit concerning their Touch-Tone service charge??

  12. Donna

    May 19 2013

    I just don’t get this charge. If it’s mandatory for the phone to work, then why are we being charged?

    It makes no sense to me. it’s not like we have a choice to change services. they need to remove the service altogether.

    I agree with Bob. I hope someone starts a class action against Bell for all these services fees that are mandatory and, according to them, required by CRTC.

  13. Julie McGrath

    Aug 15 2014

    All of you guys are right! Bell sucks. However, people who work in the call centres have to follow a protocol and say what they have to say, even though it is not their fault.

    Let’s be professional. And if you are that angry, ask for a manager while on the call. They will ALWAYS take you to their manager.