Yesterday we learned of my quandary with Bell Mobility who seemed to have overcharged me for a phone that was no longer on their network. Today we learn just how obfuscated this can all become.
Billing a Number Not On Network
Billing for a service that was not delivered was the first point I brought up with the young lady from Bell which I spoke to. I attempted to remain well behaved and was not rude, since that is the first rule of negotiating with a customer service agent (if you want to succeed, keep your cool, stick to your guns but don’t swear, or you automatically lose).
I pointed out that my wife’s cellular phone was no longer on the Bell network, however it took about 10 minutes for the service agent to confirm that yes the phone had been “suspended” from the network. That term “suspended” worried me, so I probed about what that meant, and she pointed out that the phone goes to “suspended” when it is ported out of their network and then a month later it is in “Removed” state (remember that part it is important).
I then pressed the point about why was I being billed the entire month for a number no longer on the network. My service agent wasn’t very clear on that so she went away to get the exact details (this took about 15 minutes on hold) and when she finally returned the answer left me with a very sour taste in my mouth.
Evidently in the Bell system, if you have your number transferred to a different carrier the number “stays on the books” with bell for a month, and thus the consumer is obligated to pay for that number for that entire billing period. That was kind of what I expected, so I then made an assumption and asked, “So it will not show up on my bill next month, correct?”, silence again. More consultations on hold were held, and when my agent returned I was told, No, I would be billed for the next period as well, since the 30 days “on the system” was linear time and thus it overlapped into the next billing period so I have to pay for it for two months. I asked for that to be repeated, and it sounded just as much like a rip off the second time. I asked if there was anything that could be done (for a long time customer) to waive that fee, but was told brusquely, No!
This is your warning that if you plan on moving away from a Bell Contract figure out when your billing period is and transfer your phone out as close to the end of that period as you can, to try to mitigate the penalty fees you will incur.
Changing My Service Package
After failing miserably on my first point I continued on my discussions about how MY phone had been transferred into a strange billing package, which ended up charging me $22 extra for text messaging. The service agent was not sure, so she disappeared on hold again to go find out, and when she returned she implied (but did not say directly) that I must have changed service packages and that was why.
At this point I could have flown into a rage and pointed out how screwed up that was and how that was just WRONG, but I managed to keep my cool and I pointed out that the change in service package happened on the exact same day that my wife’s phone moved over to the Telus network. Silence for a few seconds was my answer, and then another prolonged wait on hold, for more consultations about what I had just said.
My agent returned again, to say, yes in fact the service package had been changed on that day, but I must have done it when I called in the phone number transfer for my wife’s phone. My response to that statement was that I did not actually call that in, the nice people at Telus did all that for us, so I did not agree or ask to have my service package changed then. Silence for a few seconds, another pause on hold to consult.
Upon return I was told that yes, that must have been what happened however, Bell had tried to call me to tell me I HAD to change my service package and what did I want to change it to? I pointed out that I didn’t receive any calls like that, and no messages were left on my phone (or text messages on my remaining form), but my agent was determined to tell me that someone had tried to call me.
I continued my statement of the fact that Bell had put me in a service package without my ok and now was attempting to gouge $22 in services from me that I was not going to pay for. My agent said she needed to consult a bit more, and disappeared on hold again.
Upon her return her tone seemed to change and she said that Bell would be willing to “forgive” the charges for this past month and she would now help me to put me into a Service Package to my liking. Quick thinking on my part caused me to point out, “I am not prepared to make this a NEW contract, my contract has expired and I am happy to not renew at this time”, causing more silence and a return to the land of “On Hold”.
Finally a return, and a confirmation that yes this was not going to be a new contract and I was put into a package that should fit my usage needs (I suspect it is going to be a lot more expensive than I want to pay, but I still have the option to “Vote with My Feet” next year). After about 66 minutes, I finally hung up with $22 back in my pocket and a very sour taste in my mouth.
Will I stay with Bell? For the next few months I guess, but as soon as the new Wireless Carriers in Canada come on line, I will be looking into what they offer and more likely than not will be leaving Bell for a cheaper Wireless service.
Bell offers a service that you can call their retention department 30 days prior to porting your number to give them a heads up. They will add a special option on your account and when you port out your number the line cancels right away instead of continuing to be billed for 30 days.
I hate to break the news, but in case no one has noticed, to my knowledge as of 2009 all 3 incumbents in Canada charge a 30 day cancellation policy, meaning you have to give them 30 day notice or suffer their wrath. Ah the joy of (un)competition.
As for being billed for 2 months, that is not entirely true. You are only billed for 30 days, but depending when your billing date shows up it may seems as if your being billed 2 months. IE: Your billing date is on the 10th but you ported your number on the 15th of October. Your October bill will show a charge from the 10th of Oct to the 9th Oct (you get charged a month ahead), your November bill will again show a charge from the 10th of Nov to the 9th of Dec, but then on your Dec bill you get a credit from the 15th of Nov to the 9th of Dec.
And that is well documented and of course, the customer service serf told me all about that as well? Um…. no… great to have all these alleged policies but if they are hidden from the consumer, what is the point of them?
The company I work for used to service the equipment in Bell World stores and it was not uncommon for the place to be filled with irate cell phone customers. It’s a wonder some of those poor salespeople ever made any money.
We still have to deal with Bell in many other facets and the bottom line is that Bell is a dinosaur that should be extinct. They are slow to respond, will blame anyone OTHER than themselves for a problem, and are just a huge pain in the ass to deal with.
The only reason they are still in business is they can lure people in with their mountain of advertising and “cheap” rates. In reality though, their rates aren’t all that cheap, and they will gouge their customers at every opportunity. As you have found out, that includes when they want to leave.
I have had a very similar experience with Bell, and I too can’t wait for more competition! I will definitely be voting with my feet when my current contract ends. While Rogers and Telus are not much better my hopes and prayers rest on the new players about to enter the market.
I guess the morals of this story are: don’t get attached to your cell phone number, don’t think that you can possibly figure out how much that “free cell phone with a contract” is actually going to save/cost you and listen to your 2nd wife when she tells you pay as you go is cheaper.
Your experience with Bell seems similar to mine. When I canceled their internet service I was charged an extra month after sending back the equipment. As far as I know I’ve never had them switch plans on me, but they have called me to offer new plan A because it’s better than the plan B I’m in. But, in fact, I was actually in plan C that was better for me than plan A.
I am told by others who have apparently done so, that had you pushed the issue, Bell could, and likely would have, forgiven all the extra charges. Curiously, my spouse and I have been considering the same transaction, with Bell, and are grateful for this ‘heads up’.
I suspect you are correct, however, I did manage to get back some of it, which made me happy.
It is important to fight incorrect charges and to stick to your guns to make sure you get compensated for it.