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Your Cell Phone Horror Stories

Andrew from Whitehorse: On September 16, 2012, my Bell mobile phone suddenly stopped working. When my friends and family called my phone number, a stranger answered. I contacted the person who now had my phone number and she explained that she'd just had a new phone activated with Bell that day. She had previously been a Solo customer.

Andrew from Whitehorse:

On September 16, 2012, my Bell mobile phone suddenly stopped working. When my friends and family called my phone number, a stranger answered.

I contacted the person who now had my phone number and she explained that she'd just had a new phone activated with Bell that day. She had previously been a Solo customer.

The following day I spent several hours on the phone with Bell trying to get my phone number back. Around noon a representative was finally able to re-activate my phone. She explained that the local store who had activated the other person's phone had made an error when programming her phone and had effectively given away my active phone number.

I called the store to complain. The manager explained that, in fact, the Bell system had made the error and that he was aware that this was a common problem when Solo customers were migrated over to Bell.

On October 18, 2012, I received my Bell bill. It included charges for several long distance calls that made been made with my number when the number was programmed to the other person's phone.

I called Bell. After some lengthy discussion, they agreed to refund those charges from my bill.

Oddly, no one at Bell ever even apologized for causing me such substantial inconvenience and trouble.

Jennifer from Vancouver:

I have been a customer of Fido since 2009. I have always paid my bills on time, and in full. I stayed with Fido for 3 years, comfortable outside the confines of a contract, but chose to sign in December of 2011. A decision I have recently come to regret.

In August of 2012 while on family vacation in Italy I received a text message from Fido informing me I was roaming and would be charged certain amounts for data, voice, and SMS. I was informed that I would be charged $0.03/KB of data used. Doesn't sound like much, does it? Please take note at this time, this is the ONLY occurrence in a Fido communication where data usage is communicated in KB rather than the typically understood MB. Also, please note, I do not have a computer science degree. Converting from KB to MB, or even knowing one CAN convert from KB to MB is outside my scope of knowledge.

While in Italy, I chose to use my phone for data purposes (GPS ... time totalling ~30min for the entire duration of the trip) on 1 or 2 occasions upon getting seriously lost. Please don't think I blindly used my phone for this reason without first considering the fact that I might incur an additional charge on my bill. In fact, I DID consider this, and felt that whatever Fido chose to charge me for the limited data usage would be fair, and proportionate to the actual service I was using (I am now well aware that foreign internet service providers do not gouge Fido massive sums for minimal data network usage). Additionally, further to my point that I do not hold a computer sciences degree, neither am I intimately familiar with the specific data allotments used for each GPS data transaction. I'm not sure anyone who is, in fact. So, you can see here, at this point of my story, how an under-informed customer with good faith in her company may not have felt the need to "protect" herself so dramatically against possible future violation.

Shortly after arriving home, Fido customer service contacted me to inform me that there had been an unusually high bill incurred on my account. The value? Approximately $8,100. I would implore you, at this time, to consider what $8,100 means to an impoverished student nurse working as hard as she can to make a positive change in the world (please note: the aforementioned holiday was paid in full by family, as a gift). I would also ask you, in any known universe, does it seem reasonable that a service which one pays less than $50 for in their home country (for ~500MB of data), could possibly cost Fido (and thereby their individual customers) in the neighbourhood of $8,100? The amount of data usage I incurred? 275MB. Barely over HALF of the 500MB domestic amount.

Now, here's where things get difficult. The Fido CS rep informed me that Fido was extending its long arm of compassion to me, and would retroactively apply the best rate for the data incurred during the trip. Even at this best rate ($225+tax for 75MB), my new "compassionate" bill would be ~$790. Now I'll ask you the same questions as above; what does $790 mean to an impoverished student nurse? How is $790 for 275MB of data in Italy POSSIBLY proportionate to

As a manipulation tactic, informing a customer that they have incurred service costs upwards of $8100, only to inform them "how good they have it" by the grace of Fido, by only being charged $800, is deplorable. It is disrespectful, dehumanizing, and gluttonous to the highest degree. As a body of telecom entities, Canada's mobile service providers rank among the lowest in the entire world. OpenMedia.ca, the CBC, the Ontario provincial legislature have all found evidence to support the disproportionate abuse of Canadian consumers in this way. I only hoped that Fido wasn't the same.

So, through this, what is my complaint? My complaint is, by tactics of consumer manipulation - some subtle, others not so - I have been entrapped by Fido. I have fallen victim to a scheme so sophisticated, that it plays upon the weak and appeals to them to thank their abuser for saving them thousands of dollars they "legitimately" incurred. I did NOT know how many KB 30min of GPS would cost because I am a lay person, and do not possess that knowledge. It is not reasonable to assume that I would need to protect myself from that kind of personal and financial raping by a reputable company. It IS fair, however, to expect leniency from such a company, in light of its deep pockets, and an apparent desire to keep relations with its customers positive.

I am not happy. I have been abused and taken advantage of. I have been duped and played for the ignorant lay person I am, and I have been robbed by a giant. I wish nothing more in life than to do my best, to hurt as few as possible, pay my bills and taxes, and participate in our society as a positive contributing member. But it is circumstances such as this, which cause me to lose faith. How can one company be so cruel, heartless, and greedy as to value $790 over the well-being of one of its customers.

Vincent from Victoria:

In 2006, I was a cellphone customer with Rogers . I was on a 3-year contract and I had a very special feature that became rapidly rare. I was billed by seconds and not by minutes. One day, I wanted to have both caller ID and voicemail features added to my account. When talking to a customer representative over the phone, I specifically asked that if a update my account with those new features, nothing else was going to change and the representative confirmed this statement. Sure enough, the next bill came in and I was now billed by minutes. With numerous calls trying resolving this issue, I've been told that the "SYSTEM" couldn't go back the my original feature and that they were sorry. A couple months later, no getting over with that bad experience with the "SYSTEM", paid 250$ to end my contract and switch over with Bell.

I am still a cell phone customer with Bell today. Customer service is unreliable – roughly 50% of the representatives have the right answer. For example, I called to have my calls forwarded to another number because I sold my old phone. The first person told me it was impossible over the phone and I had to do it on the device, while the second person I've called had done it in 30 seconds. This quick example is just one of many.

Big telecom is so big that other departments don't communicate with each other. The customer should be the ultimate aim for their services, considering there aren't that many companies in the market. Another example: I overpaid a bill one time for Bell TV and just asked to transfer the balance to my Bell Mobility account instead. They couldn't. They told me they had to make a request billing service to make a cheque, which would take up to 6 weeks to receive it by mail. I told them that with today's technology – after sending men to the moon – the fact they couldn't transfer money from one department to another was sad.

Canada's mobile market is one the the most expensive in the world. Take the United States for example – with 2 year contract max, the same subsidies rebates on devices, more minutes and data with cheaper plans. I can't believe that if we look at other markets in other countries that it costs more to operate in Canada.

Nik from Vancouver:

After being out of the country, I moved back to Canada in 2003. I needed a phone to start my job search. I asked around and only Rogers would accept foreign credit cards, so voila I signed up for two years with Rogers and got their Sony Ericsson T306. After about 3 days of giving my phone number and calling people, I was wondering why nobody was calling me back.
I tried calling my cellphone from a pay phone. When I did, I heard the following message. “The cellular subscriber has not yet activated their voice mail. Please tell them to activate their voice-mail before they can receive calls”.

I signed up for a mobile phone, not a mobile-answering machine. Who cares if I haven’t activated my voice-mail yet. I don’t even like voice-mail (on mobile phones, unless they sent it to you as an MP3 which would be cool). I don’t think I missed any million-dollar deals, but still my social life did suffer directly because of this major system design flaw.

Betty from Bowen Island

I arrived back in Canada a few years ago after an extended time outside the country. Of course, the first thing I did was go out to find a cell phone plan. I learned from my kids that many providers offered very limited range and the usage charges for going outside of the service area were astronomical so I was looking for a plan that would enable me to economically maintain contact with family members who lived in the Province but not in the same town as me.

After a long and unproductive search, I found an option that would work for me. A student from Hong Kong was returning home and wished to transfer the remaining three years of his contract to someone else to avoid the high cancellation fees. His plan included "long distance" within the Province, an option that was not available in the new plans. The very fact that the student needed to sell his plan so he could return home highlights one of the many problems with cell phone contracts.

We talked to Rogers, the provider and found that the plan was indeed transferrable. The Rogers representative did the necessary paperwork and the plan was mine. For three years my cell phone plan worked fine but one day my monthly bill arrived and it was $380. The old plan had expired and the new rate was four times the cost of the former one.

I called Rogers and pointed out that the contract had expired and I did not want them to roll it over to a new one. When they told me that this was not possible, I requested that they cancel my plan so that I could start a new, more economical one. I learned that I was not authorized to cancel the plan because I was not the Hong Kong student who had originally contracted. I was in a Catch 22. I had no idea how to contact the student and from my perspective, an expired plan should have expired... but it didn't.

After many phone calls to Rogers I was instructed to ignore my bills and let the contract lapse for non payment. I was uncomfortable with this idea and called Rogers many times to seek a better option but the instruction was always the same. So I stopped paying my bill and for months I returned the Rogers mail to sender.

I took my business to Koodo and now have a very user friendly account with no contract. I can call my mum and children in nearby cities without incurring roaming and long distance charges. A few months ago, after returning collection agency mail for Rogers, the bills finally stopped arriving.

In the end, it worked out for me even though it was a stupid solution. But what if that unfortunate Hong Kong student ever returns to Canada? He won't even know that he has created a very negative credit history in his absence. Is this fair or reasonable? I don't believe so. Cell phone contracts need careful scrutiny and better regulation to make them fair to consumers.

Todd from Leamington:

Over the last few years, I have received many inbound "text messages", which, since I have no way to control, cost me money for no reason, and for no benefit to anyone but the cellular corporations, in my case, Rogers.

If we can not pre-approve "text messages", we should not be forced to pay for them.

Over the last 3 years or so, more and more US companies are calling and sending unrequested text messages, and ALL complaints to the cellular carrier have gone completely without response.

Of course, this makes perfect sense, as if the carrier can charge you, even when you do not wish to receive unwanted, unsolicited commercial communications from other countries--most of which you can not partake in anyway--the company makes money by allowing calls and messages, so why would they ever want to block something that wastes their customers' money, while earning them a bundle, and harassing their customers to boot?

It's time to stop deliberately ripping off customers for no other reason than that these compnies ONLY care about increasing their incomes, while continually raising prices and cutting service quality for the people who actually pay for them.

George from Toronto:

I have my two sons' phones with Virgin Mobile. When one boy misplaced his phone, a kind stranger found it and contacted Virgin. But then Virgin, instead of contacting me to arrange a connection between owner and finder, they went ahead and gave the stranger my complete contact details, including home phone number and home address. I was grateful to have the kind person return the phone, but I was shocked that my confidential personal information was given out by Virgin to a complete stranger who just phoned in. I contacted Virgin complaints department, asked that they take note of the situation and have a manager contact me, but there was no follow through.

If my sons were not tied to a stupid contract with Virgin, I would cancel the service on that grounds alone, that they are not to be trusted. As well, they continually mis-deliver the bill for the service, as they can never seem to get the email address correct in their customer databases.

Angela from London:

Last year I decided to add my son and mother onto my cell phone plan, with Rogers' "family plan". In the store, they said it would be $10 per additional line, with the same features I had on my phone. I could get free hardware as long as I signed a 3 year contract. I did that, got the phones, and then my next bill was over $30+ EACH line. They'd put on the features I had, but none of that was included in the $10 - voicemail, call display, etc. Even after removing all of those options, there's currently a base fee of $10 per line, a network fee of about $8 per line, and various other charges that bring it up to $25 per line - what I was told would cost me $20 a month actually costs $50, and that's without any features. Because I got a discount on the phones, I'm tied into it for 3 years - even though the price is more than double what they said it would be.

Matthew on Facebook:

First off, if I sign a three year contract and I'm expected to be beholden to the terms of that contract, then so should my Cell Phone provider. During my three years with Rogers, they increased the price of my monthly plan four times, even though I had signed a three-year contract at that rate. When I called Rogers for an explanation, they said that rates were subject to change, and that they themselves were not beholden to their service contract.

So first off, the telecoms should be made to honour their end of people's service contracts, and second the contracts themselves need to be shorter (two years, rather than three). Third, if your provider changes any of the terms of your contract, then that contract should be considered either terminated or fulfilled. And finally, Canadian's should have better recourses to challenge or settle disputes with their cell phone providers (yes, there currently is cell phone resolution body, but it is so hindered by bureaucracy that it is almost completely ineffective).

Mueez on Facebook

Activated a new voice+data plan with Rogers. The monthly bill had about $100 extra in data usage fees for using 8MB of data on the first day. Never mind that this high a rate should be illegal; the point is my plan had a data plan included, so they charged me for nothing. I had an expensive plan and so if I hadn't paid attention or had assumed they were charging a month in advance, I wouldn't have demanded a refund and they would've taken my $100.

Danielle on Facebook:

Rogers not telling me they were charging me $.40 for literally nothing every time a telemarketer/spammer called but didn't leave a voicemail. There weren't even blank messages to let me know calls had been through – just numbers in my history for missed calls which is free anyway. 40 cents repeatedly for NOTHING which they would not refund me. They have a larger chunk of the monopoly in rural areas too which makes it worse.

@wammy70 on Twitter

Paid $877.51 to Bell for 30 mins of data usage.

@TimSanchez2 on Twitter

Rogers refused to upgrade my 2YR expired contract to a data service unless I signed a 1YR contract for a device that I owned!

@Farrtoon on Twitter

3YR contracts as the norm, locked phones & greedy roaming fees, $30 for 120Mb over on $30/6GB. That's every day.

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