Cellphone bills generate most complaints in telecom services once again: report

MONTREAL – A telecom watchdog group says routine errors on cellphone bills continue to be a major headache for consumers, who often complained they were charged too much.


MONTREAL – A telecom watchdog group says routine errors on cellphone bills continue to be a major headache for consumers, who often complained they were charged too much.

A report by the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services finds consumers also say they weren’t given discounts or credits promised or their contracts didn’t reflect the services they thought they were getting.

The non-profit group helps settle disputes between consumers and telecom service providers.

It handled almost 11,000 complaints for 2011 to 2012, a 35 per cent increase from the previous year.

The complaints included wireless, local phone and long distance and Internet services.

For the last three years, complaints about cellphone services have made up more than half of the telecom services complaints, a hot button issue for consumers.

“The No. 1 complaint is what I will call routine billing errors related to regular service,” said commissioner Howard Maker, who released his annual report Thursday.

“Wireless tends to be a complaint generator,” Maker said.

Maker said a national code of conduct for Canada’s wireless providers should eventually help lower complaints.

“We think it will set minimum standards for service provider conduct and will clarify rights and responsibilities.”

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has asked Canadians to help draft the code because consumers have said their monthly contracts are confusing and the terms and conditions can vary greatly from one wireless company to another.

This year, more than 60 per cent of the complaints to Maker’s watchdog group were about wireless services, which face numerous technological changes, he said.

“I often think the technology guys and the marketing guys get ahead of the customer service folks. So it’s difficult for the customer service folks to convey all of the information that consumers need in a timely way and in an accurate way.”

Maker also noted that his group solved 90 per cent of the complaints it received and said sometimes the solutions were glaringly obvious.

Some of the solutions were so simple that “you kind of scratch your head” and wonder why customers couldn’t get any satisfaction, he said.

“We see so many complaints that could have been avoided, in our view, with a little extra care provided by the service provider at first instance.”

The second-biggest complaint was clauses in consumers’ cellphone contracts, known as terms of service, which includes such things as early termination fees, the report said.

That underscores that consumers need to understand their contracts, Maker said.

The watchdog group also received complaints about lost smartphones and if consumers needed to keep paying their monthly contracts.

Consumers aren’t off the hook and need to be aware of their responsibilities and options, Maker said.

“Losing your device is not a basis to stop paying your monthly fees,” he said.

“Although we understand customers’ frustration with having to pay for a service that they can no longer use, the physical protection of a customer’s device is not the service provider’s responsibility,” the report adds.

The report also found that local telephone service and Internet service were No. 2 and No. 3 in generating complaints.

The main complaint with these services, again, was billing errors, Maker said. Complaints about Internet services also include disputes about usage caps.

Maker said 178 telecom service providers and brands participate in the group’s dispute resolution process.

The group is an independent, industry-financed body established by the federal government to resolve consumer complaints against telecom companies.

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Cellphone bills generate most complaints in telecom services once again: report

  1. I have been a Bell customer for over 50 years
    For about the last 5 years, I had a very basic talk plan cell phone with Bell as part of a bundle including high-speed internet and a landline. The phone was an old audiovox that my daughter once used and was suitable to my needs for a basic phone. It had no Internet access, no texting, one hour per month daytime minutes, we used an average of 15 minutes per month. In the bundle, the phone cost about 15.00 per month.
    From the getgo we were plagued with a phantom charge for “web browsing” that ranged from .50 per month to 4.00. This on a phone that was physically incapable of accessing the net. Every month I would spend up to 1/2 hour with customer service getting the charges reversed and receiving assurances that the problem would be addressed. Yet every month…..
    The final straw was when I received a call from Bell offering to reduce my bundle costs from approximately 110.00 per month to 89.95 with a retention of the “same” services. Evidently the cost savings would be realised through a reduction on the internet charge. I agreed.
    Imagine my surprise when I received my first bill under the “new, reduced rate” that in the end was 5.00 more than the previous plan. After spending about 45 minutes with customer service I was able to ascertain that the increase was on my cell phone which had jumped from 15.00 per month to 30.00 per month (BTW, the phoney “internet access” charge was still there). Their answer to my asking why the increase is that Mobility is a “separate” company and that the “bundling” of the cell was as a “customer service” only. If I wanted to know why the change, I’ll have to talk to them.
    After some time on hold, Mobility told me that because the bundle had evolved to a “new” agreement, a new plan had to be used. The previous 15.00 plan “was no longer available” and that the new minimum plan had significant “improvements” was a really great deal (as I recall the “free” daytime minutes doubled to 120 per month).
    I promptly cancelled my phone ( believe they wanted some sort of “penalty” for early cancellation but I was fully prepared to cancel the whole GD bundle and go elsewhere) They relented on the fee.
    I’m now back on a bundle that costs 10.00 more for a cell-less plan.
    The reason I picked up those “web access” charges was because my cell bill was about one inch long. People who receive a couple of pages or more are wide-open to the company planting a few spurious charges with little hope of uncovering the “mistake”. Times a couple of million per month it adds up to big bucks.
    The mobility market must be the single biggest corporate scam in Canada.

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