Bell Canada Customer Service Fail

This is not an experience of my own, but rather one I witnessed as it went down just last week.

My friend and colleague went on vacation in Florida with his Bell Canada locked iPhone. A few days in he discovered that he had been charged $0.75 for every text message in and out, and due to his obsession for text messaging, this added up to around the $200 mark. This is unfortunate, but certainly not Bell’s problem that my friend had forgotten to obtain an appropriate roaming plan for texting in the US.

After realizing his mistake, he called Bell and spoke to a representative to arrange having a roaming package added to his account. The package details were $30 for the month to make his text messages $0.20 per text rather than $0.75. My friend expected this would take effect for the remainder of his time in Florida and was pleasantly surprised when the Bell rep informed him that he could retroactively apply the package to all previous text message charges incurred in Florida, thus negating the excessive charges on his account. Thanks to the excellent support provided by the Bell Canada representative, my friend was satisfied and hung up a happy man.

Two days later his phone was disabled.

Upon return home from Florida, with a nearly useless cellphone because Bell’s automated system had disabled it for being over a predetermined limit on the account (about $300), my friend called Bell to inquire as to what had gone wrong. Since the only way for that amount to accumulate on his account is if the rep didn’t apply the package correctly, one would assume that Bell would take care of this by fixing up the account (applying the package) and re-enabling his phone. Nope. Not even close. Here’s what really happened.

Another call to Bell revealed the following key points:

  1. They have all of the notes in their system showing what the first representative had done – you know, the guy who provided excellent customer service.
  2. The Bell rep and about three supervisors all claim that the notes are invalid because the rep was wrong about being able to do everything he said he could do and thus the charges are valid.
  3. Although the phone being disabled was entirely the result of a poorly trained representative of Bell (in other words, Bell’s fault), nobody at Bell can re-enable his phone because the balance has not yet been paid

This leaves us with a completely ridiculous situation. To re-active the phone, my friend must pay $300+ which he should never have owed to begin with, then make a claim against Bell to have them refund the amount he shouldn’t be paying because of their error. Why would Bell ever agree to pay him back any of that money? If they’re refusing to admit that he shouldn’t owe it now, then why would they change their mind and pay it back to him after the fact? That’s just asking to get robbed.

Let’s go back and examine the real problem(s) here and see how a rational supervisor or manager might resolve this. Firstly, the Travel USA Text bundle does exist – the rep could not have been wrong about that. You can see it right here on Bell’s website with all the details as described above ($30 for $0.20 texts and 150 included for free). Thus it seems likely that the wrongdoing on the original Bell rep’s part came in the form of backdating the plan – it’s likely that this is not actually possible and that it would only apply to all text messages following the date my friend called to add the plan.¬†Although it is certainly a problem that the rep thought he could do this, let’s say there’s absolutely no way to ever backdate a plan, such that Bell assumes my friend is lying, even though he is not. Then my friend is still on the hook for the original $200 applied up until the day that he called. What he should have absolutely no claim to pay is any fees above $0.20 per text beyond the first 150 from the day he called. Yet his bill is $100 higher only a few days later because Bell did not actually apply the plan.

The solution is simple then. Bell admits that they have terrible training issues that result in ridiculous overcharges that they refuse to take care of for their customers, re-enables the phone and removes all charges above and beyond the $200 initial charges + fair rates for all other text messages based on the Travel US roaming plan. This is the perfect compromise scenario.

Bell’s Solution

Rather than the compromise I described, Bell takes the road of incompetence. “Sorry, we don’t have the ability to re-enable your account until you pay your $300 bill”

And that’s that. Apparently they really don’t have the ability to do anything – nobody at Bell has the ability to re-enable cell phones. Nobody.


  1. Nobody – including supervisors and managers – has control over Bell’s software system, and thus no employee is empowered to actually accomplish anything, leading to terrible customer support.
  2. Supervisors at bell have no comprehension of conflict resolution, let alone the compromises that are required for this to occur.
  3. Staff at Bell are not properly trained on how their software works and what they are capable of doing (and of course what they are not capable of doing).
  4. My friend should stop texting so much.

Despite my distaste for Rogers’ handling of unlocking iPhones, I have, overall, had great experiences with them. Not once have I encountered a situation that their telephone reps were not empowered to do regarding my own personal account and iPhone (albeit with a few transfers to higher departments here and there). Even when I posted about my confusion and frustration regarding unlocking my Mother’s iPhone, I was met with a response providing clarity on their policies and, although I didn’t agree with one of them, I was told it would be forwarded on to the higher-ups. This may not be true, but at least they tried to help me out. I am appalled that any customer service oriented company (really that’s all cellular service is) could have such a lack of empowered employees. Clearly I will never be using a Bell service in the future, and any sane person reading this should follow suit.

1 Comment

  1. Adam Bate on April 15, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    This irks me. Although I recommend that your friend continue to call in until he gets someone who can actually help him/her out, and make sure he’s talking to actual Bell Aliant employees and not outsourced call center workers – I think they split like 70%/30% between the two, and it’s even worse after hours.

    I’d simply ask where they are located, and call back if necessary.

    Consider this case:

    “Bell and Staniaszek have since negotiated the bill to $3,195.” This “negotiation” was done by retroactively applying a different package to the account.

    Why is this only available on special circumstances? AT&T has had this policy for years. Convergys in Halifax answers AT&T customers, where my brother worked for a summer, and this was very common – he thought it was the same amongst local cell companies too.

    Definitely unfortunate and I’m interested to see what unravels.

Leave a Comment