Published In The Great North Arrow, October 1, 2022: Who's Zoomin' Who?

- jim Young

“Remember if you plan to stay, Those who give can take away.

Don't bite the hand that feeds you.” - John Kay


Last month we had a phone outage in the Argyle area that affected residential homes and businesses alike for a couple of days. Considering the circumstances, Bell did a good job of repairing the severed lines and getting service back as quickly as might be expected.


However, the fact remains that Bell customers are charged for services on a monthly basis. So, why should Bell’s customers be expected to pay for services they did not receive? If your Hydro goes out, your meter stops running and you are not billed for electricity you did not receive. (I do have an issue with Hydro’s delivery charges that are still applied, however that is a discussion for another time.)


The truth of the matter is, Bell’s customers are in fact eligible for a credit when outages occur, if they take the initiative to call and request it.


What I don’t understand is, why isn’t a credit in these circumstances automatic? As one of the largest communication companies in the world, I find it hard to believe that Bell would not be aware of which of its customers were affected, although a Bell Help Assistant tried to convince me that Bell did not have that information. And they certainly know exactly how long the service was interrupted so it would be a simple matter for Bell’s mighty computers to crunch the numbers and quickly calculate how much to credit each of its customers accordingly.


The Bell Help Assistant also tried to convince me that automatic credits would only be applied if a “large number of customers” were affected. This seemed to contradict his earlier statement. Was he suggesting that Bell does have this information when it involves a large number of customers, but not when it affects a small number of customers? 


What is considered a “large number of customers” anyway?


In addition to the large number of residential customers that were affected, local businesses were not able to operate lottery machines or debit and credit sales.


Even so, where is the logic in providing credit only when a “large number of customers” are affected? 


Meanwhile another Bell customer in our area advised me that a Bell Help Assistant advised him via a Chat session that an automatic rebate in fact would have been applied to his account even if he hadn’t requested it.

Live Chat with
Bell Customer Service

Since the information I was receiving was largely contradictory, I decided to go to the top and emailed the CEO of Bell Canada, Mirko Bibic (mirko.bibic@bell.ca) with my concerns. I also copied the CCTS (response@ccts-cprst.ca), the commission set up by the CRTC to handle complaints.


I was impressed by how quickly Joel from Bell Canada’s Executive Offices responded to my email, although I was less than impressed with the ultimate outcome. Joel advised that it was not Bell’s policy to apply automatic credits for outages (he didn’t clarify if there was an exception when a “large number of customers were affected”) although he had no convincing explanation for this policy.


When I asked why one customer was advised that credits in fact would be applied, Joel promised to investigate. During a subsequent phone call, Joel advised me that the Bell rep that provided this advice was incorrect and should not have advised that.


Anyone who has dealt with Bell Reps either by phone or chat services extensively will quickly discover the answers provided are taken right from their “text book” published by Bell, oftentimes, word for word. When I suggested that, Joel did not deny it.  When I asked how this Bell Chat Rep could have gone so far “off-script”, Joel had no answer for me.


With so much contradictory information I was left wondering if “automatic rebates” with Bell exist, sometimes, always (if the outage is large enough of course to warrant it) or never? Does Bell endeavor to tell their customers only what Bell thinks their customers want to hear?


When I received my next Bell Bill, I immediately looked for the credit I was promised. It was not there. Checking back through my past emails regarding this, I discovered Bell had advised me my credit would not appear until my October Bill. 


Have you ever noticed that charges to your bill are immediately applied, but credits are often delayed? 


Have you ever noticed that a late payment incurs an extra charge, but a late credit never returns the same courtesy?


Even without the credit I was shocked to discover my bill was about $140 more this month. On a separate unrelated issue, last summer my PVR quit working. A technician was sent to replace it. (Come to think of it, I was never credited for the days I was without a PVR. I guess I should have applied for THAT.) 


My current Bill included a $75 charge for the technician and a $50 charge for extra mileage plus tax.


Following is part of my Chat conversation with the Bell Chat rep.


Me: I don't believe I am responsible for that charge and I made it very clear to the serviceman that day. It was Bell equipment that was faulty so why am I being charged?

Manuel: I apologized (sic) but the charge is not for the equipment but rather to the TECHNICIAN VIST (sic).

Manuel: We have a professional fee for the visit th reason (sic) why you were charge Jim.

Me: Again - it is Bell equipment. So why was I charged for you to send him out to fix it?

Manuel: No worries as one time courtesy I will removed (sic) this. 


The thing is, it wasn’t really a “one time courtesy” as this is not the first time I have had a similar conversation with a Bell Chat rep which resulted in the alleged “one time courtesy” of a full credit for a technician’s travel time to repair Bell equipment.


I believe this is related to the first part of this article in that, it seems to me, that Bell is in the habit of billing for things such as “services not provided” and “non-billable expenses” in the hopes that their customers will either not notice or not bother to question it.


Of course they are happy to credit any customer that does request it because they are receiving millions of unearned dollars from those that don’t.


And THAT is not only POOR customer service, it is unethical, immoral and if not criminal, it should be.


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