Why I Hate Bell Mobility
by Eric Giguere
October 26, 2004
November 30 update: Thanks to Connie at Bell Mobility,
I've been finally able to resolve this mess. It's been a long haul.
They had to go through my bills item-by-item from the end of May until
the middle of September to figure everything out. It looks like the
problem was that I activated a new line and did the number swap on
the same weekend that they switched over to the new billing system.
Something got messed up somewhere and so someone else's phone was
attached to my account instead of my wife's. Of course, I told
Bell that this was the problem many times, but no one believed me
until I put up this page and started generating some bad
publicity for them. I'm debating whether to leave this page up
for posterity as an example of customer service gone wrong or take it down.
Maybe we should vote on it?
October 31 update: So it looks like this page is getting
me some action. I've had two calls so far from people at Bell Mobility
who are interested in resolving my problem. Let's see what happens.
I should point out, though, that my problems with Bell aren't directly
related to the billing system switch that they've just done, which
I know is a bone of contention with many of their customers. Obviously,
I've been affected by that as well, but that's not the root of my
problem it's the billing for someone else's phone usage.
And I've been criticized by some Bell customer service reps for
having done a new activation when I should have done a
hardware upgrade. Perhaps this is true, but I wouldn't know
I'm just a customer, and I didn't want to pay upfront for another
phone when I had bought two premium phones 15 months earlier
only to have one of them break on me just out of its warranty period.
Regardless, I had a problem that needed to be fixed and it's been
like pulling teeth to get Bell Mobility to listen to me, let alone
As you'd expect from someone who writes about mobile technology,
I own a cellphone. Unfortunately, Bell
Mobility is my carrier. I say "unfortunately" because I'm very
unhappy with them and their customer service in particular. Since I
can't seem to get through to anyone who can actually do anything for
me, I thought I'd put my story up on the Web as a cautionary tale
for potential Bell Mobility customers. Maybe I'll get some action
that way. If I don't, well, then at least I've made my opinion known
to a few others.
Cellphone Dies, Pain Ensues
It all started in May 2004 when my wife's cellphone stopped working
for no good reason. It was a Samsung SPH-a460, and I owned the identical
model. We had bought the pair in January 2003 and signed up with
Bell Mobility on a plan that offered free phone-to-phone calls and 200
minutes of anytime calling. Pretty basic plan that with the network
access fees and taxes would cost us around $70/month. The phone died
very prematurely in my opinion but it was out of its 1-year warranty
period, so we had to have it fixed or replace it.
The problem with getting a cellphone fixed these days is that
it's rarely worth the cost, plus you lose the use of the phone while
it's off being fixed. So we chose to go the "hardware upgrade" route
instead, getting my wife a new Audiovox 8450 to replace the dead
Samsung. (Mine still works, luckily.) We could do this without any
upfront costs, except we had to extend our contract with Bell Mobility.
Since we hadn't had any issues with them up to this point, we didn't
mind doing this. Basically we just wanted the phone to work.
Here's the important part: when we got the phones originally,
my wife and I chose phone numbers based on the names of our dogs.
I won't give out the actual numbers, let's just call them Rover (my
phone) and Fifi (my wife's). In Bell Mobility terminology, Rover was
the "prime" phone and Fifi was the "mate". When we did the hardware
upgrade, we wanted to keep the Fifi number because it was meaningful
to both of us; my wife especially likes it. The new phone's number
was something meaningless to us, let's call it Kitty. So after the
new phone was activated we had three phones and three phone numbers:
- My working Samsung with the Rover number (prime)
- My wife's dead Samsung with the Fifi number (mate)
- My wife's new Audiovox with the Kitty number (other)
after we bought the new phone we went back to the store to do a
number swap between the two phones. We did it as a separate step
on a different day on the salesperson's
advice, because he didn't think it was a good idea to do it on the
same day as the new activation. After the swap, we were left with
(we thought) this configuration:
- My working Samsung with the Rover number (prime)
- My wife's dead Samsung with the Kitty number (other)
- My wife's new Audiovox with the Fifi number (mate)
There were a few glitches getting the new phone to work properly,
but after contacting customer service a couple of times they fixed
whatever problem it was and we were back in business. I phoned Bell
Mobility to suspend the dead phone and from our point of view we
were left with two phones, mine with the Rover number and hers
with the Fifi number. We were able to phone each other without
any difficulties and we figured that was the end of the story.
We were wrong.
Big Bills Arrive, Confusion Abounds
Fast forward to the end of August. There's a long lag time
between when you make a call and when it starts showing up on your
bill, but we're getting larger bills for no apparent reason.
At first I thought we were just going over the minutes in our
plan and that we also had some extras (like car breakdown service)
that we didn't need, so I cancelled some things. I also saw some
text messaging and mobile browser usage and called Bell Mobility
to tell them to take it off because neither I nor my wife actually
use those features. (We're old fashioned, we use our cellphones
to talk to each other.) In retrospect, I should have looked more
closely at the bills, but they weren't that unusual.
Then a larger bill shows up for $173. That's very unusual,
so I decide to call Bell Mobility the next day about it. Oddly enough,
at the same time my wife's cellphone stops working, for no apparent
reason. The phone is fine, but the network won't allow her on. She
can't make or receive calls. So I phone Bell Mobility with two
problems, hers being the more pressing one.
Here's where we figure out something went wrong with the
number swap in May. My wife's Fifi number, which she had used
continuously since January 2003, had been assigned to someone
else. Apparently it had been taken away from her earlier in May
when she switched phones, and it had been finally reassigned
to someone else's new phone activation.
To make matters worse, the Kitty number that originally
came with my wife's Audiovox was still attached to our account
as the mate phone. But I had suspended that phone, thinking I
would send it out for repair. I never did, so the phone sat
on my desk, unused and unpowered. So why was it still attached
to our account, and more importantly, who was making calls
with it? Because when I looked closely at the calls that the
mate phone was making my calls on the prime phone were
fine and were listed first on the bill, making it easy to miss
the fact that things were wrong it was obvious that
none of those calls were my wife's calls. Mostly she
phones me, either my cellphone or my work number. There were
no calls to me or to our home number. Instead, there were calls
to places like (I tried a few of these from a regular phone)
a rock climbing gym, which is not an activity that either of
us pursue. These were not our calls.
After several calls to customer service, I manage to convince
someone that something is wrong with the account. They agree
that there's some kind of mixup and attempt various things
to get my wife's phone attached back to our account. It takes
several days, but they finally manage it by de-mating our phones,
activating hers on her own plan, and then re-mating them.
The customer service rep credits our account for the $173 bill
and assures us that going forward the proper phones are attached
to the right account, but that we may have to phone in again
for the next one or two billing cycles to fix the billing issues
because they are so far behind in their billing. I point out
that I shouldn't have to do that and so he agrees to go back
to the June bill (where the first bogus billings started appearing)
and figure out how much we should be credited. He promises to
do this and get back to us in a day or two. He never did.
Customer Service Unplugs, Frustration Increases
By now I'm really frustrated with Bell Mobility. That
frustration only increases when I get a new bill for $440,
charged automatically to my credit card. Now that
is a completely unreasonable bill for our usage patterns.
You'd think there'd be flag in their system somewhere
that marks these things for further investigation, the
way credit card companies look for abnormal card usage
patterns. What had happened, of course, was that the person
using the Kitty number had discovered that they weren't
getting billed for their usage (I can only assume) and
were happily racking up phone time, using their browser,
and sending lots of text messages. The billing system
was behind, of course, so this was all stuff that
had occurred before they fixed our account.
Incredibly frustrated, I call Bell Mobility to sort
this out. I have to explain my whole story yet again
to yet another customer service representative.
At the same time, I find out that Bell Mobility has
just installed new billing software and are sending out
bills more quickly so that the bills won't lag so far behind.
So that's why I got my second bill so quickly after the first.
I didn't care, I just wanted them to reverse the charges to
my credit card. They said they couldn't, so I went and phoned
Visa to reverse the $440 charge until the whole mess was
Obviously, I wasn't the only person frustrated with
Bell Mobility. The billing cycle switchover was apparently
giving others headaches with larger-than-expected bills
(not related to mismatched phones, just normal billings
accelerated to be more current)
and they were flooding the customer service lines with
complaints. So how did Bell Mobility respond? They
stopped taking calls.
Yes, that's right, the company that calls itself
"Canada's leading communications company"
had shut itself off from its customers. When I phoned,
I heard a recording
from the company president saying that they were unable
to take calls for a while because of unexpected volume.
Call back in a few weeks, he told me, but in the meantime
be sure to pay your bill.
Now I was really annoyed. I wanted to drive over
our cellphones and smash them (and, by proxy, our Bell Mobility contract) to
itsy-bitsy tiny bits, but that wouldn't help our billing problems.
Another Bill Arrives, Anger Rises
Then we get another bill (the new billing system
is certainly prompt). The phone numbers are correct on this
one, but there's a "Termination Liability Charge" of $199
tacked onto it for no apparent reason. Time to try customer
service again. Maybe they're answering their phones by now.
Incredibly, they are, and I actually get through to
someone. I then spend an hour-and-a-half on the phone with
her describing the whole sordid saga. She removes the $199
termination charge and then proceeds to go back in our bills
and calculate how much we've been overbilled. By her calculations,
we've been overbilled by $657. No kidding. She says she'll credit
our account that much and I think that our problems are over, finally.
Well, they're not. She can't credit an amount that large
back to an account. Neither can, incredibly enough, her supervisor.
Apparently Bell Mobility doesn't trust their own employees.
Probably don't pay them enough, I don't know. The customer service
rep being limited I can see, but shouldn't the supervisor be
able to do it? If not, don't they have a supervisor
who can? Somebody up the chain of command must be able to credit
me the amount. It's not that large an amount, and it's
not like they're cutting me a cheque for it, either.
But no, apparently I have to collect all our bills together,
mark which calls aren't ours, and fax them to someone
at Bell Mobility who will then "rerate" the bills for us.
Unfortunately, I have to leave at this point to pick up my
daughter from school so I can't stay on the phone and argue
I don't want to fax my bills to Bell Mobility. I'm not
going to. I will have to get on the phone again with customer
service and yell at them, but I'm too busy right now to do it.
So I'm putting this page up instead and hope that someone
at Bell Mobility notices it. Maybe I'll get some action that way.
What a nightmare. I never had this when we were with
Fido, but we had
such poor coverage with Fido that we had to switch carriers we
were just going out of digital coverage too much. Apparently
I should have gone with either Telus
or Rogers as my carrier.