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Blessed by the Potato » So Done with Bell

So Done with Bell

January 8th, 2014 by Potato

I’ve been a Bell home phone user forever. With two multi-day power outages in the last decade, and multiple 8-12 hour outages with loss of cell reception in the last year, the sheer reliability of plain old telephone service (POTS) is a feature I like and am willing to pay for over digital IP options. Plus the quality — I can’t stand talking on my cellphone and will call people back if I’m at home (or at my desk at work) and they try my mobile.

However, Bell is expensive, and has a ridiculous notion of inflation. For a service that has not really required any capital investment on their part or high marginal costs, the rate has gone up by about triple that of CPI over the last decade, and with a 7% increase this year on our bill, it was one straw that made me want to cancel. They’re also more expensive than their competitors (like Teksavvy), but we know Bell — as much as I may hate having to call their telemarketing department, the service just works and we can rely on it to continue to work. That should be the case for a POTS reseller as well, but we were willing to pay a few dollars more per month to stick with Bell. Yet the gap was significant at around $10-20 per month, so we used the old trick of calling to complain and got a discount to bring it closer. A $10/mo discount for 12 months was a small price for Bell to pay to keep us happy and loyal, and make the price a little more fair. And when that would expire we’d call back and renew it, often missing out on a month in-between without a discount.

This has been the routine for years now. It’s tiring and I keep asking if they can just put a permanent reduction in the rate to make it competitive, but the constant threat to cancel with discount is just their mechanism. It’s how they do business, so that’s the game plan we follow. Yet this year when I called in, they wouldn’t give it to me. They would give me a “great” rate on internet and TV if I switched everything over to them, but that’s not happening (Bell: you burned too hard on UBB to try to pretend you have an affordable unlimited service now). As a phone-only customer, I could take my business elsewhere: they didn’t want it.

What really set me off though was the incredibly awful and shady accounting practice they had for the end of the discount. Rather than immediately seeing that the 12-month discount had expired, they continued to put it on my bill, and charge me the reduced rate. Then in a later month they retroactively took it back and hit me with a massive one-time bill. Likewise, on the first bill with the new, 7% higher (in a year when inflation is less than a percent) rate, they retroactively applied it to the previous month. That is needlessly infuriating. In essence, it’s a billing error. I shudder to think of the damage that could be done with such practices for someone living closer to the edge in their budget, with multiple services with Bell, opening their bill one day to see a (one-time) double payment required.

I finally had enough of it and have switched. I tried Teksavvy first — great prices and I love them for internet — but they wouldn’t take my money. For whatever reason, Teksavvy has put in a “stop sale” on home phone service. Even though it’s still advertised on their website, they won’t take me as a phone customer. Primus would however, so off I go (though they are a touch pricier than Teksavvy’s unobtainable teaser pricing).

11 Responses to “So Done with Bell”

  1. Netbug Says:

    It’s still POTS service with Primus?

  2. Potato Says:

    Yep.

  3. save. spend. splurge. Says:

    You have no idea how much I hate Bell.

    Not only do they have shady billing practices, they don’t record anything down when you talk to them on the phone and you’re constantly fighting with them over the bill EACH MONTH.

    Then you get their FIBE TV and you are scrolling through at least 500 channels you haven’t ordered, so you see these blank screens instead of them filtering out the channels that you DID order so you just see a short list.

    Not only that, the channels are in 4-digits instead of 2-digits like with Rogers, so trying to remember which channel is what is doubly hard (we have a huge piece of paper that we have to refer to EACH TIME we want to watch a channel and it has been 6 months.

    Then their internet cuts out in the middle of emails…

    I could go on and on.

  4. Ben Says:

    Yeah, I thought Bell was the only game, and everything else was VoIP…

  5. Michael James Says:

    I’ll be very interested to hear about your experience moving to Primus. Canadian Capitalist warned me that moving POTS service to Teksavvy had problems because Bell would jerk Teksavvy customers around by delaying service changes, repairs, etc. I’m hoping that things are smoother with Primus. I’d like to get away from Bell, but I don’t want to impair my home phone’s near perfect record of reliability.

  6. Bet Crooks Says:

    Ah, false hope. Unfortunately, Primus only offers “digital” aka internet phone service in our area.

    And yes, during the recent ice storm, it was nice when I and 2 of my relatives. all of us without power, all in far flung cities, could phone each other to check on actual house damage from trees, ice, etc. Landline costs are a type of insurance cost in our budget.

  7. Potato Says:

    Bell called the other day to try to win us back. The retention person couldn’t even reduce our bill enough on a temporary basis to match Primus’ regular rates.

    They did say that they are moving to a system that will notify people in advance when their limited time offers are about to expire, but it’s too late now, Bell.

  8. Joe Q. Says:

    I have Teksavvy for POTS home phone service and quite like it. I agree that the setup can be frustrating, though (same goes for DSL Internet) Once things are up and running, Teksavvy is great. Same service as Bell but without the chicanery and high price.

    I would love to be a Bell- and Rogers-free household — unfortunately our cell phones are Fido, which is owned by Rogers — luckily Fido is reasonable to deal with.

  9. Potato Says:

    Update: the switchover to Primus happened today. I have to say I was disappointed because our visual call waiting didn’t work. I called in to find out why, and the answer was that VCW is three features (it depends on first having call display and call waiting). Now, that’s the way it works with other phone companies (Bell & Teksavvy, or else VCW is more expensive than a standard feature), so when the plan I was signing up for only included 2 features I wanted to make sure that VCW would be an option (or to find out what the cost would be). I asked the rep three times while signing up, and he assured me that VCW would work with the plan I signed up for without dependencies on call waiting and call display. Well, now I’m a bit pissed at Primus for having lying scuzzy salespeople just like Bell. Even paying a bit extra to add a feature to get VCW it’s cheaper than Bell, but now within the range that Bell was willing to match with their last retention plea.

    I still am saddened that Teksavvy wouldn’t take me (they were a bit cheaper than Primus and I have my internet with them too).

  10. Ben Says:

    I have to ask, since normally you seem like such a practical guy, why on earth do you need “visual call waiting”? It seems like such an unnecessarily extravagant calling feature to require…just saying.

  11. Potato Says:

    For my calls, it is — either the call is important enough that I’ll ignore the call waiting beep, or not, in which case I’ll flash over even knowing it’s likely a telemarketer. Wayfare finds it useful though, and working from home she has a lot of calls from work to deal with.