Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bell Wants Me Back, Again

I’ve explained before that Bell technicians were unable to make their internet service work on my telephone line. In a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, Bell continues trying to win me back as a customer.

The latest letter from Bell offers me internet service for only $17.95/month (in giant font). I suppose that would be a bargain if the service could be made to work, but I find the weasel wording around the giant numbers amusing.

In front of the giant 17 is the word “from” written sideways in tiny font. This isn’t too surprising. The cheapest service costs $17.95.month, but higher levels of service cost more. There is also a tiny superscript “2” indicating that there is a footnote with additional information somewhere. However, I don’t see any notes on the page.

A quick flip of the page shows about 130 words in 3 lines of text with characters less than a sixteenth of an inch tall all jammed into the bottom of an otherwise blank page. Nice. Fortunately, my eyes are still better than 20/20. Amusingly, there is more than enough room at the bottom of the front side of this letter for these microscopic notes.

Note 2 informs me that the rate is actually $27.95, but I’m getting a $5 discount for having a Bell telephone and another $5 discount that will go away after a year. But that’s not all. I’ll have to pay an extra $2/month for modem rental, and the $17.95 entitles me to only “2 GB/mo”.

Being a techie, I know what 2 GB (Gigabytes) means. The average person won’t know that a teenager using YouTube will burn through 2 GB very quickly. And I’ll be charged $2.50 for each addition GB. It’s not unusual for my family to use 30 GB in a month. So, I’d be hit with about $70 in additional charges. Of course there would be taxes on all this as well.

So, I guess internet service from Bell for only $17.95/month just isn’t in the cards for me, even if it could be made to work on my telephone line.


  1. That's disgusting. There should be clear laws about using 1/16th font for such important notes. They should have to be above board on those things.

    You are correct, the 2GB limit is where they will make most of their money. I'm with Rogers and I have a 60GB monthly limit that I need to keep an eye on even. Can you imagine the extra $$ Bell would make.

    I have completely ditched Bell from my life after being a loyal customer for many years. We still own one Bell corded phone for "in-case" power failures, but that is all. And no, I'm not paying a rental fee.

    The last straw was a year ago when Bell decided (on their own and not informing me) to switch my billing to electronic. We stopped receiving our monthly bill in the mail but I just thought the wife had paid it, and she thought I had. Well 4 months later we get a notice to pay up for the phone line goes dead. My wife was using it for business so we were forced "at gunpoint" to pay the full amount plus late fees.

    Shortly there after Rogers sales person knocks on the door selling Home Phone. I ask the one thing that was always missing, "what if the power goes out?, Bell provides power to the line and so my corded phone still works if I need to call 911.". Well she said they have that now, the IP phone has battery backup. I sign on the dotted line... then for the next few months the only thing I get from Bell is the lovely and warming cards with a beaver on it saying how much they miss me... nice.. then why did you treat me like DIRT!!!


  2. I had a similar experience with Bell. It took ages for them to finally fess up that they couldn't deliver hi speed Internet to our house for technical reasons, something to do with being too far from the switching station.
    We also ditched Bell long distance service and went with with lower cost Yak. Bell then offered us lower rates to return to them! We continue to get Bell missives periodically looking for our business.
    Gail Bebee
    author of No Hype-The Straight Goods on Investing Your Money

  3. Gail: In 1991 I saw a presentation by a professor who had studied the feasibility of using phone lines for high-speed data. His conclusion was that each phone line would support some maximum data rate, but that the maximum for each home would differ substantially based primarily on length, but also on a few other factors. So, as data rates go up, the proportion of homes that can use the service will go down. In my case Bell's internet service worked fine for a few years, but stopped working after I was forcibly "upgraded" to a faster modem.

  4. Phone lines are sometimes exposed to the elements, unlike cable (rogers say), so they can be effected by the weather even. Years ago (many) when I was staying with a friend in Gatineau hills and using a modem I had to force it to a slower rate to make it work when we had a big snowfall like yesterday and the lines "bent" from the weight of the snow. (I'm serious!). So if you are in an older neighborhood with exposed lines that can contribute to the high-speed problem. Also the sharing factor of your neighborhood, I.E. the more people on the service the more competition at the switch. This is true for cable as well but with a 75 ohm coax cable you have tons more bandwidth to start, and it's buried underground so no environmental effects.


  5. Bell is a truly horrible company to deal with. We cancelled our business service with them in Oct. 09 and at the time were told there would be a $200 cancellation fee. Suddenly in December it jumped to $450. In January 10 they were demanding $850. To date we have never received a statement or any accounting for this amount. They seem to be making it up on the fly.

    Fortunately I don't have the same worries for residential service. I got rid of Bell three years ago and switched everything to Primus. They still send me "please come back messages" every three months.

    A couple of years ago on Good Friday weekend at 4:45 p.m on Thursday, they pulled our relay out of box. We were left without phone or internet service for the entire weekend. Their explanation "it was the competition's equipment and it looked different so we pulled it out."


  6. Jeri: It certainly sounds like you've have more trouble than I have. I guess this is what you get when a company has been in a near monopoly position for so long.

  7. Follow up on my comment from February 26. I sent Bell a registered letter demanding copies of all invoices and a clear explanation of how they arrived at this figure. It's now the end of July and we haven't heard a word from them. Smells like a classic attempt at a shakedown to me.

  8. @Jeri: Your situation sounds like a major headache. Perhaps Ellen Roseman could help. She takes this sort of problem very seriously and has an extensive proven track record of helping consumers who have been wronged.

  9. Well since Bell has stopped bothering us I think the best solution is to lay low and let sleeping dogs lie. I actually think they've gone away. However I feel for other consumers and small businesses who might be intimidated by these types of tactics. I did receive legal advice to the effect that Bell's actions would probably not stand up in a court of law.