Dad who fought $22K cell bill releases consumer battle guide
Published Friday, March 22, 2013 7:30PM PDT
Last Updated Friday, March 22, 2013 8:03PM PDT
A B.C. father who successfully contested $22,000 in roaming charges incurred by his 11-year-old son has released a step-by-step guide to waging battle against Canada’s telecommunications giants.
Rogers-Fido customer Matt Buie learned the hard way how to negotiate with cell phone service providers, and, partnering with the consumer advocacy group OpenMedia, set out to share his know-how through a free toolkit.
“I feel like I broke out of cell phone jail. This toolkit is like a cake with a saw inside, and we’re sending it to the people inside the jail to help others get out,” Buie said.
The 13-step guide has tips on dealing with customer service personnel, keeping calm, and taking a complaint all the way to the office of the president.
It also has notes on knowing how much progress to expect speaking to lower-level employees, and tempering expectations because no bill will be completely wiped clean.
Buie, a financial planner, told CTV News he was inspired to create the how-to guide after realizing just how many other Canadians had cell service horror stories similar to his own.
The Burnaby resident was still on vacation in Mexico when he got the flabbergasting news about the bill his son had unwittingly racked up simply by watching YouTube videos.
“He downloaded 758 megabytes of data. I wasn’t aware of this,” Buie said. “The last night of our vacation I got a text message from Fido saying, ‘Your roaming charges are excessive, please call us.’ ”
The company immediately offered to decrease the bill and charge Buie the rate he’d have received if he’d signed up for a roaming plan, for a still-painful total of $2,200.
But the frustrated father wasn’t satisfied.
“I thought, ‘Wait a minute, I didn’t authorize this.’ If I was in Mexico and bought $2,200 of art, and used my Visa card, Visa would authorize it.” he said.
Eventually, after speaking with the company president, Buie’s bill was reduced to $200.
He’s since teamed up with OpenMedia, a grassroots organization campaigning for better regulation and more consumer choice in the Canadian cell phone market.
Spokeswoman Lindsey Pinto said price-gouging and consumer traps are all-too common.
“We’re hearing from people every day who are trapped in restrictive contracts, mistreated horribly,” Pinto said.
There are some signs of improvement, however. Canada’s telecom watchdog is currently working on a code of conduct for service providers, and Telus has already started cutting off roaming customers that hit a $200 charge.
Bell, which owns CTV News, is warning customers and Rogers said it will introduce a $7.95 per day roaming plan. The company said it will not provide a cap on charges, however.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Jon Woodward