Confused about your cell phone bill? You’re not alone

If you’ve found problems on your cell phone bill, you’re in good company. A new report from the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services found Canadian consumers complained about being charged too much, routine errors on bills, and credits or discounts not given as promised. Many also reported that their contracts didn’t reflect services they thought they were going to receive.

The organization, established by the federal government to help settle billing disputes between customers and telecom companies, dealt with 11,000 complaints from 2011 to 2012 — a 35 per cent increase from the previous year. Complaints came from wireless users as well as local, long distance and internet users. Cell phone complaints made up about half of all telecom service complaints over the past three years — making it an important concern that seems to be rising rather than improving.

In the report, commissioner Howard Maker noted that “The No. 1 complaint is what I will call routine billing errors related to regular service. Wireless tends to be a complaint generator.”

He stated that the national code of conduct for wireless providers in Canada would help lower complaints.

“We think it will set minimum standards for service provider conduct and will clarify rights and responsibilities.”

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has asked Canadians to help write the code of conduct, noting consumers are often confused by contracts and the terms and conditions vary greatly between each service provider.

“I often think the technology guys and the marketing guys get ahead of the customer service folks. So it’s difficult for the customer service folks to convey all of the information that consumers need in a timely way and in an accurate way,” Maker continued.

He also said his group solved 90 per cent of the complaints they receive — and that in many instances, the solution is usually obvious.

“We see so many complaints that could have been avoided, in our view, with a little extra care provided by the service provider at first instance,” he wrote.

The second largest complaint was about clauses in contracts — the terms of service that include details such as early termination fees.

The organization also noted that many consumers complained about being charged as usual for their services when they had lost their cellphone. In short, consumers need to be made aware of their responsibilities when they initially sign the contract.

“Losing your device is not a basis to stop paying your monthly fees. Although we understand customers’ frustration with having to pay for a service that they can no longer use, the physical protection of a customer’s device is not the service provider’s responsibility,” Maker noted in the report.

Local telephone services had the second highest number of complaints, while internet services came in at number three — again, the main complaints were billing errors.

According to the report, 178 telecom providers and brands participate in the resolution process. Clearly, there is plenty of room for improvement when it comes to telecommunications services.

Sources: Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services, CBC News

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