From her apartment in north Toronto, Doris Simon-Shatz flips through neatly organized records and handwritten notes that document her patronage with Bell Canada.
“Bills were paid every month. I assume that’s a good customer,” said Simon-Shatz, a Toronto real estate sales representative and great-grandmother.
For years, she and her husband had a suite of Bell services: telephone, Internet and digital television, bundled together in a monthly fee package.
But Simon-Shatz said in the last year, she grew dissatisfied with the quality of the Bell services, especially digital television. Simon-Shatz described frequent “black outs” where TV signals didn’t work.
“The TV was not good; I complained many times, I told them I was switching to Rogers,” Bell’s main competitor for digital telephone and television in the Toronto area.
So last January, she called Bell. She says she explicitly told Bell she wanted to cancel her services. However, six months later, Bell is still charging Simon-Shatz for services she no longer wants or receives.
The Toronto couple had Rogers services installed on February 16. Neither expected to be billed by Bell any further. But as of June 20, Bell says Simon-Shatz and her husband owe $534.94. The most recent bill prompted her to contact Global News.
“Why did I call you? I called you because I can’t stand getting notices that I owe money when I don’t owe money,” she said.
Simon-Shatz says she’s spoken with Bell to complain about billing on about a dozen occasions, including the telephone call to cancel. She also wrote several letters to the company objecting to the billing and dozens of robocalls –automated collection calls from Bell, some of which she logged.
“They called three and four times a day, six days a week – not on Sunday,” said Simon-Shatz, who became angry at Bell’s collection tactics that followed her cancellation.
Bell’s internal customer contact records, supplied to Simon-Shatz and shared with Global News, document a series of calls to the company. In one note, on March 28, a Bell agent wrote: “Client claimed she sent a letter to cancel services with Bell. Agent advised this is not the process she would need to contact us live over the phone.”
But Simon-Shatz says two months earlier, she had called Bell and cancelled over the phone, as required.
On July 6, she says a customer service manager explained that the reason for the continued billing was that she did not cancel “everything” when she called in. Bell continued to charge for television and Internet but not telephone services.
“She said to me I did not specify I was cancelling all their services. She said I should have said that I have a bundle and that I want to cancel the whole, entire bundle,” said Simon-Shatz.
Global News asked Bell Canada for an explanation and on-camera interview to discuss the billing. Instead, Bell’s director of communications and social media, Paolo Pasquini, provided the following statement: “After several attempts to assist Ms. Simon-Shatz with her services, we have now referred the issue to the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS). We are confident that it will be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.”
The CCTS is a not-for-profit agency that, according to its website, can “help you reach an amicable resolution acceptable to both you and the provider.” According to Canada’s communications regulator, the CRTC, the agency’s mandate can: ” include correcting any errors that were made (e.g., billing errors), or recommending that your service provider provide you with an explanation, apology or monetary compensation up to $5,000. If the recommendation is not accepted by both parties, the CCTS can issue a binding decision.
Simon-Shatz says a Bell representative has promised that collection robocalls will cease, despite Bell’s refusal to rescind the billing.
“I hope they stop treating their clients like this or they’ll have nobody left.”