July 28, 2014 7:49 pm

What’s the deal? 6 months free service from Bell leads to $400 bill

WATCH ABOVE: When a Toronto couple moved into a new condo last year, Bell Canada offered a deal hard to refuse: free Internet, television and phone for six months. But as Sean O’Shea reports, they ended up with a bundle of trouble.

Roula Papaioannou figured there was nothing to lose when a sales representative offered a special incentive to sign up for Bell Canada telecommunications services last year.

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“It was a phenomenal deal,” said Papaioannou, referring to Bell Canada’s six month promotional offer including free Internet, television and telephone service at  their new Don Mills condominium.

“This seems too good to be true, what happens if I’m not satisfied?” Papaioannou asked the representative. She said she was assured there would be no penalties or obligations.

Global News saw the original offer emailed to residents which stated all someone had to do was give 30 days’ notice in order to cancel.

READ MORE: Mother of dead student hounded for 3 years by Bell for $215

Three months after the service began, Papaioannou says she exercised the cancellation option. She says she wasn’t happy to be charged about $80 for excess data charges.

“When I called the representative, I told her I would not go beyond the six months. I followed up two weeks later with an email to reiterate our conversation,” said Papaioannou.

Though she says she followed all the rules and documented the cancellation, she ended up with a bill from Bell for more than $400. She was flabbergasted to receive the statement, especially after moving out of the condominium which is vacant and currently for sale.

“What is going on? I don’t live there, I already communicated about cancelling. Where on earth do they get this from?” she said.

Papaioannou says she’s contacted the company more than a dozen times by telephone to challenge the bill. “We spoke to them from the Philippines, Nova Scotia, Quebec and back to Toronto.”

In a statement from Bell Canada late Monday, the company’s chief of communications said: “Mrs. Papaioannou received a promotional 6 months of free Bell TV, Internet and Home Phone unless cancelled with 30-day notice. We received notice May 27 and cancelled the service as requested. All outstanding fees are related to usage beyond the free promotional period which ended in April. We remind all customers that have recently subscribed to Bell services to always contact 310-Bell directly for all account and invoice matters.”

But Papaioannou is adamant she contacted Bell in February, almost three months before the end of the free trial period. Her written records corroborate her statements.

In recent weeks, Global News has profiled the predicaments of other Bell customers facing collections.

READ MORE: Bell customer cancels but bills persist because she didn’t use the word ‘bundle’

A Lindsay, Ontario woman received dozens of collection calls pursuing charges for her daughter, who died by suicide. Bell Canada later agreed to stop collection proceedings.

In separate instance, a Toronto woman who cancelled her Bell services was charged hundreds of dollars because she was told she didn’t use the word “bundle” when calling to disconnect, so services continued to be billed.

John Lawford, executive director and general counsel of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, said complaints about unfair billing are growing.

“We’ve noticed a trend in consumer complaints after contracts have supposedly cancelled, particularly with bundled services,” said Lawford.

The Ottawa-based consumer interest group says telecommunications companies can make it difficult for customers to switch providers.

“There is incentive at the sales and customer service end of companies to keep people on contracts and not accept the decision of the consumers to cancel,” Lawford said.

Papaioannou says she feels like a hamster on a wheel trying to break her connection with Bell.

“I did the due diligence, I have the emails that I’m cancelling this,” she said, adding she will never sign up for a “free” service again.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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