The ‘ol Ball and Chain: cellphones

By Denny Hollick [Co-ordinating Editor]

Ever consult a lawyer prior to signing your new cell phone contract? No? Maybe you should.

Entering in a contract with a cell phone company feels like the same type of commitment as marriage.  To bad you can’t opt for a prenupt or divorce though.

It’s not usually a topic you hear much about in the media, which is a shame – who else is going to keep them in check?

First, let me explain why you don’t really hear much about it (even though its likely we have all had a grudge against a mobile service company at one time or another).
Mobile companies such as Rogers, Fido, Telus, and Bell usually have very large advertising budgets for T.V., news and magazines… Does it make sense that they would advertise in a newspaper that bashes their products and company? Of course not – so rather than loosing out on revenue dollars, many media outlets choose to forego the cell phone rant.
The Runner on the other hand – doesn’t rely on their money to print our paper!

Right now, I’m with Rogers, and have to say that I have never really been happy with the products, the prices, or the customer services. I used to pay nearly $110 a month on my mobile bill – and never used it extravagantly. After wasting countless hours on the phone with representatives over the last few months, I managed to get my bill down to $75. As a student – this is still quite expensive, totalling nearly $900 for the year. I was comparing my plan to a Koodoo, trying to get them to price match, and was told by a customer service representative, “ You can’t compare us to Rogers. We aren’t competitors.” I was dumbstruck by this logic. Why one would have to work so hard to negotiate a reasonable price, seems completely unreasonable.

Today even, I was trying to help out my father who recently purchased a new “Rocket Stick” from Rogers which provides “high-speed” internet access on his laptop (Yea right…). After using it for the last month, he decided that it wasn’t working the way he had expected, and service around his house was intermittent. He said he didn’t want to remove his service entirely, but wanted a different product instead – The iPhone!
It seemed reasonable that Rogers would consider cancelling his $30 a month (one year) contract, to replace it with a three year, $65 a month iPhone – A win-win situation for both parties right?  (more money for them, and a happy customer!) – Nope! After talking to three different representatives, two of them being managers, over a total of three hours on the phone, stretched over three days in a big fiasco – no resolution. I even had their customer services representative saying: “No one reads the contracts anyway.”  Frustrating? Yes.

If you buy a product from a store, use it, and find out the product isn’t what you expected – you bring it back! Most companies are more than happy to try satisfy their customers within reason, and are more than willing to find a good fit for their them.

Cell phone companies, on the other hand, seem to take “customer service” to a whole different direction. Rather than trying to find reasonable options for customers, it seems that they attempt to find reasons why what you want WON’T work. In this last situation, I was told that “a Rocket Stick and iPhone are two entirely different products. You can’t compare the two.” Frustrating? Yes.

So what does this boil down to? Are wireless customers doomed to be stuck in wireless hell for eternity? I would hope not. Wireless service companies need to get their priorities straight – they have not only an obligation to their shareholders, but to their customers as well. I’m certain that with an improvement in customer service and satisfaction, there will come improvements in their bottom line.

There is another side to it though. There clearly is not enough competition in Canadian markets to encourage improvement in services. Canada has some of the HIGHEST mobile rates in the world, worst than most third world countries.

While I was in India a few years back, it was cheaper for me to make a long-distance call to Canada on my cell phone, then it would have been for me to make a local mobile call in Canada. Currently, Rogers is the ONLY major GSM service provider in Canada (as they also now own Fido.)

As such, not only do wireless companies need to sharpen up a bit, but government regulators such as the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) needs to allow for better access to markets, allowing more competitors to enter Canada. (market protectionism is the way of the past). By allowing a greater degree of competition in the wireless sector, wireless prices will go down, and the need for appropriate customer oriented services will be met. Bottom line – quit ripping us off guys.

Have an opinion? We want to hear it! Write to: letters@runnerrag.ca

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