How to ditch your voice contract: Part 1
Are you fed up with your mobile voice contract? Well, I finally got out of mine – and you can too. It just takes a little work and forethought. In this two three-part blog post, I'm going to tell you how I did it - but first, I'm going to explain why.
A few months ago, my cellphone provider, Rogers, telephoned me with a special offer. It wanted to sell me a Samsung Galaxy S3, which it would give me for a reduced price as a special deal, as long as I renewed my contract (which was due to run out next August). While I was talking to the call centre representative, I decided to take a quick look at my bill online. I found that they were about to charge my credit card $464.
That's ridiculous! As the owner of two businesses, and with a busy personal life, I use a lot of voice and data, but my bill still only runs at around $140 every month. I told the sales rep, who suddenly became less enthusiastic about talking with me. He said that he couldn't do anything, and passed me off to customer service. I spent half an hour with the customer service rep trying to figure things out, and eventually found that my online bill was incomplete; she could see several pages that I couldn't. She eventually passed me off to the retention department.
The retention department is the holy grail of customer service for mobile phone companies. They are the guys that are meant to be able to do pretty much anything to keep you with the company, cutting you deals that normal customer service reps can't. The retention rep was initially sceptical when I complained. There had been some travel to the US, and he assumed that I'd simply used an inordinate number of minutes while down there without a plan. As it happened, I hadn't used very many text messages or minutes at all down there, and pressed the rep to look into it.
After ten minutes on hold, the retention rep sheepishly came back to the phone. It turned out that Rogers had made a mistake. Something hadn't worked in the company's system, and my bill should have been roughly half what the company said.
Even if I had legitimately run up huge amounts on my bill, why wouldn't Rogers let me know that I was uncharacteristically going way over my limit? Some might say that this is the customer's problem. That may be true, unless as in this case the wireless carrier has made a mistake.
In any case, Rogers sends heaps of unsolicited text messages trying to promote new products and services. At one point, I was getting what seemed like a message every other day reminding me about the iPhone 5. It seems unfair to bombard customers with unwanted marketing messages, while withholding valuable information about their accounts.
The representative eventually knocked around $300 off my bill. He didn't offer any compensation for the 90 minutes I'd spent on the phone dealing with this, but he did give me a reference number and tell me that everything had been fixed.
This led me to think about ways to try and lower the cost of my mobile phone service. I called back on a week later, and began talking to a customer service representative about how I could reduce the cost of my service. She looked at my account, and saw what had happened.
"Oh,I have bad news," she said. "The last guy tried to fix things, but didn't finish it."
"What does that mean?" I asked.
"It means that you're going to get another large bill."
"What can I do about that?"
"Call in, and talk to someone about it, after you get the bill."
"What would that be?"
"Sometime after October 24".
On October 27, I checked my latest bill, which was a whopping $513. I called, and spent 15 minutes on the phone while the agent pored over the account history. Eventually, he wiped $266 off the bill.
It was sorted out in the end, but the onus was on me to keep checking that my wireless provider wasn't charging me unduly. This is not good customer service. Wireless customers in Canada already have to deal with a complex and arcane mixture of highly-priced mobile phone plans.
The whole thing is largely opaque, and it's made worse by the fact that customers are told different things depending on whether they're in the store, on online chat, or on the telephone with a customer service rep. One Rogers service agent eventually just told me to just go and ask in the store to get the most accurate information.
Who has the time or inclination to stay on the ball sufficiently enough to avoid getting overcharged?
You don't have to live this way. By the time I spoke to the agent and corrected my bill, I had already made a switch. It cost me some money up front, but it also lowered my monthly phone bill to around $50 - for multiple telephone numbers.
Drop by again tomorrow, and I'll explain how I did it.