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A Campaign for Fair Treatment for Bell Prepaid Wireless Customers
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THE PETITION
Why this campaign?
Bell presents two different expiry dates to the customer. Which is the valid expiry date?
Bell claims the customer's unused balances as forfeited even before the expiry day is over.
Because of Bell's practices, prepaid wireless customers have lost untold millions of dollars.
Prepaid wireless customers include seniors, youth, minimum-wage workers and the unemployed.
These are vulnerable consumers who can least afford to lose their funds or their mobile service.
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New ways to fight Bell under
wireless code

June 6, 2013
By Celia Sankar
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DiversityCanada's assessment that the new wireless code released by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is unsatisfactory for prepaid wireless consumers still stands. Let's be honest, a brief “grace period” does not come anywhere close to matching the ban on expiry dates that prepaid wireless consumers demanded.

However, upon reflection, we can see some value in the code's stipulation that service providers must give subscribers seven extra days to top up, if they miss the expiry date.

The first benefit concerns the unfair practices foisted by Bell Mobility on its prepaid wireless customers, which prompted this “Bell, Give Our Money Back!” campaign in the first place.

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Wireless code a dissapointment
June 3, 2013
By Celia Sankar
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The wireless code released today by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is totally unsatisfactory for prepaid wireless consumers.

The provision with respect to prepaid wireless balance expiry serves no useful purpose; it only extends the service providers' unjustifiable expiry dates by seven days.

In its rationale for the code, the CRTC did not discuss evidence presented during the consultation that prepaid wireless service providers advertise prepaid wireless account balances as cash balances that are to be used by subscribers to purchase a variety of goods and services on the wireless networks. This is a distinct business model to what the Commission apparently based its decision upon: access to a wireless network for a specific period of time.

The CRTC was off-course in its assessment of the prepaid wireless business model, and, therefore, came to what can only be described as a wrong decision as to balance expiry.

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Wireless code to be released, tomorrow
June 02, 2013
By Celia Sankar
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In just over 24 hours, the wait for Canada's first national wireless code will come to an end.

Tomorrow, at 9:00 am, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) will unveil new rules to govern the conduct of mobile service providers.

We at the DiversityCanada Foundation will be looking on with the hope that your demands, which we put forward as an intervener in the consultation to develop the code, would have been met.

Throughout this “Bell, Give Our Money Back!” campaign, we have been listening to prepaid wireless consumers, and we've heard you loud and clear.

You have told us that not only do you want to see Bell held to account for the unfair manner in which it seized the cash balances of its prepaid wireless customers across Canada, you want to see an end to the entire practice of prepaid wireless balance expiry, by all carriers.

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Help create a prepaid wireless code
February 23, 2013
By Celia Sankar
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When I appeared before the mobile industry's watchdog, recently, to argue for greater protection for prepaid wireless customers, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) asked me to provide a draft national code pertaining specifically to prepaid wireless consumers.

I need your help to shape this document.

This is a golden opportunity for the countless prepaid mobile customers who have horror stories about their provider. Now we can get our own back by telling the industry's watchdog how we expect the phone companies to treat us and what should be done to them if they deal with us unfairly.

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Bell's conduct threatens integrity of Canadian marketplace
February 23, 2013
By Celia Sankar
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Bell's practice of, in effect, operating with two different expiry dates on its prepaid wireless services poses a major threat to the integrity of Canada's marketplace.

That was the message I signalled to the wireless sector's watchdog, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), recently, when I appeared at its hearing in Gatineau, QC, to develop a national wireless code.

The fact is, as Canada's largest telecommunications company, Bell occupies a prominent and influential position. Think how dangerous it would be for Canadian consumers if other suppliers followed Bell's example and operated with two different expiry dates, other suppliers such as those who offer baby food, for instance.

The CRTC would eradicate this threat and safeguard the integrity of the Canadian marketplace by entirely banning the practice whereby cell phone companies apply expiry dates to prepaid wireless account balances.

This salubrious result was just one of the reasons I argued that the CRTC should prohibit this unfair practice.

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Early victory for prepaid wireless customers
February 23, 2013
By Celia Sankar
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Even before the final national wireless code has been drafted, prepaid wireless customers can claim victory in the battle against the industry's practice of raising prices unannounced.

In submissions under the auspices of the DiversityCanada Foundation to the industry watchdog's consultation to develop a national wireless code, I argued that the position of cell phone companies that pay-per-use services should be subject to change without notice was patently unfair.

Wireless companies had asked the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to enshrine this practice in the rules which will govern the industry in the future.

However, as DiversityCanada's submission pointed out, if no notice of a change in costs is given, prepaid customers are trapped; because they would have already given the wireless companies their funds, they would have no means of escaping any higher cost which they may not agree to incurring.

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We need to fight back for ourselves
December 14, 2012
By Celia Sankar
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At a recent dinner in Ottawa organized by the Public Interest Advocacy Center (PIAC), I was surprised to have had the pleasure of sharing a table with Toronto Star columnist Ellen Roseman.

Interestingly, I'd met the consumer affairs and financial advice writer for the first time only a week earlier at a town hall in Toronto about middle income access to justice. Roseman informed me that our battle with Bell made it into her forthcoming book, deliciously titled, Fight Back: 81 Ways to Help You Save Money and Protect Yourself from Corporate Trickery.

Published by Wiley, the 304-pager will be in the stores in January. It is already available on Amazon.com. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy.

Incidentally, the keynote speaker at that dinner was none other than Jean-Pierre Blais, the new chairman of the telecommunications watchdog, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

I wonder how many Ottawa bureaucrats are greeted almost like a rock star when they walk up to a microphone, like Blais was.

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