Criticism of Bell Canada

Criticism of Bell Canada

Many criticisms have been made regarding Bell Canada as well as its products and services. Such criticism either applies to the company in general, or only for a specific product or service.


General criticism

Customer service

Bell Canada earned the #1 spot on MSN Money Canada's "Customer service hall of shame" feature. 36% of readers agreed that "Bell's customer service was the absolute worst in Canada", while many others ranked it in the second or third place. The main reasons for the complains were representative's attempts to sell more services to customers, incorrect charges, and the limited language skills of some representatives. Many nicknamed the company "Bell India" because the company outsourced much of its staff overseas.[1]

Misleading pricing

As early as the holiday season of 2007, Bell has advertised many of its products at prices that are impossible to obtain. The reason for this is because several additional fees were hidden in the fine print.[citation needed]


Bandwidth throttling

Users of bandwidth that Bell Internet deems excessive have been sent warning letters that state they are in violation of their service agreement and acceptable use policy. As a result their use of peer to peer programs is traffic managed during peak hours. Some have questioned the legality of this (including notable companies such as Google and Skype).[2][3]

As of April 7, 2008, Bell began using deep packet inspection by Arbor Networks to identify and throttle all BitTorrent traffic across its network,[4][5] regardless of actual bandwidth use. This also affects its wholesale service customers and resellers, who have filed a formal complaint to the CRTC.[6] Critics claim Bell's move stifles competition, violates net neutrality, and discriminates against legitimate uses of the BitTorrent protocol.[7]

Mobile broadband

In December 2007, the BBC reported a customer with a $7/month unlimited mobile browser plan received a $85,000 bill.[8] The customer had used his phone as a wireless modem for his computer, and so data transferred was not included under the customer's unlimited mobile browser plan.[9] Bell Mobility now releases in detail acceptable data usage in the terms of service.[3] The BBC reported "Canadians complain that their mobile phone charges are much higher for comparable service in the United States".[8]

Project Cleanfeed Canada

In November 2006, to prevent access to child pornography sites, Bell Internet and many other Canadian Internet service providers agreed to partner with[10] and the latter organization's Project Cleanfeed Canada. This project is an initiative designed to block access to child pornography on the Internet via an encrypted blacklist of known sites that host images of prepubescent children.[11] Bell Internet customers, as well as Bell Mobility customers using mobile Internet services, cannot access the sites blocked by the project.

Some critics denounced the initiative, but others argue that it is a step worth taking.[12]

Usage-based billing

In May 2010, the CRTC ruled that Bell could implement a billing system utilizing a bandwidth cap, legally known as usage-based billing (UBB), on wholesale ISPs that sell Internet services over their regulated last mile networks (such as Primus Canada, 3web, Youmano, and TekSavvy), claiming that the larger and sometimes unlimited usage plans offered by the smaller ISPs were causing congestion on their network. The CRTC also required that Bell impose the same requirements on its retail customers as well.[13] However, Bell appealed on the restrictions, claiming that the restriction violated policies imposed on the CRTC by the government.

The CRTC repealed the restrictions they had imposed, and allowed it to impose UBB on its wholesalers beginning on March 1, 2011, allowing them to only grant their customers a set limit on how many gigabytes of bandwidth they may use per month (as little as 25 gigabytes in most cases), and impose an overage charge of $1-2 for every gigabyte over this limit.[14] [15]

The move was criticized by many, including representatives of the affected ISPs, who claimed that Bell's plans were anti-competitive and intended to force smaller independent ISPs to cripple their service in favour of Bell's own internet and television services.[14] The move was also considered damaging to online streaming services such as Netflix (which had only recently launched in Canada), and the 25 GB cap was also considered a stark comparison to the 250GB data caps offered by the American ISP Comcast by a writer for the U.S. technology news site Ars Technica.[16] In response to the outcry, the non-partisan group published an online petition calling on the CRTC to repeal UBB. By February 3, 2011, the petition had received over 400,000 signatures.[17]

On February 2, 2011, industry minister Tony Clement and prime minister Stephen Harper jointly called on the CRTC to reverse the decision in a meeting, stating that the limits would hurt small businesses and innovators, and that forcing a new business model on companies that do not want to use the model is the wrong way to do things. The day after, the CRTC announced that it would review the decision due in part to the criticism over the move, and a request by Bell to delay the implementation.[17]


Feature restrictions

Bell Mobility has been known to restrict certain hardware features of their handsets. This action is typically referred to as “crippling”. Examples of claims of restricted features are the inability to perform Bluetooth file transfers, for example with the OBEX profile or with a USB cable. Restrictions also include increasing the GPS lock time (2–10 minutes) and resolution (1-2.5 KM) of third-party applications while maintaining the speed (10-15 s) and accuracy (10–25 m) of the branded GPS Nav program. GPS Nav service costs $10/month or $3.50/day in addition to the cost of a data plan. The phones affected include the BlackBerry 8830 World Edition, BlackBerry 8130 Pearl, and BlackBerry 8330 Curve.[18]

SMS fees

In July 2008, along with Telus Mobility, Bell Mobility introduced charges of 15¢ for incoming SMS messages. Critics were quick to point out that there is no way of blocking incoming message fees and suggested Bell and Telus were price fixing as both had announced the fees simultaneously.[19] Bell (and Telus) are now being sued by frustrated consumers and subscribers, as they demand change in text charges.[20] Many customers were frustrated because this fee also apply to existing customers with ongoing contracts.[21]

System access fee

In the past, Bell Mobility and its brand Solo Mobile charged a $6.95 monthly system access fee (SAF) on all its postpaid plans. Solo also charged a $3.95 monthly SAF to all prepaid customers.[22]On November 20, 2009, however, Bell increased the monthly fee for all of its plans by $5 while eliminating the system access and carrier 911 fees. The call forwarding feature was also added at no extra charge to all plans, but airtime is deducted or charged like a mobile call. These changes only affects customers subscribing to a new Bell Mobility plan on or after that date.[23]

Solo Mobile

Antisemitism advertising

Bell apologized on September 14, 2007 after billboard ads for Solo Mobile showed a young woman dressed in punk rock attire with a button that read "Belsen Was a Gas". Spokesman Mark Langton said that Bell officials approved the ads after examining sample images that were smaller than the final billboards, in which the text of the button could not be made out.[24]

Virgin Mobile Canada

Sex in advertising

In 2009, Virgin Mobile Canada introduced a public transit billboard created by Juniper Park which read "for hot text call 1-866-616-9357 now". Later, a similar campaign called "Hook Up Fearlessly" launched, which continued the brand's trend of sex in advertising by featuring advertisements with a female angel in a miniskirt or a couple kissing. The female angel advertisement also featured the toll-free number found in the "hot texts" campaign, while the couple was either gay or heterosexual. Adam Lambert, who noticed the homosexual ad while visiting Montreal, said: "I thought this was interesting in view of the recent controversy in the US." [25] Organizations like Calgary Transit, however, has removed all but one of the ads, because they were controversial to the public. Throughout Canada, "some […] felt it [the ad campaign] was too sexual and inappropriate for children."[26]

See also


  1. ^ "Customer service hall of shame". MSN Money Canada. 
  2. ^ Bell Sympatico P2P Black List. 2008-11-03.
  3. ^ Peter Nowak (2008-07-07). "Bell's Internet throttling illegal, Google says". Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  4. ^ Bell Canada Confirms Throttling - Tells wholesalers: too bad, so sad... -
  5. ^, Bell: Network management (Bell official website)
  6. ^ Story Financial Post [dead link]
  7. ^ "Union urges CRTC to curb internet interference by Bell, Rogers". CBC News. 2008-03-28. 
  8. ^ a b BBC News,"[1]" December 13, 2007
  9. ^ Wireless terms of service-
  10. ^
  11. ^ Michael Geist (2006-11-24). "Project Cleanfeed Canada". Michael Geist. Retrieved 2007-12-28. 
  12. ^ Michael Geist (2006-12-04). "Child porn plan a risk worth taking". Toronto: Retrieved 2007-12-28. 
  13. ^ Nowak, Peter (2010-05-06). "CRTC approves usage-based internet billing". CBC. Retrieved February 3 2011. 
  14. ^ a b Marlow, Iain (2010-10-29). "CRTC ruling handcuffs competitive market: Teksavvy". Toronto: The Globe & Mail. Retrieved 3 February 2011. 
  15. ^ Nowak, Peter (2010-10-28). "CRTC green lights usage-based internet billing". CBC. Retrieved 3 February 2011. 
  16. ^ Lasar, Matthew. "200GB to 25GB: Canada gets first, bitter dose of metered Internet". Ars Technica. Retrieved 3 February 2011. 
  17. ^ a b "CRTC to review usage-based billing decision". CBC. 2011-02-03. Retrieved 3 February 2011. 
  18. ^ [2]
  19. ^ "Bell, Telus customers to pay for incoming text messages". CBC News. 8 July 2008. Retrieved 13 October 2011. 
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ Solo Mobile legacy plans.
  23. ^ "Bell quietly drops system access fee". CBC news. 2009-12-03. Retrieved 10 August 2011. 
  24. ^ "Bell pulls ad with reference to Holocaust, apologizes". CBC News. September 14, 2007. 
  25. ^ Lambert, Adam. "Hook up fearlessly: Virgin Mobile's new ad campaign in Canada". 
  26. ^ Creelman, Brent. "Calgary Transit yanks "provocative" Virgin Mobile ads". Xtra!. 

External links

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