Bell Satellite TV: Too good to be true

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Bell Satellite
February 16th, 2011 • 10:24 am

I am afraid I have to write a major correction to what I wrote last month about the service I received from my satellite TV provider, Bell Satellite TV.

At the time, I wrote that I was having pretty serious signal reception problems and that the problems were eventually fixed by repairs completed over a 7-day period.

What I didn’t mention in my initial story, because I didn’t think it would be a problem, is the following.

When the first (partial) repair was completed, on January 11, the repairman asked me to sign a “Work Order” form. I saw that he had written two items on that form: one “service call” with the expected $75 charge, and another one titled “mileage 200 km,” with a charge of $100 plus tax.

Right there and then I became suspicious. I asked the repairman about this second item, and he said that I didn’t have to worry about it, that it would be covered by Bell.

Just to make sure, I phoned Bell the next day, and the representative I talked to also assured me that the $100 charge would be covered by Bell and told me that, if there were any issues on my next monthly invoice (where the service call charge would appear), I just had to call them back.

When the repairman had to come back the next week, and said that he would replace the entire cable and the dish itself, I asked him if it would cost me anything extra, and he said that it wouldn’t, that there was a 3-month warranty on any repairs and so the cost of this second repair would be covered under the warranty for the first repair of the week before, for which I could expect to be charged $75 plus tax on my next Bell invoice.

Once again, once the work was completed, he made me sign a “Work Order” form, and once again, he had included two items on the form: one “warranty repair” with no charge, and another one titled “mileage 200 km,” with a charge of $100 plus tax.

I signed the form, kept my two customer copies of the signed forms in a safe place, and waited until the next regular Bell TV invoice.

This invoice arrived a couple of days ago, and apart from the usual items, it had one extra section titled “Adjustments,” with a single charge dated January 28 (10 days after the second repair was completed) for an item labelled… “Additional mileage per km,” with a cost of… $100.

There was no charge for a service call/repair, just this one charge for additional mileage.

It was time to get on the phone. I first talked to a basically clueless representative who kept going through his files saying he could find copies of the work orders, and then asking me to hold while he went to talk to a supervisor. After half an hour of this, he finally said that he had to escalate the issue to a customer service representative and transferred me to this other representative.

She immediately started going on about the fact that these mileage charges were not their responsibility but the responsibility of the “installation provider,” which was another service over which they had no control.

I kept repeating the following points:

  1. At no point during my initial conversation when we set up the first repair was there any mention of any additional charges beyond the $75, which I was perfectly willing to pay.
  2. When I had mentioned the mileage charge to the repairman, he had told me that it would be covered by Bell TV.
  3. When I had called Bell TV the very next day, a representative had once again assured me that the mileage charge would be covered by Bell TV.
  4. I was perfectly willing to pay the $75 charge, but I saw no reason why I should pay anything beyond that charge.

She kept going on about the fact that they (Bell TV) had no control over the “installation provider,” which was a separate company, and that it was normal to have additional travel costs for anything beyond a radius of 50 km from the location of the installation provider’s local office.

I kept saying that this was news to me, that I was never told about this charge, that I would never have agreed to have the repair done by Bell if I had known about this. (We have a local electronics store called The Source that couldn’t have taken care of that repair for me, without outrageous travel fees.) She kept saying that the installation provider should have told me about the extra charge, which they never did. When I asked her how it was considered my fault that the installation provider had not told me about the extra charge, she had no answer.

I said that this was no way to conduct business, that blaming things on a third party was a typical evasive procedure, as if they were not the ones who were contracting with this third-party provider to do the installation/repair work. She said that she and her service were located in Montreal and that they had no way to tell how far a customer was from the local office of the installation provider. I asked her if she had ever heard of something called a map of Canada.

She repeated again and again that they had no control over the installation provider, that this mileage charge was something that couldn’t be reversed, etc. I kept saying that they were the ones who were contracting with this provider and that I didn’t see how it could be my fault if the provider was not doing its job of informing its customers properly. She tried to say something about the fact that I should have read about this on their web site and known about it beforehand! (If you’ve ever visited the Bell Canada web site, you’ll appreciate the irony of this even more.) Things started getting really heated.

I finally started threatening to take my business elsewhere, saying that this was no way to treat a customer that had paid his bills without failure every month for the past 13 years, and that I thought it was outrageous that she seemed willing to cause her company to lose such a long-time customer who had paid them thousands of dollars over the years over a mere disagreement about $25.

She went silent, and then simply said that she would give me a $25 credit. She was obviously too proud to admit that she was wrong, and too much of a lousy customer service representative to recognize the long-term value of treating one’s customers fairly and courteously, especially loyal ones.

I basically hung up on her.

Less than an hour later, I got an automatic e-mail notifying me of the $25 credit (she obviously neglected to reimburse me the 15% sales tax as well, but I am not going to go back on the phone for that). I also soon got an automatic call from Bell asking me to rate the service I had just received. I don’t need to tell you the kind of rating I gave this particularly customer service representative.

The bottom line here is that Bell Satellite TV clearly has an agreement with their installation/repair providers that they can charge mileage costs to any customer beyond a 50 km radius from their local office, and that the customer is supposed to pay for these travel costs. It is rather outrageous, and made even more so by the fact that it is not communicated clearly to the customer. Like I said, if I had known about this extra charge, there is no way that I would have agreed to have someone come all the way from Greenwood, NS (a 2-hour drive) to do the repair job, when there is a local store perfectly willing and able to do it, which just happens not to be the “official” installation/repair provider for Bell.

I guess all this stellar service that I received from Bell Satellite TV in January was just too good to be true. It was high-quality service, but there was a hidden price tag attached to it, and that is simply not acceptable. As a business, either you have to be upfront and perfectly clear about the charges that you or the provider you have contracted will be billing, or you have to apologize for the lack of communication and correct the situation. Bell did neither, and this has rather dramatically changed my opinion of the company.

I will not switch to another satellite TV provider right away, simply because the technical problem is solved for now, and the service offered by the single competitor in Canada is not particularly impressive either. But it will not take much more to make me give up on Bell, despite the inconvenience and the lack of adequate competition.

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