How can I stop a cellphone company from screwing me?
August 25, 2005 2:27 PM   Subscribe

How do I get a cellphone company to cancel my account and credit back their charges?

I recently moved to Vancouver from Toronto, and decided to get a cellphone in Toronto with a Vancouver area code prior to arriving here. I purchased a cellphone and plan from a reseller of cellular service, with their own plans (they had free long distance to US and Canada and Asia, which was a selling point), and targetted at Chinese-Canadian customers.

Stupidly, I signed a pre-authorized credit card plan with them, and after the fact did some googling on them, to discover this company has a major reputation for not issuing cancellations in a timely manner, screwing up billing and having terrible customer service. As well, my phone's number was not the one that they said they assigned to me (I discovered this when I dialed the number from the phone and got a woman answering the phone, instead of a busy signal) and they charged me for call display/voice mail when I was told it was free for the first three months.

Based on that, I returned within 24 hours to the store, and asked to cancel the contract and return the phone. The same salesguy who sold me it agreed to refund the amount and cancel the contract, and gave me an invoice with all the amounts made negative, like a reverse of the original invoice, but nothing that explicitly speaks about cancellation. I returned the phone as well. I asked why they couldn't process the refund right away, and he said he didn't have the power to, but I could go to their "head office" at a service centre, and speak to someone there to expedite it.

I did that the next day, and managed to speak to a woman who has been variously referred to as a manager of customer service, manager of marketing, i.e. someone that is purportedly high up. She said the refund could not be processed immediately, that she would have it done in 2 weeks, and that I could contact her in 2 weeks time if I didn't see a refund.

Two weeks have passed, and more, and no refund appeared. In addition to that, I've been billed for service up to the end of October, for a service I've never used except for the 5-10 minutes I tested the phone. When I inquired about that, they said that apparently the cancellation notice was never received by the billing department. I can't seem to find anyone now that will put me in touch with the manager woman I spoke to -- they either claim that they don't know how to contact her or that I can leave a message and she'll get back to me (she hasn't). So I'm at the mercy of low-level customer service agents and managers who are always mysteriously not in the office.

I've called my credit card company, and I've also had problems with them, in that I've gotten different stories about what I can and can't do about this problem. Several times I've been told I can start a dispute process and that they would send me some forms pertaining to authorizing an investigation, but today I spoke to someone there who said I'd need a cancellation notice on company letterhead for the card company to act. How, if I accepted the "refund invoice" I was issued by the cell phone company in good faith, can they require anything more? Doesn't the card company have some kind of consumer protection function in this case? What alternatives do I have?
posted by Big Fat Tycoon to Work & Money (2 answers total)
Sounds like a nightmare. Sorry no one could be of help :-(
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:48 AM on August 26, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, I'm actually kind of surprised that I didn't get any response!
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 10:33 AM on August 26, 2005

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