Bell DSL is now capped
January 16, 2007 11:41 AM   Subscribe

Legalfilter: I accidentally signed onto a 2-year contract for Bell DSL (Montreal Canada). Now just a month ago they changed their service from unlimited bandwidth to limited to 30 gigs a month with penalties up to 30$ a month.

This will not pass, it essentially means that I will definitely be paying double for my internet access for the rest of my life. I tried to appeal to the Bell people but they said that I can't get out of the contract unless I pay 100$ to get out of it. The only thing they have offered me is either a downgrade in speed, where apparently the bandwidth is unlimited, or an upgrade to a cap of 60Gb a month which isn't enough anyway.

I think it sucks that my service was changed and I'm not able to opt out of it and find another ISP. Is there anything that I can do to avoid this fee and get away from Bell?

Also, anyone have any recommendations for a new provider?
posted by Napierzaza to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think they changed the terms of the contract. I think they have some very fine print somewhere that 'allows' them to do so at their whim, and with some form of notice (not that you would have noticed). I think a talk with a manager asking him/her to explain how they can change a contract without notice, and how that the AG (or Cdn equivalent) would be very interested in their 'bait-and-switch' tactics. Of course you do this using your indoor voice.
posted by Gungho at 11:54 AM on January 16, 2007

Do you have a copy of the contract? What does it say about the service and changes thereto? How about charges for dropping service? If they did not say that they could change the service then you may have an argument that they have breached the contract. Is there a government agency you can contact? Who regulates this stuff in Montreal?
posted by caddis at 11:54 AM on January 16, 2007

When Sprint/Nextel recently changed their old unlimited wireless plans to capped & tracked, we were given 30 days to break out of the contract even if we were recent signers. This wasn't mentioned by Sprint though, except via fine print no one reads.

So yeah, there is precedent for getting out of this sort of chicanery. I should also add that this was in the US.
posted by chairface at 12:00 PM on January 16, 2007

Found this in Bell CA terms and service
" If you cancel the Service prior to the end of the Initial Service Period as a result of a material change in the Service, the Termination Charge will be waived by Your Service Provider."

So who determines what is a "material change"?
posted by Gungho at 12:02 PM on January 16, 2007

So who determines what is a "material change"?

If you can't agree on what is a material change, then a court or arbitrator will decide. But if you want to use this right (if it is indeed in your contract), it is important that you exercise it in a timely fashion.

If this is the case, send a letter saying that you are exercising your right to terminate the service without penalty using whatever certified post service exists in Canada. It's possible that the employees you have talked to are either misinformed or lying, but if you discover this later, it may be too late.
posted by grouse at 12:32 PM on January 16, 2007

Agree with Grouse. If you continue to use the service, it will be harder to prove that it was a material change in the service provided. You need to write down in a formal fashion to Bell why you are terminating their service and cite the provision in the contract and your reason for doing so (something to the effect of "the elimination of unlimited bandwith constitutes a material change to my contract, with the effect that you have breached our original agreement").

It is possible they will dispute, but if you make enough noise and intimations of court action (don't threaten legal action right away though, just send the notification letter), it is unlikely they will want to fight a loss of $100.

IAAL, but not yours, so this isn't legal advice, etc!
posted by modernnomad at 12:56 PM on January 16, 2007

This sounds material to me - a doubling of your costs.
posted by caddis at 1:01 PM on January 16, 2007

i'm curious why you would sign a 2-year contract for DSL service. Is that standard - or did you agree to that for some sort of bonus/discount?

There is usually a period where you can complain, cancel, etc. with any changes to the service. Find out if/when you were notified. Hopefully you are still with in the 30 days or whatever.

Also, are you talking to Bell people or Sympatico people? It used to be that Sympatico support was farmed out and the people on the other end of the line had little power to right any wrongs. You might have better luck with actual Bell people.
posted by kamelhoecker at 1:16 PM on January 16, 2007

It's all about the fine print when signing a contract, however, because they changed the lay of the land for you and it's been only 30 + days, you may have recourse.

May I suggest The Lawyer Referral Service. For $6.00 added to your phone bill ]nice eh[, the LRS will provide the name of a lawyer who will provide a free consultation of up to 30 minutes to help you determine your rights and options. You can access the service by calling:
1-900-565-4LRS (4577)

Then you contact the lawyer.

Although I'm in Toronto, I don't know if this would apply to you in Montreal, but it's worth a try. You can ask for lawyers in Montreal.

When you call them, tell them what it's regarding, Telecommunications specialist lawyer, contract lawyer....

I understand is a reliable ISP. I believe that's Primus. They have better prices than Bell ]sympatico[.

I would also shoot an email to the Ombudsman's office. Ontario may have an equivalent in Quebec.

I did this when I switched long distance provider and Bell called me to try to get me to come back. I said no thank you and the person actually said, ok, I'll call your new provider and tell them you're canceling. I said you have no permission to do that...I had their name and said I will be letting the Ombudsman know of your actions.


Good luck, let us know what happened.
posted by alicesshoe at 1:21 PM on January 16, 2007

I checked their website, the clause states that this limit is imposed only to new customers or renewing customers.
posted by PowerCat at 1:21 PM on January 16, 2007

Response by poster: Well I signed onto a contract at the end of the first year. Basically I asked whether there was some offered incentive for a better price if I signed on. Actually what they did was offer me a contract that was 22$ instead of 35$ a month stating it had the same features; BUT IT DIDN'T!!! They actually signed me on for two years to a lower level contract with no cap, I then had to upgrade to the regular price which is a lame ass thing.

Do I have to do this over mail?
posted by Napierzaza at 1:24 PM on January 16, 2007

Response by poster: Gungho:

Please tell me the exact link you found that.
posted by Napierzaza at 1:25 PM on January 16, 2007

Napierzaza: You are definitely going to want to do this via mail. Real, dead-tree mail. And probably not just regular First Class mail, but certified mail (or its Canadian equivalent), so that they can't just toss your letter into the "circular file" and claim never to have received it.

Email is convenient, but when it's time for the gloves to come off, business letters are still how stuff gets done.

It sounds like they've been jerking you around so far, so I'd just shoot them a letter saying that you want to exercise your right to cancel as specified in your contract, due to material changes in the level of service (the bandwidth cap). Send it to 'em certified and give them a week or two to respond, and if you don't hear back, contact whatever the telecommunications regulatory agency is, I'm sure they have a consumer complaint division, and copy them in on that letter.

An old adage is appropriate here: "It's the squeaky wheel that gets the grease." If you're persistent enough, I think you'll get out of your contract. It's just about staying on top of things and being aggressive, but not obnoxious.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:38 PM on January 16, 2007

I believe that Bell's caps only apply to month-to-month service provision. Check this page, and you will see the following:
4Applies to new clients without a term agreement;
That doesn't make their new policies reasonable, but depending on which service you are on, you may be off the hook.
posted by Chuckles at 5:16 PM on January 16, 2007

Forgot the link..
posted by Chuckles at 5:17 PM on January 16, 2007

I found that term here in paragraph 4
posted by Gungho at 10:11 AM on January 18, 2007

Response by poster: Okay, 10$ to apparently send a registered letter in Canada. I am trying by phone, but they're hasseling me.
posted by Napierzaza at 3:16 PM on January 22, 2007

Should be more like CAD 8. But if you're going to balk at that (which you shouldn't because it is chump change compared to your monthly DSL fees), you could send a non-registered letter, with the risk that they will claim that they never received it. Still might save you some aggravation.
posted by grouse at 3:44 PM on January 22, 2007

So, if you can't make any progress with Bell..

I've been using a login from TekSavvy this month, and they have been good so far. You pay $10/month for access, feed your router their information, and since the data is going over their network, bell can't charge for the usage. Much better to just dump Bell, I suspect, but it might help for now. Also, here's the TekSavvy forum on Broadband Reports.
posted by Chuckles at 11:20 AM on January 26, 2007

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