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article imageOp-Ed: Discount cellphones getting popular, but buyer beware Special

By Daniel Boyington     Apr 18, 2012 in Technology
Toronto - We all love our cell phones and we need them, but are we getting taken for a ride on all the so-called "plans?" You just can't trust any of them anymore although the discount providers have made it better, but have they? $3 fee if you pay cash.
The new discount market have allowed everyone to switch providers because they state that there are no contracts, no credit checks, no hidden fees. Be cautious, do your homework, and shop around.
In the Toronto Star recently they mention the contract problem, and if you cancel from the big providers they want an extra cancellation fee, since they try to lock you in for 3-5 years.
Several of the so-called "discount" companies are owned by the big guys, Fido/Rogers, Solo/Bell, and Telus have a discount carrier as well, I think it's Koodo.
"Unlimited texts" red flag, it's not what they tell you when you buy a 'plan,' it's what they don't tell you that makes the difference. Parents be aware, totally aware of "ALL CHARGES or potential charges."
Currently there is a father in B.C who has a dispute with Rogers about $500 in text charges to his son. After dispute, Rogers rewarded him by cutting off his son's cell phone. Nice touch.
Public Mobile
Talk about these outrageous 'plans' the featured video was made three years ago when there were no discount carriers, and the outraged customer talks about the 'plan" is exactly the same on Fido, well yes, Fido is owned by Rogers, just a bait and switch. And 450 MB on a cell phone, that's like two pictures? These bandwidth and data charges are a complete ripoff, and they know it.
It's a revenue booster, and costs them nothing. We all better wake up, and start shopping around and get educated on how they are shafting us. Do you buy a new house/car without shopping around?
In the USA most cell carriers have no-limit on bandwidth, or it is higher than anyone could ever use in a month and now with the Fibre-optic TV's like FibeTV, they squeeze every nickel out of you unless you raise hell.
Are they in this service to make money, yes. But be fair and reasonable and most are not. With the influx of the discount carriers here in Canada, they are all working around their pitch to new subscribers, to keep certain details away from the consumer, by saying "no hidden fees," but don't give us all the information, just what we ask for.
I call it "stock answers," especially Bell Canada, when you ask any particular question about your cell phone or TV service you get the "stock answers," instead of telling us the whole truth.
Another very sleazy thing all carriers are doing is allowing you to have, send and receive text messages on smart phones. Why not allow customers to choose what they want, as an example, I don't want to receive text messages, but can I get them to stop sending them? NOT, "sorry our system isn't set-up to block text messages" and why is that, they don't want to lose the income they generate, whether it's from your friends, or from solicitation from unknown people.
They are literally nickel and diming us to death. Just be upfront and honest, people are smarter than they think, and the gig is up, we're shopping around.
Pay phone
Pay phone
Here's an example how Public Mobile explain their "no hidden fees" no contract when you ask about renting/buying a phone from them. I walked in and wanted to buy the $15 no contract, no surprises, province wide, unlimited calling. They said, "It's now $19 and yes it's province wide unlimited calling, now which phone would you like." Well I said, is that everything I need to know? Oh yes "At the end of the month if you don't pay, your phone cuts off." Ok that sounds fair. I said is that it? "yes" I then said what happens if I don't pay on the final day of the month? "Well your phone is suspended." Is that it? "yes" Ok, how do I get it going again? "Oh, you must pay the $19 monthly fee, and if you pay it here at our customer care desk, there is an additional $3 fee to pay in cash." I'm confused, I get charged EXTRA when I pay cash? "yes" Ok, so that's it?
Not yet, I then asked about a $25 fee if I re-activate my phone? "Oh yes, there is a free re-connection the first time we activate it, but if you allow it to expire, there is a $25 fee to put you back on the system." So let me understand, if I don't pay on time, and the phone shuts off, I need to pay an additional $25 and then an additional $3 to pay you cash for my re-activation for my phone. Doesn't sound like there are "no hidden fees," no surprises, that is unless you have half an hour to ask the right questions, and know what to be aware of. It's really getting sleazy, and they are taking advantage of lower-income people, who must pay cash. An extra $3, because you want to pay cash?
I did not get a phone from Public Mobile, and I'm glad they have a policy of "No hidden fees" because I may have unjustly not trusted them, unless I asked the tough questions, which most would not know how to do.
Discount cell
UPDATE: April 19/2012 - Public Mobile did respond after the story went up and maintain that the $3 fee for cash payment 'in store,' only applies when the subscriber has been two months in arrears.
Lisa Papas, Director of Communications said "If you don't pay by your due date your service is suspended and then as soon as you pay, your service will resume. If you miss two payments in a row, then the $25 re-activation fee applies."
The problem is these extra fees, were not disclosed at the store level, and the $3 cash fee only applies when you run two months in arrears and come into the store to pay you monthly charges. Papas went on to say, "It is my understanding that should happen, the clerks should be telling you this. I will certainly talk to the store and try to find out what happened, and I apologize."
Papas suggested that people should know "They have to pay every month, and if they were concerned about missing a payment, they would have asked, I don't know, I'll have to follow up."
There does appear to be some deception in disclosing these fees, and yet Papas said, "I am not the actual spokesperson, if you would like I can get someone that can comment officially, I have tried to explain to you that Public Mobile, everything we do is about being upfront and no surprises.
Papas indicated that it is on their website (but what if a subscriber doesn't have a computer) but it is deeply hidden from view and now I have the link for the Warning - this fee is indicated HERE.
Warning: A $3 fee is applied for monthly payments made at a store. We don't like it either but it costs us more when customers pay in store. We cover part of that cost but have to pass some of it on to you.
Happy smart phone shopping.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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