Dale Bass is a cellphone customer from Kamloops, B.C. with a text-mad son. Dale decided to add Liam to her family plan. She believed she was buying an unlimited text message package but when she got her bill, discovered she was getting charged for extra text messages at the rate of 15 cents a pop.

We’ve been investigating stories like Dale’s and, in fact, have put out a call for Canada’s worst cellphone bill. As part of our research, we’ve learned that navigating the cellphone company plans and contracts can be a minefield. And so we have put together some tips for you — so you can avoid the ugly surprise that Dale got.

Check your bill regularly — and carefully. Spotting a problem quickly can help your case. If you don’t understand a charge, ask your phone company to explain.


Document everything. Whether you’re dealing with a customer service representative at a call centre, store, or kiosk, get as much as you can in writing or write down the details yourself. Get the rep’s name, the details of your plan, how they’ve offered to fix your issue, and date your notes in case you have to refer to them later.

Talk to a manager or supervisor. If you’re getting nowhere with front-line reps, ask to speak with a manager. If you’re dealing with a call centre, you may encounter more resistance, so you’ll need patience. And if you are refusing to pay your bills in the interim, cellphone companies could suspend your service or report you to a collection agency.

Complain to a third party. Report your grief to the Commissioner of Complaints for Telecommunications Services. If you’re getting the runaround, it can make the company deal with it, and if you don’t like the outcome it may investigate further.

Check out the competition. There are online services that can suggest better plans for you than the one you might currently have. They might even suggest a better plan at your same company so you don’t have to worry about cancellation charges.

Make the cellphone companies compete for your business. Tell them you’ll be talking to others to find the best deal. And even when you’re ready to sign on, get the shortest term possible to keep flexible as your needs change and rates get more competitive.

Find out who has Canada’s worst cellphone bill on Marketplace tonight airs at 8:30 on CBC television.

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