Walter Schultz doesn’t like leaving anything to chance. The licensed private investigator documents everything — so when he contacted Bell Mobility in February for a better deal on his service, he recorded the exchanges.
Three different customer service representatives made the same offer, which he accepted, that included 10 GB of data for $55 per month.
But Bell later told the Kitchener, Ont., man he couldn’t have the deal — because it didn’t exist.
“My initial reaction was laughing like, this is not real, this is not happening … it’s absurd,” said Schultz.
These kinds of transactions — where one thing is promised and another delivered — seem to be happening a lot with telecom providers.
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Misleading information or contract terms that conflict with a prior agreement are among the top complaints according to the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services (CCTS) — a mediator between customers and telcos.
More than 3,600 such complaints, out of 15,661, were filed with the CCTS between August 2019 and July 2020. (It’s hard to tell how many of the complaints have merit. The CCTS says some are dismissed when customers won’t co-operate with the process, or when the telco makes another, reasonable offer.)
Bell, one of Canada’s Big Three telcos and its largest wireless provider, had by far the most complaints in 2019-20, followed by Rogers Communications and Videotron.
Bell blames Schultz’s experience on the sales reps — it says they conflated two separate offers, and has since apologized.
But contract law professor and lawyer Anthony Daimsis says a lot of customers don’t realize a verbal contract can be just as solid as a written one — if there is proof.
“The written part, it’s really irrelevant — it gets too much hype maybe in movies and TV,” said Daimsis from the University of Ottawa.
He says once an offer is accepted by the customer, it could be considered a legal contract.
“The difference between a written and a non-written agreement really comes down to evidence. The law doesn’t say that an oral promise is any less binding than a written promise.”
But even those who do have proof are finding it hard to get what they were promised.
Schultz had plenty of evidence, but that didn’t seem to help him with Bell.
When he first spoke with an agent on Feb. 27, he thought it was a done deal, because that’s what the agent told him. In the recording — which Go Public heard — the agent clearly says all Schultz needs to do is go to his local Bell store to pick up the new phone and the data offer would kick in.
Schultz even asked for a confirmation number, and was told he didn’t need one because everything was noted on his account.
LISTEN | Schultz promised deal:
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