Monday, February 29, 2016

Bell's Contempt For Its Customers

For me, the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back came last year. Up to then, every three to six months I would play the game of calling my telephone and Internet service provider, Bell Canada, to renegotiate my charges, asking them what they could do for me since I was contemplating switching to the lower-priced services offered by Cogeco, my cable tv provider. The operator would check for special promotions since I had been "a loyal customer for so many years," and I would get a reduced price for both my phone and Internet. When the promotion ended, I would call again and perform the same dance.

This routine grew increasingly tiresome, and I finally decided that I had had enough of Bell's tawdry tactics when, after my final renegotiation, I looked at my bill the following month, noting that both my Internet and my phone bill had been increased by a couple of dollars from the renegotiated price. The assumption of my corporate overlords, I guess, was that, like the frog being slowing boiled alive, I wouldn't notice. But I did, and I walked.

This morning my thoughts turned to Bell upon reading a story about how it is handling the CRTC mandate for all television providers to offer a basic skinny package costing only $25. To call the corporation contemptuous is likely an understatement.
... experts say Bell’s stripped-down deal — devoid of U.S. channels — seems to veer further from the spirit of the new regulations than other carriers and changes little for most consumers, despite the CRTC’s aim “to give Canadians more choice.”

That choice is “things that we’ve never heard of,” said Dwayne Winseck, a professor at Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication.

Winseck noted the absence of American broadcast stalwarts like ABC, NBC and CBS, included in basic Canadian TV packages for decades.

“They’re working to give it a stillbirth,” he said of the roll-out, calling it “retrograde,” “begrudging” and “behind 1970s standards.”
So how, exactly, is Bell parading its disdain for those seeking to reduce their costs? By offering them an unpalatable selection of 'econo-channels':
Bell’s entry-level package, posted online without fanfare two days before deadline, costs $24.95 per month. It counts the Weather Network, TVO and 10 francophone channels among its 26 offerings, according to the Bell website.
And the insult is compounded by this:
Extra à la carte channels for $4 or $7 range from TSN to Discovery and CNN. Like other Bell cable packages, the Starter kit requires a Bell Internet subscription, starting at $64.95 per month, plus $15 monthly for PVR rental.
Thanks to a document leaked to the CBC, we also know that Bell staff is being told not to promote the package. Take a look at Bell's website and see how long it takes you to find any information about it. Our spy agencies could likely learn a trick or two from Ma Bell on effective concealment tactics.

Bell's ruse is not going unnoticed:

Being the target of a corporation's contempt is always always an unpalatable experience. When that contempt becomes egregious, it needs to be dealt with forcefully and with finality. Bell will never see me return to its fold. With its newest outrageous perversion of the spirit of the CRTC ruling, I hope others will follow suit.


  1. Lorne, I've decided to opt for someone's 'skinny package.' The way I see it, the skinny is simply the cover charge. I hardly ever watch the channels offered but it is nice to be able to access them as necessary. I have an AppleTV box my kids gave me so I'm never short of entertainment content.

    There are, however, five 'speciality' channels I enjoy and so I've decided to canvas the local TV options - Telus, Shaw Cable and Bell and get them each to quote a price for 'skinny plus.' I'll mention that I'm soliciting quotes and will probably go with the best offer. Let's see how they respond.

    1. I'll be interested to hear of the results, Mound. My understanding is that Shaw actually wanted to offer more in its skinny package, but the CRTC said they couldn't. We don't have Shaw around here, but it might be your best bey.