Bell Cuts Service After Edmonton Teen’s $2,000 Texting Bill Goes Unpaid

An Edmonton family is currently battling Bell, over their daughter’s nearly $2,000 texting bill from thousands of messages sent to the USA.

Joy Zylstra’s 14-year old daughter had her own cellphone line on a Bell small business plan through her father Dave Zylstra.

The problem? Her plan did not include unlimited texting to the United States, which resulted in bill shock after their daughter sent thousands of U.S. messages from November 22 to December 31, 2018, reports CBC News.

The final bill was nearly $2,000 in U.S. text overages, which took the family by surprise. The Zylstras contacted Bell which reduced the bill by $200 as a “goodwill gesture”, down to $1,800. The family struggled to fully repay the charges in time, and Bell subsequently cut off service on February 15, 2019, after providing multiple warnings of doing so.

“We just feel like they’re bullying us,” said Joy Zylstra, adding “I don’t know how they’re able to get away with this.”

According to the parents, their daughter didn’t know about the costs of sending texts to the U.S., and they only found out about the overages on their December and January bills, which Joy called “a punch to the gut.”

A Bell spokesperson said two separate warning messages were sent to the daughter’s cellphone when texting overages reached $15 and $45, but those were ignored by the teen.

Bell said the family had to pay the bill. Spokesperson Nathan Gibson said, “As the account holder, Mr. Zylstra accepted responsibility for payment of [all] services.”

Dave says as the main account holder, he should have been notified so he could have dealt with it immediately. Once he saw the bills, he cancelled his daughter’s phone line.

Unfortunately, the CRTC Wireless Code only provides limits on data overages and not text messages.

Ottawa-based non-profit, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, told CBC News “Since it’s not really costing [Bell] any money, it just looks like profiteering or being mean,” said John Lawford, executive director of the PIAC.

Bell set up a payment plan for the Zylstras, after a request for more time to pay off the bill. The first $1,100 was due on February 8, 2019, but the deadline was missed. The family put down $400 on February 14th.

On February 15, the father received a text from Bell saying the past due needed to be paid by March 1, or wireless service would be cut off. Later that day, Bell cut off service.

“We just simply wanted a reasonable payment plan to give us time to pay this off until my husband starts working again,” said Joy. “But they flat-out refused to help us.”

The CRTC Wireless Code requires companies to provide at least two weeks and 24 hours notice before cutting off service. The family said they didn’t get any warning of the February 15th suspension.

Bell says they notified the family on January 26 and February 6 via email, noting if the $1,100 wasn’t paid by February 8, the company would possibly suspend service.

Dave claims those were not received and may have ended up in his spam folder. He noted he only received the text on February 15, warning of a March 1 suspension date. Bell says the February 15 text was automatically generated for past due accounts.

The Zylstras borrowed $1,000 from a family member to pay off the bill and restore the cell service on the same day, with $70 in reactivation fees.

“I was crying on the phone with [Bell],” Joy told CBC News, who called to complain the following day.

The family says once they pay off their bill, they will be switching cellphone providers, with Dave saying “We feel very betrayed” with Bell.

Who’s at fault here? The parents or Bell?

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