Parents Shocked After Teen Racks Up $6,774 Wireless Bill on Bell

More stories of ‘bill shock’ are headed your way, with a CBC News report detailing how frazzled parents argue the CRTC is not doing enough to protect consumers from wireless overages related to texting and calling.

One story speaks of an Edmonton family whose 16-year old son racked up $6,774 in overages on Bell, from long distances calls to his girlfriend, located 150 km from their home.

Heather Gunn-LaBrie says the enormous bill was reduced by $521 by Bell, then another $1,163 came off after she filed a complaint with the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-Television Services (CCTS).

That left a $5,090 bill, which Gunn-LaBrie says the family is still paying off in instalments. The overages occurred late last year on the family’s shared business plan.

“It is the most horrific feeling,” said Gunn-LaBrie, adding, “This is an obscene amount of stress put on my family” and “It’s just a huge weight sitting on us.”

While the CRTC has consumer protection on overages related to data and roaming fees, no protection is in place for consumers when it comes to long distance minutes or voice minutes.

Gunn-LaBrie said “It’s appalling,” saying, “That’s really a double standard.”

According to the Edmonton resident, she thought her son’s plan included unlimited Canada-wide calling—but it didn’t. She found out about the expensive overages in early December.

“It was an absolute shock,” said LaBrie, saying she didn’t get any notifications about the overages. “If I had gotten one single notification, I would’ve had it resolved in a heartbeat.”

Bell, however, said they sent 11 texts about the overages to Gunn-LaBrie’s son’s line. These alerts were ignored by her son because he believed duplicate warning texts would also be sent to his mom, listed as the account holder on the account. Unfortunately, no warning texts were sent to Gunn-LaBrie’s cellphone.

Bell told CBC News it called Gunn-LaBrie’s son three times and left voicemails, which she says her son received, but no action was taken.

Another Family Gets ‘Bill Shock’ from Bell in Edmonton

CBC News also talks about another Edmonton family dealing with overages in the form of U.S. texting on their 14-year old teen’s wireless line with Bell.

Joy and Dave Zylstra said an $1,800 bill from Bell arrived after their daughter racked up charges with U.S. texting overages. Alerts were sent only to the daughter’s phone and not the main account holder.

“I should have received a notification,” said Dave Zylstra. “I could have immediately realized there was an issue and dealt with it.”

Telus Bill Shock from Long Distance

Another bill shock story comes from Desiree Goodwin of Port Elgin, New Brunswick, whose 18-year old son racked up a $635 Telus bill via long distance and voice minutes.

Telus took off $343 as part of a “goodwill” gesture, leaving the family with a $292 bill, while also changing their son’s plan to one with unlimited nationwide talk and text.

“I was almost in tears,” Goodwin told CBC News. “There should be a limit that you can set.”

John Lawford from Ottawa-based Public Interest Advocacy Centre, a consumer advocacy group, says “You just shouldn’t have to open up your bill and go, ‘Oh, it’s four figures.’ Most people can’t afford that,” noting overages should apply to all wireless features and not just data roaming and data overages.

The CRTC explained to CBC News, data roaming and overages were the primary causes of bill shock when the Wireless Code was created in 2013 and updated in 2017.

When it comes to managing texting and voice minute costs, the CRTC said “over time, become more intuitive to consumers.”

Rogers, Telus and Bell told CBC News consumers should switch to plans with unlimited features to avoid overages, while also mentioning online tools exist to track wireless usage.

The federal Liberal government has currently mandated the CRTC to investigate wireless prices and competition, while the NDP have also argued for lower wireless and internet bills, all ahead of this fall’s national election.