88-Year Old Woman Battles Bell to Reclaim $1,000 in Wireless Credits

Even a nickname of “Mother Teresa” won’t get you a wireless credit refund from Bell, as 88-year old Theresa Smith, from Milton, Nova Scotia, discovered.

The 88-year old has been embroiled in a battle with Bell for the past six months, in efforts to get nearly $1,000 in prepaid wireless credits back, reports CBC News.

Bell told Smith a refund was not possible and instead offered to halt pre-authorized credit card payments, and use her banked up credits towards paying for her cellphone bill.

The wireless giant told Smith her credits would last her the next 4.5 years, which the Milton resident says may outlast her remaining time on this earth. Bell said if Milton were to die, her prepaid credit would remain with the company.

“You might not be here tomorrow,” said Smith, adding, “We don’t know. But 4½ years? There’s less chance of being here in 4½ years.”

Smith started paying $17.25 per month for a Bell prepaid cellphone plan years ago, as an emergency phone while driving. However, she no longer drives and uses a home medical alert system for emergencies instead. Her dormant Samsung flip phone remains in her kitchen drawer. Each month, her prepaid phone saw unused credits rollover to the next, with a balance now of nearly $1,000.

Last November, Smith and her family tried unsuccessfully to communicate with Bell in their attempts for a refund. She says her phone experience with Bell saw her get bounced from one agent to another. “I never got any satisfaction from any of them,” Milton explains, referring to Bell’s customer service agents.

Milton says she never knew how much money she had banked up in her prepaid account, because she never received a bill for her wireless plan.

Her friend Sherma Versteeg also tried to call Bell for a refund, but got stuck in the ‘Bell Shuffle’, being told one thing from one agent, then transferred to another agent, only to find out the original info was false. Versteeg said she spent three hours on the phone with Bell back in November and spoke with 11 agents, only to conclude no $960 refund was being issued.

“People just give up because they just make it such a battle,” said Versteeg, adding, “To try to get anywhere with them is just discouraging. And I see that in Theresa. That’s hard. She’s 88 years old.”

Smith told CBC News, she wishes Bell would “just have a heart. I just wish they’d hear me,” added the Milton senior.

While Bell declined to be interviewed by CBC News, a spokesperson clarified in a written statement, the company’s prepaid terms of service state prepaid credits are non-refundable. Bell said it also offered Smith the ability to pay her phone with the credit for 44 months.

Bell also extended an olive branch to say, “As a further goodwill gesture, we will be in touch with Ms. Smith to offer the credit on her home phone, TV and internet services,” which would allow her to use up her prepaid credits faster, versus waiting 44 months.