Bell Aliant Charges Senior Hundreds for Local Calls in ‘Programming Error’

Bell Aliant sent an invoice of almost $650 to one senior in Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia, for two months of telephone service after overcharging him due to a “programming error” that billed his local calls as long-distance — reports the CBC.

“Thirty-five dollars a month for the house phone, that’s what they said I have to pay,” said 81-year-old Frankie Allison. “Not 20 cents a minute.”

Allison was billed hundreds of dollars after two months of making local calls, most of which were to Lower Sackville — a suburb that’s about a 20-minute car ride away. “If I phone up the road to my friend, they still charge me 20 cents a minute,” he said.

The discrepancy was a result of Allison’s new phone number being assigned the 782 area code, instead of the better-known 902. Even the telephone installer told Allison that he had never put in a number with that code in the area before.

When Allison reached out to Bell Aliant after receiving his first bill, the company told him the invoice was correct and insisted that he pay the bill as he received it.

“I said they made a mistake, when I called them. And, ‘No no, that’s no mistake, that’s what you owe,'” Allison recalled being told by Bell Aliant.

Bell Aliant is the brand name Bell Canada offers telecommunications services under in Atlantic Canada. The company came to be after Bell privatized Aliant as part of a $3.9 billion deal back in 2014.

Allison refused to pay the trumped-up bill he was sent and cancelled his landline. Until last week, he was in a standoff with the company, which had told him they could send his debt to a collections agency.

“I told him you can put in whose hands you like, I’m not paying anything,” Allison said. “I’m 81 years old, I don’t need no credit. And I got three vehicles, so I know I’m not buying any more.”

After the CBC contacted Bell Aliant, the company investigated the issue and admitted it was at fault.

“We looked into Mr. Allison’s account and discovered there was a programming error with his phone number which resulted in unnecessary long-distance charges,” said a spokesperson for Bell Aliant.

The company also acknowledged that it shouldn’t have urged Allison to pay the erroneous invoice. “We are now waiving the charges and apologize for the inconvenience,” the spokesperson added.

The company had a similar incident back in 2019, where it overcharged a New Brunswick customer by about $3,100 and then offered her a partial refund of only $816 in credit. Bell Canada, which owns Bell Aliant, accounted for about 24.6% of all CCTS complaints against telecom operators between August 2021 and July 2022.

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