Friday, February 13, 2009

Keeping your phone number while moving; or, how not to get screwed by Aliant

Let's say this happens: you're an Aliant customer, and you contact Eastlink to order phone service that maintains your existing number. Eastlink says everything's cool, just be sure not to cancel your service with Aliant or the number won't transfer. Eastlink does *not* you that you'll be liable for an extra month of service payment if you don't give Aliant 30-days notice of cancellation. Your Eastlink phone service is set up, the number is ported, and Aliant service is terminated. But because you never told Aliant you were leaving, you triggered the 30-days-you-pay-sucker clause and now you're on the hook.

That's how our final phone bill came out to twice what we expected.

Talking with Aliant, I've learned that this applies to customers who subscribe to bundles and long-distance plans. We subscribed to one of those all-the-services plans with a 1200-minute long distance plan. As I understand from the Aliant CSR and the supervisor above her, if we'd only had a phone line without a bundle, we wouldn't have been nailed. Instead, we got charged for the extra month of extended service, long distance and the ubiquitous "network access charge."

As if we didn't have enough impetus to leave Bell-Aliant and go with Eastlink as our phone company, we got another one. They kicked us on the ass on the way out the door.

When you see fine print on the bill that says something like "30 days advance notice is required to cancel this service", do not assume that the service *can't* be cancelled without 30 days advance notice. Sure, it can.

It can, but you'll get a bill for it.

From Aliant's Terms and Conditions:

Notwithstanding 21.1, with respect to Local Value Packages, PrimePaks, long distance plans, Internet Services, Aliant Value Packages and Aliant TV, a residential customer may terminate service by providing Aliant no less than thirty days advance notice of termination (the “Notice Period”.) The customer will be charged for service until the end of the Notice Period, except in the circumstances outlined in 21.2.


Turns out it took a major ruling to allow Aliant to do this. About a year ago, the CRTC decided that Bell-Aliant had the right to charge customers who left the company without 30 days notice. Competitor Eastlink said that was bad for them:
EastLink submitted that Bell Aliant's proposed 30-day notification requirement could prevent competitors from porting the telephone numbers of Bell Aliant customers wanting to switch to a competitor's service. The company indicated that the current porting process only operated correctly when a Bell Aliant customer contacted EastLink directly to arrange for service disconnection.
EastLink argued that if a customer requested service disconnection from Bell Aliant as required by the proposed 30-day notification requirement, EastLink's local service request would be rejected by Bell Aliant.

But the CRTC said Eastlink's arguments were meh, so Aliant tweaked the fine print to include the break-up penalty.

So, if you're thinking of leaving Aliant, here's my suggestion: cancel your bundle 30 days before your move, but keep the phone line. Or at the very least, call Aliant to "discuss your final bill." And don't take your new phone company's word for it when they say "we'll take care of it." They *will* take care of it -- but the billing policies of your existing phone company are *your* problem to deal with.

Also, did you know that each time Bell calls you to pitch you something -- high-speed internet, Bell TV, etc. -- they log it on your customer record? When I was kvetching with the CSR's supervisor about Aliant being dickish with us, he pointed out that we said no to all their sweet offers over the months and hadn't even called to ask how they were doing.

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