My friend Ben switched from his Fido branded Sony Ericsson w300 to an unlocked T-Mobile USA branded BlackBerry Curve 8320 in mid-2009. At the time he was on the Old CityFido plan and he never really had a reason to switch any part of his plan except to add on BlackBerry services – so his core data plan stayed the same.
Recently, he was on the phone with Fido and he was able to get them to give him a – seemingly – unbelievable deal. Unlimited Canadian minutes, unlimited USA calling from inside Canada, unlimited text messages, BlackBerry Messenger, BlackBerry Email, Call ID and Voicemail all for $47/month! He said after being on the phone with Fido’s customer service and retention departments it was their way of competing with the new entrants to the Canadian mobile market. He was overjoyed at the savings being offered to him and took the deal. It wasn’t until a few days later that he began to notice something horribly wrong with his phone: call waiting no longer worked.
Frantic, Ben called Fido trying to figure out what was wrong with his phone’s service. When Fido asked him what kind of phone he was using, Ben of course told them it was an 8320 and was unlocked and at that moment all help from Fido ended each and every time. Ben spoke with 3 different Fido customer service representatives over the course of 4 and a half hours. One named Dean (who was “a really nice guy”) and 2 others (one of whom was a complete jerk, Ben reports) and all of them told him it was his unlocked phone causing the issue and it had nothing to do with anything on Fido’s end. Each and every time they told him to try typing *#43# & Send to check the status of his Call Waiting (not active) then *43# & Send to activate Call Waiting. Each time he tried the latter he got an ‘action failed’ message. Fido’s reps tried re-sending the BlackBerry service books thinking that might be the problem and that didn’t help either. Each and every time Ben requested that Fido check the status of his account on their end they swore up and down it was because he had an unlocked gray market phone and there was nothing they could do to help him. They maintained he would simply need to switch to a Fido phone be it a BlackBerry (Fido only offers the Curve 8520) or any other Fido device or he would have to live without Call Waiting because there couldn’t possible be anything wrong on Fido’s end.
So, Ben called me and asked me if I could help him. I tried doing a lot of the same things that Fido had tried with Ben as they were obvious steps in an attempt to fix the issue. When I was unable to resolve the problem that way I told Ben it was not a problem and we would try with an old Fido branded phone I had lying around. I went home and found an old Fido branded Nokia 3100b (the phone was released in 2003 but it still keeps chugging along when needed!). If Call Waiting didn’t work once we popped Ben’s SIM card into the Nokia 3100b Fido would have to admit the problem could not possibly be on Ben’s end because this was a Fido branded phone.
We popped the SIM card into the Nokia, turned it on, and tried going through the Nokia’s menus to check the status of Call Waiting…not active. We tried to select the option to turn on Call Waiting….it failed. We then tried the two codes mentioned above which manually do what Nokia set up in their menu structure to do…that failed too. So Ben called Fido and told them that even though he now had his SIM card in a phone which was Fido branded, albeit an old one, he still wasn’t getting Call Waiting.
When Ben called this time, he luckily got through to a shining example of customer service – a lady named Sharon. Sharon helped him out as soon as she heard the issue (although it may have been because Ben was now able to report he had his SIM in a Fido branded phone). She took a look at Ben’s account and said that in the past 12 days since he had supposedly been put onto his new plan and taken off of his old one he had racked up a gargantuan bill of…
She said he had managed to rack up such an astronomical bill because the customer service representative at Fido who had originally changed his plan and taken him off of CityFido had neglected to add on the new plan immediately. Instead, Ben’s new awesome plan was not going to officially come into effect until the beginning of his next billing cycle – tomorrow. As such, he was paying for every minute and kilobyte and text message he used by the minute and by the kilobyte and by the message (sent and received). Of course, this discrepancy was present on account and readily available to any Customer Service Representative in Fido’s call center at the outset of all of Ben’s calls to them. However, once the call center people had heard it was a non-branded phone they figured it was easier to blame it on Ben not using a Fido branded phone rather than actually look into the problem their customer in good standing was having.
For shame. Epic Fail by Fido.
Of course, once all of this came to light Sharon was able to credit Ben for the entire previous month’s bill of service and gave him a month of free service for next month – personally I do not think that was enough for the stress and issues they caused him for such a simple issue that was quite obviously Fido’s fault from the outset but he is happy with it.
But why should people with unlocked phones (or as they’re sometimes known “gray market phones”) be victimized by our cell phone carriers like this? Why do customer service representatives just immediately turn off their brains when they hear the customer is using an unlocked phone on their network? In a 2007 CBC News story a spokesperson for Rogers (the company which owns Fido) said Canadian carriers lock phones because they “heavily subsidize the cost of the handsets“. If that is truly the reasoning behind locking handsets shouldn’t customers using unlocked phones they bought from a source other than their carrier be awarded extra respect and maybe even bill credits? After all, they aren’t costing their carrier the money the carrier would otherwise be paying to “heavily subsidize” their phone. Customers using unlocked phones on carriers that claim they “heavily subsidize the cost of the handsets” are, in fact, doing the carrier a massive favor by bringing their own phones to the table.
To say that the phone isn’t certified to run on the network is absolutely insane because there is a reason that GSM is a standard. Not to mention the fact that this particular phone, the BlackBerry Curve 8320, WAS offered by Rogers at one point (it’s an older phone and has been since discontinued) and there are probably tens of thousands of them still running on Rogers’ network (the same network Fido uses) so to say there are issues with the phone because it was sold by a different carrier in the USA is ridiculous. Further, how can any cellular carrier have roaming agreements with any other country’s carriers if their networks and phones are so different? Answer: they aren’t. Customer service representatives are either being [a] lazy in helping a customer or [b] greedy, trying to find any excuse to sell a new phone to a customer and have them resign their contracts (and don’t kid yourself, they DO make money when they sell you a phone or different plan, just like any sales person in a Rogers store or kiosk would).
The cellular landscape in Canada needs to change.