Bell Offers Cheque or Credit for Rebate

by Jordan Richardson on November 26, 2010

When life (or the CRTC) gives you lemons, make some sort of lemon-flavoured drink. That’s the adage Bell is following as it is taking the regulatory order to offer consumer rebates to the next level by turning it into a promotional opportunity.

Earlier this year, the CRTC ordered Bell and other telecom companies in Canada to pay out about $311 million in rebates ranging from $25 to $90 per home phone customer. As I explained in September, the order was a result of overcharging to artificially keep rates high. The difference between the artificially high rates and the lower normal rates was kept in a deferral account maintained by the CRTC. That account now carries a balance of $1.6 billion in excess revenue, so the companies are dishing out the rebates from there.

In the case of Bell, they’re offering consumers a choice: they can accept a $67 cheque next year or a $100 credit to be used immediately on either wireless or TV services. Steve Bickley, senior vice-president of Bell’s residential services division, is pressing consumers to pick the latter. “Don’t wait for your home-phone customer rebate cheque in the mail next year,” he said in a letter sent to thousands of customers. “This is a limited time offer.”

Bell is actually in full compliance with the terms set by the CRTC for the rebates, but that hasn’t stopped their competitors from strongly disliking the promotion spin. Rogers has argued before the regulator that Bell’s use of the mandated rebates to win customers constitutes an “anti-competitive marketing ploy.”

Michael Janigan, executive director and general counsel for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, is also not pleased by the “flexibility” the CRTC has offered Bell in terms of these rebates. “They’re acting like some guy selling a Slap Chop at the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition),” he said. “It’s not something you would expect from the country’s largest telecommunications company.”

While I agree largely with Janigan’s sentiment, I think this is exactly what we would expect from the country’s largest telecom company. Furthermore, I think the Rogers complaint is largely couched in a vat of sour grapes. Had they considered transforming the mandated rebates into marketing opportunities first, they would have been running a similar promotion. Only the very naive would think otherwise.

In the end, this is just another example of Canada’s telecommunications sector at work. Money set aside to artificially raise rates for customers to foster “competition” is now being cycled back through as a promotional opportunity to help Bell win more money. Raise your hand if you’re at all surprised.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Judy Douglas April 13, 2011 at 8:45 am

How do I get this rebate?

Jordan Richardson April 13, 2011 at 9:21 am

Hi Judy,

From what I can tell, they should have sent letters to the consumers eligible for rebates. If you didn’t get a letter or any notice from the company, call Bell and ask about it. I honestly don’t know how this has proceeded in the months since this story was released.

Agnes Ati October 21, 2011 at 5:36 am

How do I know that I’m eligible for this rebate, and what number to call?

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