Paying for Bell & Telus incoming text messages? Not a chance! Free incoming text msg till 2010!

CBC news is reporting that “Bell, Telus customers to pay for incoming text messages” (15 cents each, Bell starting Aug 8, Telus starting Aug 24). (CTV news report here.)

Since I signed a 3-year contract with Bell last year, I was not amused, to say the least, with the fact that I will soon be charged for incoming messages and spam messages. So I picked up my mobile phone and dialed *611 to talk to Bell customer services.

To make a long story short, here is what happened and it may help you.

  1. I nicely and politely reminded the Bell customer service rep that when I signed a contract with Bell last year, the contractual terms included free incoming messages. And I fully expect the contractual terms to be respected by both parties (Bell and me). I asked the rep where in the contract that I signed allowed Bell to change the terms during the contractual period?
  2. And I told the customer service rep (nicely) that I consider the fact that Bell wanting to change the contractual terms unilaterally and start charging me for incoming messages as a breach of contract. And Bell should let me out of the contract without penalty as I consider Bell has breached the contract I signed with them.
  3. At this point, the customer service rep (she has over five years experience with Bell) offered me the following to my surprise! * Free unlimited incoming messages, * free 30 outgoing messages per month! Free until the end of my contract in — 2010 — !!!! OK, totally unexpected from my end. But I suspect that their call centre may have received so much customer complains that they are handling the customers who threaten to walk out of their contract by waiving the charges to try to keep them. (Just my guess here.)
  4. If there is a Lesson here, call your Bell (or Telus) customer service rep and talk to them nicely. If you are firm and nice, you may get your incoming messages fees waived too. Again, what I did above got my fees waived. It may or may not work for you. So let me know if it works for you (or not) by leaving a comment. Thanks.

As of 8:25pm MST, according to the CBC news story “Bell, Telus customers to pay for incoming text messages“, the top two comments are the following,

1399 People recommended this comment,

Crooks. It costs them NOTHING.
When are we gonna stand up for ourselves and take down these criminals?

1139 People recommended this comment,

incoming texts are free in the entire rest of the world. Money grubbers.

I think Bell and Telus have made a serious mistake today. If enough customers were as outraged as I thought they were (see the thousands of complaining Canadians on the CBC site) and actually DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT rather than just bitching about it, may be they will get their stupid charges waived by Bell (or Telus) as well. And may be things will change, and change relatively quickly too (reversing the decision to charge customers for incoming messages).

You see, the rest of the world charge the sender of the messages but don’t charge the receivers. Think, for a moment, about the POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service). It has always been, and should always be, the initiator of a long distance call to pay for the call (except collect call, and that is ONLY if you specifically ACCEPT the charges!). Now, imagine the receiver of a long distance call actually have to pay for the call automatically as well. It just doesn’t make sense!

If you think about it, we live in a new age with millions of blogs, Facebook, Social networks, and many other tools and I think we now have the power to bring one of the largest corporation to listen to us if enough of us do something about the crap that we had to deal with (instead of just bitching about it).

Good luck to you.

Please kindly leave a comment here to share your experience so others may benefit from it.


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
– a quote I love by Margaret Mead


11:25pm MST Update:

Found and joined this Facebook group “Bell and Telus should not charge for incoming text messages“. I hope the various online and offline efforts (my blog posting here, and this Facebook group, angry customers calling Bell and Telus, etc) will bring some senses to Bell and Telus.

Stay tune and we should hopefully find that out soon enough (ah, hopefully).

28 July, 2008 Update: From CBC, “A Quebec man has launched a class action lawsuit against Bell Mobility and Telus, following a move by the cellphone providers to charge customers for incoming text messages.” [HT Paul]

Here is a report from CP (with video).

38 Responses to Paying for Bell & Telus incoming text messages? Not a chance! Free incoming text msg till 2010!

  1. John Sak says:

    I wanted to say thank you for posting this. I got a bit more resistance from Telus, but eventually the transfered me to someone who was able to give me a free texting package (250 a month) which elminates the incoming texts fees, and also put it down to ensure it carries over to any new contracts i sign with Telus.

    Thanks again

  2. kempton says:

    Thanks for your kind words.

    Great to hear you got the free texting package from Telus (250 messages a month, good!). Now, when they transfer you to “someone”, I think thats must have been their second level response. So I guess persistent pays. To fight these silly charges from Telus (and Bell), we have to be firm and nice at the same time.

    Hmmm, interesting thought, I should get Bell to carry my offer to any future contracts that I may sign with them as well.

    Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences here.

  3. John says:

    I used the term Breach of contract when I spoke to Bell Customer service, no luck in getting free texting, all they offered was to blocked my texting both outgoing and incoming. I will not renew with Bell again when my contract is up, another 2.5 years !

  4. kempton says:

    @John (a different John than the one who use Telus)

    Thanks for leaving your comment here. Too bad you didn’t get the same offer as I did from Bell. But at least you don’t have to pay for unexpected incoming text messages.

    Now, I wonder if they would have acted differently if you had told them you want to be relieved of your current contract. After all, sounds like you still had 2.5 years remaining on it. And a customer with a 2.5 year contract (or a contract) should still get some negotiation power.

    Will see how Bell and Telus answer the questions from Prentice.

    Again, thanks a lot for sharing your experiences here and I hope others will get different results from their negotiation.

    P.S. Looking at your experience, “breach of contract” is definitely not a silver bullet or magic password.

  5. Liz says:

    I don’t understand people honestly if you have a text messaging plan already then this WHOLE thing does not concern you. For those who don’t then what text messages are u recieving anyways!!! If it is random spam or some crap then just call telus or bell and nicely ask them to take text messaging off your account. At telus If your a low user and $5 for 250 is too much then get the $3 a month with 50 texts (roger’s offers the same deal but ONLY 20 texts for $3) which wont charge you for incoming. Charging for incoming blows yes i agree but Oh my gosh people EVERYONE text messages now and they are starting to do it way more then calling so of course there has to be compensation. Stop whining and get with the times!

  6. kempton says:


    Thanks for sharing your feedback even we disagree.

    To me, the initiator of the message should pay and any attempt to spin the story otherwise is, to me, just a spin. Imagine if someone make a long distance call to your phone number and you have pay long distance fee also. Make senses? Not to me.

    Also, there is the issue of changing a contract. I am not that forgiving if when I sign something and then the other side decides to charge me differently.

    It is nice that you are willing to “get with the times” and let others take advantage of you contractually. I am afraid I am not one of those people. I like to get what I pay for.


  7. Paul says:

    Thanks for this article. I have passed it onto all friends who are either with Bell or Telus. Although I agree with Liz that text messaging has become more pervasive in recent years, the fact remains that Bell and telus want to force their customers to pay for something you did not ask for.

    What may surprise those who have already “gotten with the times”, is that there are still a great many number of cell phone users who only have a cell out of necessity and do whatever they can to keep that additional cost to a minimum.

    If any individual subscriber wanted to change the terms of their contract to the disadvantage of the carrier, they would have no legal leg to stand on. Why should Bell and Telus have their cake and eat it too? That’s an unfair double-standard that shows how little big corporations care about their paying customers. My final thought on the matter is that the justification used by Bell and Telus (increased cost of the increased text message volume) is a bunch of malarky. The cost to send a message betweentwo phones remains the same, and someone is paying to SEND the message. Forcing someone to pay for the message’s receipt is a two-handed cash grab (and lazy, to boot, as opposed to adjusting their pricing structure according to a feature’s popularity). The only way Bell and Telus could get away with such an explanation is if it were only Rogers and Fido customers sending texts to Bell and Telus customers. Bell and Telus get their fair share of revenue from texts sent from their own subscribers.

  8. kempton says:

    Thanks for your comment Paul.

    I like you pointing out the scenario of “Rogers and Fido customers sending texts to Bell and Telus customers.” But this, in some sense, is like the postal services of Canada, US, UK, etc handling incoming mails from other countries. The in and out mails should roughly even out.

    – Kempton

  9. Wil says:

    Ok, a few days ago I decided to write Telus an e-mail from their website. I basically said that it’s not how much it’ll cost me that bugs me for incoming text, it was the principle of being charged for something I have no control over. I said that when my contract is up in November I was not going to renew and will look elsewhere.
    So I wasn’t really expecting anything back, but I got a phone call the next day from their “Loyalty” Dept.
    She tried to convince me to block texting (nope, can’t since majority of my friends love to text and sometimes it’s the only option), or buy a $3 package (again no, I said I will not be forced to buy something to offset a stupid charge). I asked her why in Europe they don’t charge for texting and I got the run around about needing to upkeep equipment.
    I will admit she was very polite and nice. She eventually offered me a contract $10 cheaper than what I was paying and double the free anytime minutes. As well as free 250 texting package. Also I would get to keep my cheap bundle (call waiting, call display, and voice 25), which isn’t offered anymore. Here’s the best part. If I buy a data phone I will get the $30 unlimited e-mail, IM and web browsing for $15! And I get to stay per second billing. So in the end I would only pay $5 more from my old contract and get more! She said these aren’t offered to new clients and that since I have been with them for 8 years I get a loyalty discount.
    Sorry for being so winded……but I just wanted to show that with persistant you can get some kind of deal.
    Now my question is….I want to get the new HTC Touch Diamond. I was thinking of signing a 2 year contract….definitly not a 3 year. But was wondering if it was better to go 1 and pay more for the phone?

  10. kempton says:

    Hi Wil,

    Thanks for writing to share your thoughts and experience. You are not winded at all, as the more information you provided, the more useful it will be for the people who are going through similar thing.

    Good for you that you got a good deal by being persistent. And different people have different usage pattern that makes different things good or bad deal.

    Now, I am no expert in phone contracts and stuff. I can only share my personal experiences with you. I am one of those that don’t change phones often. (As an aside, I don’t think many people in North America can be as crazy as people in Asia in terms of the desire to have the absolute latest phones, even it means changing one every few MONTHS!). And I had stuck with Bell without changing for years, so when I resigned last year, I went for three years to get the best deal on a pretty good phone. (I got a LG Fusic and I put in 1GB of memory in it so I am reasonably happy.)

    Anyway, if you are the type that change phones often, may be you want to go for a shorter contract where you are also less locked-in to a phone company.


  11. Ron says:

    I’d like to say thanks for posting this. I spoke to the customer service rep. and was able to get them to waive the charges for incoming texts for the remainder of my contract which is over 2.5 years. I had no hassle. I explained that it was unfair for Bell to just change the terms of the contract and that it wasn’t the extra money that I had to pay but the principle of the matter. What the rep did was give me a $3 value “promotion” for free that would remove charges for incoming texts. I wasn’t lucky enough to get a text messaging package for outgoing texts that some of the people here got. My guess is that Bell has gotten a lot of calls and at first had no alternative but to give away text packages that included outgoing texts. I’m assuming they created this “promotion” that waives the fee for people who actually call in.

    Again I just wanted to say thanks for posting this and good luck to everyone that is trying to get the fees waived. We can’t let these corporations take advantage of us.

  12. kempton says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience Ron. Good to hear you got your unfair charges resolved with Bell.

    P.S. Thanks for your kind words. I think together and with knowledge we can make a difference of how these corporations treat their customers.

  13. monique says:

    You have a great article there, and the posts were informative and interesting as well.

    I’m with Telus, and I honestly wasn’t aware of this.. I suppose I just didn’t keep track of my messages, and assumed I had just sent a lot.
    I am on a ‘fave 5’ plan, but I do have a lot of people outside of those 5 people texting me.

    Before I call Telus, do you think that in my situation, it is grounds enough to give them a call, and see where it gets me?

  14. kempton says:

    Thanks for your kind words Monique. To me, it was a matter of principle as a contract is a contract and Bell (or Telus) shouldn’t be allowed to alter the terms of my contract (that is free and unlimited incoming text) without my consent. A broken contract has consequence (one of which is I can get out of my existing contract if that is what I want) or as what I did, I asked them nicely to honour the contract we agreed.

    At the end of the day, I don’t think it hurts to ask. After all, Bell and Telus CEOs are going to explain to the “suddenly customer-friendly” Minister of Industry Jim Prentice. (OK, I shouldn’t always give Jim a hard time. (smile))

    Good luck. And please share with us what you are able to get from Telus.

  15. Jeely says:

    Yes. I tried telling this to Telus but was shot down (wouldn’t let me cancel the contract without an early termination fee). They said it wasn’t part of my contract because I didn’t have a text messaging bundle, so it is not a breach of my contract(ie its an extra additional service). They also kept telling me to pay for a bundle because it saves money on the months where I had texted a lot. I said, that the section 18 terms (
    certainly allows them to change their rates and charges but has to be accepted by me, and since i don’t accept them you should let me out of their contract. They said, all that meant was you have time to accept the Telus bundle options, and if I don’t, then I accept the rate change.

    Basiclly, I said it was a breach, they said it wasn’t (since its not “part” of my plan in the first place). If I didn’t accept the change, or accept a new bundle package, too bad for me, I’d have to pay to get out of my contract.

    It’s too bad that the service terms aren’t as explicit as the united states where they have a material adverse change language. It is pretty tough to argue..

  16. kempton says:

    Thanks for leaving your comment Jeely.

    I think incoming messages was free for Telus customers (I know for sure with Bell) before. So Telus charging it now is a breach, in my view. Have you asked to speak to the operator’s manager or supervisor? Sometimes that may help. It is unfair for them to change your contractual terms and demand you to pay a penalty to get out of an unfairly changed contract.

    There are times I wander if Telus and Bell are simply being selectively firm and unyielding to customers that they can bully around.

    Depends on how determine you are, you may want to call up Telus once more and tell them you are unhappy enough that you will try to call the Competition Bureau next. Don’t know if this will help but it is an option.

    Of course, the the Bell and Telus CEOs have been summon to talk to Jim Prentice and that may change things. For me, I wouldn’t wait.

  17. Paul says:

    Just heard that a Quebec man has launched a class action suit against Bell for their decision to make a unilateral change to subscriber contracts ( ). Apparantly, there was a similar class action suit filed against Telus as well.

    I think that the very least people can ask from Telus or Bell is to remove text messaging from their phone plans, so they don’t get unsolicited text messages. Not quite as satisfying as leaving the status quo, but better than caving to their pressure tactics. Perhaps, when requestiong to block any incoming text messages, people can tell the CSRs that they plan to leave their current provider at the end of their contract because the resolution is unsatisfactory.

  18. kempton says:

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for leaving a message and letting me know of this class action suit.


  19. Paul says:

    Another follow-up story on the class action suit:

    Interesting points from the article:

    * The suit is being fronted by a former mobile phone salesman
    * The firm representing the Bell suit is also behind the Telus suit
    * According to a Bell talking head, the unilateral change in the terms of the contract will only affect about 5% of subscribers who receive text messages
    * The suit seeks to reimburse the fees people would have to pay, plus $10 for inconvenience, and $50 in punitive damages

    Not a huge windfall, but Quebec superior court is going to decide who can be a claimant in these class action suits. Bell and Telus have almost 12 million subscribers across Canada. The 5% of affected subscribers represents roughly 600,000 people. Seems that the desire of Bell and Telus to squeeze a few extra dollars from over half a million people could cost them more than if they left the status quo and tried to promote messaging packages (or imposing fees for incoming messages) when contracts come up for renewal.

    I understand that sweeping changes are easier to implement than dealing with each subscriber individually, but the negative press and potential cost of the lawsuit will offset the savings gained by using bully tactics. And wouldn’t dealing on a case by case basis make the company seem to care more about their subscribers and keeping them happy?

    I forgot! It’s not about happiness, it’s about maximizing profits. I wonder if the soon-to-be-unemployed Bell employees will have to pay 15 cents for their incoming text messages…

  20. kempton says:

    Thanks Paul for the update.

    Knowing Mr. Eric Cormier is former mobile telephone salesperson certainly put a smile on my face and create a big PR mess for Bell and Telus as Mr. Cormier would be one that knows how the system works from the inside. The potential reversing of fees and penalties are bad but if the customers are allowed (as I think and hope) to viewed what Telus and Bell did as a breach of contract, then they can leave their multi-year contract and jump to a different provider, that will be something unexpected for the Telcos.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  21. Karan says:

    I just ended a month -long (albeit on-off, since I was busy with other things) battle with Bell Mobility yesterday with regards to this stupid incoming-text-charge. The first CSR said that as I had signed the contract, Bell was able to change its prices whenever it wanted, and Bell was indeed not changing the terms of the contract (he ignored me telling him they were getting sued over the matter). I told him I knew they could *technically* do this, and asked (politely) if he knew that Rogers was getting along just fine with out this cash-grab. He claimed Rogers was raising their prices to compensate.

    I asked for a Supervisor, who told me Rogers was NOT raising their prices, but he could not speak for Rogers. I asked for their $3 package free of charge, making sure to let him know I really didn’t care about the money but it was a matter of principle. He offered me the $3 package free for 1.5 years–if I extended my contract for 3 years (my current contract ends may 09) I told him a CSR had tried that line on my dad 2 weeks ago, and asked for the Loyalty Department (throughout this being polite)

    On a side note: I asked why they were charging for incoming text AND a SAF, when the latter is supposed to be used for “network upgrades”–apparently SAF revenue is used for “towers to provide service to rural and central areas”

    The Rentention department girl told me Rogers (and ALL other providers) were charging for incoming text—its just that Rogers offered the service of choosing to accept the text or not. (Bell doesn’t offer this) In the end, I was given the choice of $1.50 off the $3 package, or 100 more minutes. By now sick of this process, I chose the minutes, signed up for the $3 package, and ended the conversation. I really hope they get run out of business for this. The day after my contract ends, I’m switching to someone (ANYONE!) else.

  22. kempton says:

    Karan, Thank you for taking your time to share your experiences with us. I am sorry to hear you still ended up having to pay more. And like you said, it is a matter of principle and less on the money. Ultimately, Bell’s practice of embedding a provision with power to change a signed contract unilaterally to Bell’s benefit has to be stopped. Either through the judicial system or through the market or other forces. What Bell did was just wrong.

  23. wedge4094 says:

    Thanks for the original article. I called Bell Mobility today, and mentioned the breach of contract issue, and made sure that I spoke “nicely”. The rep listened to my story, put me on hold, and came back with not only free inbound texting for term of contract, but free 75 outbound messages, something I didn’t have before. Thanks for the info, and I’ll definitely be passing this article around. If we all work together, we can beat these damn greedy corporations into submission!

  24. kempton says:

    Thanks for sharing your comments here. And thanks for your kind words and sharing this article around.

    When contract renewal time comes, don’t forget to ask them (Bell or other Teleco) to give you the same terms (waving the inbound texting, free 75 outbound msgs, etc.).

    It is important that this favorable terms are not a one time thing.

  25. Rick says:

    When I called Bell and I told them that I wasn’t very pleased for the fact that they were changing the content of my contract with them, their answer was that within my contract, it stipulates that feature are not part of the contract and are open to change in prices so I asked that they remove the texting from my account which they did.

  26. […] My current contract with Bell Canada expires in 2010, I guess the timing works out well for […]

  27. […] be able to put some competitive pressure on the other wireless providers in Canada. Judging from how badly Bell Canada and Telus have been treating their customers, they should be really scared of you guys right about […]

  28. Kris says:

    Recent discussion with Bell – after a full hour on the phone and being very very polite, they gave me 30 outgoing and unlimited free incoming (I made sure to leave a complement for CSR with their supervisor).
    As a note: I wonder if the reason they want to add the incoming charge is they do not charge for email messages to text (ie: sending via email to your phones text account).


  29. kempton says:

    Hey Kris,

    Thanks for leaving a comment.

    I doubt it. Someone did a quick calculation and the data used for text is tiny. So it is more to make more money. But with company like Globalive joining the game, the market place is getting to be interesting again.

    Check them out here,


  30. Esmond says:

    They tried to give me a promo of free incoming and 30 outgoing a month. But they said i’m already on a PROMO plan cause I pay $30+tax a month for 200 daytime, free evenings after 6 and weekends as well as voice message and call display. They said the computer won’t let them add any more promotions. :(

  31. kempton says:


    Hmmm, strange, I got mine no problem. May be a different customer service rep will respond differently.

  32. Esmond says:


    did you have a promo plan already?
    the rep said they are trying to give it to me but the computer just won’t let them put it in.

  33. kempton says:


    Yes, I indeed had a pretty good promo plan already and they still gave me the texting promo that I blogged about.

  34. Esmond says:


    do you think the last CSR lied? she seemed sincere in trying to help me get the free incoming + 30 outgoing msgs. if she wasn’t trying to help me she wouldn’t have mentioned it how do you suggest i approach this? they already have me on record calling in about it. should i just call cancellation department again and just get straight to the point in asking for the free incoming and outgoing 30 msgs?

  35. kempton says:


    “lied” is a strong word and I try to use it only rarely.

    Few possibilities,
    1) Bell changed their rules?
    2) She is a first level CSR only. And CSR in the cancellation department has more discretion to offer “incentives” to keep customers.

    Again, I got mine when I already had a good package. Also, I don’t really care about free outgoing msgs, I just don’t want to be charged for incoming msgs that I have no control of. And they simply offered me the free 30 out going msgs. And since they offerred me the free out going msgs, I have not used it once. I am still an old school email and voice messages guy.

    Talk to supervisor or manger of the first level CSR and see what you could get. To be fair, I suppose, be happy if they waive your incoming text message charges.

    re: Cancellation. Unless you are willing to go ahead with a cancellation, don’t use it as an idle threat, it hurts your credibility in the long run.

    Good luck.

  36. Esmond says:

    @ kempton

    I was talking to a CSR in the cancellation department. She was offering the free incoming and 30 outgoing/per month to keep me. But she realized she couldn’t add the package. She said she can’t even give me free incoming only, she had to give me the free incoming with 30 outgoing because it seems like the only and standard package to give to people. The computer wasn’t allowing it.

    I also don’t care about the outgoing, I just don’t want to be charged for incoming like you said. So far I’ve just had bell block any incoming and outgoing msgs. Though I have friends that arent aware of my new block and are texting me. Bell said that if i get unwanted text I could reply with the msg “do not send” or something and it should stop the solicitors and keep those that I want… but that was a first level CSR trying to argue back at me.

  37. JM says:

    I would just like to add my experience for the benefit of others that some CSRs will try to convince them that there is no breach of contract.

    I called Bell to point out that the terms of my contract has been violated by the new fees I’m seeing on my monthly bill. The CSR kept trying to convince me that the terms of the agreement I signed last year has not changed and that the fee for incoming message is simply a change in Bell’s policy regarding incoming text messages. Interesting argument, I thought.

    I actually have not read the exact wording in my contract with regards to text messages but I pointed out that I never used to see the extra fee on my monthly bill and now I do. Since the monthly bill is a reflection of my contract, any change in my billing structure must result from a change in my contract. He must have figured I was not going to back down so transferred me to his supervisor.

    The supervisor offered to remove the text and browse functions but I refused, citing that I may need them and am willing to pay when I do use them or receive valid text messages.

    Long story short, I got 100 free outgoing texts a month and unlimited free incoming texts until my contract ends and a refund on all the charges for the last 3 months.


  38. kempton says:


    Thanks for writing back. I am not sure if you got the fees waived but I hope you did (but you sounded like you didn’t).


    Thanks a lot for writing and adding another voice in this and sharing your experience. Good to hear your positive experience in getting those stupid fees waived. And also as important, when contract renewal time comes, Bell will honour the existing contractual terms.

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