A hidden camera investigation into sales practices for Bell Canada – Canada's largest telecoms – repeatedly reveals deceit by representatives who left door-to-door in neighborhoods just outside of Toronto.
CBC & # 39; s Marketplace and Go Public partnered to investigate how customers sold Bell's Fibe TV, internet and home phone at the front door. A producer of Marketplace went undercover in the telecom sector and was hired for a job that sold Bell products door-to-door, documenting sales tactics during seven record-breaking cold days and nights in December and January.
"Everybody can make a lot of money [selling Bell products]", said Mohamed Abdelhadi, the man who hires our producer, and who runs one of the external companies that sell door-to-door Bell services.
As CBC's hidden camera's rolled, sellers knocked on door after door – misrepresentation of monthly prices, promotional agreements, internet speeds and Bell's "fiber-optic network" to reach, often using misinformation and omission of important facts to dupe customers.
The investigation was prompted by frustrated Bell customers who contacted CBC after reading a series of stories about high-pressure sales and unethical sales tactics in Canada's major telecoms.
CBC asked for an interview with Bell to discuss the hidden information camera findings. After several weeks of negotiations, Bell refused to speak on camera and instead sent a statement .
"The examples of the sales practices you have provided are in no way in line with Bell's commitment to providing the best customer experience possible," spokesperson Nathan Gibson wrote.
"We apologize to anyone who may have been affected by this behavior."
& # 39; Who Loves Money & # 39;
Our undercover producer joined a team of sellers in Mississauga, Ont., Bell services from door-to-door sales. The repetitions are used by the company of Abdelhadi, Mox1 Business Solutions, but carry Bell ID tags, carry Bell jacks and have leads from Bell. They earn their salary almost entirely in commission, but Abdelhadi told our producer that it is easy to make money by selling Bell.
Vendors – usually over-20s – can be present in the field seven days a week. Before they flee to residential areas, Abdelhadi gives a daily pep talk. The pressure is up, to sell.
"Who loves money?" he asks. "We got so much money on the f-king table!"
Misleading & # 39; Guaranteed Price & # 39;
Our producer has overshadowed some of the company's best sellers when they went door-to-door selling Bell Fibe TV, Internet and Home Telephone – recording the pitch agents to potential customers for "bundling" services (all three to buy).
One of the doors on which they knocked was Rhona Carlton's, where the seller guaranteed that her monthly price would never rise.
"Your & # 39; Eternal Price" – the maximum bubble you can ever charge – is $ 189, "she promised.
Carlton announces, without being told that Bell prices can not be "guaranteed" because a clause in the terms of service allows the telecom to raise prices to cover various expenses, such as reported earlier this week .
We later made our own home visit to Carlton, who is now in a two-year contract with a severance pay of $ 150 if she cancels the first year. She is not impressed by the seller never said that prices can rise.
"They have to train their salespeople to give a real picture of what they are selling," Carlton said.
During the work of our producer – shadows, representatives were repeatedly documented giving customers wrong information about price.
Fictitious promo prizes
The agents, who expected to knock on about 50 doors a night, also told customers that a first-year promotional campaign – a discount on the so-called "forever" prize – could easily be renewed. it was about to expire.
The representative at Carlton's house offered her a deal for her first year with Bell, and even claimed that after that promotion ended, she might get a better price. "We will renegotiate you for $ 130, lower or comparable," she said.
Similar promises were routinely made to other customers, but the CBC has heard from Bell's call center staff that says that those promotions should attract new customers so that they often can not live up to that promise.
False speed requests
During the training, our producer is told that a good way to keep customers is to ask them to perform a speed test on their phone.
"Ninety-nine out of a hundred times, their Internet speed is not what they pay for," says a trainer.
Field, sales agents ask homeowners to run a Google speed test as a way to show that they are not achieving the speeds that their current provider promised.
When a salesman asked Carlton to perform this speed test, it turned out that its download speed was only 3.89 Mbps.
"You do not get what you pay for, that's what I'll let you know, right?" Said the sales representative. She promised Carlton that if she switched to Bell, she would have minimum download speeds of 50 Mbps on all her devices.
Internet experts say they are concerned about speed tests that are used as sales tactics in this way because there are several reasons why speeds may vary throughout the day and different tests may show distinct results. Bell's own contract says that speeds may vary.
After Carlton Bell had installed in her house, Marketplace carried out the same speed test that the seller used – it had not improved. Using Bell's recommended speed test, the results were better, but still the minimum that was promised.
"They sell it wrong [speed] to the consumer," Carlton said. "It is not fair for the consumer to sell it that way."
In Canada, internet speeds are usually advertised as "up to" a certain speed.
But the Ottawa-based consumer policy organization Public Interest Advocacy Center (PIAC) says that speeds at the top of the range are rarely achieved, and should not be guaranteed at the door
"In our general experience, no company ever reaches its theoretical maximum," says John Lawford, director of PIAC.
PIAC calls on companies to advertise speeds that better reflect what an average consumer would experience on a daily basis, as is the case in the United Kingdom and Australia.
The optical fiber optic
One of the most important locations on the porch was Bell's optical fiber network for its Fibe TV and
Optical fiber is the most advanced internet technology on the market and enables fast data transfer via light through fiber optic cables instead of traditional copper cables.
Sellers repeatedly told potential customers that Bell had recently upgraded an entire neighborhood into fiber.
People like Carlton assumed that that meant they were to get fiber optic technology straight to their home, but in most neighborhoods where our undercover producer was sent, Bell fiber optic cables went to a box known as a "node." "in the neighborhood – or possibly several streets away – before they stay home with consumers via copper cables.
This type of connection can not provide the same performance as a true full fiber connection to the house.
One sales employee went on and told a homeowner: "We literally give you a private dedicated line … it's fiber."
That same sales representative encouraged our undercover manufacturer to say: "Just say everything is fiber. "
CRTC should board
Lawford has reviewed some of the hidden camera images from CBC and said that the Canadian telecom regulator has to board.
He is of the opinion that there is a national problem with sales practices in the telecom sector and urges the CRTC to conduct a public inquiry.
So far, the regulator of rejected that idea and told CBC that consumers who feel misled must "try to solve the problem first with their service provider" before sending their complaint to the escalation of bring their complaint. the Commission for Complaints for Telecom Television Services.
& # 39; Talk to Bell & # 39;
CBC asked for an interview with Abdelhadi, the head of Mox1, to respond to our findings of misleading sales tactics.
He refused, so we took him outside his office, where he repeatedly said that we had to talk with Bell.
& # 39; Direct corrective training & # 39;
In his statement to CBC, Bell said it "performed an immediate corrective training and compliance action" to improve sales practices, and that Abdelhadi and his sales team will no longer peddle Bell products because of "infringements of Bell & # 39; s policy. "
telecom giant added: "Customers with concern can contact us at 310-BELL at any time."
Rhona Carlton has its own message for Bell.
"Do not make someone who is an unhappy customer, that's what happened."