The Consumer Complaints Blog

Fighting the trained monkey in modern society.

October 30, 2011

Canada Satellite

Filed under: Service Based — Editor @ 10:08 pm

Since I can’t find any other appropriate place to air my grievances, I thought I’d do it here. Thanks for the opportunity!

I recently learned that the satellite phone industry is like a pyramid scheme, with no accountability. I rented a sat. phone for 6 weeks for a remote field work contract. I am in BC and dealt with a company in Alberta. They had good prices and could supply the phone on short notice. I purchased 50 minutes of calling time with the intention of just using it for emergencies and texting. I was told that I shouldn’t worry about using up the minutes, as “they usually give you extra minutes above what you pay for”.

I should have listened to my gut right from the start, because it was hard to get information about the phone from the guy. He either didn’t know what he was doing or, as I now believe was deliberately misleading me and making me feel like everything was straight forward and easy.

So, I agreed to the deal, gave them a credit card # for a $500 deposit, and they sent me the phone. I got the phone in good time. I was happy with the response. However, there was no contract, no paperwork at all, not even a user manual. I had no time to deal with it, and so headed out on my trip. I discovered after testing it out, that the messaging system wasn’t set up. I then spent several hour making playing phone tag on a payphone trying to get the right #s to put into the phone. The guy didn’t know the numbers and had to contact the service provider. The numbers (“It’s either this one or this other one.”) didn’t work. I found what I thought was the right number on the service companies’ website, but that didn’t work either. So, I never was able use the messaging system.

The sat service was great and helped me out of some jams. It was also a good life-line while out it in the bush. When my work was over, I was to mail the phone back to the company. I wasn’t given any instructions on how to do this, and as it took me over a week to get a hold of anybody, I know had an extra 2 weeks of rental time, when I never used or even needed the phone! I had to pay about $25 for insurance to cover the cost of the phone if it got lost, and I had to buy the packaging to mail it.

That was it…for awhile. No response at all from the company that they received the phone. No bill for the rental. Nothing.

I was busy and couldn’t follow up until I got home, and I figured, hey, if they don’t want to bill me, fine, I’ll take a free rental any day!

2 months later…I remembered the credit card deposit and got worried. I checked, and indeed the $500 was taken out! After a week, and them not returning my messages, I finally got a hold of Mr. Clueless (AKA Mr. Scam), and asked him what was up. Why no bill? Why take the $500 that was just a deposit?

Here’s the stupefying answer…”Well, there are over $700 in call charges, so we figured we do you a favour and just keep the $500 and call it even.”

That’s pretty weird. You told me that the card had extra minutes, not that it was open ended. I purposefully bought low minutes time to keep the expense low. I know I was careful with my usage, and (I thought) the phone’s counter was telling me that I was within an acceptable usage. Regardless, why isn’t there a bill?

“If we send you a bill, we’ll have to charge you the over $700.” (huh??!!! A does not just equal C…there’s something missing and it’s called logic.)

I think it’s my right as a consumer to receive a bill. Can’t you just send me a bill for $500? Anyway, I need to see the details. I need to verify that what you are telling me is correct.
“Well, we’d have to get a call record from Iridium, and they charge like $200 or something. It’s pretty expensive, but we could go ahead and do that.”

Woah, woah…c’mon! how can a call record cost anything at all? That’s like the phone company charging me for my bill that shows me all the calls that I made including the duration!!
“Tell you what, we could look into our records and get the start and finish times on the phone for that period. It’ll take a few days, but we could do that for you.”

Wow, could you? I mean, that would be great to actually see the information that leads to a bill that is over double what I agreed to in the first place. Did I say “bill”, oops, I meant verbal charge. I hung up, confused and starting to feel (once again in my life) like an industry-raped consumer. Couldn’t they just come up with numbers that fit what they are telling me? How can I trust this guy and anything that he sends me now?

Not being satisfied with anything anybody tells me, I called Iridium. They were quite nice and agreed that what I was told wasn’t right. They were only able to tell me who the service provider was that the dealer buys from. I contacted the service provider too. They have said that they could help me if I had a SIM card…well, that’s nice, but it’s a rental; the dealer has the SIM card, not me. What I have learned quite quickly is that companies like Iridium own the satellites and sell service to service providers, who in turn sell direct to consumers (usually large companies) and to dealers (such as losers in Alberta like the one that I am dealing with). Their are no policies or guidelines that the consumer is allowed to access, and the /dealer/ can charge whatever they want for call logs. In fact, it’s the /service provider/ that provides call logs, not Iridium, as I was told, and that it’s up to the dealer how much one is charged for. ( I smell a scam. I’m beginning to think that the dealer is deliberately misleading me.)

My mistake (and theirs) from the start was to go ahead without a contract; without signing anything actually! So, neither of us has a leg to stand on. How can I fight any charge at all without a written agreement, /but/…how can I be responsible for charges, when I didn’t sign anything stating so?

I’m in the middle of this process, so it remains to be seen where it goes from here. All I can say is NEVER use Canada Satellite!

I’ll post again when there is an update.

This article was submitted by one of our readers. Penciltrick cannot make any claims as to its authenticity but the article was accepted on a good faith belief that it is an accurate and truthful account of the events listed.

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