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August 23, 2021

The search for Canada's worst cell phone bill

If you've ever opened your 40-page cell-phone statement only to stare, stunned, at an outrageously high charge, you aren't alone. One Alberta man recently got hit for close to $8,000 in unexpected roaming charges following a trip to Europe.

Earlier this summer, CBC’s Marketplace talked to several weary Canadians who had really been put through the wringer by their mobile phone company. Their conclusion: It happens all the time.

And things aren’t much better across the border. Although the U.S. market offers many more mature vendors to choose from, the Federal Trade Commission estimates that one in six cell-phone users regularly experience "bill shock" after unwittingly exceeding the preset minutes in their mobile plan.

Consumer Reports blogger Jeff Blyskal wonders why more carriers can't help subscribers avoid such overage charges by at least sending them reminders when they are close to maxing out their monthly allotment of minutes.

Why would they? Minute surcharges are a major source of revenue for the established carriers. Despite this, U.S. Cellular sends customers a text message alert when they've used 75% of their plan’s allotted voice minutes or text messages. A second alert goes out when customers hit 100%.

Will this become the norm in Canada? Maybe.

In the meantime, however, help is at hand. The Pageonce app lets you check your account, letting you know when bills are due and helping to keep track of minutes and text messages.

It can also help you figure out whether you’ve been wasting money on a package that’s bigger than you need, or, more likely, if you need to increase your existing plan to match your actual usage.  

There are also several online services that can suggest better options for you than the one you might currently have. Cellplanexpert and Compatrecellular let you input how you expect to use your phone and then spit out a list of comparative rates.

Save Cell will actually negotiate an improved deal for you, making the necessary changes to your account at the same time. They might even suggest a better plan at your same company so you don't have to worry about cancellation charges.

Save Cell only gets paid if they actually save you some money. The company takes any savings you earn over the first four months (there’s a 10 per cent discount if you pay upfront) with no further charges after that.

What’s your cell phone bill look like? Have you been hosed recently? What did you do about it?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...