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Why is my cellphone provider trying to trick me?

Man yelling at cell phone

Ron Chapple/(C) 2006 Thinkstock

Every now and then, I get a call from a service provider under the guise of ensuring I'm getting the best deal possible.

While it's nice to think that businesses look out for their customers, often the deals seem to be of more benefit to the company than to me.

My cellphone provider, for example, has tried twice to "upgrade" me from my $10 a month prepaid service. First the company lied, telling me I'm averaging $13 a month in cellphone charges and should switch to the $15 monthly plan. I assured them that they're wrong about how much talking I do - I rarely use my cellphone - and that $13 is still less than $15.

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The second time, they offered the $15 plan again, but said I could have it for $10 for the first 10 months if I signed a three-year contract. How is that a better deal, I wondered, when I already have a $10 plan with no contract? It seemed to me the company was trying to trick me into spending more money for a service I didn't want or need.

I wasn't too surprised to hear recently that BCE Inc. was ordered by the Competition Bureau to pay a $10-million fine for misleading consumers. The bureau alleged that Bell had misrepresented the prices of some of its services by adding hidden fees that made it impossible to obtain the advertised price.

Greg Scott, senior communications adviser at the Competition Bureau, says consumers should be wary when a company offers a deal that promises amazing savings. "There could be a costly catch," he warns.

Consumers need to be vigilant when evaluating ads and pricing information, says Mr. Scott. "Advertised prices may not reflect additional charges."

Other tips from the Competition Bureau:

1. When reviewing disclaimers or fine print, be on alert for hidden fees to avoid paying more than you bargained for.

2. Do not send money or give credit card or account details until you are satisfied that you understand the terms of a transaction.

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3. Before confirming or completing a transaction, take time to review and note the total price to be paid. Make sure that it matches up with what you are ultimately charged.

4. When comparing the price of products or services, ensure that the price you are comparing is the total price.

To that I'd add my own tip: Make sure you know the details of the services you're already receiving. It'll make it much harder for companies to "up sell" a plan that benefits them more than you.

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About the Author
Report on Business Community Editor

Dianne Nice is community editor for Report on Business and writes about social media. Previously, she was The Globe's online editor for Careers and Personal Finance and has written about these topics for Report on Business and Globe Investor. More

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