Bell removes Touch-Tone fee from bills, but customers still on the hook

Canada voted Touch-Tone fee "Canada's dumbest charge" on Marketplace last fall. Now, the fee is disappearing from phone bills, but customers are still paying the unpopular charge in the cost of a landline.

Fee named 'Canada’s dumbest charge' by Marketplace viewers

Bell's sleight of hand billing


6 years ago
Bell removes Touch-Tone fee from phone bills, but customers still pay the toll 1:20

Bell customers with landlines may notice an unpopular fee has disappeared from their bill: the $2.80 monthly charge for Touch-Tone service.

But hold the phone! Customers are still paying the fee, they are just no longer being told about it as a separate charge.

As CBC's Marketplace discovered, while the $2.80 fee has been removed as a separate item from Bell's bills, customers will see that the cost of their landline plans have increased by $2.80.

Last year, when Marketplace reached out to Canadians to vote for Canada's most frustrating charge, Bell's Touch-Tone fee was among the five finalists.

Ticketmaster fees, airline seat selection fees, paper bill and statement fees and ATM fees rounded out the list.

After a Canada-wide vote, Bell's Touch-Tone fee was named "Canada's dumbest charge."

Selma Schachner, who teaches English as a second language in Oakville, Ont., argued the case against the Touch-Tone fee. "You have no choice but to use a Touch-Tone phone," she said. "Do you know anyone who has a rotary phone?"

Fee brings in estimated $80 million

With 2.6 million customers across the country, Marketplace estimated that this fee brought in more than $80 million for Bell in 2013.

Bell told Marketplace that customers who are on rotary dial service do not pay the fee, and that according to CRTC rules, the company was required to itemize the charge for Touch-Tone customers.

'You have no choice but to use a Touch-Tone phone,' says Selma Schachner from Oakville, Ontario. 'Do you know anyone who has a rotary phone?' (CBC)

According to Bell spokesperson Jason Laszlo, customers will stop seeing the fee on their current or next Bell bill.

"After Bell privatized our Atlantic Canada affiliate Bell Aliant at the end of 2014, we applied to the CRTC to amalgamate our billing approaches to landline, including permission to finally remove the Touch-Tone fee item from customer bills."

In May, the CRTC granted Bell permission to remove the item from bills.

"Touch-Tone has long been included in the advertised price for home phone, so the price remains the same. The CRTC decision simply means we no longer have to show it as a separate item on customer bills. Of course rotary dial customers continue to pay a lower rate because they do not have Touch-Tone capability," Laszlo wrote to Marketplace in an email.

According to the CRTC, the rule change is consistent with other decisions the agency has made.

"The proposed amalgamation would not result in an increase in customers' overall rates. As well, the changes would not affect either customers who are currently subscribed to the Bell companies' grandfathered Rotary Dial service and do not pay the Touch-Tone service rate, or customers who are registered as persons with a disability and pay a reduced rate for Touch-Tone service. These customers would see a credit on their bills to remove the charge for Touch-Tone service."

Schachner, however, says she is not impressed. "It's still very deceitful," she says.



To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?