Phone customer fights 8 months to see bill overpayment returned

An Edmonton father of two is celebrating after hearing his phone company has agreed to refund him more than $1,300 after a fight that lasted eight months.

Calgary-based discount telecom pays up after Go Public gets involved

Mazhar Malik mistakenly overpaid his phone bill by $1,359. It took an eight-month battle to get his money back from VOIS, a Calgary-based telecom. (CBC)

An Edmonton father of two is celebrating after hearing his phone company has agreed to refund him more than $1,300 after a fight that lasted eight months.

Since March, 2013, Mazhar Malik has been  trying to convince VOIS, a Calgary-based discount telecom and internet provider, that it owed him the money.

As he pored over bills and bank statements Malik told Go Public how he mistakenly paid VOIS $1,404, the amount owing on his credit card.

His phone bill was actually $44.45.

“When I called (VOIS) they said don’t worry, “ he said, “’go to your bank….they (will)  request us , and when they request us we will refund your money.’”

Malik, who speaks English poorly, thought the matter was settled, especially since his April bill showed a credit for the huge overpayment.

But no money appeared in his bank account.

And when his May bill from VOIS arrived, the credit for the overpayment was gone, without explanation.

Malik says when he called the company it insisted the money had been repaid into the same account he used to pay his bills online.

Company insisted money repaid

Even after he produced a letter from the branch manager of his TD bank, Malik says the company kept insisting they had repaid the money, not once, but three times.

Malik says despite its claims, VOIS didn’t provide him with proof he’d been paid.

“I said, ‘if you refunded money my account, then email me or some letter or something,’” Malik said. ”He said, ‘No, we can’t, we are not allowed. We can’t give you.’”

Malik spent eight frustrating months trying to get his money back, all the while dutifully paying VOIS his monthly balance in full.

Malik drives a Yellow Cab taxi at night for a living. He works 12-hour shifts, six or seven days a week, and says his gross monthly earnings after expenses are less than $3,000.

“This is very tough for me, very bad,” he said.

He claims that, when he finally threatened to go to the police, a VOIS employee told him he was welcome to, and that he was also welcome to “go to hell”, and that he shouldn’t call about the matter again.

Anwar Khokar shares the cab with Malik and had recommended Malik switch his home phone to VOIS to save money.

“I am feeling bad too, because I asked him to go to VOIS. $1,300 is lots of money for us,” Khokar said. “We make just hand to mouth. I have two kids, he has two kids. We’re struggling to make our butter and bread. “

VOIS relents after Go Public calls

Khokar asked Malik if he could call Go Public on his behalf.

VOIS originally agreed to an interview, but cancelled, after which Malik received a call from VOIS saying they were ready to talk to him again.

Go Public watched as Malik carried on an animated 30-minute phone call in Hindi, in which he was put on hold several times.

In the end, Malik says the company admitted its mistake and promised to send him a cheque for the overpayment.

“Now I’m feeling good," Malik said.

In a statement sent to CBC after the initial story was published, VOIS representative Arysha Lalach said the company had done everything to try and correct the situation.

Lalach said the likely cause was miscommunication between Malik, his bank and VOIS.

“VOIS deeply apologizes for the misunderstandings that have taken place around the mistaken payment and any frustrations the customer has dealt with,” Lalach said in an emailed statement.

“At VOIS, customer service is our first priority.”

Complaints body helps consumers

VOIS is covered by the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services, (CCTS), an industry-funded non-profit agency created by the federal government in 2008 to handle consumer complaints.

The CCTS has the power to investigate consumer complaints, and, if required, order companies to comply.

Commissioner Howard Maker says CCTS would have brought a resolution to Malik’s case much more quickly.

“Absolutely we can. And I’m sorry it took him so long,” Marker said.  “This is exactly the kind of thing that we’re there to do, to help consumers who, for whatever reason, can’t sort out an issue with their service provider.”

Maker says close to 90 per cent of complaints are successfully resolved, two-thirds within 40 days.

Malik says he’s glad he’s getting his money back, but says it should have happened sooner.

He said he’s through with VOIS and is looking for a new phone company.


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