Toronto

Toronto-area woman wants Freedom Mobile to stop assigning her phone number to other people

A Markham woman says Freedom Mobile is still assigning her cell number to other people, even though she took the number with her when she moved to a new provider last year.

Tsahai Carter says phone number mix-up has happened 3 times since last August

Tsahai Carter says in the last year she's repeatedly gotten phone calls and text messages intended for other people after Freedom Mobile assigned them the phone number she's still using. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

A Toronto-area woman says Freedom Mobile is still assigning her cell number to other people, even though she took the number with her when she moved to a new provider last year.

Tsahai Carter, 22, made the switch last August. Since then, she says, on three separate occasions she's received phone calls and text messages intended for other people who'd been assigned the same number by Freedom Mobile.  

Carter, who lives north of Toronto in Markham, Ont., has also fielded phone calls from frustrated customers, wondering why someone else is getting their calls and messages. 

"They're getting mad at me for taking over their phone number, when really I had nothing to do with it," said Carter. "So it's a bit stressful."

This isn't the first time Freedom Mobile customers have complained about a mix-up in phone numbers.

In 2019, CBC reported on another customer who'd been given a number by Freedom Mobile that was still in use by someone else: a man who'd ported the number with him when he moved from Freedom to Fido.  

'Human error'

At that time, the company said the situation was extremely unusual, and was investigating to determine what happened.

Nearly two years later, Carter says she's concerned the issue still hasn't been resolved, even after she raised it twice with the company herself.

"It really shouldn't be occurring at all," she said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Shaw Communications Inc., which owns Freedom Mobile, says the problem was due to "human error." 

Chethan Lakshman says when phone numbers are ported from Freedom Mobile to other providers, they're quarantined in a "port-out pool" so they can't be given to other customers. In this case, Lakshman says that didn't happen and the number was reassigned.  

"We take this oversight very seriously, and are investigating further to better understand how this happened, and working with our teams to ensure we are working to prevent situations like this in the future," said Lakshman, vice-president of external affairs for Shaw. 

"We understand the frustration and inconvenience this situation has caused, and are working diligently with our teams to help resolve the issue for everyone involved." 

'Recipe for disaster'

Howard Maker, who heads the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-Television Services (CCTS), says situations like Carter's are rare. While his organization often fields complaints about porting phone numbers, he says it's rare to hear about two people who've ended up with the same number at once. 

"This is very bizarre," said Maker. "Two people shouldn't have the same number, because that's a recipe for disaster."

Telecom complaints commissioner Howard Maker says anyone who wants help in a dispute with their provider they can't resolve themselves can contact the CCTS. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Maker says anyone who winds up in a bind with their cell phone provider, and who can't resolve it themselves, can contact the CCTS for help. The organization mediates disputes between customers and service providers, and can make companies take specific actions if needed, he says.

"We're not just offering opinions, we're actually able to get problems fixed for customers," said Maker.

As for Carter, she hopes the situation with Freedom Mobile has now been sorted once and for all. The political science student is hunting for post-grad jobs, and wants to hand out her phone number without worrying about future mix-ups in communication. 

"It would be helpful to have the peace of mind … so I can enter the work force without this being a major concern."

Carter says she's concerned about other people's privacy, and is also frustrated at having to repeatedly explain the situation. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

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