Bell Canada did not intend to charge touch-tone service fees to rotary phone customers, the company says in answer to an application filed with the CRTC by a public interest advocacy group. On Dec. 23, 2009, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), on behalf of the Consumers’ Association of Canada and Canada Without Poverty, filed an application with the CRTC alleging that Bell is charging a touch-tone service fee to customers using rotary phones. According to PIAC, the charge violates stand-alone local service rate caps, established in a 2006 CRTC decision. In a response filed Feb. 3, Bell Canada said it began a revenue assurance program for touch-tone service in 2009 to ensure that all customers using the service were being billed appropriately. “Given that touch-tone has been a mandatory service for some time (subject to the aforementioned grandfathered rotary dial requirement) and, given that the Companies' provisioning policy is that rotary dial customers are not provided with Touch-Tone service on their lines, billing corrections were initiated for these under-billed customers so that they would be correctly charged for a service they are receiving,” Bell said in its response. “Affected customers were notified through a short informational message (SIM) on their bill that these charges would be added to their bill on a going forward basis.” Bell said it is taking the necessary steps to correct the situation and it is not violating the CRTC rate caps. The situation was brought to PIAC’s attention following the case of Toronto resident Marian Trafford, 79, who noticed a $2.80 touch-tone service fee on her monthly phone bill. She had been using a rotary phone at the same address for more than 17 years. On March 8, 1993, Bell changed its service conditions so that all new lines would be touch-tone capable. Only people who have had rotary phones at the same address since deadline March 8, 1993, when rotary phone services started getting “grandfathered” out of use, can continue to use rotary phones without the charge. The $2.80-fee associated with touch-tone service cannot be charged to customers using a rotary phone at the same address since the 1993 deadline. Bell acknowledged that other customers complained about the charge, but did not say how many. Nor did Bell say how many customers continue to use rotary phones. Bell said in its response that longtime rotary phone users should not have been billed for the service. “To ensure no other customers have been inappropriately charged for touch-tone service when they should have remained grandfathered on rotary dial service, the Companies are preparing to send a letter to … customers who were affected by the touch-tone revenue assurance program,” the company said. “PIAC’s application is entirely unnecessary and should be dismissed in its entirety.” PIAC counsel John Lawford said he is currently formulating a written reply to Bell. Bell had no comment for this story.