News Local

SkyTrain commuter upset by text-a-cop charges 0

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

Transit user Angad Bawa displays a 10-cents charge on his mobile phone in Vancouver, B.C. on Monday April 21, 2014. Commuter Angad Bawa said he was charged 10-cents for each text he sent to Transit Police's text-a-cop tip line when he was trying to report someone smoking on the SkyTrain. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)

Transit user Angad Bawa displays a 10-cents charge on his mobile phone in Vancouver, B.C. on Monday April 21, 2014. Commuter Angad Bawa said he was charged 10-cents for each text he sent to Transit Police's text-a-cop tip line when he was trying to report someone smoking on the SkyTrain. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)

A daily transit commuter with an unlimited messaging plan was still charged 10 cents each time he used Transit Police’s new text-a-cop number — so he will no longer be reporting crimes via SMS.

Angad Bawa said he spotted someone smoking on SkyTrain last week and decided to text the 877777 number to discreetly contact Transit Police.

When he checked his bill the next day, his carrier charged him 30 cents in total for the three texts he sent.

None of his other text messages had charges on them — Bawa has an unlimited province-wide texting plan — and he provided a copy of his bill to 24 hours as proof.

“(TransLink) said we don’t charge for the service but your provider charges for SMS, which doesn’t make sense,” Bawa said.

“If someone else decides to use it, I’m going to give them a heads up, it’s not free … these five and six-digit numbers I’ve seen, you always get charged.”

Transit Police spokeswoman Anne Drennan said the authority hasn’t heard of any other complaints related to the texting charges.

“It’s free from our end. Hopefully, people have plans where they can text without incurring charges,” she said.

“At this stage of the game, I don’t think we’re prepared to make any changes right now … this is the first we’ve ever heard and it’s being used fairly frequently right now.”

Alexandra Maxwell, spokeswoman for Wind Mobile — the company Bawa was with — said the Transit Police number is a “short code” and is standard rated, which isn’t covered by the company’s unlimited text plans.

“Do you have any examples of ads from the Transit Police stating that this is a free service? From our investigations this does not look to be the case,” Maxwell said by email.

“This may be a more widespread problem and it could be that everyone using the service is being charged.”

The Telus troubleshoot page lists short codes as “free, standard-rated or premium-rated.”

According to a 2012 release from the Canadian Competition Bureau, short codes are leased out by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association to third parties for “the sale and delivery of digital content.”

 

 

 

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Would you still use the text-a-cop tip line if you were going to be charged 10 cents per text?

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