featured Poverty

An unlisted phone number is a right, not a money making opportunity

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Keeping your phone number out of the phone book and off 411 web sites is your right, however phone companies treat unlisted phone numbers as a privilege.

Any person has the right to an unlisted phone number, especially if the reason why you keep your phone number unlisted is because of safety reasons.

The reality is that Eastlink charges $3.95 extra beyond you regular basic phone bill cost, and at Bell the cost of having an unlisted number is $5.95. There are good reasons as to why people decide to have unlisted phone numbers.

  • A lot of people who have unlisted phone numbers for reasons relating their personal safety.
  • They have certain people in their lives they do not want to contact them.
  • For single moms, in some cases it is because they do not want the father of their kids contacting them.
  • For clients of Employment Support and Income Assistance (ESIA), or welfare,  they have people in their lives who bully them to get off the system and ESIA clients do not want those people contacting them.

The major phone companies looks at people wanting to have unlisted phone numbers as a money making opportunity.

This is wrong. It is a right to keep you number unlisted and paying extra to have an unlisted phone number is annoying, regardless of whether you live in poverty or not.

For some people to have their numbers listed in the phone book would make them an easy target for people who could be stalking them for example. Considering the various reasons as to why people decide to have unlisted phone numbers, paying extra to keep your number unlisted is also a human rights violation as well.

Income assistance will not pay for unlisted numbers. The costs for an unlisted number is too much to come out of a client’s $275.00 food budget. I know a few income assistance clients who tried to appeal to get their unlisted phone covered as a special need and it got denied through the ESIA appeal hearing.  

One person I talked to mentioned to me that when she tried to get her caseworker to pay for an unlisted number as a special need, she had a letter from the police and a second from a lawyer saying “she needs her number unlisted for safety reasons”.  She got denied to have that cost covered as a special need. She appealed it and it got denied through the appeal hearing.  She tried to go to Supreme Court, however when she approached Legal Aid, she met with a lawyer who advised her against that.

So what she does now is she takes the $3.95 a month out her food budget, however she agrees that it is too much for her to do that.  

Major phone companies do not care that people have a right to privacy and safety.

Kendall Worth is the chair of the Benefits Reform Action Group (BRAG)

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