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$6M Class-Action Lawsuit Against Bell Over 911 Fee Begins in Yellowknife

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The CBC reports a $6 million class-action lawsuit launched against Bell Mobility in 2007 will begin its journey in court over the next 10 days in Yellowknife.

James Anderson launched the lawsuit against the phone company in 2007. He says Bell should not charge customers a 75-cent monthly fee for a 911 service which doesn’t exist anywhere in the three territories except in the Whitehorse area.

Anderson said that, by default, about 20,000 people are included in the suit, including customers in Nunavut and Yukon.

Anderson testified Monday he knew the fee existed when he signed his contract with Bell, but believed it wasn’t fair and knew he was unable to modify contract terms. He argued if someone is being charged 911 fees, a live operator should answer the call if they make emergency calls. This isn’t the case in numerous parts of the Northwest Territories, where residents are required to dial a 7 digit local number instead for fire, medical or RCMP services. His lawyer characterized the charges as “malicious” and “high-handed” by Bell.

Bell lawyers argued Anderson and other customers knew 911 services weren’t offered in the area prior to signing contracts with the company. The company says it doesn’t need to provide 911 service as a wireless carrier, rather it is ultimately the responsibility of local governments to fund and run such services. Bell also noted Anderson and his son have traveled to areas outside of their region where access to 911 services are available.

What do you think? Should 911 fees apply even if there is no service in your area? Or should everyone pay for the service regardless?

Update: The CBC follows up with more details in this lawsuit, where a former Bell vice president noted in internal emails said the fee should be removed to deal with customer complaints:

During the cross-examination of Mike Martins, a former vice-president with Bell, Anderson’s lawyer read from a string of internal Bell emails sent in 2007 of which Martins was a part.

In the emails, customer service reps and management talked about receiving complaints from customers in the territories about the 911 fee.

The Bell employees were looking for guidance on how to deal with those complaints and at one point a Bell director suggested that the 911 fees needed to be removed.

 

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  • Tbear

    It’s the same with the .19 cent charge from Rogers or whatever it is. It’s charged to every customer on every invoice but is charged so deaf or visually impaired customers are able to contact customer support. I know it’s a slightly different situation here, however, they knew signing the contract that they would need to pay the .75 cents.

  • FragilityG4

    If we start letting telecoms charge for services that are not provided what’s next? A 999 charge? (911 in the UK) A ‘We try to make you happy’ charge? A ‘We’re lazy and can’t think of a name so we’ll just take your money and you’ll accept it because we’re the Big Three and the CRTC protects us so we can gouge the hell out of you’ charge?

  • Jon

    They have no choice. That’s try problem. That’s like if every single grocery store charges a fee to bagging when none of them do. What will you do? Not buy groceries?

  • Tbear

    So for specific areas, the CRTC should make an exception. So what happens if you travel to an area where 911 IS used or available? What then? You don’t get charged? Riiiiight! Also, if you can’t afford or don’t want to pay the .75 cents, DON’T OWN A CELL PHONE! Simple!

  • FragilityG4

    Ever heard of pay per use?

  • Tombfyre

    I have to agree with Tbear on this one. The people they should be bitching to is the local government. And the question is why they don’t have the service.

  • Max Power

    Why would you want to pay extra for a service you can’t use?That doesn’t make any sense. Who cares about travelling that’s not what’s being discussed. It’s not about affording, idiot. If you can’t use a service why would you want to continue getting billed for it?? You probably throw your money away to things you don’t even use.

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