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Court Certifies $100M Class Action Lawsuit vs Bell Over Expiring Pre-Paid Balances

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Law firms Sotos LLP and Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP have announced the Ontario Superior Court of Justice today has certified a $100 million class action lawsuit against Bell Mobility over allegations expiry dates on pre-paid services are illegal.

The lawsuit, which has over 1 million class members in Ontario, alleges the seizing of pre-paid credit balances is a breach of contract, as the lawsuit deems pre-paid wireless services the same as “gift cards”, as defined by Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act, thusly cannot have an expiry date.

The representative plaintiff, Celia Sankar, lives in Elliot Lake, Ontario, and is founder of the DiversityCanada Foundation, a not-for-profit organization. Ms. Sankar is a Bell pre-paid wireless customer who had her credit balance seized twice, in September 2011 and February 2012. Ms. Sankar will represent anyone in Ontario who purchased or otherwise acquired pre-paid wireless services under the brands Bell Mobility, Virgin Mobile Canada and Solo Mobile since May 4, 2010.

Co-counsel Christine Davies commented:

“The gift card law was intended to protect consumers from losing cash equivalents. Class members pre-paid money into their accounts so that they would have funds available to purchase services and products from Bell on an ongoing basis. If successful at trial, this case will ensure that consumers’ pre-paid amounts are protected.”

The lawsuit was first filed back in May of last year and affects customers from Bell Mobility along with brands Virgin Mobile Canada and Solo Mobile from May 4, 2010 onwards. At the time, Bell Mobility’s Jacqueline Michelis said “We’ll certainly defend against it,” as the company believes there is no merit to the case.

Do you know anyone part of this class action lawsuit?

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  • Candy Curl

    I don’t know anybody who is a part of it – but do agree with the plaintiff. *Yells yeaahhhh* in my corner of the world.

  • Jason

    i Agree with the article. I used to work for them (Bell) and i would constantly just put the funds back on the account if customers asked because it dint make sense why they would expire.

  • mcfilmmakers

    Bell is definitely losing this one. Watch them settle to avoid a ruling making it undeniably illegal.

  • Albin

    I lost a couple of hundred bucks accumulation by missing a two-month top-up date a few years ago – will have to check to see if it’s within the class time frame – and that was with the “automatic top-up” that only triggers when balance dips, not when a prepayment expires. For the last couple of years I’ve prepaid $100 for a full year date since that’s been available: but that brings up the back side of this same issue.

    As a rare talk/data user I’ve been forced to accumulate hundreds of dollars of unused annual balance because failing to buy another and then another $100 worth would result in losing the previously accumulated balance. If I didn’t risk losing it all, I wouldn’t be “topping up” every year and unwillingly padding the large balance that would probably cover me for the rest of the decade. I’d suggest the lawyers consider adding these forced future top-ups to the lawsuit, as the liability would be growing as the proceedings drag on.

  • SkipinFL

    How about Bell using your balance to prepay future term? Rogers initiated this with me.

  • Albin

    Thanks, I don’t use Twitter, but if they win it may solve my problem. Re the other answer, Bell might carry my large balance to some other prepaid plan but not a contract. They’re all more expensive than the $10/month I’m paying for having an active Android smartphone – on that basis it’s not a bad deal – but building that useless balance irks me.

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