Bell Loses Class-Action Lawsuit Appeal Over Non-Existent 911 Services

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Bell Mobility has lost a class-action lawsuit appeal that found the Canadian carrier liable to thousands of subscribers in Canada’s three Northern Territories over fees for non-existent 911 services.

The class-action trial, which started in 2013, ordered Bell to compensate thousands of wireless phone customers who were charged monthly fees for 911 services that they never received. The Canadian carrier appealed the trial judgement saying that customers signed contracts that gave them permission to charge their wireless phone customers for 911 services.

On Wednesday, Justice J.E. Côté released a 23-page written decision in which he says the wording of the contract doesn’t give Bell the right to charge the customers. While the contract did mention that Bell might charge monthly 911 service fees, the Canadian carrier was not entitled to follow through on those charges unless the service was actually provided.

In a statement the judge said (via The Financial Post):

“In my respectful view, connecting someone to nothing is still nothing. A right to charge a door-to-door delivery fee for milk cannot be triggered by delivering empty bottles. An airline which produces on time an airplane with no vacant seats cannot charge a traveler for a ticket on that flight, absent very clear wording in the contract.”

Bell Canada spokesman Mark Langton said (via The Globe and Mail):

“The company is “very disappointed with the decision,” adding: “We’re considering our options.”

The trial decision did not address the issue of damages, which will be the subject of a separate trial. In the costs award, the trial judge said he accepted the plaintiffs’ estimate that damages would exceed $1.5-million. Mr. Marr said Thursday that the plaintiffs require further disclosure from Bell, adding that at this point he anticipates pursuing a claim for between $3-million and $5-million.

The class-action is open to all Canadian residents that are Bell Mobility customers who were charged for 911 emergency services before April 13, 2010, and lived in an area where a live 911 operator didn’t exist.

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  • Mozbius

    Bunch of crooks! No wonder I’ve cancelled all subscription for all services that I had with them!

  • flashpoint

    “The class-action is open to all Canadian residents that are Bell Mobility customers who were charged for 911 emergency services before April 13, 2010, and lived in an area were a live 911 operator didn’t exist.”
    say wut.

  • Dave Feland

    It was a mistake on Bell’s part, they charge for this in all areas of Canada, only those northern territories don’t have the 911 service to connect to. And I’m sure their billing system never anticipated having a few areas with no 911 service. So Bell screwed up in the programming of their own billing system. But instead of fixing it, and rebating customers, they go to court. Stupid and a PR nightmare. Good that they have to pay out – that should go straight to all people in those northern areas.

  • scottld

    The ever classy Bell Canada.

  • KeithBram

    If it were simply a mistake, they would have made efforts to address it as soon as the error was pointed out – not go to court and battle it out. This was deliberate fraud.

  • Stacey Lavallie

    If you had bell service before April 13, 2010 and were charged a 911 access fee while living in an area where there was no 911 service, you’re eligible. It’s not a difficult sentence, is it? Or is it wrapping your mind around the idea that there are places in Canada that don’t have 911 service?

  • ajplante

    I actually worked for a retention’s company that handles Bell. I quit after a month of squashing peoples hopes and dreams. When we need to make laws to stop them from gouging people with insane cancellation fees we know these guys are just crooks. I no longer own a cellphone at all and use a small Burnaby based ISP form my DSL and VOIP phone. I am just sick of the way they shit all over Canadians.

  • Chris Brown

    If the judge can easily break it down to language a 5 year old can understand, I can’t see why Bell is having problems with this common sense. You can’t charge for nothing!

  • ChickenJoeRules .

    I’m betting Bell has just put a hold on all the bribe cheques….

  • ChickenJoeRules .

    shit…and it gets past censors…YOU GO, BUDDY!!

  • Starfish416

    The next class action should address the “touch tone fee”. Almost $3 per month on home phone service for a completely dated cash grab. That is what made me leave Bell for good.

  • Mandy Ardelli

    Yep. Mobility Share plan ends with my mother in the first week of April and we are porting her number over to another provider I’ve been with since 2009 and had zero problems with, and canceling the phone number I’ve had probably since 1998. I think.

  • Wintyr

    so a lawyer just made a 100mil and the people effected get 20 bucks each

  • Thekert

    And of course, that entire amount will just be rolled into the cost of future cell phone plans and come out of the pockets of the same people getting their $20 back.

  • Z S

    I don’t understand why Bell fought this… and is now “disappointed”. If there is no service, you can’t charge for it. It’s that simple.

  • Stanky Eggo

    Yeah I think it’s time to bail out… I might try one of the smaller Tel com companies. Who knows… It’s really one of the only ways that consumers can voice their displeasure with these larger incumbents. Put your money behind someone else…

  • Stanky Eggo

    This is almost certainly not a mistake. In fact it almost appears to be a common practice for Bell to charge for services that are simply not supported. I know this for at least one other service they offered.

    Approximately 4 years ago I moved to a new place and contacted Bell about their Fiber internet service, particularly the ‘Bell Fiber Internet 15’ which offers ‘up to’ 15 Mbps worth of bandwidth. The key part to focus on is the wording ‘up to’. This was considered one of their
    premium services at the time. If I recall Bell only offered two Fiber service the other being “Fiber Internet 25”.

    The service was installed and I used it for just over a month. It felt slower and ‘lagged’ compared to the Rogers Internet Cable at my old place so I did a bandwidth test and to my surprise I was only getting about 3 Mbps.

    I contacted Bell Customer Service and they did some background tweaking and even sent a service person out to my home. After about two weeks Bell got the bandwidth up to 4 Mbps which was still far short of the 15 Mbps I was paying for.

    I contacted Bell again because this was unacceptable. They kept repeating ”…the service is up to 15Mbps…” I kept hammering on. I said “…if you went into a supermarket and bought a 1kg (2.20lbs) apple pie but when you got home and found the pie was only 0.27kg (0.60lbs), would you feel OK about that?…” The service rep kept repeating ‘‘… the service is up to 15Mbps…” so I kept changing the analogy moving on to 1 liter of pop and so on.

    I understand with the nature of Internet Service you’ll rarely if ever get the full advertised bandwidth due to ‘network overhead’ but getting only 27% is a far cry and needs to be regulated.

    The Bell Customer Rep and I had a long conversation about the bandwidth and it was clear that he was reading from a pre-written
    script. But he did finally slip up and said “…because fiber is not available in your area, all I can do is offer you our 5 Mbps ADSL
    service and refund you the difference… I can’t give you the 15Mbps you’re asking for…” What!?!?!?

    Bell has absolutely no issues with selling and charging you for a service that is simply not supported. I also wonder how many people out there paying for such services.

    I know of one other account where a friend’s father was paying for one of Bell’s high bandwidth services and was getting less than 2 Mbps. From what my friend told me the conversation went pretty much the same way. The difference was that his father paid for the service for almost 2 years before we did a bandwidth test for him.

  • James

    Bell is the worst phone service provider i’ve ever had….I owed them 250 dollars for canceling my cell phone service. I was paying them about 30-60 dollars a month to pay it off. There was a balance of 61$ on my account in December and if I had known i would have payed it but I sent them 50 dollars. Then i get a letter in the mail from collections saying i owe bell. So basically they sent it to collections just to screw me over.

  • Chicklet

    I also worked for a centre handling Bell home services retention and what ajplante said is totally right. I also stayed only long enough to finish the paid training and a month on the floor. Of the 30 people in my training group with only one leaving during training due to family crisis, only about 4 or 5 are still there a year later. Between the paranoia about workplace germs and the typical call centre workplace it was the last call centre (nightmare) for me!

  • Tony Lee

    Bell Canada spokesman Mark Langton said (via The Globe and Mail): “The company is “very disappointed with the decision,” adding: “We’re considering our options.”. Have you considered $&!#¥? Yourself?

  • Captian.Obvious

    I like when people blame the company on being sent to collections. A monthly service has a monthly DUE DATE. You owed them money that you werent paying on time. Why do you think they sent you to collections just to screw you? Its pretty clear you owed and werent paying on time.

  • Angel Te M?ng?roa

    Same here, I take it you were working for Nordia? Managed about 9 months there before I got fired for giving a customer somewhat of a better deal than he was getting, the phone disconnected and they said I did it on purpose. Wouldn’t work for them ever again.

  • crob000

    Sadly the government will pocketing the money since they are more corrupt than Bell and Rogers combined.

  • crob000

    They can no longer request 30 day cancellation as of Jan 23rd. That’s the first step. Next is no fees to cancel unless covering the direct cost of equipment under lease and only for the buyout of the remaining equipment which must be paid towards as fast as possible during contract while remaining in a profit of 5% max to the gross amount received. Phones shouldnt take 3 years to pay off… you lease the contract not the phone…Next is no package based products, you pay for what you get at the same rates someone under contract would as it makes no sense to service someone cheaper the same way you would anyone else at different rates because you know they are not leaving. Provide good service and rates and we wont leave… you aren’t supposed to be penalized for free market enterprise. This is corruption at its finest and the government doesn’t do anything at all. We have the worst leaders in Canadian history and every election is the best of the worst to prove it.

  • crob000

    Also all purchased minutes and bandwith carry over as you paid for them. What other product do you buy full price for and at the end of the month it just disappears and you are asked to buy it again even though you didnt get it…

  • Len

    Bell did much the same to me with my land line, many years ago. We didn’t know that the 911 service we had been paying for(for years) wasn’t operational, until we needed to use it because of an accident. A man almost died. Bell passed the blame off to the municipality!

  • Jane Sheppard

    Private corps are SO much better than government-run companies. They really look out for the little guy…

  • crob000

    My ex had a cellphone she cancelled with Rogers because it was stolen. Rogers failed to explain that they would be charging full price for no reason to her for services they did not render and she could not use. They said they would charge 7 dollars a month until her contract was done but instead of giving her a bill each month she stopped receiving them altogether until collections contacted her for $1600 on a stolen and reported phone. That is what you can expect from Rogers and Bell when dealing with collections. When she asked them what happened they said they had deleted the phone record with the representative and could not confirm it to be stolen. She said why dont you look at the call history then. 0 calls. Not a single one from the time she reported it. They can see if your SIM card is activated and live in the phone or if someone switched it out yet this is still legal for them to send fraudulent bills to people. When dealing with collections they refused to negotiate nor speak of the issue due to it being issued by Rogers. The representative explained that there are so many disputed collections with Rogers that they will no longer discuss the issue and have no way to prove for or against either party. Its being called the largest collections fraud in Canadian history but nobody is doing anything about it. There are dozens of reports from people unable to get loans or take out money on a house due to false collections claims by Rogers and Bell. Often these people were NEVER customers of either outfit and yet magically owe them.

  • crob000

    This is happening with the 407 as well. Magic tolls and car rides you didn’t take but you can’t renew your license unless you pay them. One woman,her bill ended up in collections mysteriously. Yet she could prove with video recording that the license plate that had been on her wall and still registered during the time they stated she drove on the 407. She had to take them to court. She won the case and was offered a payout on the condition she not speak publicly of what happened. She refused the money.

  • Kate Dawson

    For those claiming it was a simple mistake on bells part… Sorry but it was not. When bell came into the territories they knew fully that there was no 911 services. I am one of the people who had a phone in the nwt and called regarding the charge on multiple occasions. I was constantly told that I needed to have it. I repeatedly told them charge me when I use it because it doesn’t work. I even made them try to connect through my phone to 911 and it would say the number was incorrect. Never would they reimburse me for it and always say that I needed to have it. $0.75 cents is what you paid every month. We did not have 911 in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and since I now don’t live there, I am unsure if they do have it or if it’s still the old way. But when bell was at one point the only option you had for cell phone provider you took what you got. $0.75 cents may not seem like a lot but start adding it up. When I got my letter informing me of the lawsuit it stated that I could be reimbursed to the tune of around $300.00. Some people more then that!

  • Jane

    So how do we get refunded the money from bell if we are charged the fee and we don’t have 911 service in our area

  • ngDeveloper

    I haven’t been a Bell Customer since 2004. I haven’t been a Rogers customer since 2006. I have survived these past years on TekSavvy, a VOIP home phone, and only recently got a cellphone because Mobi/Wind opened business.

  • rftcrusher

    “What other product do you buy full price for and at the end of the month it just disappears”
    Bought 3 cans of wd 40 on sale, by the time I got to my second can, no aerosol, third was empty also. No buying more on sale, one can at a time. Couldn’t return the other cans because the receipt uses ink that fades. Need to go back to non edible ink. Receipts lasted for years, especially since they want to to use them for returns or warranty.

  • Chris C.

    “Bell Canada spokesman Mark Langton said (via The Globe and Mail): “The company is “very disappointed with the decision,””

    I bet ya you’re disappointed you can’t endlessly gouge consumers. If anything, that statement PROVES they are THIEVES, something we’ve known for a long time ($55 per megabyte for data, anyone?)