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

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.