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

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.