Bell was acting lawfully when it took the cash of prepaid card customers whose cards expired. The court has ruled that it didn’t violate Ontario’s gift card law putting an end to a $200-million class action lawsuit (via Brandon Sun).
The lawsuit involved as many as one million Canadians, whose prepaid Bell Mobility, Solo Mobile and Virgin Mobile cards expired and their cash went into Bell’s pockets. In May 2012, Celia Sanka, after seeing $58 vanish, launched a class action, alleging the carrier grabbed the funds improperly. Sanka argued that Bell had taken the money took quickly or had flouted an Ontario law that bars expiry dates of gift cards.
Earlier in February 2015, a lower court dismissed the action, ruling that Bell did not breach its contract and that the Ontario gift cards law did not apply.
Now the Appeal Court claims Bell was entitled to the money:
“(Consumers) may find themselves in a situation where their phone cards expire before they have had a chance to use all their prepaid credits,” the ruling states.
“They may also find themselves on a merry-go-round they cannot get off, because they must constantly top up an account with a credit balance, because they have not used up all their credits from the previous active period.”
While this may seem unfair, the court said, it may be “part of the price paid for the flexibility of a prepaid phone card.”
The Appeal Court also highlighted that Bell’s clear meaning of the language it used was that any balance after the card’s expiry date was “forfeited and non-refundable.”
Users of prepaid cards are required to use the funds or top up the balance during an activation period ranging between 30 to 365 days. The CRTC refused to force carriers to allow indefinite carry-over of unused money.