June 29 2012 by Ellen Roseman
A $19 billion class action against Canada’s major wireless companies over undisclosed extra fees can proceed, thanks to the Supreme Court of Canada. About 30,000 people have joined the case, says lawyer Tony Merchant.
The issue is the “system access fee” that wireless carriers routinely added to customers’ bills. They blamed the government for making them charge an extra $7 to $9 a month, giving the impression they had no choice in the matter.
This particular fee may be gone except for customers with older plans, but extra fees still linger on wireless bills. For example, Rogers started in 2009 to charge a government regulatory recovery fee .
However, new customers are no better off, since the major carriers simply increased their prices to replicate the fees they say went toward paying for their licenses and purchasing wireless spectrum, as well as maintaining and upgrading their expensive wireless networks, said a Toronto Star story.
Another class action suit alleges that Bell Canada was using illegal expiry dates on its prepaid wireless contracts. Lead plaintiff Celia Sankar says Bell’s seizing of customers’ credit balances contravenes Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act.
Bell is angering many customers again. Not only is it charging a $2 fee for paper bills, but it is cutting its bundle discounts to $4 per service (from $5).
Bundle discounts are supposed to keep you loyal to Big Telecom and reluctant to switch elsewhere. But one customer did the math and switched his Internet service to Teksavvy (even before the bundle discounts were reduced in June).
I’m getting lots of feedback about Bell’s double play. See a few comments below from disgruntled clients.
How can telecom companies raise prices for customers under contract? This is unfair, even unconscionable. A contract should be binding on both parties, not just one side.
Let’s hope that an enterprising lawyer sees abusive contracts as the next class action to fight in court.