By Jared Clinton
A $100 million class action law suit has been filed against Bell Mobility Inc., alleging the wireless giant breached contracts with its prepaid customers.
The suit, which represents over one million customers, alleges that prepaid wireless cards used by customers should be protected as gift cards under Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act.
In October 2007, the Ontario Consumer Protection Act banned expiry dates on gift cards, which, as the suit alleges, is how prepaid mobile payments should be classified.
Celia Sankar, who spearheaded the lawsuit, said she saw a need to step forward and “do her part” to fight for the rights of prepaid wireless customers.
“I saw a major, powerful corporation conducting its business in a manner that, to me, appeared to be unacceptable,” Sankar said in an email to Humber News. “Prepaid wireless services are popular with many persons of limited means, therefore, many of the customers affected are those who can least afford to lose their funds.”
Louis Sokolov, the lawyer representing the class, told Humber News that the lawyers have heard of customers losing anywhere from $10 to $100.
“With Bell’s pre-paid wireless cards, they assign expiry dates,” said Sokolov. “Those expiry dates are illegal.”
While the case commenced in May 2010, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice certified the class action today.
“This decision is a victory for the vulnerable consumers who use pre-paid wireless services,” Sankar said in a press release. “These services are popular with many persons of limited means. It’s tremendously important that they have access to the court through a class action proceeding to have their claims fairly tried.”
However, the real success would come if Bell and other mobile companies would be forced to change their ways.
“A victory in this case would compel Bell and other wireless companies to change the ways they charge their customers,” Sokolov told Humber News.
In the release, Sokolov stated the importance of the certification by the Superior Court is paramount, as it requires the allegations against Bell to be answered.
“Bell’s business practices comply with all applicable laws and the contracts we enter with our customers,” Bell spokesperson Jacqueline Michelis. “This is of course the case with our prepaid cards, and we look forward to addressing the issue in court.”
Michelis added that the threshold for class action certification is “quite low” and don’t address whether or not claims have “any merit.”
However, Sokolov told Humber News the case likely wouldn’t be heard in court for at least another year, meaning a decision won’t be reached for some time.