The Toronto Sun has a rather shocking story of Bell Canada’s continued fight to assert that they were legally allowed to charge customers a monthly fee for a 911 service that did not exist.
Dating back to 2007, Bell Canada customers in several Canadian Territories were charged 75 cents a month for a 911 service that never existed. Those who called this 911 service were rerouted to a 10-digit number and a subsequent message stating: “There are no 911 services in this area. Please hang up and dial the emergency number for your area. Or hang up and dial zero to reach an operator.” When residents would therefore dial zero, they then received a recorded message stating “in case of emergency, hang up and dial *911”.
Because Canada law allows for class action lawsuits, a number of individuals came together to form a lawsuit against Bell Canada. One would think that Bell Canada would apologize, stop this charging for this fake service and offer full refunds. Not Bell Canada.
Bell contested the class action on the basis of what it claimed was a clear contractual right to collect 911 fees from customers in areas where no 911 service existed. As the Sun article noted, Bell Canada pointed out that their contracts included statements that allowed them to charge for non-existent services.
- “I understand that depending on the rate plan I select, I am also liable to pay . . . and a monthly 9-1-1 service access fee outlined by Bell Mobility.”
- “Your monthly charges will include your monthly access fee, all applicable taxes, and may include . . . 9-1-1 emergency service fees”
Recently, a Canadian appeals court ruled against Bell Canada and outright embarrassed them by claiming that the telecom didn’t understand that “connecting someone to nothing is still nothing”.
The Supreme Court of Canada has since dismissed an appeal by Bell Canada about the outcome of the case but has agreed to look into whether the appeals court improperly applied punitive damages to the case. Meaning, Bell Canada lost again in court. The damages will soon be coming….it is just a question of how much.