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A Campaign for Fair Treatment for Bell Prepaid Wireless Customers
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THE PETITION
Why this campaign?
Bell presents two different expiry dates to the customer. Which is the valid expiry date?
Bell claims the customer's unused balances as forfeited even before the expiry day is over.
Because of Bell's practices, prepaid wireless customers have lost untold millions of dollars.
Prepaid wireless customers include seniors, youth, minimum-wage workers and the unemployed.
These are vulnerable consumers who can least afford to lose their funds or their mobile service.
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Consumers receive another blow

April 13, 2017
By Celia Sankar

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Appeal of Bell Mobility Class Action

In our David vs Goliath battle against Bell, the Ontario Court of Appeal has given consumers another disappointment.

Yesterday, the Court again sided with the telecom giant, ruling that Bell was entitled to seize funds consumers had given to the company in order to purchase wireless services.

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Appeal court decision not in our favour

April 04, 2016
By Celia Sankar

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Appeal of Bell Mobility Class Action

The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled today that Bell Mobility was entitled to seize funds in its customers’ prepaid wireless accounts, and therefore is not required to refund those sums.

As the lead plaintiff representing over one million Ontario consumers who are seeking $200 million in damages in this class action, I must say this is a huge disappointment for consumers.

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Appeal Court decision on Monday

April 02, 2016
By Celia Sankar

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Appeal of Bell Mobility Class Action

The wait is almost over.

The Ontario Court of Appeal is expected to release its decision on Sankar vs Bell Mobility on Monday.

So, in a few hours, we'll know whether the court will order Bell to give back the money it took from prepaid wireless services customers on so-called "expiry dates."

Look out for an update from me. Until then, have a great weekend.

All the best,

Celia

 


 

Saying goodbye

December 31, 2015
By Celia Sankar

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Review of 2015

It was the kind of year that was made for the saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

The year 2015 saw the class action lawsuit, in which I’m the lead plaintiff representing over one million Bell Mobility customers, being heard in the Ontario Superior Court at the end of January. Two weeks later, the court ruled that Bell was entitled to confiscate funds in our prepaid wireless accounts in the manner that it did.

The class appealed, and in November, our case was heard by Ontario Chief Justice George Strathy and two other appeal court judges. We now await their decision.

The DiversityCanada Foundation, which spearheads the “Bell Give Our Money Back” campaign, has sought to expand its efforts and to win protection not just for Bell customers, but for all prepaid wireless consumers. Along with the National Pensioners Federation (NPF), we had asked the authorities to ban all phone companies from putting expiry dates on prepaid wireless account balances.

In March, the highest of those authorities, the Governor in Council (which is essentially the Prime Minister and Cabinet) unofficially released its decision not to stand with consumers on this issue.

However, that decision is yet to be officially released, so that issue remains to be resolved.

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Justice for all?

December 18, 2015
By Celia Sankar

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Appeal of Bell Mobility Class Action: Part III

In this class action lawsuit in which prepaid wireless, pay-per-use customers are suing Bell Mobility over the loss of our funds on so-called "expiry dates", our lawyers have argued that Bell's confiscation of our balance was illegal according to Ontario's gift card regulation.

Jean-Marc Leclerc, one of our lawyers, told the Ontario Court of Appeal at last month's hearing of our case that the lower court judge made an error when he said that this law didn't apply to Bell's top-ups for wireless services (which involve consumers giving Bell money and Bell converting the funds into electronic credits which can be used just like cash to purchase a variety of goods and services via Bell's wireless network.)

Leclerc said, basically, that the "gift card" legislation was created to protect all consumers from losing money when this payment method – commonly know as a "gift card" – is used.

The mistake the lower court judge made, Leclerc said, was that he determined that only consumers who received a gift card as a gift  from a third party were protected by the legislation.

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Our voices have been heard

December 11, 2015
By Celia Sankar

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Appeal of Bell Mobility Class Action: Part II

Last week, I confessed that I couldn't understand Bell's argument – which the lower court had accepted – as to what we (prepaid wireless, pay-per-use customers) understood to be the “expiry date” in this class action lawsuit against Bell Mobility.

It was only after having written it down in that article, and re-reading it, and going over it in my mind all week that I understood the source of my confusion.

...

It's important to be clear on what the judge said we understood at the time that we entered into the contract for prepaid wireless services in order to appreciate why our lawyers told the Ontario Court of Appeal that the judge, Justice Edward Belobaba, got things wrong,

We'll come to our lawyer's argument shortly. First, though, I'd like share a bit of what Bell said when our case came up in the Ontario Court of Appeal last month, and how the court took Bell's arguments.

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As clear as mud

December 04, 2015
By Celia Sankar

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Appeal of Bell Mobility Class Action: Part I

“The case was about if, how, and when Bell was entitled to confiscate money from its prepaid wireless customers,” Louis Sokolov said.

In a Toronto appeal  court, two Mondays ago, Sokolov, lead counsel representing over a million of us (prepaid customers of Bell’s three wireless brands: Bell Mobility, Virgin Mobile Canada, and Solo Mobile), argued that a lower court judge made several errors when he decided that Bell had done no wrong in seizing our funds in the manner that it did.

Sokolov told Ontario Chief Justice George Strathy, Justice Harry S. LaForme, and Justice Grant Huscroft that Bell’s confiscation practices were “fundamentally unfair, and illegal” and affected “the most cost-sensitive customers”.

The lower court judge, Justice Edward Belobaba, made an error when he failed to look at all the wording of the contract under which Bell claimed it was entitled to seize customers’ funds, Sokolov said.

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Class action appeal to be heard tomorrow

November 22, 2015
By Celia Sankar

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The appeal of our class action lawsuit against Bell Mobility over the seizure of funds in our prepaid wireless accounts comes up in court tomorrow.

The three-member panel that will decide the matter includes Ontario Chief Justice George Strathy, Justice Harry S. LaForme, and Justice Grant Huscroft.

The panel will hear arguments by our legal team from the law firms of Sotos LLP and Goldblatt Partners LLP that the lower court judge made several errors when he decided that Bell was entitled to seize our funds in the manner that it did.

READ MORE

 


 

Watchdog must put your rights first

October 16, 2015
By Celia Sankar

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Our fight to ensure that the phone companies respect you as a customer continues.

This week, the DiversityCanada Foundation and the National Pensioners Federation told the telecom watchdog that it must put the rights of consumers above everything else as we seek to stop Telus from changing consumer contracts without getting permission to do so.

As you may recall, the battle with Telus is over a policy the company introduced two years ago which DiversityCanada and the NPF complained forced prepaid, pay-per-use customers to switch to monthly plans.

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You can help protect your consumer rights

August 19, 2015
By Celia Sankar

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When you sign up or prepay for wireless services, does the phone company have to honour its service agreement with you over the duration of the agreement, whether it's for 30 days, 60 days, one year, two years, or indefinitely?

Or can the company change anything and everything about the agreement as it pleases, without seeking your consent?

These questions are at the heart of an application filed this week (August 18, 2015) by the DiversityCanada Foundation and the National Pensioners Federation to protect the rights of prepaid wireless consumers. You can play a part, too.

Our two organizations are asking the telecom watchdog to reverse a decision from May of this year which sanctioned a Telus policy that introduced mandatory changes to key terms of its prepaid wireless agreements with consumers.

DiversityCanada/NPF have called on the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) to review and vary a ruling in which it gave its blessings to a Telus policy that required prepaid wireless, pay-per-use consumers with a balance of over $300 to acquire monthly plans.

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Appeal filed against decision in Bell class action

April 30, 2015
By Celia Sankar

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The legal battle with Bell over its practice of seizing prepaid wireless customers' pay-per-use balances on so-called expiry dates continues.

This week, lawyers representing consumers filed arguments with the Court of Appeal of Ontario asking for the reversal of the decision of a judge who ruled that Bell's practices were legal.

The case is a class action lawsuit involving some one million Bell Mobility prepaid-wireless, pay-per-use customers in Ontario (of which I am the representative plaintiff).

Our lawyers argued that Justice Edward Belobaba, who decided on the matter in the lower court in February, got many important facts wrong, and did not interpret the law correctly.

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Federal Gov't refuses to overturn CRTC decision

March 10, 2015
By Celia Sankar

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Today the Federal Government refused to stand with us prepaid wireless consumers in our battle with big telecom companies that seize millions of dollars from us on so-called “expiry dates”.

As you would recall, the DiversityCanada Foundation had asked the federal agency that supervises phone companies to ban Bell, Rogers, Telus and others from applying expiry dates to prepaid wireless account balances.

That agency, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) did the opposite; it actually gave its blessings to this practice in June 2013.

DiversityCanada then joined forces with the National Pensioners Federation (NPF) to ask the CRTC to review that decision. The CRTC again denied our request.

DiversityCanada and NPF then took the matter to the next level. We submitted a petition to the Governor in Council.

In the decision posted online, today, the Governor in Council refused to do anything whatsoever to reverse the CRTC's original decision.

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Payphones still needed in Canada
February 12, 2015
By Celia Sankar

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Payphones usage is dwindling. Whereas 50 per cent of Canadians stated they used payphones in 2004, today, that number is down to just over one third, according to CRTC (the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission).

During a fact-finding process, last year, (in which the DiversityCanada Foundation and the National Pensioners Federation filed a joint submission), the telephone companies told the regulator that they can't afford to operate low-revenue-generating payphones. The CRTC's announcement, yesterday, showed it heard them loud and clear.

As part of the fact-finding exercise, the CRTC had banned telephone companies from removing the last payphone in any community. Now, the regulator says it will lift that ban in the near future.

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Ontario Superior Court decides in Bell's favour
February 12, 2015
By Celia Sankar

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I am stunned and disappointed by the blow to consumers which the Ontario Superior Court delivered when it dismissed our class action lawsuit against Bell Mobility, today.

Justice Edward Belobaba determined that Bell was justified in seizing the funds in our prepaid wireless, pay-per-use accounts at dates and times that were earlier than the expiry dates the company communicated directly to us via text messages and via our accounts.

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Bell says those expiry dates on your account were just "reminder notices", not expiry dates
February 06, 2015
By Celia Sankar

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As promised, here is the second, and final, wrap-up of the class action lawsuit against Bell Mobility, which was heard on January 28 before the Ontario Superior Court.

Our lawyers argued that Bell was wrong to take our funds when it did because the company's contract with us did not permit it to do so until after the so-called expiry date.

Now, often the phone companies promote prepaid wireless services by saying there are no contracts. And it's true that unlike post-paid customers, prepaid wireless customers do not sign an individual contract with the mobile service provide.

However, in the eyes of the court, Bell's terms of service (the fine print) form a binding agreement, ie a contract, between you and Bell.

The terms of service state what Bell can and cannot do, and what you can and cannot do, as well.

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Bell claims your pay-per use arrangement is really a monthly package
January 28, 2015
By Celia Sankar

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So you're a prepaid pay-per-use customer who uses the funds (known as “top-ups”) that you add to your account to purchase talk time, text messages, data usage, games, apps, ringtones, etc, whenever you want and in whatever quantity you choose.

Here's news for you: When you add a top-up to your account, you are NOT placing those funds into your account to use on pay-per-use basis for your pay-per-use services.

No siree.

What you are actually doing when you add a top-up to your pay-per-use account is that you are immediately paying a flat fee for, say, 30 days of access to the wireless network for a predetermined range and quantity of services (referred to as “usage limits”).

Sounds crazy huh?

Well as ludicrous as that statement is, it is exactly the argument that Bell Mobility made before an Ontario Superior Court judge in Toronto, today.

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We're in court January 28 - 30
January 15, 2015
By Celia Sankar

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The Ontario Superior Court has set aside three days at the end of January to hear arguments in the class action proceeding. Finally, this hearing will go to the heart of the matter.

Our lawyers will tell the court that Bell was wrong to seize consumers' funds during purported expiry dates, for two reasons. One, Bell breached its contracts by seizing the funds in consumers' prepaid wireless accounts earlier than the company was entitled to according to the terms of service. Two, Ontario's gift card regulation prohibits Bell from placing expiry dates on the funds in the accounts of prepaid wireless consumers.

Bell's lawyers will, of course, try to convince the judge that the company has acted with absolute propriety, and that it has been totally law-abiding.

It's been a long journey to get to here. READ MORE on the history of the case.

 



2014 in review
December 31, 2014
By Celia Sankar

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So, we've come to the end of another year, and what a year it's been.

Mere ten weeks into 2014, we faced a major hurdle. And that could so easily have been the end of the road for this campaign.

But I know this matter is important to you. And I know you were right when you told me it's unfair that the phone companies take our funds like this, and they must be stopped.

READ MORE....

 



Leave 'em whenever you want
September 06, 2014
By Celia Sankar

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Fed up with your cable company, Internet service provider, or provider of your land line? Good news, you can now drop them at will.

The telecom watchdog handed a welcome victory to consumers, today. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has announced that, starting next January, you can cancel your home phone, Internet, or broadcast service at any time.

This puts an end to the frustration consumers have faced for years in which you were told you had to give 30 days' notice before you could leave a provider.

READ MORE....

 



Official Notice of Class Action Lawsuit
August 27, 2014
By Celia Sankar

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I haven't posted in a while. That's not because nothing has been happening; quite the opposite. Much work has been carried out these last couple of months in the background concerning both the Ontario lawsuit filed against Bell Mobility and efforts to protect the rights of prepaid wireless consumers before the federal authorities.

More on these other developments soon.

As for the lawsuit, the Court earlier this month approved a Notice about the class action for publication.

The Notice appeared in numerous newspapers across the province, last week.

READ MORE....

 



Petition filed to Governor in Council
to overturn prepaid balance expiry

June 02, 2014
By Celia Sankar

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The DiversityCanada Foundation and the National Pensioners Federation are keeping up the fight on behalf of prepaid wireless consumers.

Today the two organizations jointly filed a Petition requesting that the Harper Government step in to protect prepaid wireless consumers who lose $138 million each year when wireless companies unjustly seize the cash in their prepaid wireless accounts.

The Petition asks the Governor in Council (that is, the Governor General, as advised by the Prime Minister and Cabinet) to quash the section of the Wireless Code which allows wireless providers to seize consumers' prepaid wireless balances by claiming the cash in these accounts "expired".

READ MORE....

 



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