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Oh, did we ever win some!
December 21, 2013
By Celia Sankar
What a roller-coaster year it's been! But I'm happy to say that we are closing out 2013 on a victorious note, both inside and outside of the courts.
First, the good news concerning the class action lawsuit in which I am the representative plaintiff for Bell Mobility's prepaid wireless customers in Ontario.
This week, Justice John C. Moore of the Ontario Superior Court put a stop to Bell's attempt to hold up the case when he denied the company's request for leave to appeal.
So, now we have the green light and we can move full speed ahead with our claim for $100 million in damages for losses suffered when Bell seized the balances in our accounts on purported expiry dates.
The case was certified as a class action on October 04, this year, by Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba. Reports of that decision can be found here, here, and here (where Sun News mentions this site).
In certifying this case as a class action, Justice Belobaba ensured that over one million Bell Mobility prepaid wireless account holders could have access to justice.
Without the certification, each customer would have had to individually sue Bell, most likely in small claims court, and we can guess how many would have gone through the cost and trouble to do so.
With certification as a class, however, all Bell prepaid customers are able to sue for damages as part of this one case, and have their cause presented by experienced and competent legal counsel. It does not cost class members anything, and they don't have to do anything either. In class action lawsuits, only the representative plaintiff incurs any risk and has to participate by consulting with class counsel, attending hearings and generally keeping on top of events.
So, as the new year begins, the case will be kick-started with preliminary matters, such as notifying current and former Bell Mobility customers that the lawsuit is underway. Customers can either opt out of the lawsuit, or they can sign up to be kept informed, or they can do nothing at all. As long as they don't opt out, they will be in line to receive their share of damages, should the case proceed to trial and a judgement be awarded; or their share of a settlement, should there be one.
If you are or were a prepaid wireless customer of Bell Mobility, Virgin Mobile Canada or Solo Mobile after May 04, 2010, and if you haven't yet signed up for the news and updates at BellGiveOurMoneyBack.com, please click here to do so now. As representative plaintiff, I'll share what I know about the case with you and refer you to the official court documents.
This year ends with good news for us Bell prepaid wireless customers outside the court as well. (And yes, as that statement implies, I still have an account with Bell.) We have made the giant bow to our demands!
This whole matter arose because of Bell's practice of operating, in effect, with two different expiry dates (as explained in this video). One of our demands (which was included here at BellGiveOurMoneyBack.com, and supported by you as signers of our petition) was that Bell stop this practice of operating with two different expiry dates.
On the strength of your support, the matter was raised by the DiversityCanada Foundation (which spearheads this campaign) before the regulatory body that supervises Bell. DiversityCanada also urged that body, the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission), to prohibit the entire practice whereby phone companies seize the unused balances in prepaid wireless accounts.
One of the downs on the roller-coaster of this year was the CRTC's decision not to ban this practice as part of its new national Wireless Code.
However, at least the federal watchdog began to regulate expiry dates. This gave us, as consumers, the means to challenge Bell's practices. Here at BellGiveOurMoneyBack.com, we issued notice to Bell Mobility that they would be facing an official complaint before federal authorities if they did not end their practice of operating with two different expiry dates.
The CRTC's new rules regulating the wireless sector came into effect on the second of this month. After I topped up my Virgin Mobile account on that day, I noticed that Bell had indeed stopped operating with two different expiry dates!
Not only that, but the company now operates according to two other demands we made: that they provide the precise time of expiry, and that customers be given up to midnight of the expiry date to either use their funds or to top up and preserve their balance.
We've come quite far in this campaign for fair treatment for Bell Mobility's prepaid wireless customers. It has been a slow and sometimes arduous, sometimes disheartening process, but it has been an effort which I, as a social justice advocate, and DiversityCanada, as an organization established to promote fairness, felt compelled to undertake by the knowledge that among those who had been harmed by Bell's practices were some of the most vulnerable in society, including pensioners, persons on disability benefits, youth, minimum-wage workers, the unemployed, and newcomers to Canada.
There is much more we need to achieve, yet.
As far as the court case is concerned, now that we have the go-ahead, the real work begins as we press to make Bell give our money back.
At the CRTC, we have applied for a review of the section of the Wireless Code that permitted prepaid wireless balance expiry to continue; we have argued that it should be rescinded. We await that decision, expectant that the CRTC will protect consumers across Canada from what we described to the regulator as an unjust and unreasonable practice, carried out not just by Bell, but by Rogers, Telus, and all other wireless providers.
Together, we have already shown that we cannot be ignored. United and strong, we will forge on with this campaign in the new year.Happy holidays!