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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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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 (see here and here) 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 (see here, here, and here). 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.

In May, the telecom watchdog, the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) ruled against an application filed jointly by DiversityCanada and the NPF in which we had asked that Telus be prevented from forcing prepaid wireless, pay-per-use customers to switch to monthly plans.

Our organisations appealed that decision, and, in our final submission in October, we reminded the CRTC that its own rules require it to decide in consumers' favour in circumstances such as those that arise in the Telus matter. And now, we await that decision as well.

The hardest part of the year was saying goodbye to my dear friend and long-serving DiversityCanada board member, Mrs Coral Dinunzio, who passed away in October.

Coral was also a volunteer at a blood-pressure clinic for seniors where she met hundreds and gained a broad understanding of the concerns of her peers. Based on her own experience with Bell and other phone companies, and, more so, based on the understanding she had gained of other seniors' experiences with prepaid wireless services, she had been an enthusiastic supporter of this “Bell Give Our Money Back” campaign.

Coral and Jack, her beloved husband of more than 50 years, lived opposite me. Whenever I faced obstacles along the way in DiversityCanada’s work on this and other campaigns, I would find myself in their living room. Coral never failed to give me a receptive ear and to give me sound advice on how to take matters forward.

I would leave her cozy bungalow with my resolve strengthened by her reminders that in working on this issue, DiversityCanada was standing up for the most vulnerable in society whose complaints as individuals would be casually dismissed by big corporations. Taking on the powerful phone companies, therefore, was a necessary, even if somewhat daunting, challenge for our small organization, Coral would say.

Even now, I can picture the way she would clasp her hands and chuckle, as she would say with a twinkle in her eyes, “You go get them, Celia.”

As we say goodbye to 2015, I will hold on to that image and dedicate the efforts to finish the work we started to the memory of Coral. My dear, wonderful friend is gone, but she won’t ever be forgotten.

Here’s wishing all of us peace, prosperity, and joy in 2016!

 

 


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