$100 million class action against Bell Mobility certified – more than 1 million customers affected
A class action against Bell Mobility Inc. (“Bell”) alleging that the expiry dates on its pre-paid wireless services are illegal was certified by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice today.
The lawsuit, which includes more than 1 million class members in Ontario, alleges that Bell systemically breaches its contracts with its pre-paid wireless customers by seizing credit balances. In particular, the lawsuit alleges that pre-paid wireless services payments are “gift cards”, as defined by Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act, and cannot have an expiry date. The plaintiffs are seeking $100 million in damages from Bell.
The allegations in the lawsuit have not yet been proven in court.
The representative plaintiff, Celia Sankar, lives in Elliot Lake, Ontario, and is founder of the DiversityCanada Foundation, a not-for-profit organization. Ms. Sankar is a Bell pre-paid wireless customer who had her credit balance seized twice, in September 2011 and February 2012. Ms. Sankar will represent anyone in Ontario who purchased or otherwise acquired pre-paid wireless services under the brands Bell Mobility, Virgin Mobile Canada and Solo Mobile since May 4, 2010.
The law firms of Sotos LLP and Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP represent Ms. Sankar and the other members of the class.
“This decision is a victory for the vulnerable consumers who use pre-paid wireless services,” said Sankar. “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.”
Lead counsel, Louis Sokolov of Sotos LLP, noted that class counsel are currently investigating similar claims against other wireless companies and added that, in the absence of a class action, the claims of individual customers would remain unresolved.
“No one would ever bring their own lawsuit for the $20 or $30 that wireless companies take from their customers when their balances expire,” said Sokolov. “That it is why it is so important that consumer cases like this be certified and corporations like Bell be required to answer the allegations.”
Louis Sokolov can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.