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Canada

Canadian Cellphone Users May Get Justice Over Phantom Charges 91

Posted by timothy
from the but-justice-is-thin-on-the-ground dept.
An anonymous reader writes "For years, Bell Mobility customers in northern Canada were charged 75 cents a month for 911 emergency service. The problem is that cellphone users outside Whitehorse, Yukon, don't have access to 911 service. The Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories ruled against Bell this week, following a class action lawsuit which challenged the phantom cellphone 911 billings. Subject to a possible final appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, Bell will likely owe 30,000 northern cellphone subscribers some bucks."
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Canadian Cellphone Users May Get Justice Over Phantom Charges

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  • Pay to the order of Mrs. Wilbur Stark, one dollar and nine cents!
  • So many extra fees (Score:5, Informative)

    by nebular (76369) on Saturday May 18, 2013 @06:38PM (#43765197) Homepage

    Bell is horrible for the extra fees.

    On my Landline, I have a 911 fee, I have a network access fee and I have a touch tone fee.

    Yes a Touch Tone fee. Bell Canada has not moved the extra fee for touch tone service into their service packages. I cannot get a new pulse line, nor can I have touch tone removed from my line. There are customers who still had only pulse and so they did not get charged this fee, but you had to actively refuse touch tone service when it was being rolled out. This was ~25 years ago.

    911 fee is from when 911 was being rolled out and was mandated by law. Bell put the fee there to show that it was required by law and that's why your bill was higher than before. This was 15-20 years ago.

    The network access fee is the fee for Bell Canada to connect to it's own network. This was from when their monopoly was dismantled and 3rd parties were given access to their lines. Bell Canada's end user arm had to pay for access to their network. So they put in the fee to explain why the bill was higher. This also was 15-20 years ago.

    You give Bell a reason to put in an extra fee, they'll take it and never give it back, no matter how unnecessary it has become.

    • Rogers put the 911 bill on their bills too. Probably because Bell does, and they don't want their bills to look higher. It's all BS really

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 18, 2013 @06:49PM (#43765227)

      That is why I got rid of Verizon here. I had two lines, one for business and one for personal. Both were charged the tone dialing fee per month and the personal line was being charged $3/month to be unlisted and unpublished and the business line was being charged $3/month to be listed and published. Funny.

      • by kermidge (2221646)

        That's funny to the point of being absurd. One has to wonder what would happen if no fee were paid.

        • by tqk (413719)

          One has to wonder what would happen if no fee were paid.

          You haven't been listening. That's an impossible situation, like divide by zero.

          • by kermidge (2221646)

            No, I saw it. Thanks. The impossible situation was what I meant.

            "Ok, sir, now would you want your number listed or unlisted?"
            "I don't care."
            "But, sir, you have to choose."
            "No, no I don't. I choose not to choose."
            "But, sir...."
            "Tell you what, you decide. I'll accept whatever you choose. But since it's your choice, then you pay for it."
            "[pulling hair in between muttered imprecations and threats]"

            That's what I saw as the absurdity that AC pointed out. It's simply an outgrowth of the way companies find wa

        • by chrish (4714)

          Then you'd be charged the No-Fee Convenience Fee, which is only $4.95 per month.

    • just for the record, and in keeping with how markets operate, these fees you are complaining about make no difference in the price you pay for service. If they are a monopoly or cartel market power, yes, you will be paying extra for that. But if they do not have monopoly power, then competition will drive that fee out of the price of the rest of the package. You're probably itching to say "oooh, but these are govt regulations, these fees etc blah blah". Yes, taking all that into account, the above is tru
      • by Firethorn (177587) on Saturday May 18, 2013 @07:06PM (#43765289) Homepage Journal

        While they're slowly losing to cell phone companies and such, the Bell company in question DOES have a legal monopoly on the land line system in the area. Given that things like the 'touch tone' fee are known to piss people off, it's probably because they're regulated on what they can charge as part of the 'basic fee', having to go before a board or whatever to get that increased. Meanwhile, with sufficient justification they can add a fee, but no regulatory structure to REMOVE said fees, thus the continuation of them long past when it made sense.

        Sort of like how we had a tax here in the USA meant to pay for the last spanish-american war* that was finally ended less than a decade ago. Or how tolls will go up to 'pay for the construction' of some road or bridge, but never get taken down, even after all the construction costs have been recouped several times over.

        *Which a lot of US history student don't even know about.

        • by Mashiki (184564)

          Bell is one of the largest cell providers in Canada, it's not losing to anyone. Especially since in Canada there's a defacto monopoly on providing services since we have "canadian ownership rules" which dictate whether a company is even allowed to operate here.

        • by nebular (76369)

          Bell isn't a true monopoly. Not anymore anyway. They are a defacto monopoly because when deregulation happened Bell was not forced to sell of their lines, or spin ownership of them into a separate company.

          They are required by law to share, and do so as begrudgingly as they can.

          • by Phrogman (80473)

            But a little while ago they were planning to raise their data rates, which meant *everyones* data rate was going to go up, no matter what their service provider, because Bell owns the vast majority of the internet lines across the entire country.

            They *are* effectively a monopoly, just as our cellphone carriers (Bell included) charge roughly the same high rates (Canadians pay some of the highest fees in the world) because there is *no* real competition, just the appearance of it. Most of the smaller provider

        • While they're slowly losing to cell phone companies and such, the Bell company in question DOES have a legal monopoly on the land line system in the area. Given that things like the 'touch tone' fee are known to piss people off, it's probably because they're regulated on what they can charge as part of the 'basic fee', having to go before a board or whatever to get that increased. Meanwhile, with sufficient justification they can add a fee, but no regulatory structure to REMOVE said fees, thus the continuation of them long past when it made sense.

          Sort of like how we had a tax here in the USA meant to pay for the last spanish-american war* that was finally ended less than a decade ago. Or how tolls will go up to 'pay for the construction' of some road or bridge, but never get taken down, even after all the construction costs have been recouped several times over.

          *Which a lot of US history student don't even know about.

          I cant understand your remaining with a landline. I took a voip provider (minimum use, with North American calling, caller id, call waiting, conferencing, emails with missed messages and whatever. I got their little adapter box onto the router. I bought a ups for the router, the adapter box and for the cordless phones in the house. Last time we had a power failure (I test by pulling the main breaker), I still had phone service for hours. I used Vonage.

          • by Firethorn (177587)

            I cant understand your remaining with a landline.

            I don't have a landline. I said that they have a legal monopoly on landlines. There's a difference. I'm also not in the area.

            Still, some reasons:
            1. Comes effectively for free with bundles. The only reason I don't have one is to avoid the various taxes and fees, which actually end up being more than the basic charge for one. From memory: $2.50 for local 911, $1.50 for state 911*, USF charge of $5, sales tax, regulatory fee, etc...
            2. Remote monitoring. Living in an area where freezing is a real proble

      • by nebular (76369)

        The Fees are historical. They were added on at a time where the service was controversial, so they were separated from the service price in an effort to be transparent. But now that those services are common and expected, they leave the fees there so their advertised price will be lower than the actual price. Right now I'm paying $50 for a service that was advertised to me for $30.

        I'm not happy and intend to leave, but my line was in bad shape so I'm having work done on it so I don't want to change my servi

    • My dad refused to pay for touch tone in the US, and he had his ancient, black Bakelite indestructible phone upstairs for decades. It was idiotic for the phone company, which had long since converted to computers for both signal types. But they wanted to charge for the "premium" touch tone.

      As for this, the company claims it's required nationwide by regulation. Fair enough. Show the money went for 911 elsewhere, and not oopsidentally into your pocket.

      • by kermidge (2221646)

        "oopsidentally" - what a fine, wonderful, sensical word!

        I'll return two for the gift: u-trou, and flutterby (perhaps the best descriptive noun I've met)

        I wouldn't mind having my old desk telephone. Tedious when in a hurry; perforce gives time to think before speaking.

      • by sjames (1099)

        Gotta love the old bakelite phones. If someone breaks in, you can bash him over the head with the phone confident that it will still work so you can call the cops to collect the body.

    • by ottawanker (597020) on Saturday May 18, 2013 @07:57PM (#43765495) Homepage

      My parents still have pulse dialing.. Every once in a while Bell tries to sneak the Tone dialing onto their bill and they have to call and have it taken off. The funny thing is, I bet is costs Bell more now to supply Pulse dialing than Tone.

    • by Dahamma (304068)

      es a Touch Tone fee. Bell Canada has not moved the extra fee for touch tone service into their service packages. I cannot get a new pulse line, nor can I have touch tone removed from my line. There are customers who still had only pulse and so they did not get charged this fee, but you had to actively refuse touch tone service when it was being rolled out. This was ~25 years ago.

      Almost as bad as the AT&T white page listing fees. It's $0.35/mo to be listed in the phone book, and $0.45/mo NOT to be liste

      • by sjames (1099)

        tell them "both" and then angrily call demanding a refund for whichever one they failed to do.

    • by dryeo (100693)

      They're all horrible. Telus charges me $5 for not making enough long distance calls, $9 for call display (which the wife insists on having) and $35 for crappy dial-up. They have package deals if you get high speed but they sure as hell aren't ever going to upgrade the old copper lines around here. They might put in a cell tower if they're paid enough by BC Hydro (government run power company) so they can actually use that expensive smart meter that they installed on the pretext of saving me money and fixing

    • by DarthVain (724186)

      Try buying a new phone and see how many other fees they have.

      There are a ton, and even when they offer promotions to waive some, there are always others.

      As part of the promotion to sign another 3 year contract as an existing customer, they waived the "administration fee".

      However when you go to get your actual phone, you have to now go to a brink and mortar Bell Store, who will charge you an "upgrade fee", which apparently is something totally different than an administration fee.

      If I didn't absolutely need

  • class-action settlements usually don't amount to much to the individuals involved in the suit...
    • Indeed. 30,000 persons will pay a small amount from a carrier POV. This is a problem with that kind of justice: when someone steals or kill, he has to pay a heavy dissuasive "price", also intended to be understood by other people: "look, this is the 'price' you pay if you steal/kill".
      Instead, being rather lenient, the court doesn't discourage that kind of behavior in companies.
  • Bell will likely owe some law firm some bucks.

    Assuming it works like it does in the USA.

  • Like all class action lawsuits, end users will see next to nothing, and more likely than not will actually see a coupon.

    • by Greyfox (87712)
      Yup. The lawyers will get $30 million, and the users will get a $10 gift certificate to Hot Topic. Which they also don't have in Canada! Damn you, Bell Mobility!
      • But what is the alternative? If the company had been willing to give the money to their users from the beginning, then no lawsuit would have been necessary.
        They obviously weren't, so lawyers were involved. They took a disproportionate cut of the winnings, but at least the users got something out of it. Without a class action lawsuit, they could only have gotten their 10$ if they'd been willing to pay thousands in lawyer fees for it.

  • I do hope that when Bell is required to pay back the money they stole for non-existent services that they're required to pay interest and adjust for inflation... :P

  • "Bell will likely owe 30,000 northern cellphone subscribers some bucks."

    Because only 100,000 people live up there, an area 3/5 the size of the USA....

    (I live in Toronto, and I've been north. It's pretty much devoid of people up there...)

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