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Bell Mobility loses class-action lawsuit
Communications company vows to appeal court's decision regarding 9-1-1 charges

Miranda Scotland
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 20, 2013

Bell Mobility was found to have wrongly charged thousands of Northern customers 75 cents per month for non-existent 9-1-1 service by the Supreme Court, according to a decision released May 17.

The decision comes nearly six years after two Yellowknifers first filed the $6-million class-action lawsuit.

"James and Samuel Anderson have fought a long, tough battle against one of the largest corporations in this country and it's nice to be able to prevail under these circumstances," said the plaintiffs' lawyer Keith Landy.

Residents of the NWT, Nunavut and the Yukon - except Whitehorse - are involved in the case if they entered a cellphone agreement with Bell Mobility before April 13, 2010 and were charged emergency access fees despite there being no 9-1-1 live operator in the area. Customers could opt out of the case if they wanted to.

During the March trial, Bell lawyers argued the Andersons knew before signing the contract with Bell that 9-1-1 service was not available in Yellowknife and agreed to it anyway. They also noted that Samuel lived in B.C. for six months while getting his primary paramedic training and could access the emergency service available there.

Meanwhile, James testified he signed up for cellphone service with Bell after moving to Yellowknife from Inuvik in August 2005. While signing the contract at Roy's Audiotronic he asked why he had to pay for a service not available to him and was told it wasn't optional.

He eventually agreed to the contract because at the time Bell was the only cellphone company in town.

In a written decision released Friday, Justice R.S. Veale ruled that Bell must repay the fees.

"The Andersons have established that Bell Mobility was enriched by charging a fee for no service and a corresponding deprivation of the class members who paid the 75 cents monthly fee," Veale wrote.

Veale decided Bell Mobility was not required to provide the 9-1-1 service itself. The judge also denied the request from the Andersons' lawyers for Bell to pay the class for wrongful conduct and punitive or exemplary damages.

The next step for the two parties would be to participate in a damages hearing, but no date has been set for that and Bell plans to appeal the decision.

"We are pleased the court ruled in our favour on the main issues certified for trial, and found that Bell Mobility is not required to provide live 9-1-1 operators. That is the responsibility of local governments," wrote Bell spokesperson Albert Lee in an e-mail. "But we will certainly appeal its decision on a matter that hadn't even been certified for trial - i.e. whether customers in those areas are exempt from paying the fees charged to all customers nationally."

The Andersons could not be reached for comment by press time.

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