Update: Bell hit with a $100 million Class Action lawsuit over Prepaid wireless “unfair practices”

Comments

  • ToniCipriani

    I’m not sure if this is a Bell specific? Almost all prepaid services have credit expiry.

    • TimeFlyz

      That’s what I’m wondering too. This practice is across the board, every carrier that I can think of that uses prepaid card has expiry dates. Hmmmm, why exclude the others? :S

    • MEE

      I assume that you can only sue if you have incurred damages, so likely someone who has lost money to the other carriers would have to sue them.

      I hope she wins. It costs these companies peanuts to maintain your balance.

    • aka

      I don’t know why you wish she wins, most of the winnings will go to the lawyers, everyone probably collects like $10 plus change each. Notice she didn’t disclose how much she lost?

      And if she does win, Bell’s out $100 million + lawyer fee, this precedence can mean further litigation which promises similar settlement with other carriers, and guess who ends up paying for all this? The rest of their clients.

      She clearly didn’t read or just ignored the service agreement. By activating her cell phone and using the service, she agrees and acknowledges that she read and understood the terms.

      Hope she loses, this is not good for consumers, only lawyers.

  • WIKIleaks

    Good for them!

  • Darryl

    Great news! It’s about time these carriers liable for misleading advertising and practices. I hope Rogers and Telus are next!!!

  • darknight2cA

    Uhm.. Sounds like some crazed Cat lady Having nothing to do..
    She isn’t going to win…
    If she does its not going to be 100 mil

  • deltatux

    Rogers prepaid accounts expire if you don’t constantly top up for their Pay-As-You-Go service (if you choose the $100 top-up, your account will only expire yearly).

    So I’m not sure if this is a Bell-specific issue.

  • Hi

    I think they’re talking about expiry dates on just buying the card not activating it. Of course they tell you that when you activate it you have a month to use it.

    • Virgin Rep

      Virgin prepaid cards take YEAARSS to expire once printed if you dont apply the balance

    • BT

      Years < forever.

      If it is indeed classified as a gift card under the Consumer Protection Act, it doesn't matter if it takes "YEAARSS" to expire before being applied to the account. It's not legally allowed to expire (before being applied) AT ALL.

  • Damien

    Sadly she might win, but it is just someone trying to get something for nothing…

  • anonymous

    Fido does the same thing!

  • otter

    Much Like Bell likes to get something for nothing with their insane overage charges that cost them $0.

    As long as it is done within the confines of the law, I shall enjoy seeing this go through.

  • northy

    having expiries on balances in Canada is illegal,, i always wondered how wireless companies got around this,, maybe they wont,,

    this will change things for the better of the consumer

  • NuckyT

    I bet she’s another naive user who doesn’t read package details when buying her top up cards and assumes things instead of actually knowing the details. Every company does this, and has for a long time now…you think if this was a problem it would have been sorted out a long time ago…

  • Jimbo

    We use Sack Goldblatt Mitchell on our Arbitration cases and they are one of, if not the top firm in Ontario. She has picked a law firm that can most certainly take on such a big company. Way to go.

  • 3df

    Does the prepaid voucher itself expire? If it does, then this has merit.

    Bell prepaid service is the worst of the big 3 (of all Canadian wireless companies, actually). My issue with them is that they charge you money for things that shouldn’t be charged (I had a texting plan with them at one point for unlimited texts, but they started charging me from the first one and wouldn’t address the issue on their end). Not quite the same, but I’d like to see them lose nonetheless.

    • NuckyT

      Once you pay for the your top up card, you get a pin #. If you never punch in your pin # in your phone it never expires. IF you do punch in your pin, then depending on what your purchased, that dollar amount is good for XX amount of time. She’s got no case.

  • dbott67

    For those that are defending the actions of Bell & others because “it’s listed in the details” doesn’t necessarily make it legal (that will be for the courts to decide).

    Imagine if your bank had a clause in their fine print that said if you didn’t access your bank account every x number of months they could close your account and take your money.

    • ANON

      Actually, banks can do that. If you don’t use your account for an X amount of months. They can close it. Regardless if there is money in there. However they do not take your money, they just leave it there. Freezing the account.

      Clearly, you are someone who does not read the fine print. When companies provide fine print, read it people. There is no reason not to & it does not mean you are entitled to sue companies because you chose not to read.

      FAIL.

    • dbott67

      @ANON – clearly you chose not to read my comment. Yes, banks can close your account after 10 years of inactivity, but they cannot take your money. The money is then transferred to the Bank of Canada, but the BoC will return the money to it’s rightful owner free of charge.

      My original post just stated that just because it’s “listed in the fine print doesn’t make it legal.”

      The article does not state precisely what the suit pertains to, whether it’s regarding accounts that are not “topped up” or gift cards, etc. I wrote, “that will be for the courts to decide.”

      If you want to be some sort of passive sheep that bends over for anyone that asks, go right ahead. I’m sure you like 3 year contracts, too. This lady is challenging the current practice, which can only benefit the consumer if she wins.

  • Caitie

    To be the devil’s advocate…
    If top up cards that have been already applied to the account never expired, then the prepaid phones would remain active indefinitely, even if the account owners have stopped using the phones. Also, the 100$ top up does not expire for one year. If it kept going indefinitely, I would assume that the carriers would incur a loss on the accounts that are rarely ever used. I figure having the convenience of a cell phone for emergency purposes is worth 100$ per year.
    However, I completely agree that the printed cards should have no expiry date, until the customers apply them onto the cell phone.

  • Drew

    Totally true.. Telus expires your balance too if you don’t continue to buy cards

    However the minutes card is considered used once you top up… So the card now has a zero balance and your account has a xyz balance.. Which bell can let expire because you’ve agreed to the terms of service when you signed up

  • failblog

    FAIL

  • docrock

    The expiry on the cards themselves is hundreds of years. It sounds like she’s filing the suit about the length of time that the balance is good for once the card has been used.

    • BT

      Hundreds of years is still invalid under the law, but you’re right that it sounds like it’s about the balance on the account itself expiring. From the article:

      “We are asking the Court to decide whether Bell’s systemic practice of seizing credit balances is unlawful. If it is, then the practice must stop and the money must be returned.”

      I’m not sure if that’s actually covered under the CPA or not (expiry dates on the actual top-up codes being valid would be), but it will be interesting to see it tested.

  • Richard

    …this is just a form of bait and switch advertising, giving all those minutes then they take em away in the fine print. Once you buy them they should be yours forever.

  • Bell

    who even does prepaid these days. its all about postpaid accounts. even when you buy a card it even says an expiry date. her damages ain’t even worth 10 bucks. i’d be surprise even if a judge looks at this. the most the judege will do is take a laugh off it.

    • BT

      Printing on the card that there’s an expiry doesn’t matter if it’s not actually legal for an expiry to exist (which is yet unproven in this case).

      Fine print does not supersede the law.

    • dan

      who does prepaid?

      kids that don’t want mom and dad involved.

      street pharmacists

      credit challenged clients, who don’t want to put down a large deposit

      people that already owe the network money

      tourists

      the guy selling stolen goods on kijiji

  • Fenrir767

    Yeah after reading the consumer protection act. It seems that only the card itself can’t expire not the balance once it’s in the account. So according to the law this suit may not even be valid which is probably why the website hasn’t gone live yet as the firm does not want to embarrass themselves. If they can’t go anywhere with this.

  • slappywhite

    To all those saying “good for her” and “i hope she wins” are saying it becuase they feel that the BIG 3 charge too much for plans(so kind of a revenge/retribution/karma sorta thing right?), good, so if bloodsuckers like this lady here continiue to win these meaningless, baseless and ignorant cases guess who pays her in the end, the big 3? nah, it’s you, it’s people who pay your bills on time and are good loyal customers, and she will keep buying her top up cards and have a good laugh, not at the big 3, but at you. Not trying to force my opinion on anyone, these are just my two cents.

  • Matt

    If she is complaining about Bell seizing credit applied to the account, she is going to lose, because it is not against the law. Neither are the cards themselves expiring as they are for a specific service. The expiry only applies to credit cards and gift cards that can be applied to several things.

  • rickythai

    this is not a big deal

  • cell phone gal

    To everyone out their saying that prepaid minutes shouldn’t expire, think about this…

    People on post-paid service sign up for a plan with a certain amount of data, mins, text etc. If I only use 50 mins of my 200 mins I have per month I don’t expect the left over mins to roll forward and I don’t call my service provider asking for a refund for my unused services.

    Cell phone providers warn clients when their balance is going to expire via text msg. The length of time before expiry is listed on the back of the card and on the slip they receive when purchased. The customer is also told how long they have to use it when they add it to their account AND they also have the opportunity to keep those remaining minutes if top up before their minutes expire. I work in the industry and I have even seen providers give clients back lost airtime if they forget to top-up in time and call with in a day or two. Like other users have said customers can purchase a $100 Card for an entire year which to me seems very fair. Try to find a post-paid service for $8.33/month.

  • bobo jones

    I am a B M cust. and joined the suit

  • Dill

    To me this situation seems like someone buying a pershible item with a gift card and then suing the company because the item perished. While gift cards can’t expire, the products that you buy with them can and do.
    I can defintely understand this lady’s frustration. It doesn’t seem right that money should just “expire”. However these cards themselves do not expire, when you purchase that pin number, your money gets deposited into one of Bell’s bank accounts, and then those funds merely transfer to your account once you enter that pin number into your account (i.e. you purchase certain services with that gift card). So the cards ( pin numbers ) themselves don’t expire, but the purchased product ( cell phone service ) does.

    • Brandon Smith

      I agree with what you are saying however my prepaid plan is 30/mth and i apply 40 so i have some extra call time if needed once the plan is paid for there is a surplus balance sitting in my account of 10.00 after 30 days rogers put my positive balance to “0” that is what i disagree with. I already purchased the product so why should they get to keep my change they should allow me to purchase the exact amount of a credit to pay for the plan. my plan in total is 30.50 which means i have to purchase 40 in vouchers

  • gnoon11

    The card, when purchased does not have an expiry date. When you have spent the money (added funds to your prepaid account) then the expiry kicks in. The card does not hold the balance. If it did you would have to enter the PIN every time you made a call.

  • Jeremy

    In most other parts of the world a prepaid balance stays until it’s used. It really doesn’t cost the companies much (or anything) to do this. Relatives in England have emergency mobiles that have had about 8 pounds on them for years.

    Canadian companies have been taking advantage of their oligopoly for too long on this.

    And for pre-paid that’s less than $8.33/month, look at 7-Eleven speakout. They resell the Rogers network, and charge $25 for a year on prepaid (though they take a monthly $1 for 911 charges).

    • Matt

      I hail from the UK. A year ago this definitely was not true. Yes, balance doesn’t expire, as long as the cell phone is considered active which means there has to be some use within six months, otherwise it is considered abandoned and dies. This is the norm across Europe. I’ve lived in several places there and had a multi sim phone. Pretty standard for them to expire you if you don’t use it.

  • Gian

    The pre paid top up ard i purchased had an expiry of 2043

  • Brian

    I get why she’s suing but $100 million? Really? That is a pretty overblown amount.

  • laweege

    i can see her point. post paid is up to 200 minutes per month. prepaid is i am buying 50 minutes on your cell network to use whenever i want. why should bell be able to steal that money because i didn’t use it in 30 days, small print or not, it’s wrong and that is stealing.
    i paid you for 50 minutes i want my 50 minutes, you received your money, now supply the service, simple.

    • Curtis

      But your not buying 50 min to use when ever you want.

      The package you Buy says your buying 50 Min to use anytime you want over 30 days after the PIN is activated.

  • Brendan M

    Frivolous lawsuit is frivolous. The voucher it self is a gift card and never expires. the PIN once activated is no longer a gift card and the funds on your account will expire so that the phone company doesn’t need to maintain abandoned or rarely used accounts at a significant loss.

    If prepaid balances never expired, postpaid clients (read: the clients who actually matter) would be paying higher rates to subsidize the strain of millions of prepaid customers that aren’t paying to maintain their accounts.

  • Kostas Kritsilas

    From what I am seeing about the legal firm that has taken the case on, they are not a minor league, fly by night operation. In filing the case, they must have done some amount of investigation regarding the vailidity of the case, and since they have proceeded, there must be some sort of possibility of winning in court. For all of those who say that there is no case here, it is obivious that the real lawyers in the legar firm have a differing opinion, and that there is enough there to go ahead. Fair or not, like it or not, a serious law firm has sided with the lady, and the case is going ahead. I don’t know if she will win, or if she will get the large settlement (I would think the legal firm will get between 50-70%), but being a class action suit, all the Bell pre-apid customers will have money returned to them, which makes the seemingly large amount, after its divided by 20-50-100-250,000 Bell prepaid customers pretty small on an individual basis.

    It is more significant for the way that the carriers will be forced to change their business practices, and whether they even stay in the pre-paid market.

    Kostas

  • rob

    While I enjoy anyone suing bell, this won’t go anywhere.

  • Anon

    This is very bad for consumers who use prepaid if she wins!!

    If you buy a $15 voucher and apply it to your account, you have 30 days to use the balance, but if you add another $15 on the 30th day it extends the balance (so if you didn’t use it, you have $30)

    If she wins and they say you can’t have an expiry, they will make it so it costs $15 to get 50 minutes (for example) and take away all $15 at the beginning of the month.

    Then if you use a $15 card and you don’t use all 50 minutes, too bad you loose it all. Unlike now where you still have a chance to add those minutes to the following month.

    She has to lose.

    • Anon

      They could also add a “service fee” that drains the account every month to keep the line active. No matter how you read it, if she wins it will hurt every any other prepaid customer in some way.

  • Jean-Michel

    The law states that GIFT CARDS cannot expire, but it clearly mention that this type of card CAN expire. It’s a fail.

  • aka

    I like how the article said she ‘dreamed up a $100 million class action lawsuit against the telecom giant for “unfair practices”, lol

    clearly the card itself does not expire, it’s only when you use it to buy minutes for the prepaid service! she obviously did not read or ignored the service agreement. her defence using the “gift card law” is invalid. fail. I hope she gets thrown out of court for this ridiculous waste of court time that should be left for more serious crimes.

  • MG

    Sue their a*s off!!! Bell and the other telcos have built their business on the premise of overcharging and screwing customers. Only regulation, lawsuits and customer behaviour will drive these blood sucking leaches to change their pricing policies.

    And just wait for them to start introducing similar practices into their internet services… Oh yeah, it’s coming.

  • SeiTHer

    This lawsuit is kinda lame… When you buy a card and activate it, you buy a service that is valid for a set amount of time… Just like a monthly plan. She is probably treating her service like a bank account…

  • Brandon Smith

    I hope she does win her case. I’m with rogers so if she wins this is gonna roll over ointo all of the other providers and i shall see credits to my prepaid service in the tune of probably 1200 over the last 2 years it is litterally highway robbery on there part think of how many people have a left over balance of 10 or 20 dollars on there accounts and after 30 days its gone. I had 10 left last month and rather than letting me use it as pay per use text message they just took it. I wish the government would let T-mobile and sprint into canada i think bell would go under quick.

  • Jay

    Sounds like she’s been trying to win the Lotto and hasn’t been able to so now she’s trying to force the win. $100 Million is outrageous, considering she probably lost less than $100 due to not reading fine print.

  • finding an easy way out of life

    Another person sitting around looking for a way out of working. if this doesn’t work she will go looking for another opportunity… while continuing to collect her welfare check. If Bell stop pre-paid service she will never be able to afford a phone.

  • Traci

    Celia is not the first & wont be the last to file a suit of this nature.If shes that passionate about how she feels then good luck on your venture.Re:the commentator w/the intensely negative opinion of cust.who chose to use a cellphone prepaid.Ouch!I am a prepaid cellphone user who which none of these lifestyle choices apply.As a current BELL customer I have no complaints!In addition I have met many, many decent people who “chose” prepaid as it suits their traveling needs (lots of movers and shakers).Wow I wasnt aware that prepaid had such a bad reputation!very sad.

  • Dlee

    This has gone on for a long time by many phone companies taking,expiring (stealing) peoples minutes.The courts need to put a stop to it.Phone companies should not be allowed to take your minutes after only thirty days its a really bad practice and i really hope the courts start going after them for it ..expiring after 6 months or so maybe not after only 30 or 60 days.

  • Jesse Laurin

    “dreamed up” is such a good term, the guy lost some money on his prepaid for not using it for a very long time, while I agree that’s unfair where’s the 100 million coming from ?

    Also the time cards themselves never expire, but once put onto a device have an expiry date based on the amount put on the phone ( i.e. $50 lasting 6 months or $100 lasting 1 year), which I’m sure it clearly states on the care and/or website.

    • Dano B.

      We’re also living in a free market – she was free to leave Bell after the first time they cleared her balance. And yes, these terms are clearly stated.There
      was a perfect analogy used during the wireless code hearings – if you
      were to rent a car for 3 days/1000km, you wouldn’t get to keep the car
      for as long as it took you to use up your 1000km.

    • Michael Bazdell

      Except when you rent a car you’re taking a physical object. You’re using it in a way that nobody else can use it during those 3 days. Wireless minutes are arbitrary. You’re not taxing their system in any way, or preventing others from using those minutes of talk time. The car rental analogy is completely wrong in this case.

    • Dano B.

      When you sign up for prepaid service, you’re assigned a number, which means no one else can use it. And again, you’re paying for network access for either an amount of time, or an amount of money, whichever expires first. The provider still has to maintain the service whether you’re using it or not. This is driving up the costs of other services just to balance it out – pools of numbers aren’t cheap – so if you don’t use your balance you lose it, if you let it go for even longer, your number gets reassigned.

      Hell, most prepaid rolls over, provided you top up before the expiry date, although they’ll cap the maximum balance you can maintain to ~300.00

    • Michael Bazdell

      Again, one is a physical object, the other is arbitrary. They need to keep the network up regardless if the prepaid is used or not. There is literally no cost for maintaining pre purchased minutes on their network.

  • dandoozled

    This is idiotic.

    The only people that ever make money in Class Action Lawsuits are the Lawyers involved, the people they supposedly represent rarely see a dime.

  • Surveillance

    If it takes you a year to burn through $100 worth of air time then rightly so you should lose it.

    • icyhotonmynuts

      But why?

    • Dano B.

      Because you’re buying access to the network for a certain period of time – once the time runs out, you don’t have access anymore

    • icyhotonmynuts

      I thought one was buying minutes (and texts, but because SMS is so cheap they throw them “a bone” in the form of “free” VM and CID) – much like monthly plans allot them a certain number of minutes per the agreed upon price plan – not a length of time to use it.
      Because if one were to buy “access” time, shouldn’t the minutes and texts be unlimited, in that time frame?

    • Surveillance

      And it costs money to maintain that infrastructure so to have access but not use it essentially costs Bell money.

    • icyhotonmynuts

      So you’re saying it’s like when a city erects a light post on a road, and it costs the city money whether the road is traveled on or not? But since I pay taxes (or buy minutes for the phone), it shouldn’t matter if I walk down that road (use the minutes) or not, I’ve already paid. The city shouldn’t cut my access to the use of the lamp post (the same lamp post that is paid by everyone else in the city) just because I don’t go down that road (or use those minutes).

    • deltatux

      Some people only keep these lines as emergency lines or for periodic trips to Canada. I know people who keep prepaid lines for when they travel back and forth and stay for a month or two in the country and then go back for business or family reasons. I understand that there’s a time limit and don’t question that but to question the logic that you deserve it because the person doesn’t use it fast enough is a completely wrong way to look at it.

      It’s not a postpaid service where you’re expected to pay your bill monthly.

  • Alex McIlwaine

    Best of luck I say. You buy credit on a network and you should be able to use it as quickly, or as slowly, as you like.

    When I lived in the UK and prepaid you’d have none of this nonsense. The provider usually even threw in stuff like “free” texts. The caveat there was you had to top up a certain amount each month to keep getting the “freebies”. If you used your phone enough it could be worthwhile. If you didn’t you lost the “free” stuff but could then just deplete your balance on your own time.

  • J. W.

    There are probably more unhappy people who got the Speakout/Petro-Canada $100 vouchers only to find out that the UMB feature had been throttled.

  • Danny Campbell

    This is insanity. First off, how is a wireless prepaid card for a wireless prepaid service a “gift” card? What if you were to buy your time via debit or credit online? Are you still covered by this sorry excuse of a lawsuit considering you didn’t use one of these magical “gift” cards? This lawsuit is just going to start a stream of people who purposely let their time run out in the hopes of getting easy money. Maybe that’s even what this woman did.

    • LouisR

      While the term “gift card” itself isn’t perfect, you are pre-paying for a given amount’s worth of goods or services.

      Many locations have provisions against the expiry of those, the provider does have your money after all.

      In comparison, vouchers for a given item or service (versus an amount of money) retain their value past any stated expiration date. Usually with the provision that you’ll have to pay the difference between the past and going rate for that good or service.

      These practices could be changed in a number of ways; maybe with the phone number being freed after a set amount of time, but the balance itself should never vanish into thin air.

      After all, don’t the carriers want what’s fair for Canadians?

    • Danny Campbell

      It’s clearly stated that the time expires is the issue I have with all of this. There’s a comment chain above that sums it up better than I can.

    • LouisR

      Perhaps some sort of petition would have been a better fit, to push towards a policy and regulatory change.

      But nothing makes a company recoil quite like a class action lawsuit.

      Time will tell how this plays out. The one outcome I personally care about is stopping these ludicrous short durations on smaller top-ups. Not having bought any Canadian prepaid cards yet and living in Quebec, I’ll have to watch from the sidelines anyway.

  • Firehawk95

    My T-Mobile US prepaid phone lasts a year as long as I paid $100 one time. I can top it up at Day 364 with $5 and roll over the remaining time another year (and get a 15% Gold Rewards bonus on future purchases). Oh, and it’s 10 cents a minute nationwide wherever I go on the T-Mobile network. 50 cents a minute and much higher rates outside the local area even, like the major Canadian carriers charge, is highway robbery. More power to the plaintiff for that reason alone.

    However, the Achilles Heel for this case will likely be that the card may not be allowed to expire under Ontario law, but the minutes probably can once it is redeemed. Anyone want to take any bets?