Two years ago, Celia Sankar decided to do something about Bell Canada’s anti-consumer practices in its prepaid department. As a Virgin Mobile customer, she had been using the company’s prepaid services for some time, and found twice over the course of six months that the company depleted her prepaid balance.
As with many prepaid services, Bell attaches an expiration date to certain top-up methods: while automatic refills do not expire, persons buying top-up cards of various denominations will find the amounts disappear, whether they have been used or not, between 30 and 365 days after purchasing.
Sankar’s class-action lawsuit, which has been allowed by the Ontario Superior Court, applies to Bell Mobility, Virgin Mobile and Solo Mobile customers who had prepaid balances between May 4, 2010 and December 16, 2013.
“The lawsuit alleges that the defendant breached its contracts with its Ontario customers who used prepaid wireless services by expiring prepaid balances too early, and/or by imposing expiry dates on prepaid balances contrary to provincial regulations applicable to gift cards.”
The gist is that, because prepaid cards are identical to gift cards, which cannot expire according to provincial regulations, active prepaid customers during that time are eligible for damages of $100 million, paid out proportionally to all valid users. While the court has not determined whether the Sankar and Co. will win the lawsuit — Bell denies it has done anything wrong — all active prepaid users are automatically included in it. Those that don’t want to take part will have to opt out by November 17th, 2014.