Court to allow $100 million class action lawsuit against Bell’s prepaid policies


  • pierre

    Pretty sure she will lose this lawsuit. The prepaid cards, when purchased, don’t expire. The number on your receipt is valid until it’s applied to your account. It’s only once that balance is in your account that it has an expiry date.

    • Arshad

      She might lose but I hope it does enough to bring change to the system of prepaid cards expiring.

    • lusky3

      Yeah I see what Pierre means. When you buy the prepaird card, it’s like buying a gift card. It doesn’t expire. But the second you put it on your phone, you made a purchase with that card. Just like a giftcard, the funds have been spent. Now they could turn prepaid into a virtual wallet like Paypal where the funds don’t expire, and that would be pro-consumer, but it would be bad business. Bell has to keep that number and account open just for some people to make maybe less than $5 a month. There has to be some sort of middle ground.

    • Yeria

      Why would not expiring the unspent balance bad for business?? Maintaining an account doesn’t cost them anything and keeping cell signal up doesn’t cost them anything either, so exactly where are they losing money? Oh, I know, that will drive those people not using phones as much to monthly paid plans, because if the balance expires, it’s almost the same as using that monthly plan.

      If I paid $5 and I don’t use that balance, it should never expire because I haven’t used their service. I can’t believe people are fine with losing their money for service they bought, when they didn’t even use it.

      Why are we being so kind and apologetic for multi-billion generating corporations to even understand their hidden fees and justify it FOR THEM? They don’t need our help to continue gouging us even more.

    • Peter

      I think it’s wrong to assume it doesn’t cost anything to keep the signal up. Perhaps the actual transaction of a call is a few pennies but that is ignoring the huge costs that came out of building that network and maintaining it. If prepaid is not profitable the postpaid users will be left to subsidize them. Not fair if you ask me. Pay a fair share and you can get access to the network. Access is what you are paying for and that requires a fair payment from consumers.

    • Yeria

      I’m not assuming they don’t cost anything. They actually cost so little, it’s practically costless (like 100th of a penny. Remember that penny that we got rid of because it has no buying power? It costs 100 times less than that), aside from electricity required for running servers and databases.

      Also, that “huge networks” argument has gotten really old. The actual huge cost that comes with building out networks is when they erect new towers and considering majority of their towers were already subsidized by the government when they were handed a bunch of spectrum for free, they don’t need any more fee to scoop anything back. Besides, they’ve been doing that for YEARS already anyway. Remember the bogus “System Access Fees”?

      Prepaid is not profitable? Are you saying they’re stupid enough or generous enough to offer you unprofitable products?? Prepaid is not as profitable as postpaid, but they’re profitable nonetheless.

      Like I said before, you paid for the usage of their service not just access because they charge you for minutes used, SMS sent and data used. Access obviously is a given, because you can’t use the service unless you have the access. Plus, giving you that access doesn’t cost them anything either. You know that $35 activation fees we’ve been paying? That’s all BS. It’s just we’re so nice and naive, we came to the point where we say “$35 is probably more than it costs them but since they’ve been charging us for a decade, it has to be a real, actual cost. Eh?”

      It’s not like there’s person there sitting around to maintain your connection. Their signal peppers through their coverage whether you paid them or not. Your phone, tablet, or anything.. they all can see their signal because it’s already there. A difference is that a device with their SIM will be ALLOWED to access that radio signal that was already there before.

      You’re another person trying to defend their “hidden fees” voluntarily. I just can’t see why anyone, as a consumer, would justify someone else’s cost! No wonder there’s no improvements in wireless industry in Canada. So many people are fine with paying more for less.

    • Peter

      You’re mistaken, I’m not defending their practise but I do see the reasoning behind it. There are ongoing operational costs, employee cost and infrastructure costs that need to be considered and you are ignoring them. Just because it is already built does not mean there aren’t costs attached to running the service. My whole argument is that they cannot and will not provide any service at a loss and if forced to do so, the rest of the client base will see an increase to help subsidize this new reality. I don’t think allowing someone to pay $10 once is a profitable business venture. That’s why I proposed a recurring monthly charge.

    • Andrew English

      If the court is allowing it to move forwards the judge must have seen some merit in or he would have not allowed it to move forward. The question is what merit did the judge see in the case that make him think it could possibly set a precedence for others who are doing the same thing.

    • Deathdearth

      When I use a Gas Gift Card , and I fill out my tank with it but decide to park my car for a month and not use it …the fuel that i bought does not expire

      Same principle should apply here

    • It’s Me


      Or even a store account. You can add funds to a store card so you have a positive balance. The store would be charged with fraud or theft if they encouraged prepayments and then stole the balance each month.

    • ToniCipriani

      Well TECHNICALLY it does. Gasoline is hygroscopic (i.e. absorbs water), oxidizes and evaporates. So unless a fuel stabilizer is used, it does spoil.

      But yes I see your point. It spoils but it doesn’t “expire”.

    • annnnn

      Gas does not cost anything to stay in your tank, the cost of keeping a million dollar tower’s signal locked on your phone at all times however. But then again, I am just thinking with logic.

    • Stinger

      really? when I put gas in my lawn mower and then park it for the winter. the lawn mower wont start in the spring.. the term “bad gas” is as real as “bad business”. Why they would want to steal your money through gift cards just doesn’t make sense. Legal
      or otherwise

  • St. Misery

    The Ontario Courts and her lawyer(s) think she has a solid case, go Celia!

  • Wimote

    This isn’t entirely correct either. All prepaid funds expire if you don’t top up before the expiry date. Say I put $20 on my phone. That balance disappears after 30 days unless I add more funds. $100 lasts the year, unless I add more funds before it expires. The only reason auto top up might seem like it doesn’t expire is because it tops up before the previous balance expires. But this leads to people having hundreds of dollars in balances because they don’t want to lose what they’ve already paid for even though they clearly are not using it.

  • Scazza

    Out of all the possible complaints to have against the incumbents, this is easily the dumbest. Almost every carrier has an expiry on airtime on prepaid services. On top of that the fund on the card never expires, only after they are redeemed do they. Also there is the fact that everyone who gets one of these services has it detailed, it isn’t fair to claim stupid after your funds are depleted twice and then go all American and make a class action lawsuit out of it.
    It’s pretty clear the reason this was allowed to proceed with class action status is either the judge was too stupid to understand the system, or like 95% of the country, has a beef with Robellus.

    • It’s Me

      Before you call a judge stupid you should probably look more closely at the case.

      1) all carriers do it.
      -Are we 5? Is that a legal argument now?
      2) card never expires until redeemed to an acct.
      -Damn good thing the case isn’t about card but about the acct balance expiring.

      Unfortunately for Bell and the others, their little scam is being exposed. They set up prepaid services and a debit/credit system where funds are deducted from the account as used/redeemed for services. You pay as you use services, you pay as you go. As such, the account itself is used like a gift card not the top up voucher.

      Many retailers would love to automatically steal balances from customer accounts, gift cards, etc. The carriers simply set up a system where they actually convinced some i****s it’s ok for them to do it.

  • Samuel Gomez Recuero

    I see the point for this case. Why should the balance expire anyways? Is like buying a gift card and forcing you to use the totality of its value before a given date, it is nonsense. This allegations, if true, force prepaid customer to keep buying cards before they actually need them just to keep the previous purchase balance active which in turn means more $$$ in Bell’s pockets and less on users.

    She has a valid point on that.

    • annnnn

      Accounts are not free to run, you know those tower things? they cost money to keep running. Who pays for the tower when no calls are being made?

    • Samuel Gomez Recuero

      Same goes for regular gift cards. If I buy a 100$ gift cards from Sears, why will they force me to use it within 30 days or any given time delay? Besides, that is why prepaid minutes are more expensive that on contract minutes or at least it used to be before unlimited minutes where offered widely for 50$

      Your example can not hold, cause these companies always make money, I pay a montly fee regardless if I make or not calls ( and I don’t make that many) So in fact, I’m paying for those towers even when I’m not using them.

      In reality they charge me monthly for the towers regardless of my usage level and forced those on postpaid to use the money they already paid within a certain timeframe. No wonder they keep reaping so much $$$ every quarter. Only ones in trouble are those that pay ROBELUS their fees for using them towers.

  • Jakob

    This prepaid expiry thing is such a farce. Can companies please stop denying that the only reason they do this is to force you into continually topping up rather than lose your money?

  • Peter

    Maintaining these accounts costs money. If clients are allowed to buy a $10 card and never have to top up again, you can pretty much say goodbye to prepaid services in Canada. The monthly top ups help pay for the clients connection as well as infrastructure investments. This model would not work if clients didn’t have to top up every month. Perhaps what should happen is that the funds never expire but you are required to pay $10 a month for access.

    • Richard Wangly

      That’s pretty much how Koodo prepaid works. Your feature balance that lets you make calls or use data stays as long as your account exists. To actually use it, you have to pay the base plan fee (starts at $15/mo). They do close your account if you don’t have an active base plan for 3(?) months, but it’s a step in the right direction.

      I wonder if there will be a similar suit against Rogers, someone I know was adding $100 cards for years as a backup phone with almost zero usage. She ended up losing over $700 and was told there was “a limit on the funds you can legally keep in the account” when she asked why they drained it.

    • Jakob

      There are a lot of analytic data you would need to confirm that. I disagree that it would dent their overhead that much. People who generally get prepaid plan on using it frequently despite the minority that will use it extremely rarely. This policy is certainly only in place to force people to add money on their schedule, not to sustain the system itself.

  • Albin

    Just received an SMS with a URL to “opt out” of the class action. Wonder if that was to all Bell, etc. prepaid customers. (Unfortunately my one large expiry / loss was prior to May 2010 so have to assume SOL.)