Frustrated with no 911 service, customers fight back
Yellowknife's James Anderson is taking Bell to court in a case with implications for cities and towns in at least nine provinces or territories.
"...In a groundbreaking case that could force Canada's wireless companies to surrender some of the $160-million they collect each year from 911 fees on cellphone bills, Mr. Anderson is taking Bell Canada to court. He argues that for years the company has been charging him – along with tens of thousands of other Canadians in remote communities – for a service that doesn't exist.
It is a case with implications for cities and towns in at least nine provinces or territories where 911 service is not offered, but the cellphone companies still charge a 911 fee on monthly bills. Lawyers representing Mr. Anderson will appear in a Yellowknife courtroom this week seeking certification as a class-action.
However, when those charges are spread across the country, 911 fees add up to an estimated $160-million or more each year, according to regulatory documents obtained by The Globe and Mail and subscriber figures made public by the wireless industry.
Landy Marr Kats LLP, a well-known Toronto firm that specializes in class-action suits, is representing Mr. Anderson in the case, and estimates Bell has been charging at least 50,000 customers in the North such fees for years, including more than 20,000 in the Northwest Territories.
However, if the case is granted class-action status, it could spread to include cellphone customers in the Yukon, B.C, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia, since those provinces also have communities where 911 is not offered but fees are collected.
The case comes after several near tragedies in Yellowknife over the years where cellphone callers not from the area instinctively dialled 911 only to be told there was no service.
In one example, Kevin Doyle and Jessi Moekerk were driving across a snow-covered field last winter that was actually a hidden pond. When their truck broke through the ice, Mr. Doyle reached for his cell phone to dial 911 but got the recording.
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