In an article, just last week, we reported that Bell was under scrutiny for certain practices involving customer’s private information. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada issued a statement that they had “significant privacy concerns with Bell’s Relevant Advertising Program.” It looks like more than just the Privacy Commissioner had “concerns” about Bell’s practices as we learned today that a $750 million class action suit has been brought against Bell for their Relevant Ads Program. The lawsuit cites damages for breach of privacy, breach of contract and breach of the Telecommunications Act.
Bell’s Relevant Ads Program started back in November of 2013 and tracked Bell Mobility and Virgin Mobile customers’ information, including not only their personal account information but their network usage as well. This information generated reports that they would sell to 3rd party advertisers so they could tailor their ads to the customers that may have an interest in the ad based on their internet usage. The main problem that the authorities had was that the collective practices were not properly disclosed to Bell or Virgin Mobile customers – rather than have the customers opt-in to the program, they were automatically placed in the program and had to go through a convoluted process to opt-out.
Initially, Bell had agreed, if customers opted out of the program they would retain the customer data already collected and continue to add to the customer’s profiles, just in case the customer decided to opt back into the program. Later, Bell agreed to immediately delete all of the customer information if they chose to opt-out of the program.
Ted Charney of Charney Lawyers said, “The Relevant Ads Program was a misguided attempt by a Canadian telecommunications company to generate advertising revenue. If allowed to proceed, it constitutes a threat to the core privacy rights of all Canadians.” And David Robins of Sutts, Strosberg LLP added, “Through this class action, the plaintiff seeks to hold Bell accountable and stop other providers from selling customers’ personal information without informed consent.” Bell Mobility and Virgin Mobile of Canada customers who had accounts with a data plan between November 16, 2013 and April 13, 2015 are encouraged to register at www.bellmobilityprivacybreach.com.