In a 2012 suit brought against the Big Three – Rogers, Telus, and Bell – for premium texting charges, Bell finally settled with the Competition Bureau for $11.82 million dollars. Bell also agreed to donate approximately $800,000 to public interest advocacy groups. This settlement is the most ever obtained under a Bureau agreement. Telus had to pay $7.34 million, and Rogers agreed to pay $5.42 million in refunds and rebates. This is not the first time that Telus and Bell were cited for misconducts - late in 2014, they were charged with rounding up minutes on phone calls.
In 2012, the Bureau started an investigation into whether Rogers, Telus, Bell and the CWTA were making false or misleading statements to customers concerning third party billings for premium text services. Customers complained that they were being charged for services that included trivia questions, horoscopes, and ringtones – they were popping up in ads, web pages and in social media, promoting premium text messaging services. When presented with one of these services, the wording was such that it made the service appear free, when in reality; customers could end up being hit with up to a $40 monthly bill. It also seemed almost impossible to unsubscribe from any of the services – the carriers and premium text companies made it very hard to stop the service and the subsequential billing that would follow. By the time the user was able to get out of the service, they had already racked up balances that were equally hard to get a credit back.
Bell also agreed to publish a notice to the customers affected by the lawsuit and to enhance their corporate compliance program. Bell must also develop a customer awareness program to educate consumers how charges can be incurred on wireless devices and how to avoid them. The rebates will be issued to certain former and current customers that were charged for premium texting services between January 1, 2011, and August 31, 2013. Current customers that are eligible will receive a rebate in the form of credit to their wireless account no later than July 25, 2016. Former customers that are eligible will be notified to claim their rebate via mail and email by July 25, 2016. Today’s settlement with Bell also included one a with the CWTA and the amount collected from Rogers, Telus, and Bell totaled over $24 million to the customers and over $1 million in donations to go to leading consumer advocacy and research groups that work with protecting the public’s interest in the digital world. John Pecman, Commissioner of Competition said he was glad they had reached an agreement with Bell and the CWTA and put this behind them.