Canadians are growing increasingly unhappy with the way their telecoms provide service. Sometimes we feel powerless to do anything about it, but recently, a Toronto man proved that we can. According to CBC, “in a judgment issued last month in a Toronto small claims court, Deputy Judge William C. De Lucia said that Bell’s attempt to impose new terms after a verbal contract guaranteeing a monthly price for 24 months had been struck was “‘high-handed, arbitrary and unacceptable.’”
The plaintiff, David Ramsay, began his journey of discontent with Bell in November of 2016, when he called the company to sign up for TV and internet services. He ended up subscribing to Bell’s Fibe TV and internet services for $112.90 a month for 24 months. However, when he received an email confirmation of his contract, it said the prices were “subject to change” and “Bell was planning to increase its price for internet service by $5 two months later.”
Ramsay was understandably unhappy. “”I was stunned and appalled to find these buried terms in an email,” he told CBC. “I had a contract, and this ain’t that contract.”
Ramsay called Bell Canada to complain that the emailed contract was different from the verbal contract. On this call, he made an important request; a transcript of the original call where the service rep promised him a fixed price for two years. Bell was unrelenting, so Ramsay filed a complaint with the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services (the CCTS), which insisted that Bell “had the right to increase prices and since the telecom had notified Ramsay of this fact — as well as an upcoming price increase — it ruled that the telecom provider met its obligations and no further investigation was warranted.”
Left behind by the federal agency meant to help him, Ramsay consulted lawyers who agreed that a verbal agreement should be considered a binding contract. So Ramsay decided to take the matter to small claims court.
Several times, Bell offered to settle with Ramsay in return for a confidentiality agreement, but Ramsay declined. He told CBC, “I wanted a judge to rule on the merits of this case. And if I happened to win, I thought it’d be a useful case for others to know about.”
Ramsay’s biggest weapon in court was that sales transcript, where the sales rep states “Your total cost for the 24 months will be $112.90 per month” and “You’re going to get an email confirmation of everything that was just discussed.”
Deputy Judge De Lucia sided with Ramsay, and in his reasons for judgement, said “I find that Bell cannot unilaterally insert or impose new terms. Any imposition of new terms … is unenforceable.”
De Lucia ordered Bell to pay Ramsay $1,110 in damages for his time, inconveniences, and miscellaneous costs.
This case is important to Canadians for many reasons. Firstly, it could act as the trial case for a larger class action suit against telecoms who continue to use these unsavory sales tactics. It is also an example of telecoms being held accountable for their actions, and a rare case of the consumer coming out on top.
Source: CBC.ca – Customer takes Bell to court and wins, as judge agrees telecom giant can’t promise a price, then change it
Published: April 29, 2018