Far be it for me to step away from a theme rife with “controversy,” it looks like Quebec’s appeals court has authorized a class action suit against Telus Corp.
The suit alleges that Telus “illegally” collected roaming fees from customers whose signals apparently crossed the American border.
Karine Comtois brought the suit (French) and demanded a full refund of the roaming charges. She lives in Venise-en-Quebec, a town close to the border. The case states that Comtois paid $108 in roaming for calls “made in the 514 and 450 area codes in July 2006 and January and February 2007.”
The suit claims that some of the calls placed by Comtois in Quebec wound up being picked up an antenna belonging to Verizon Wireless situated not far from her home. Verizon billed Telus for the calls and, of course, Telus charged Comtois with roaming. To make things more interesting, Comtois says that the calls in question that were picked up by Verizon’s equipment were actually calls to check her voicemail. In essence, Comtois was charged roaming for calling her…self.
So the suit has been authorized by the three appeal court judges unanimously and it looks like it’ll go ahead. Telus has already had to meet a few requirements from an initial 14-page judgment and will have to send out notices to members informing them of the judgment.
Telus has issued an acknowledgment of the roaming problem, stating that the situation is likely to occur “for calls made in border regions between Quebec and the United States, depending on topography, building structure and meteorological and atmospheric factors.”
According to Telus, the company has no control over it. They’ve stated that the circumstances are bound to happen due to “limits inherent to cellular telephony” and feel warranted in rendering the roaming charges to the customer.
Comtois’ lawyer, Benoît Gamache (who once brought a class action suit against the Notre Dame des Neiges cemetery), wants to hear from customers who’ve had to pay roaming charges using their Telus cell phones in Quebec since April 24, 2004. Gamache believes that thousands of people could wind up being involved in this suit and that the suit’s value could scale to close to $1 million.
Telus has issued a statement officially about the matter, of course. “Telus has just learned of the Court of Appeal judgement regarding roaming fees charged along the Quebec–United States border and authorizing a class action lawsuit. This does not mean that the customers have won their case but simply that they now have the option of arguing the case in court. Telus is currently studying the decision and will defend its position in the appropriate court,” the statement said.
These sorts of roaming charges don’t appear to be all that rare and some individuals have claimed success just by calling their wireless company to have the charges reversed. Perhaps Comtois could have simply explained the situation to Telus and had the charges dropped. On the other hand, Telus’ apparent validation in levelling the charges could have made that difficult.