Quebecer seeks to file class action against Netflix over fee hikes without warning
Suit seeks reimbursement of fee hike and several million in punitive damages
A Quebec man wants millions in compensation from Netflix on behalf of subscribers in the province, alleging the company violated strict consumer rights rules when it upped their fees.
The class action document filed in Quebec Superior Court earlier this month seeks permission to sue the popular video streaming service for allegedly charging higher fees unilaterally.
"They had to send a notice which mentions exclusively the rate that the people were paying and the new rate," said lawyer Pierre Boivin, who represents the consumers.
"They also have to mention that the consumer would have 30 days to cancel the contract if they don't agree with this increase, and that's not what Netflix sent. They did not respect this provision of the Consumer Protection Act."
Boivin's Montreal law firm, Kugler Kandestin, is acting on behalf of Frederic Seigneur and other Quebecers — an estimated 1.45 million subscribers in the province.
The action has not yet been given the go-ahead by a judge, but Boivin said he hopes to have it in a few months time.
A public relations firm that deals with the company said Thursday that Netflix does not comment on ongoing litigation.
Earlier this month, it announced it was hiking prices for new members, effective immediately, and would do the same for existing users after notifying them by email in the coming weeks.
Netflix has invested heavily in producing its own original content in recent years, including "House of Cards," "Ozark" and in a slate of feature films bought at international film festivals.
The Quebec suit would extend to any rate hike by Netflix since Aug. 11, 2014, and Boivin said there appears to have been just one, in 2016.
Because the suit argues on the basis of Quebec legislation, other Canadian users are exempted, he said, adding Quebec subscribers wouldn't have to do anything to take part in the suit.
The class action seeks a reimbursement of the fees paid since the 2016 hike — $1 to $2 a month depending on the subscription.
Boivin said that works out to roughly $14 million as of now, with lawyers seeking an additional $7.5 million in punitive damages.
"When a company wants to do business in Quebec, it must minimally respect the law — in this case, the Consumer Protection Act," he said. "They had to send a notice of the rate hike, which we argue they did not do."