$6M class-action lawsuit against Bell starts in Yellowknife

Yellowknife man says it is unfair for Bell Mobility to charge for non-existent 911 service.

Lawsuit filed in 2007 over charging for 911 service in areas without it

A Yellowknife man is getting his day in court with Bell Mobility after years of wrangling and delays.

James Anderson launched the lawsuit against the phone company in 2007. He says Bell should not charge customers a 75-cent monthly fee for a 911 service which doesn't exist anywhere in the three territories except in the Whitehorse area.

Anderson said that, by default, about 20,000 people are included in the suit, including customers in Nunavut and Yukon.

The $6 million class-action lawsuit will be heard by a judge alone over the next 10 days in Yellowknife.

Anderson is arguing that it is widely understood that if someone calls 911, a live operator should be there to assist. However, that's not the case in most parts of the territories. Residents must instead dial a seven-digit local phone number for immediate fire, medical or RCMP assistance in their communities.

His lawyer said it’s malicious and high-handed of Bell to charge the fee.

Anderson was given his chance to testify Monday after waiting for five and a half years. He admitted that he knew the fee existed when he signed the contract, but said he didn't think it was fair and he knew he couldn't modify a contract.

Bell has argued that Anderson and other customers knew the service wasn't available when they signed contracts with the company.

The company said it's living up to its end of the contract as a wireless service provider and it doesn't have to provide a 911 service. Bell's lawyers said it's up to local governments to establish and fund that service.

Bell also said that Anderson and his son, who is a a claimant in the lawsuit, travel outside the territory with their Bell cell phones where 911 service is available.