Bell says local governments responsible for 911 service

Lawyers wrapped-up their evidence in Yellowknife's Bell Mobility trial Wednesday.

Lawyers wrapped-up their evidence in Yellowknife's Bell Mobility trial Wednesday.

James Anderson is suing the telecommunications giant over 911 fees the company charges for a service that doesn't exist anywhere in the territories, except in Whitehorse.

On Wednesday, the court heard that customers who signed contracts with Bell from 2009 up to now are not being charged a separate fee for 911 service. Bell said that wasn't because of the lawsuit, but because its competitors — Telus and Rogers — had stopped charging the fee.

The lawsuit by James Anderson claims that Bell Mobility should not have charged him and other N.W.T. customers a 911 fee for a service that does not exist in the territory. (CBC)

When the judge asked a Bell director if the 75-cent fee is still buried somewhere in customers' monthly bills, he didn't give a definitive answer, saying only that it is no longer charged separately.

Court also heard that in 2003, the CRTC, Canada's telecommunications regulator, sent a notice to all cell phone companies. The notice said cell phone users were relying more on their phones in emergencies and instructed the companies to notify customers of the availability and limitations of their 911 service.

The judge said he saw no evidence that Bell ever told customers in the territories that 911 was not available on their phones.

Another Bell director, who grew up in Yellowknife, testified that emergency numbers are well-known in the city. Marc LeClerc also said that phone retailers are trained to tell new northern customers that there is no 911 service when they sell phones.

Bell says its plans are same in North as in provinces

Throughout the last few days, Bell has argued that local governments are responsible for providing 911 service, and that Bell's role is to simply route emergency calls to whatever emergency service government makes available.

The company hasn’t said much about why it charges the fee for the service where it is not available. LeClerc said Wednesday that Bell's rate plans in the North are no different from the plans it offers in the provinces.

The company has also argued that customers in the North knew they had to pay the fee when they signed contracts with the company, and added that customers can use the service when travelling in the South.

When reached by CBC News on Wednesday, Bell said they couldn't comment on a case which is currently before the courts.

Anderson said it could take months for the judge to reach a decision.

Final arguments for the case will be heard Friday.