An Alberta judge has ruled that people in that province can sue SaskTel over cellphone service access fees.
These are the fees — between $6 and $7 a month — that cellphone companies started tacking on to customers bills in the late 1980s.
A number of companies have dropped or changed the fees in recent years, but several class action lawsuits that call the fees "unlawful" have been launched across Canada.
'I accept that potentially 4,035 Albertans may have been unlawfully charged system access fees by SaskTel, as alleged in the plaintiff’s statement of claim.' - Alberta Queen's Bench Justice Donald Lee
One class action in Alberta names SaskTel as a defendant (along with a number of other Canadian phone companies) and a Calgary woman as plaintiff. It claims more than 4,000 SaskTel customers who have billing addresses in Alberta were paying the fees starting in 1987.
A recent court decision concerned SaskTel's efforts to be removed as a defendant from the Alberta case.
Lawyers with the Regina-based telecommunications company say it doesn't do business in Alberta, doesn't have offices there and only 1.47 per cent of its customers have Alberta billing addresses.
Furthermore, if people in Alberta want to get involved in the action, they can always join a related class action that was launched in Saskatchewan, the company said.
However, an Alberta Court of Queen's Bench judge ruled Jan. 24 that Alberta courts do indeed have jurisdiction.
"I conclude that a real and substantial connection between the claim against SaskTel and Alberta [does] exist," Justice Donald Lee wrote in his 28-page decision.
"I accept that potentially 4,035 Albertans may have been unlawfully charged system access fees by SaskTel, as alleged in the plaintiff’s statement of claim."
The Alberta suit, as well as the one in Saskatchewan, was initiated by the Merchant Law Group, a Regina law firm that has been involved in numerous class actions concerning everything from rail accidents to the cost of chocolate bars.