Bell customers to get $11.8M refund for unwanted premium text messages

Some Bell wireless customers will get rebates, totalling up to $11.82 million, after paying for unwanted premium text messages, the federal Competition Bureau says.

Settlement concludes Competition Bureau investigation, lawsuit launched in 2012

Bell customers eligible to get a refund are those charged for certain premium text messaging services between Jan. 1, 2011 and Aug. 31, 2013. (Robert Galbraith/Reuters)

Some Bell wireless customers will get rebates, totalling up to $11.82 million, after paying for unwanted premium text messages, the federal Competition Bureau says.

The refunds are part of a settlement with the federal watchdog following an investigation and lawsuit launched in 2012 over premium text messaging charges, the bureau said in a news release Friday.

Such charges — sometimes as much as $10 per transaction and up to $40 for a monthly subscription — were added to the bills of Rogers, Bell and Telus wireless customers if they clicked on unwanted texts or pop-up ads, web pages and social media advertising services such as trivia questions, horoscopes and ring tones.

The Competition Bureau alleged that ads for the services were misleading about the costs, and in many cases, it was difficult for customers to figure out how to unsubscribe.

Premium text messages could include trivia questions, horoscopes and ring tones. They sometimes cost up to $10 per transaction or $40 for a monthly subscription. (CBC)

Bell customers eligible to get a refund are those charged for certain premium text messaging services between Jan. 1, 2011 and Aug. 31, 2013. Those who are still Bell customers will get a credit added to their account by July 25, 2016. Former Bell customers will also be notified to claim their rebate by mail and email by that date.

Telus agreed to refund $7.34 million and Rogers agreed to refund $5.4 million to customers in settlements made with the bureau in 2015.

As part of Bell's settlement, it will also have to:

  • Donate about $800,000 to public interest advocacy groups to support digital media research and awareness.
  • Publish a notice to affected customers.
  • Enhance its corporate compliance program.
  • Develop a campaign to educate customers about how wireless charges can be incurred and how to avoid unwanted charges.

The bureau has also settled with the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, which represents both large and small wireless providers across Canada and which was also named in the lawsuit. It too will have to publish a notice to customers, enhance its corporate compliance program, and develop a public education campaign.

The Competition Bureau was originally seeking $10 million each from Bell Rogers and Telus and $1 million from the industry group.

"Today's settlements with Bell and the CWTA conclude the Bureau's inquiry into this matter," it said in a release.

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