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Cellphones Communications Government The Courts News

Canadians File Class Actions Over Incoming SMS Fees 292

Posted by kdawson
from the unilaterally-changing-the-locked-in-contract dept.
dontmakemethink writes "CTV reports that over the last couple of weeks class-action lawsuits have been filed against two major Canadian cellular service providers, Bell and Telus, for imposing fees on incoming text messages. While there has been very vocal opposition to the introduction of the fees, those who cannot change providers due to binding contracts feel the situation is actionable in court. Some of those not bound by contract, such as myself, have given their service provider notice that they will charge the provider for having to contact them to have charges reversed for unsolicited texts. Because service providers are aware of the volume of unsolicited texts, we feel they are liable for the inconvenience to their clients for preventing spam charges, and more importantly under no circumstances should service providers profit from spam. We also feel that requiring us to buy text bundles to avoid the inconvenience of reversing spam charges constitutes extortion. They can charge me for texts when they stop the spam."
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Canadians File Class Actions Over Incoming SMS Fees

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  • by Whuffo (1043790) on Monday August 04, 2008 @03:17AM (#24463269) Homepage Journal
    If a company can arbitrarily bill their customers for incoming messages then what's wrong with the customers billing the company for having to deal with those unwanted messages? Show me in the contract where it says that customers will be required to pay for SMS spam...
  • by plasmacutter (901737) on Monday August 04, 2008 @03:18AM (#24463271)

    I can understand how this might be a breach of contract issue for customers with binding contracts, and I would certainly expect many customers, even without binding contracts, to cancel their service over this. However, I really can't see how a customer can consider themselves justified in arbitrarily billing a company for their time just because the company makes changes that they dislike, no matter how horrible those changes may be.

    explain to me how it's not justified? they're billing people for spam they RECEIVE, using the assanine american "per-message" system.

    People being held liable for unsollicited traffic they cannot control is criminally absurd, and if their regulatory bodies refuse to crush it in the womb, then I say billing phone companies for their time is an excellent proactive demonstration of, and against, that absurdity.

  • by Doc Daneeka (1107345) on Monday August 04, 2008 @03:26AM (#24463301)
    A major problem occurs when any industry initiates a round of the Prisoner's Dilemma. One company institutes a policy change and their competitors follow them in the chase towards decreasing the bottom line and increasing profits. How are costumers supposed to vote with their feet, money, etc. when all/most of the industry have the policy or are quickly working towards embracing it?
  • by William Ager (1157031) on Monday August 04, 2008 @03:26AM (#24463307)
    I you were to hit me with a brick, and then demand a dollar for doing so, I would have you arrested, not send you a bill for the time I took to discard the brick. I can certainly understand that the change is unpleasant, but responses to such changes need to make sense. Arbitrary billing of this sort is pointless: the company is certainly never going to pay, and they have no obligation to do so. Dealing with the matter in the courts, or through cancelling the service, would make far more sense.
  • by get quad (917331) on Monday August 04, 2008 @03:27AM (#24463309)
    Unlimited Data Plans Should Include Unlimited Texting. Period. Anything Else Is Criminal.
  • Re:Why SMS? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gordonjcp (186804) on Monday August 04, 2008 @03:28AM (#24463315) Homepage

    Because SMS is generally free, at least in the UK and EU. It's only in the US, where they don't really understand how phones work, that they charge to both send and receive messages.

    Show me one UK pay-monthly package that hasn't got at least 500 free SMSes per month, and I'll show you half a dozen more that do, often cheaper.

  • by polar red (215081) on Monday August 04, 2008 @03:30AM (#24463329)

    this is why self-regulation does not work!!

  • by TheJasper (1031512) on Monday August 04, 2008 @03:38AM (#24463355)
    Regardless of whether people know in advance that they are being charged for incoming SMS this should be illegal. Smart people wouldn't agree to such a contract anyway. Basically someone has the right to take all your money without notice. It is no better than loansharking if you think about it.
  • Re:Contracts? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nacturation (646836) * <> on Monday August 04, 2008 @03:52AM (#24463417) Journal

    Correct me if I'm wrong... but aren't contracts breakable without termination charges if the service provider changes the contract?

    The problem is that people are agreeing to contracts which say they agree the provider can change the terms of the contract. Read the Slashdot (SourceForge) terms of service... they essentially say that SourceForge can change the terms, it's up to you to monitor them for changes, and 14 days later if you keep using the site it means you agree. They could change it and say that your full name and email address will be made public on every post unless you cancel your account. The only difference here is that with these providers you're bound to a contract and you've agreed in advance to whatever changes are arbitrarily made.

  • Not free in the EU (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nicolas MONNET (4727) <> on Monday August 04, 2008 @03:57AM (#24463435) Journal

    In fact it's damn expensive, around 10 cents a message.
    That's because there is no real competition: in France, the three mobile operators have been fined over €600 million for anticompetitive collusion. There is room in the spectrum for a fourth operator, but Sarkozy's best bud with the existing ones (CEO godfather of his son) and since he's such a corrupt fucker, he is doing all he can to derail the allocation process.
    But he's a right-wing "free market" advocate! Right!

  • by something_wicked_thi (918168) on Monday August 04, 2008 @03:58AM (#24463443)

    As a Canadian, I feel this is just us imitating the American way of doing things. However, it's unfortunate that we can't take full credit since he's a new immigrant and likely wasn't a citizen yet.

    In other news, it strikes me as odd that you find the fact that children saw it the most disturbing bit about this. The children will be fine. The victim won't be.

  • by houghi (78078) on Monday August 04, 2008 @04:06AM (#24463481)

    I can not understand why companies where allowed to do this in the first place.

    In normal countries paying for something you did not ask for would be considered fraud. But then I live in a country (Belgium) where generally the customer is more important then the companies.

  • Re:What a rip (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheCybernator (996224) on Monday August 04, 2008 @04:09AM (#24463495) Homepage

    .... you have to call an unhelpful man in India you get it canceled.

    That man is unhelpful because that unethical American/Canadian company told (hired/paid) him to be so.

  • by purpledinoz (573045) on Monday August 04, 2008 @04:18AM (#24463529)
    The real problem is that the Cellular companies are pretty much a monopoly. It's the Government's fault for not allowing foreign competition and allowing all the wireless companies to merge. This issue is a clear sign for the government that competition is badly needed and we have no one to blame except the moron officials who allow monopolies. Bell, Telus, and Rogers are in the business of making money, and they are able to do this by reducing service and increasing fees.
  • by purpledinoz (573045) on Monday August 04, 2008 @04:23AM (#24463557)
    Also, isn't there an anti-trust issue here? It seems to me that there was collusion between Bell and Telus, who both decided to charge exactly the same amount for incoming text messages, at around the same time. Are Bell and Telus the same company?
  • Re:Why SMS? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by totally bogus dude (1040246) on Monday August 04, 2008 @04:48AM (#24463685)

    I think the real reason is market inertia. I have a free email address provided by service provider on my phone, and I also have secure access to my own IMAP mailbox, but I never use them for messaging to/from people's phones for the simple reason that most people don't have email set up on their phone.

    Since most people don't have it set up, most people don't think it's useful to have set up, and therefore don't bother with it. It's one of those things where it's only useful if it's widespread.

    SMS works everywhere, and so it's useful.

    Another issue with email is that it requires maintaining a data connection, and that uses up more battery life than just keeping the regular GSM signal available.

    A final issue with email is that most of the built-in email clients in phones are pretty shit. My phone (Nokia N-series) has an IMAP client, but it only lets you see one folder which limits its usefulness. But since most people don't use email there's little incentive for them to spend time creating better ones.

  • Re:Contracts? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Piranhaa (672441) on Monday August 04, 2008 @05:05AM (#24463777)

    It is a clear violation of the contract even if it says "We reserve the right to change pricing from time to time". Just like the other party can't change the amount he or she wants to pay, the telecom can't change what they want to charge (doubtful it would hold up in court regardless of what the contract says).

    My dad called in to break his contract because of this - he has a company phone now. After much argument with one of the outsourced agents, they patched him to a 'supervisor' that said that TELUS isn't 'changing' the contract or pricing, but they're simply no longer SUBSIDIZING incoming text messages. The supervisor said she would add on 250 outgoing / UNLIMITED incoming texts so he would get off his back, and thus not allowing him to break the contract. It's sad someone would need to go through that much hassle. TELUS and Bell both say they will reimburse for SPAM texts (great!).. However, who will want to call in (even if they catch it on their bill) about a measly 15 cent charge. One 15 cents spam text definitely adds up when it's distributed between thousands and thousands of people.

    They pushed to digital by offering PER SECOND billing.. Shortly after the majority of people switched, they decided to bring it back to the infamous PER MINUTE billing. Our PAID FOR minutes don't carry over from month to month, there's consistently billing errors which always seem to be in favor of the telecom (never the consumer), text plans are still $10/month.

    TELUS and Bell are justifying charging this saying that texting is putting a much larger load on the network than before. I was reading in the paper, and the number of texts sent is equivalent to about 4-5GB per day. I realize there is overhead and such, but really. If a network hasn't been upgraded by now (the telecom being too damn lazy to upgrade) to handle that much traffic, they shouldn't be providing service.

  • by geniusj (140174) on Monday August 04, 2008 @05:07AM (#24463793) Homepage

    Is slashdot turning into digg? Whether or not you agree with the parent, he/she isn't a troll..

  • Re:What a rip (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ChoboMog (917656) on Monday August 04, 2008 @05:08AM (#24463799)

    I'm glad this sort of shit doesn't happen in Australia, only the sender of an SMS/phonecall gets charged here

    All the more reason to be concerned...The fact that we were in your situation just a month ago shows how quickly you could end up in ours.

  • Re:(shakes head) (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Piranhaa (672441) on Monday August 04, 2008 @05:08AM (#24463803)

    -2 Missing point..

    There's not even a way to OPT OUT of texting entirely. The consumer is stuck with the service whether or not he or she even wants it.

    How stupid is that?

  • Re:Why SMS? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by muffen (321442) on Monday August 04, 2008 @05:12AM (#24463819)

    Honestly, why do service providers in the west still use SMS as a messaging service? I'm in Japan and we use actual Email addresses for messaging and you only get charged normal packet fees (the same price for packets as you pay for browsing the web).

    I think I answered my own question: money

    I think there are a lot more reasons for using SMS then money.

    1) You can find phonenumbers quite easily in the phonebook, the same cannot be said about email addresses. Furthermore, not everyone adds email addresses under the contacts, but it is likely they do add the phonenumbers.
    2) Not everyone has, or is willing to spend the money to get, a phone that is capable of sending and receiving emails.
    3) Not everyone has a clue on how to get email to their phone configured, even in the unlikely case they have an email account that they are able to sync to the phone.
    4) They might not want data fees added to their phone contracts.
    5) Inside the EU, SMS generally cost either nothing or next to nothing to send, and I would like to see the day an operator wants to charge for receiving an SMS.
    I'm sure there are more reasons but these are the ones I can think of straight away.

  • by dword (735428) on Monday August 04, 2008 @06:41AM (#24464215)
    SMS costs the phone companies almost nothing (this has been previously discussed [] on), that's why they're not offering too many alternatives and the alternatives that exist are quite expensive to Average Joe.
  • by j_sp_r (656354) on Monday August 04, 2008 @07:29AM (#24464425) Homepage

    The caller knows he is calling a cell isn't he? At least, here all cells start with 06-

  • Re:What a rip (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Yvan256 (722131) on Monday August 04, 2008 @07:29AM (#24464431) Homepage Journal

    Spam issues aside, unless you don't have control over your computer, you decide what to download and what to upload.

    You don't decide who sends you SMS messages.

  • Re:(shakes head) (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Skye16 (685048) on Monday August 04, 2008 @07:41AM (#24464509)

    I think you'd be surprised about how much it "took off" in the states. Even my father, who can't figure out how to program the time on his microwave, sends dozens of texts per day.

    My ratio is somewhere near 1000:1. There's virtually nothing said in a phone conversation that can't be said more quickly in an SMS, and then no one is inconveniencing me. The phone is a mini-slave-driver, demanding your attention whenever the hell it rings. At least with a text you can finish pooping, masturbating, reading this chapter, washing the dishes, etc. Phone calls are very time sensitive and frankly, I don't like doing anything when someone demands it of me.

  • by das3cr (780388) on Monday August 04, 2008 @07:45AM (#24464539) Journal

    If it had been the US, one of the other passengers would have shot him.

    As would have only been proper!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 04, 2008 @08:12AM (#24464705)

    If it had been the US, one of the other passengers would have shot him.

    ... and the resulting firefight killing 1 other innocent bystander, and injuring 6.

  • Double-dipping? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by halcyon1234 (834388) <> on Monday August 04, 2008 @09:54AM (#24465983) Journal

    We also feel that requiring us to buy text bundles to avoid the inconvenience of reversing spam charges constitutes extortion

    How the hell is this even legal? Last I checked, a phone company can't charge for a service that blocks another service they are charging for. That's why Call Display is paid for, but Block-My-Number is free. If they're charging for text messages, they can't be allowed to charge for blocking them!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 04, 2008 @10:09AM (#24466187)

    Does no one remember a similar debacle over fax machines in the early 80s?

    Everyone started receiving spam ads on their faxes. The problem is that the recipient pays for the paper and toner. So big companies got together, lobbied congress, and made it illegal to send such spam faxes, because they were paying for them.

    This seems no different: the recipients are being charged for something they didn't ask for. Problem here is there's no big organized corporate lobby, and the carriers actually benefit, so its not in their interest to stop. Imagine how fast this would end if they were company cell phones....

  • Re:What a rip (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 04, 2008 @10:34AM (#24466551)

    Then repeatedly sign up the CEO of said cell provider until the problem goes away...

  • by Inquisitor911 (935895) <inquisitor911@ g m a i> on Monday August 04, 2008 @11:55AM (#24467841) Homepage
    This is why more small, independent cellular companies need to be created. They would be able to give the major providers competition, causing them to lower their insanely over-inflated prices.

    On another tangent, why not just eliminate the fee for SMS? I know it's a huge cash cow, but any sane person would agree that paying 5-30 cents for a 1-3 KB message is ridiculous. Only cellular service providers could get away with shit like this. It's pure extortion, driven by greed. Plain and simple.

    If ISPs charged 5 cents per kilobyte, watching a single YouTube video could exceed $409.00!
  • by A nonymous Coward (7548) * on Monday August 04, 2008 @12:31PM (#24468441)

    Yes, and a gunfight would have broken out, resulting in not only the one dead passenger by the killer (that would have happened regardless), but several other dead passengers caught in the crossfire of inexperienced gun wielding idiots.

    You ought to look up some conceal carry stats and get some knowledge before shooting off your mouth (pun intended).

    CCW permits require training and include a background check of some sort. You don't just start carrying and get away with it (except in, I believe, Vermont and Alaska, and they strangely don't have humongous crime problems). Then there's the interesting fact that off-duty cops have a worse criminal rate than CCW holders.

    You need to stop reading the nanny state press (both right and left) and starting looking things up for yourself.

  • by kesuki (321456) on Monday August 04, 2008 @06:24PM (#24473789) Journal

    it's not just spammers. think wrong numbers! we're putting in tons of new area codes to deal with the cellular problem (assigning numbers to every person, perhaps several for each person if work numbers etc get counted) think kids who text 1500 messages a day, what if they 'enter in' a friends phone number in their cell, and try to text you 4-5 times, before you get fed up and call them and explain they got the wrong number...

    every text message i've received has been a wrong number, because my carrier doesn't sell numbers to spammers, and doesn't 'automatically' generate telephone or cell phone listing pages for spammers to harvest. If you can prove your carrier actually SOLD your number to a SMS spammer, they're in even worse trouble, if they're actually charging you for each inbound text message.. it's called racketeering here in the states.

He keeps differentiating, flying off on a tangent.