Last Updated: Friday, September 18, 2009 | 10:02 AM ET Comments90Recommend100
Canadian phone customers will get partial rebates worth hundreds of millions of dollars after the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed high-profile appeals Friday, one from Bell and Telus and the other from consumer groups.
The court ruling affects the fate of money collected by federally regulated phone companies such as Telus and Bell after they charged customers more over a four-year period than Canadian regulations normally would have allowed.
Friday's dismissal by the Supreme Court of Canada supports the earlier ruling by Canada's telecommunications regulator that some of the extra money should be used to improve broadband and some should be returned to customers as rebates. Bell and Telus had argued that they should not have to rebate any of the money to customers.
Phone companies affected:
* Bell Aliant (in Ontario and Quebec).
* Bell Canada.
* MTS Allstream.
Meanwhile, the Consumers Association of Canada and the National Anti-Poverty Organization wanted all the extra money collected between 2002 and 2006 to be returned to consumers, estimating the rebate could be up to $50 per customer.
Ted Woodhead, vice-president of telecom policy and regulatory affairs at Telus Corp., said before the ruling that the average urban Telus customer would receive a rebate of only $10.
"We think the better purpose for the funds is to expand broadband connectivity into rural and remote areas to make sure that the greatest number of Canadians have access to the internet," he said Thursday.
Michael Janigan, executive director of the group that has been representing the consumer groups, said Thursday that expanding broadband wasn't necessarily a bad idea.
"But we questioned why telephone subscribers would be the only people contributing to that," added Janigan, of the Ottawa-based Public Interest Advocacy Centre.
He added that the broadband expansion would benefit the phone companies by allowing them to expand their internet customer base.
Phone bill rebates coming after Supreme Court ruling
I'm sure Bellus will find some other way to recoup the funds they are losing here by introducing some sort of "infrastructure development fee" or something stupid to add to the 8 bucks I pay every month because they force me to at gunpoint to use their service.