Bottom Line: A class action involving nearly half the population of Canada (14 million cellphone subscribers) and a claim of, reportedly, $18 billion will be proceeding against six telephone companies – both large and small (“Telcos”).

The issue? The plaintiffs contend that the Telcos misled consumers into thinking that the monthly system “access fee” charged (usually in the neighbourhood of $6.95 - $8.95 per month) was a government fee when it was actually a fee imposed by, and with the revenue going to, the Telcos.  

The lawsuit has been involved in procedural hearings for about eight years, but will now be heard on its merits. Commenced in 2004, the class action was originally certified in Saskatchewan in 2007. That set off a round of appeals of the certification – first to the Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan, and then to the Supreme Court of Canada. On June 28 of this year, the Supreme Court said it would not hear the Telcos’ appeal, meaning the certication would stand and the action could proceed.  

What now? The case goes back to the Court of Queen’s Bench for Saskatchewan, which will adjudicate the substance of the claim.

The plaintiffs are asking for the return of an estimated $12 billion in access fees, plus interest, bringing the claim up to an earthshaking $18 billion – or approximately $600 to $700 per customer.