In Henry v Bell Mobility, 2014 FC 555, the Federal Court considered the extent of damages to which the Plaintiff was entitled when a Bell Mobility Customer Service Representative (“CSR”) revealed certain information about his mobile telephone account to an unauthorized third person. The release of the information amounted to a breach of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, SC 2000, c 5 (“PIPEDA”). The Plaintiff claimed that he suffered losses arising from the release of the information to the unauthorized third party, and sought:
- damages in the amount of $49,500.00, including compensatory damages of $35,500.00;
- punitive damages of $5,000.00;
- general damages of $5,000.00; and,
- legal costs of $4,000.00.
The facts of this case are as follows. On October 14, 2010, a woman unrelated to the Plaintiff contacted Bell Mobility and sought information regarding his account. The woman persuaded the CSR that she should have access to the account. After an approximately 10 minute phone call, the CSR allowed her access even though the woman did not know the PIN Number or other pertinent information relating to the account. The woman then persuaded the CSR to change the PIN number relating to the account and the name on the account. Notably, the only information that she could confirm was the phone number and address to which the Plaintiff’s bills were sent.
The Bell Mobility Customer Service Representative provided the woman with the following information regarding the account:
- The correct PIN for the account;
- The latest billing date;
- The latest payment date;
- The latest bill amounts;
- The latest payment amounts;
- The number of minutes used;
- The type of cell phone plan Mr. Henry subscribed to;
- The numbers for which Mr. Henry requested directory assistance; and,
- The most recently dialled seven numbers.
The Court ultimately held that based on a consideration of all the evidence and jurisprudence, and given the circumstances under which the information was changed, and the breadth of information released, an award of $2,500.00 was appropriate. The Plaintiff was self-represented at trial although he had counsel on record assisting him earlier in the case. He was therefore also awarded $1,000.00 to cover disbursements and legal costs.
Notably, in considering the amount of damages to award, the Federal Court specifically distinguished Chitrakar v. Bell TV, 2013 FC 1103 where the Federal Court awarded damages in the amount of $21,000.00. As the Court stated at paragraph 26:
Chitrakar is distinguishable from the current case in that here Bell Mobility has taken responsibility for the breach of Mr. Henry’s privacy rights; it has put in place steps to better train CSRs; it has not in any way benefited from the breach; and, has acknowledged that Mr. Henry is entitled to damages in keeping with the jurisprudence of this Court.