Bell to pay $12M in rebates after Competition Bureau's text messaging investigation

OTTAWA – Bell will pay $11.82 million to current and past customers after a Competition Bureau investigation into the telecom’s premium text messaging charges.

This marks the highest amount of money obtained for consumer rebates under a Competition Bureau agreement to date.

Bell will also donate about $800,000 to public interest advocacy groups, create a consumer awareness campaign, notify affected customers and enhance its corporate compliance program as part of the agreement.

The Competition Bureau began its investigation in 2012 and looked into whether Bell, Rogers, Telus and the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) made or allowed false or misleading advertising for premium text messaging services, like trivia questions and ring tones.

The bureau also investigated whether the telecoms charged consumers without their authorization.

The incidents took place when clients signed up for free services, like games or horoscopes, with Jamster and Mobile Messenger, among others. The “free” services were then sent as text message and the cellphone company, in this case Bell, billed clients for the text messages even though clients were never warned about fees.

Bell will reimburse all current and former clients who used these services between Jan. 1, 2011, and Aug. 31, 2013.

Clients who used Jamster services will be reimbursed a maximum of $60 while those who used Mobile Messenger will receive a maximum of $30.

The amounts will be returned to current customers in the form of a credit on their cellphone plans.

Former customers will be informed by email and mail by July 25 as to how to get their money.

The Competition Bureau also settled with the CWTA, which will develop a consumer awareness campaign, among other things.

Last year, Telus agreed to pay $7.34 million in rebates, while Rogers settled for $5.42 million.