One hundred and ten million dollars. That is what plaintiffs are seeking in a Canadian class action lawsuit against Bell Mobility for expired gift cards. Bell Mobility has denied that its prepaid telephone cards are gift cards under the Ontario Consumer Protection Act. The Ontario Consumer Protection Act generally prohibits expiration dates on gift cards.
Today, the Ontario Court of Justice permitted the case to proceed as a class action, despite Bell's assertions that the class is too unwieldy, lacking commonality amongst the potential members. In addition to its own program, Bell Mobility manages programs for Virgin Mobile Canada and Solo Mobile, both of which are also included as defendants in the case. According to court documents, over one million mobile customers could be affected by this litigation. That represents every customer that bought a prepaid card between May 4, 2010 and December 16, 2013.
This case continues to highlight the necessity for companies to comply with all federal and local laws in every jurisdiction that it operates in. Gift cards programs have to operate within a tough patchwork of laws where non-compliance can mean customer or shareholder litigation, federal and state audits, and bad publicity and subsequent erosion of customer loyalty.