Unlike in the United States, the Canadian mobile operators had not been charging subscribers for incoming text messages. But Bell and Telus recently said they would be changing that policy, and there would be a 15-cent charge for each incoming text for subscribers without a text messaging plan.
The move angered many subscribers, as the fee would occur even if the text was spam. Bell plans to start charging Friday, and Telus plans to implement its policy at the end of the month.
Bell subscriber Eric Cormier and Telus customer Natalie Martin said they think the companies are taking illegal actions by unilaterally changing the terms of the cellular contract. They are the main proponents of separate class-action lawsuits filed against the carriers.
"What we're trying to get the court to say is that for the duration of a contract ... the telephone company should not be able to unilaterally modify the conditions of the contract," said lawyer Noel Saint-Pierre, in an interview with The Canadian Press.
Bell, Telus, and Rogers Wireless are the major players in the Canadian wireless market. However, Rogers doesn't charge for incoming texts. The price of text messages could be a critical factor in the market, as Canadians sent more than 10 billion texts last year, according to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.
The class action suits have not been approved by a judge, and the cases will be presented in September.
These lawsuits are the latest example of customers taking a wireless carrier to court. T-Mobile is currently facing similar litigation regarding its incoming text message fees, and Sprint was recently ordered to pay $73 million in refunds for its early-termination fee policy.