Quebec couple battles corporate giant Telus, and wins

Sarah Schmidt, Canwest News Service
Published: Thursday, April 03, 2008

A former Quebec couple has scored a key legal victory for cellphone customers after a judge ruled they were duped into signing three-year contracts with Telus Mobility Inc. with a misleading promotion.

Son Le-Tien and Thi Nguyen broke their contracts with Rogers and signed up with Telus after a 2004 promotion promised a free trip for two to a choice of 25 international cities. After discovering not all was as advertised from promotions partner Free Air fare, the Montreal-area couple tried to cancel their contracts.

Telus retailer Contact Com DL Communications of Laval, Que., slapped them with penalties totalled of $1,794.72 -- Telus contracts stipulate customers pay $20 per month in penalty fees for every month remaining on a broken contract.

When the couple refused to pay, the retailer handed the file over to a collection agency.

The couple sued the retailer in small claims court, and won a key victory that industry watchers say should send a message to wireless phone companies about misleading promotions.

The couple signed up with Telus after they confirmed Sydney, Australia was part of the promotions package. But when they tracked down an official with the travel company working out of an apartment building, they were informed Sydney and Asian cities were off limits.

The judge ruled the couple was deceived on the facts of the promotion, and awarded the family $1,770 in damages under Quebec's Consumer Protection Act. The judge awarded the couple an additional $2,000, "given the seriousness of the violations" and the attitude of the defendant, who "appears to be unconcerned."

The couple has since moved to Australia. Tye Le-Tien of the Montreal suburb of Laval represented her brother and sister-in-law when the case was heard last month. She said the three-year dispute, which included incessant calls from a collection agency, took a toll on the family. She just hopes the cellphone company learns some lessons from the verdict.

"I'm happy they know that people are complaining and suing them. They know people will do something in the future, so they should be scared."