With interest rates on late payments approaching 27% per year and calculations described as “abusive” for contract purposes, Videotron will have to face a class action that could affect thousands of Quebec customers since October 2018.
The appeal was authorized on February 3 but had not been reported in the media. It was only on Monday that Videotron sent all of its potentially affected subscribers a notice informing them of the appeal, the hearing dates of which have not yet been specified. The Quebec firms BGA and Garnier Ouellette represent the consumers.
The case was originally filed on October 20, 2021 on behalf of a subscriber to cable television and home internet services, Richard Gagné. On June 26, 2020, Mr. Gagné received a late notice for failing to pay his previous bill, which was due June 16. However, for these ten days of delay, he was billed the full amount of 2% for one month as described in the terms of service, i.e. $3.07. This monthly rate of 2% represents an annual interest charge of 26.82%.
“It is therefore a rate of 2% over ten days that was billed to him, three times more than what is provided for in the terms of service, according to Mr. Gagné”, can we read in the judgment. He should have, by his calculations, only paid $1.02 in interest. In addition, these costs would have been imposed on it when Videotron had not yet rendered the paid services, which begin on the 16th of each month.
Mr. Gagné still paid the full bill, but two months later, on August 13, 2020, he terminated his contract with Videotron. Since his month was not over at the time, he believes that an amount of $10.89 should have been refunded to him, which was not done.
Videotron, owned by Quebecor, for its part questioned Mr. Gagné’s ability to adequately represent all subscribers, “because he has not taken any steps that demonstrate his interest and competence”. The firm further cited an “appearance of conflict of interest due to the plaintiff’s friendship with one of the attorneys.”
Rather, the court found that Mr. Gagné “does not show indifference to this case and shows a general understanding of its ins and outs.” He is further deemed not to have a conflict of interest, although it is questioned that he did not “calculate the credit [to which] he claims to be entitled”.
As Quebec judges constantly remind us in this type of case, and as Judge Jacques Blanchard does here, it is explained that the authorization of the class action “does not constitute an assessment of the merits of the case which is rather reserved At the trial “. It is simply necessary that “the facts alleged appear to justify the conclusions sought”. “All he has to do is demonstrate the existence of a tenable, defensible, ‘notoriously low threshold’ case,” Judge Blanchard wrote.
It therefore authorizes the class action for any person domiciled in Quebec who entered into a communication services contract with Videotron and who, between October 20, 2018 and February 3, 2023, was charged interest for delays “which violate what [his] contract provides”. The cause also extends to those who would have prepaid for their services during this time and who would not have obtained an adequate refund at the time of the termination of their contract.
The judgment further orders Videotron to post a notice on its Facebook page, Twitter account and website within 30 days of the decision. La Presse did not find any trace of these publications before Monday.