06/28/2012 11:56 EDT

Canada Telecom Lawsuit: Supreme Court Allows $19-Billion Claim To Proceed


The Supreme Court of Canada has given the go-ahead to a $19-billion class-action lawsuit against Canada's major telecom companies over system access fees, Reuters is reporting.

The country's top court refused to hear an appeal by the phone companies of a lower court's ruling that allowed the suit to go forward, the news service reported.

The lawsuit, filed by lawyer Tony Merchant, was certified in a Saskatchewan court some five years ago. The suit targets Bell Canada, Rogers and Telus, among others.

The suit alleges the cellphone companies wrongfully collected the fees, which were in addition to other monthly fees for phone service, from customers. It calls for the respondents to be reimbursed. The allegations have not been tested in court.

Since it was filed, many of Canada's large wireless providers have stopped charging system access fees.

The lawsuit seeks some $12 billion, plus interest, for fees charged to customers for the two decades prior to the wireless providers cancelling their fees. With interest included, that would come around to $19 billion -- a lot of money for Canada's telcos.

"The impact would obviously be huge," Merchant said in an interview some years ago.

With files from The Canadian Press

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