Canada’s third largest telco, TELUS, has agreed to reimburse customers up to $7.34 million to settle allegations that it made, or permitted to be made, false or misleading representations in advertisements for premium text messages in pop‑up ads, apps and on social media.
In a consent agreement, Telus agreed to offer rebates of up to wireless customers who received mysterious charges for “premium text messages”, such as ringtones and horoscopes, between January 1, 2011 and August 16, 2013.
The Bureau concluded that TELUS permitted a third party content provider, and an aggregator of premium text messaging and rich content services, to bill its customers for premium text messages and rich content services that the customers did not intend to purchase or for which they did not agree to pay. The Bureau took the position that TELUS thereby made, or permitted to be made, materially false or misleading representations to the public, both online and through wireless communications devices.
The Bureau opened its inquiry in 2012. TELUS began taking steps as early as 2010 to improve disclosure of third party charges and allow customers to opt out from such charges. TELUS has been refunding customers who complained about third party charges since 2012. TELUS ultimately stopped allowing most premium text messaging and rich content services, in 2014.
In addition to refunds, Telus will donate $250,000 to research programs at Ryerson University and l’Université de Montréal focusing on citizens’ rights and transparency in the wireless services industry.