Stephanie Benabu v. Vidéotron S.E.N.C. et. al.

A look at a proposed class-action lawsuit in Quebec, involving multiple Internet subscription services and telecoms, on the basis that it violated certain provisions of Québec’s Consumer Protection Act.

LinkedIn, the well-known business networking and social media site, was named in a proposed class action in July 2016, along with several other Internet subscription service providers, streaming services and telecom companies. The proposed class action alleged that the manner in which the defendants marketed subscriptions for service contracts violated certain provisions of Québec’s Consumer Protection Act (Act).

Specifically, the plaintiff took issue with the manner in which the defendants marketed discounted trial period subscription offers, contending that the practice was illegal under s. 230(c) of the Act. Section 230(c) prohibits merchants to require from consumers to whom they have provided services or goods free of charge (or at a reduced price) for a fixed period, a notice the regular price at the end of the fixed period indicating that they no longer want to receive the service or goods.

Other defendants, namely Netflix Inc., Spotify Canada Inc., Audible Inc., LLC, and Affinitas GMBH (owner of EliteSingles), settled the claims prior to the class action authorization (certification) hearing, paid damages, and amended their practices to no longer offer free trials to consumers in the province.

The authorization hearing was argued before the Honourable Justice Stéphane Sansfaçon of Québec’s Superior Court (Class Action Division), who dismissed the proposed class action. The Court held that the defendants had committed no fault under the law in offering free trial periods or discounted pricing during promotions, and then automatically charging consumers the regular price for the services after expiration of the promotions.

Class counsel has announced plans to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeal of Québec.

This case raises significant issues relating to application of s.230(c) of Québec’s Consumer Protection Act, which has not yet been subject to any judicial interpretation.

The class plaintiff was represented by Joey Zukran of LPC Avocat Inc.

Vidéotron LLP was represented by Patrick Ouellet and Érika Normand-Couture of Woods LLP.

Bell Canada was represented by Vincent de l’Étoile of Langlois Lawyers LLP.

Pierre Y. Lefebvre and Annie Gallant of Langlois Lawyers LLP.

Apple Inc. was represented by Kristian Brabander and Amanda Gravel of McCarthy Tétrault LLP.

Rogers Communications Inc., Rogers Media Inc. and Shomi Partnership were represented by Pierre Y. Lefebvre and Annie Gallant of Langlois Lawyers LLP.

LinkedIn Ireland was represented by Nick Rodrigo of Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP.

Google Inc. was represented by Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, with a team composed of François Grondin, Éloïse Gratton and Patrick Plante.

Sirius XM Canada Inc. was represented by Frédéric Paré and Patrick Desalliers of Stikeman Elliott LLP.