Wireless carriers not required to pay “unauthorized tax” on 911 calls, says B.C. Supreme Court

A 2010 bylaw from the City of Nanaimo, British Columbia, requiring wireless carriers to collect 911 fees from their customers or pay a $30 fee per call on their behalf, has been struck down by the B.C. Supreme Court. Called an “unauthorized tax,” which cities are not allowed to impose, the judge in the case evinced the city had “no power to impose” the tax, and that the carriers shouldn’t be required to pass the buck on to their customers.

But due to the proliferation of mobile-based 911 calls, the city felt it had no choice but to attempt to collect money from the carriers as a way to offset rising costs associated with routing calls from these disparate wireless networks.

A statement by the city, who is clearly disappointed in the decision, said, “[We believe] that, where possible, the users of a service should pay the cost of the service and not be a cost borne by the taxpayer.” The CRTC, Rogers, TELUS and Bell each argued that they are willing to pay 911 levies as long as provinces mandate it; Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and P.E.I. have legislation of that kind, while B.C. leaves it in the hands of its municipalities.

The Nanaimo area receives roughly 53,000 calls to 911 a year, with just over half coming from cellphones.

Source: CBC