Volume 95, Issue 66

Wednesday, January 30, 2002
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USC presidential race gets crowded

In the ghetto: kids go home hunting

Journalist slams mainstream media

Sit-in ends in punch-up, Guelph students claim

Hot for teacher trial: "We were really drunk"

Like porn, degrees now online

Video late fines go ya down? Why not sue?

Video late fines go ya down? Why not sue?

By Paolo Zinatelli
Gazette Staff

Possibly coming soon to a wallet near you – refunds for your Blockbuster late charges.

That would be the ideal situation for Michael Peerless, a lawyer with the London firm of Siskind, Cromarty, Ivey and Dowler, who is attempting to certify a class action lawsuit against the video giant here in Ontario.

The suit alleges Blockbuster's penalties go against Ontario's Business Practices Act because they are too high for late returns and are not proportional to the loss the company would incur.

"If it gets certified as a class action, it will [affect] everyone who has had late charges in the province of Ontario," Peerless said. "This could be worth millions of dollars, but at the moment, I have no way of knowing how many people for sure."

According to Peerless, a similar lawsuit in the United States resulted in a settlement with Blockbuster, however, Blockbuster in Canada has been unwilling to settle thus far.

"It is within their legal right to fight it in court," he said, adding he is also working with lawyers on similar suits in British Columbia and Quebec.

"Our rental policy has been in existence and we will continue with our policy," said Blockbuster spokesman Randy Hargrove.

The extended viewing fees are posted in the stores and it is up to the customer when they want to return the movie, he said.

The late charge is calculated at a per day rate, based on the initial viewing period, he added.

Robert Vaughn, president of London's DirectVideo, said it is sad people want to force a business to change its practices. "If you don't like it, go somewhere else," he said.

Will Burnett, manager of FLIXX videostore, said the lawsuit could set a dangerous precedent and result in a trickle down effect, with people threatening to sue his establishment over their late charges.

Amy Bertoni, a fourth-year English student, said after returning a movie late, Blockbuster sent her a letter informing her of charges and later informed her mother that the case had been turned over to a collection agency.

"I won't go back," she said.

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