Dallas-basedvideo rentailer Blockbuster may be facing a class-action suit in Quebec overits late fee policies after a judge granted class status to a group ofBlockbuster customers in the province.

Thesuit, which targets the company's late-fee revenues over the past 11years, alleges that Blockbuster's fines are 'abusive' and aviolation of the province's consumer protection code.

Themerits of the case awaits a further judicial decision. Addressing that point,Blockbuster spokesperson Randy Hargrove told Screendaily the company expects'the claims will be defeated once we can try the case on itsmerits.'

In2001, the company faced similar class-action suits in the US over what itrefers to as 'extended viewing fees' and wound up settling becauseof the time and expense of legal action. Hargrove said that while thosesettlement claims remain under appeal, the company will ultimately bereimbursing clients in the form of free rentals or coupons. He did notspeculate on the aggregate retail value of the refunds. However, he said thecompany intends to defend itself in Canada. 'We will argue that extendedviewing fees play a legitimate part of the rental business.'

Anothersuit seeking class action certification before an Ontario judge was denied latelast year and is now under appeal by the plaintiffs. Under Quebec law, classaction approvals are not subject to appeal.

Blockbuster, theworld's largest video rental company, has nearly 400 stores in Canada,including 43 in Quebec.