Verify, don’t trust, your cellphone company

Media Release

Verify, don’t trust, your cellphone company

CCTS Report Documents increasing wireless complaints

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – OTTAWA – January 16, 2024 – Consumers should verify, not trust, their cellphone company, said the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) today, reacting to the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services (CCTS) Annual Report 2022-23, which showed increased problems with wireless services, including monthly billing and roaming disputes, and numerous complaints of total loss of service.

“Canadian consumers must now protect themselves against their wireless provider,” said John Lawford, PIAC Executive Director and General Counsel. “They should verify every service charge, clarify every detail of roaming and plan for total service failure, not just trust the companies,” he added.

PIAC noted that the Report revealed that wireless service generated well over half of all complaint issues, well ahead of home Internet service at about a quarter of issues.  The leading complaint issue (each complaint may include more than one issue) for wireless service continues to be monthly billing issues with incorrect charges for monthly pricing plans, followed by disputes about the charges not aligning with contracts. Roaming billing disputes effectively doubled and complaints of outages as well.

“Both of the highest complaint issue categories are the same as other years and driven by aggressive or unclear sales practices as well as increasing complexity of contracts and financing of cellphones,” explained Lawford. “Companies must do more to explain, in advance, the material costs of each cellphone plan and take proactive steps to simplify billing and contracts and action credits to consumers.”

The Report also noted continuing problems with consumers not receiving a credit or refund promised. PIAC has called for years for the CCTS to separately record such complaints as a “failure to action” a complaint resolution.

For more information, please contact:

John Lawford

Executive Director and General Counsel

Public Interest Advocacy Centre

285 McLeod Street, Suite 200

Ottawa, ON K2P 1A1

(613) 562-4002 x125

(613) 447-8125 (cell)

jlawford@piac.ca

https://www.piac.ca/

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PIAC Annual Dinner – Friday, 24 Nov 2023; Speaker: Jeanne Pratt, Competition Bureau of Canada

OTTAWA – 7 November 2023 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PIAC Annual Dinner, Speaker: Jeanne Pratt, Senior Deputy Commissioner, Mergers and Monopolistic Practices Branch, Competition Bureau of Canada
Friday, November 24, 2023 at 6 p.m. (eastern time)
National Arts Centre (Rossy Pavilion)

To purchase an individual ticket, please fill out the linked PDF form and return it, ideally by Monday, November 20, 2023, to Donna Brady: dbrady@piac.ca

To sponsor a corporate table, please email Donna Brady: dbrady@piac.ca for details. Our corporate sponsors and their logos will appear at this space shortly, as they join in supporting PIAC.

About the Event

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre is thrilled to announce our Annual Dinner 2023, to be held on Friday, November 24, 2023 at 6 p.m. at the National Arts Centre in the Rossy Pavilion. Registration is now open and details can be found below.

PIAC’s Annual Dinner has a longstanding tradition of being a highlight of the year for advocates, regulators, responsible corporations and students alike. We even often welcome a politician or  exceptional community leaders to discuss issues of consumer protection in Canada at an incredible venue – the Rossy Pavilion at the National Arts Centre.

The Venue – National Arts Centre, Rossy Pavilion, 1 Elgin Street, Ottawa

The National Arts Centre is located in the heart of downtown Ottawa. Our dinner will be hosted in the Rossy Pavilion which features views of Parliament and the historic War Memorial through stunning floor-to-ceiling windows, providing a beautiful backdrop for the evening’s events. In keeping with the formality of the venue, we ask that guests attire in business casual.

Our Speaker, Jeanne Pratt, Senior Deputy Commissioner, Competition Bureau of Canada

In addition to a multitude of wonderful guests and a beautiful venue, this year, we will have the pleasure of hearing an address from Jeanne Pratt, Senior Deputy Commissioner, Mergers and Monopolistic Practices Branch, Competition Bureau of Canada. Ms. Pratt is a leading legal expert on competition law and had an active role in the Bureau’s recent major merger enforcement actions. Ms. Pratt has been with the Bureau since 2009, serving in various roles focusing on competitive markets and consumer protection.

The Dinner

Following Ms. Pratt’s remarks, attendees will enjoy a four-course dinner. Dinner will be accompanied by a beverage of choice, and there will be a cash bar available throughout the evening.

There will also be opportunities to enter to win various door prizes throughout the evening. While this event is an opportunity to showcase our incredible speaker who will be providing important consumer perspectives concerning the world of regulated services, this collegial event is also a unique opportunity to bring together industry stakeholders who may also be opponents from time to time in matters of regulatory or industry policy.

The Music – Moonfruits

Both during cocktail hour and during dessert, we will be enjoying live music provided by the exciting Canadian bilingual folk band Moonfruits – who will be playing songs from their large repertoire of original songs. PIAC is pleased to support Canadian artists and content! More on the band, soon.

Consumer Advocacy Awards

During the event, PIAC will also be announcing recipients of its two new annual consumer advocacy awards: the Harry Gow Award for outstanding advocacy in transportation, competition and essential services; and the Ken Rubin Award for outstanding advocacy in privacy, access to information and civic participation.

Come Celebrate PIAC – We Need You!

PIAC has been active in the area of consumer advocacy for over 40 years. Our small team represents consumer interests in the provision of important regulated services on behalf of consumers, and in particular vulnerable consumers. Our staff will be participating and will bring attendees up to date on PIAC’s extensive consumer protection work. The Annual Dinner provides some modest fundraising to support the important work that we do. We very much appreciate your support of our mission to protect consumers and in particular, vulnerable consumers.

We sincerely hope that you will join us for this evening of great conversations, great speakers and great prizes in the beautiful Rossy Pavilion in downtown Ottawa. Registration is now open for individual tickets and corporate sponsored tables.

PIAC Welcomes Government of Canada’s Increased Funding for Consumer Affairs, Grocery Pricing Studies

OTTAWA, 25 October 2023 – The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) warmly welcomed yesterday’s announcementby François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, to triple funding to the Office of Consumer Affairs’ Contributions Program for Non-Profit Consumer and Voluntary Organizations, from $1.69 million to $5 million for five consecutive years. PIAC and other consumer groups in Canada rely upon this program to fund vital consumer protection research. PIAC and others will immediately propose working on projects to help lower Canadians’ grocery bills.

“We applaud Minister Champagne’s action to fund hardworking consumer advocates who for too long have struggled with their own budgetary constraints in trying to help Canadian consumers with their own challenges,” said John Lawford, Executive Director and General Counsel of PIAC.  “The Minister heard the voice of consumers facing higher food prices and is showing consumer groups that the government trusts us and the Office of Consumer Affairs to make a real difference for Canadians,” he added, after an hour long meeting with Minister Champagne and other consumer groups, including Consumers’ Council of Canada, Option consommateurs and Union des consommateurs.

PIAC’s recent submission to the Competition Bureau of Canada’s Retail Grocery Market Study highlighted “shrinkflation” and “shelflation” and other dubious tactics of grocery retailers to confuse customers looking to shop smart and save money. PIAC was pleased to see the Competition Bureau’s Retail Grocery Market Study Report’s conclusion that “Canada Needs More Grocery Competition”.

PIAC was then thrilled to see the Government of Canada’s reaction to these competition concerns in the grocery sector and across essential goods and services in the introduction of Bill C-56, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act and the Competition Act, which would enact the Affordable Housing and Groceries Act. Bill C-56 seeks to remove the hated “efficiencies defence” (which PIAC has opposed since its creation) that harms consumers from merging companies’ tactics and restricts unfair use of schemes such as restrictive covenants, that limit where competing grocery stores can open. PIAC calls upon all parties and members of the House of Commons and the Senate of Canada to swiftly pass this essential competition law reform.

For more information, please contact:

John Lawford
Executive Director and General Counsel
Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)
tel: 1-613-562-4002 ext. 125

cell: 1-613-447-8125

@CanadaPIAC

jlawford@piac.ca

https://www.piac.ca

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Save the Date – PIAC’s Annual Dinner 2023!

PIAC’s Annual Dinner will be held Friday, 24 November 2023, at the Rossy Pavilion, National Arts Centre – save the date!

We are excited to announce our Guest Speaker is Jeanne Pratt, Senior Deputy Commissioner, Competition Bureau of Canada.

Please watch this space in the coming days for information on ordering tickets and a reveal of a special musical guest.

CRTC Keeps Basic TV Service Affordable for Seniors and Consumers

OTTAWA, September 6, 2023 – The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and the National Pensioners Federation (NPF) hailed yesterday’s Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) decision to reject a proposed price increase for Basic TV service and ensure continuing affordable access to essential TV for seniors and consumers.

“Canadian consumers deserve a basic TV package at an affordable rate if they want or need one, as they need access essential news and information about their society,” said John Lawford, Executive Director and General Counsel of PIAC.  “The CRTC heard the voice of consumers facing higher prices everywhere post-pandemic and rejected this application as unnecessary,” he added.

PIAC and NPF argued the proposed price increase, initially requested by Bell Canada, Cogeco Communications Inc., Bragg Communications Incorporated, carrying on business as Eastlink, and Saskatchewan Telecommunications, would affect over 1.5 million Canadians, was unnecessary for the TV service providers given their other earnings on paid television subscriptions for higher bundles and that the basic TV service was intended as a social measure to ensure consumer access when over-the-air TV was left unsupported by the regulator and government post-digital transition.

Trish McAuliffe, President, NPF lauded the CRTC decision: “Seniors rely on the basic TV service to ensure connection with their community, for local news and information about politics and democracy and for entertainment when many are on fixed incomes facing other price increases. We were gratified that the CRTC both rejected the proposed 12% increase in the Basic TV price and the companies’ request to index that increase – which would have further eroded seniors’ access to broadcasting.”

The CRTC’s decision can be found here. PIAC-NPF’s submissions can be found here. PIAC and NPF also thank all Canadian consumers and seniors who took the time to comment to the CRTC.

For more information, please contact:

John Lawford
Executive Director and General Counsel
Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)
tel: 1-613-562-4002 ext. 125

cell: 1-613-447-8125

jlawford@piac.ca

https://www.piac.ca

Trish McAuliffe

President

National Pensioners Federation

1-905-706-5806

Trish.mcauliffe@npfmail.ca

https://nationalpensionersfederation.ca

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Improving Air Passenger Protection in Canada – PIAC-APR-Pavlović Submission to CTA

OTTAWA – 10 August 2023 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) has joined with noted air passenger protection group Air Passenger Rights (APR) and dispute resolution expert, Professor Marina Pavlović, to file submissions on the proposed changes to Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR).

Consumer protection in air travel has faced serious regulatory, industry, and political headwinds in the pandemic era and the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), which is charged with regulating passenger air travel, has proposed additional changes to the APPR. Our joint submissions to the CTA seek to bring Canada’s air passenger protection rules up to international standards, so that passengers are issued compensation for cancellations and excessive delays, provided support in airports during delays, and given full rights when denied boarding.

The CTA consultation proposed half-measures to improve Canada’s air passenger protections such as proposing to emulate the European Union’s rules that require passenger compensation for delays and cancellations in all but “exceptional circumstances”. It also claims they will remove the much hated “for safety reasons” category of incidents where airlines can deny compensation. However, the CTA paper also lists for consideration numerous potential “exceptional circumstances” that appear to mirror the present “for safety reasons” loophole. The CTA paper also claims the burden of proof for denying passenger compensation will be on the airline, but the potential for excessive exceptions may undo this reversal.

“We have provided the CTA with a consumer-first roadmap to the best practices worldwide,” said Dr. Gábor Lukács, President of APR. “The CTA can choose to materially improve air travel for Canadians prior to the next holiday season by ensuring compensation, passenger care and respect for travellers are of paramount importance in the system.”

John Lawford, Executive Director of PIAC added: “No consumer will argue against an airline claiming safety is a first priority, but the real issue is why consumers should be the insurers of airline profitability for crew shortages, equipment failure or scheduling changes that strand passengers, often without compensation, away from home, when they have paid for air travel.”

Professor Pavlović’s work focuses on the rules for consumer redress. She noted that: “Our concerns with the proposed changes is that if they are not properly designed, consumers may face a difficult to navigate complaint system and the backlog of complaints may grow. This is avoidable by prioritizing transparency, fairness and predictability – largely by simplifying the categories that can lead to a dispute.”

About PIAC

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre is a national not-for-profit corporation and a federally registered charity that protects consumer interest in regulated industries such as telecommunications, energy, financial services, privacy and transportation.

For further information, please contact:

John Lawford

Executive Director and General Counsel, PIAC

Tel: 613-562-4002 x 125

Email: jlawford@piac.ca
Twitter: @CanadaPIAC
Facebook: http://facebook.com/CanadaPIAC

About Air Passenger Rights

Air Passenger Rights is Canada’s independent, nonprofit organization of volunteers working to make the travelling public aware of its rights and capable of enforcing them. The organization’s mission is to turn helpless passengers into empowered travelers through education, advocacy, investigation, and litigation.

For further information, please contact:
Dr. Gábor Lukács
Email: lukacs@AirPassengerRights.ca
Twitter: @AirPassRightsCA
Facebook: http://facebook.com/AirPassengerRights

About Professor Pavlović

Marina Pavlović is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, Common Law Section at the University of Ottawa and is a member of its Centre for Law, Technology and Society.

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New PIAC “We Fight for That” podcast: Post-Rogers-Shaw: A New Hope?

EPISODE 28

Post-Rogers-Shaw: A New Hope?

Well, we are back after a long hiatus (sorry, stuff going on in Canadian communications!) to survey the competitive landscape after the Rogers-Shaw deal closed in Spring of 2023 – two years and 15 days after being announced.

We speak with George Burger, Chief Operating Officer, about the Canadian home Internet market post-Rogers-Shaw; why VMedia and Videotron (Quebecor) are a strong independent disrupter outside Québec that will only help consumers, and why the wireless market may just reward us with a strong 4th player (yes, please!).

Not quite sure if it’s going to come true, but hopium at this stage is good.

We end with a dunk on those people who thought Bill C-11 meant more money for Canadian creators.  Turns out traditional broadcasters are not as keen on funding it when they think someone else will pay.

Click here for the podcast or find it on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, etc etc

Description for Social Justice Articling Positions Funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario – 2024-25 – Apply now!

Name and Location of Organization: 

Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) 

2-285 McLeod Street, Ottawa, ON, K2P 1A1 

For Articling Year: 2024-2025 

Deadline for Application: May 30, 2023 at 5:00 p.m. (EDT) 

Interviews the weeks of: June 5, 2023 and if necessary, week of June 12, 2023 

Offers will be made: June 22, 2023 at 8:00 a.m. (EDT) 

Description of Organization and Areas of Law: 

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) was federally incorporated in 1976 as a non-profit corporation and has charitable status for tax purposes. The organization’s purpose is to provide representation, research and advocacy on behalf of those elements of the public interest that would otherwise be unable to be adequately heard before courts, tribunals, and decision-makers. PIAC has tried to focus its mandate on issues arising from the delivery of important public services including telecommunications, broadcasting, competition law, energy, financial services, and transportation. PIAC seeks to represent and advocate on behalf of ordinary consumers, in particular vulnerable consumers, concerning the rates, policies, rules and regulations associated with the delivery of these services with a view to ensuring principles of access and affordability and fair treatment for the constituencies it tries to serve. 

PIAC’s work takes a variety of forms. First, the lawyers of PIAC represent organizations whose membership serves our target constituencies before boards and tribunals where the industries delivering such services are regulated. These organizations include ACORN Canada, the Vulnerable Energy Consumers Coalition, the Consumers Association of Canada, the Ontario Society of Senior Citizens Organizations (OSSCO), National Pensioners Federation (NPF), Option consommateurs (OC), l’Union des consommateurs (UC), and Rural Dignity of Canada among others. PIAC’s most significant commitments for such representation occur before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) where PIAC lawyers are full participants in administrative proceedings including the presentation of evidence and the making of written and oral submissions. 

Because the delivery of the public services touches upon consideration of other important legal and policy matters, PIAC has also developed expertise and is frequently involved in funded and unfunded work (approximately 20% of PIAC’s work is unfunded) representing its constituencies in competition law and practice, electronic commerce, privacy, multilateral agreements, and general issues of consumer protection. 

PIAC carries out its work outside the hearing room in numerous ways. Its extensive studies and reports associated with the above are published and distributed to policy makers and the general public through its web site. PIAC staff participates in discussions with government officials, other industry stakeholders, other public interest communities, as well as groups representing its own constituencies to attempt to secure rights, rules, policies or consensus that will advance the interests of the communities that PIAC serves. PIAC frequently attends before parliamentary and legislative committees to pursue these same goals in legislation. Finally, PIAC’s staff are active in traditional and online media to present a coherent defense of those communities’ position when the delivery of important public services is in issue. 

Description of Responsibilities: 

(a) Research and writing on legal and policy issues to support studies and reports of the Centre; 

(b) Research and writing to support regulatory interventions in tribunals; 

(c) Assistance and attendance with PIAC counsel for tribunal work, meetings with government officials and presentation before parliamentary committees; 

(d) Participation in discussions of advocacy strategy and position with Counsel and Centre clients 

Salary/benefits: $ 62,000 for the articling term, Medical and Dental plus paid vacation 

Application includes: 

Σ Resume 

Σ Cover letter 

Σ Undergrad transcripts 

Σ Law school transcripts 

Σ Letters of reference 

Applications should be addressed to: 

John Lawford 

Executive Director and General Counsel 

Public Interest Advocacy Centre 

2-285 McLeod Street, Ottawa, ON, K2P 1A1 

Email to: dbrady@piac.ca 

** Please note: We no longer accept faxed applications. 

Students will be interviewed during the week of June 5, 2023 and, if necessary, the week of June 12, 2023 with a view to extending an offer on June 22, 2023. 

This position has been made available through The Law Foundation of Ontario Public Interest Articling Fellowships program. 

Changes to Air Passenger Protection Rules weaken consumers’ rights: not cleared for takeoff

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

OTTAWA, April 24, 2023 – The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) reacted negatively to the announcement made today by the Minister of Transportation, Omar Alghabra, of proposed changes to the Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPRs), saying the proposals weaken passengers’ rights by making their claims secret, blocking their access to full justice, and failing to remove airlines’ ability to claim routine safety exceptions to payment of claims, among other shortcomings.

“The Minister did not consult with Canadian consumers or air passenger protection advocates before proposing these ill-advised changes – so we won’t clear them for takeoff,” said John Lawford, Executive Director and General Counsel at PIAC. “Consumers shouldn’t support them either, because they will also give the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) too much discretion to determine new exceptions to passengers’ compensation claims and to change the claims process with administrative ‘guidelines’, and also the CTA may now allow air carriers caught breaking the rules to avoid fines by entering into compliance agreements,” he added.

The changes to the APPRs are found in the Government’s omnibus Budget Implementation Act bill, in Division 23. Such changes are often given little scrutiny in Parliamentary Committees due to the urgency of Budget implementation and the large size of Budget bills.  Therefore PIAC called upon the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (TRAN) to study the Budget Implementation Act Bill and to recommend major amendments, or, simply the remove the Minister’s proposed APPR changes from the Bill.

“We are disappointed the Government did not see fit to simply pass Bill C-327, ‘An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act (air passenger protection)’, introduced by MP Taylor Bachrach,” added Lawford. “That Bill would change Canada’s air passenger protection law to mirror that in Europe, which is the gold standard.”

For more information please contact:

John Lawford
Executive Director & General Counsel
Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)
(613) 562-4002 ×125
jlawford@piac.ca
https://www.piac.ca/

social: @CanadaPIAC

 

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Public-interest organizations ask CRTC to stabilize only fund that supports their participation in its broadcasting proceedings

 Ottawa, 17 April 2023 

Following the announcement last week by the Broadcasting Participation Fund/ (BPF-FPR) of the near-complete depletion of its financial base and its plan to suspend its operations in August 2023, six of Canada’s non-profit, public-interest organizations have asked the CRTC to enable the fund to continue operations. Since its establishment by broadcasters ten years ago, the BPF-FPR has enabled more than 30 civil-society organizations to participate in over 100 CRTC proceedings on behalf of consumers and the public interest – including in last year’s application by Canada’s largest TV program distributors to raise the price they charge subscribers for basic cable and satellite service by 12%. 

“The CRTC can order public-interest organizations’ costs in its telecom proceedings to be paid by the companies involved in those proceedings,” explained John Lawford, the Executive Director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, “but it does not yet have that same power in broadcasting. Creating the BPF in 2011 with funding from two broadcasters has enabled groups like PIAC to undertake legal work in broadcasting matters, especially when these affect the prices paid by subscribers to cable and satellite TV.” Reimbursing the costs of civil-society organizations such as PIAC, the Forum for Research and Policy in Communications (FRPC), Consumers’ Association of Canada (Manitoba) and the Union des consommateurs to participate in CRTC broadcasting matters has meant that its proceedings include a greater range of arguments, evidence such as surveys and recommendations that reflect Canadians’ interests and concerns. The near-depletion of its fund has led the BPF-FPR to reduce any payments it approves by 25%. 

In March 2022 the CRTC required Rogers Communications Inc. to direct $725,439 to the BPF-FPR, spread over three unspecified years. PIAC, Option consommateurs, Consumers’ Association of Canada (Manitoba), FRPC, and the Union des consommateurs are asking the CRTC to ensure that Rogers directs the full amount set out in it Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2022-76 to the BPF-FPR before September 2023 to ensure that civil-society organizations will be able to continue to advocate on behalf of the public interest in broadcasting. The Part 1 application filed with the CRTC is available from PIAC and FRPC. 

Contact: 

Monica Auer execdir@frpc.net 

Executive Director @frpc_frpc 

Forum for Research and Policy in Communications (FRPC) frpc.net 

 

John Lawford

Executive Director and General Counsel

PIAC

jlawford@piac.ca