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Consumer Groups Petition Cabinet to Reverse Payphone Price Hike

Ottawa – July 31, 2007 – The National Anti-Poverty Organization, Public Interest Advocacy Centre and Union des consommateurs jointly petitioned the federal cabinet yesterday to overturn the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) decision to double local payphone rates to 50 cents a call from 25 cents a call for Bell Aliant, Bell Canada, MTS Allstream and Sasktel.

The petition [pdf file: 0.29mb] calls for Cabinet to rescind the payphone rate hike and refer the matter back to the CRTC with directions. The petition requests that upon re-examination of payphone rates, the CRTC “consider the effect of pay telephone rate increases upon all pay telephone users and in particular, low-income Canadians.”

The petition cites a national survey of 1127 Canadians performed in July 2007 for PIAC, with a margin of error ±3.2%, 19 times our of 20, which shows that 75% of respondents agree “50 cents is too much for a local payphone call.”

The CRTC allowed the 100% price increase as part of a larger decision on local telephone rates in which the phone companies refused to reveal publicly the costs and revenues from their payphone services. “The CRTC seems to have focused completely on the phone companies view of payphones as just another market,” noted John Lawford, counsel for PIAC. “It’s not. Payphones are a lifeline for Canadians and especially low-income Canadians who don’t have a home phone. They are the least able to afford an increase and here the CRTC has let phone companies double their rates overnight. It was ill-considered and we are asking the government to step in and say that is unfair.”

The CRTC justified its decision to raise rates because of fear phone companies would remove “unprofitable” payphones. “The CRTC agrees with phone companies which consider it justified to ask for more money from poorer Canadians than anyone else to pay for payphones,” notes Charles Tanguay of Union des consommateurs, “but they did not even require the companies to maintain the payphones they do have in exchange.

The CRTC is effectively placing the entire cost of payphones – an important part of the entire telephone and a social service –upon the backs of payphone users alone, notes Michael Janigan, General Counsel for PIAC and counsel for NAPO. “As we note in the petition, payphones are part of the entire telephone network, so some support for their costs should come from general residential and business rates.”

The National Anti-Poverty Organization (NAPO), is a national non-profit, non-partisan organization that represents the interests of low-income people in Canada

PIAC is a non-profit organization that provides legal and research services on behalf of consumer interests, and, in particular, vulnerable consumer interests, concerning the provision of important public services.

Union des consommateurs is a non-profit organization. Its mission is to promote and defend consumer rights, with particular emphasis on the interests of low-income households.

For more information:

John Lawford
Counsel
Public Interest Advocacy Centre
ONE Nicholas Street, Suite 1204
Ottawa, Ontario
K1N 7B7
(613) 562-4002×25 (office)
(613) 447-8125 (mobile)
(613) 562-0007 (fax)
jlawford@piac.ca

Charles Tanguay
Dir.-adjoint – Responsable des communications
UNION DES CONSOMMATEURS
6226, rue Saint-Hubert
Montréal (Qué.)
H2S 2M2
Tél.: 514 521-6820 poste 257
Cel.: 514 743-0419
Télécopieur: 514 521-0736
Tanguay@consommateur.qc.ca
skype: chucktanguay

http://consommateur.qc.ca/union

If you would like to complain directly to the CRTC about this rate increase:

Send a letter to the Secretary General, CRTC, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N2 or to the nearest CRTC office; or
Fax a letter to (819) 994-0218; or
Use the CRTC’s complaints and inquiries on-line form or
Call the CRTC’s toll free telephone number at 1-877-249-2782*.

*You may be asked to put your complaint in writing to ensure that the CRTC has all the information it needs to pursue your complaint.

A copy of the petition is online at:

 

thumb_pdfDownload File: piac_payphone_cabinet_petition.pdf [size: 0.29 mb]

A copy of the Report by Union des consommateurs: Payphone Use Among Low Income Canadians is here:

 

thumb_pdfPayphone Use Among Low Income Canadians
Download File: ucreportpayphfinal.pdf [size: 0.13 mb]

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