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CRTC Proceeding on Telecom Consumer Bill of Rights – Initial proposed Bill of Rights

TELECOMMUNICATIONS CONSUMER BILL OF RIGHTS

Application

This Bill of Rights applies to all regulated telecommunication services offered by [insert name of ILEC] on a retail basis. Regulated services include basic local wireline service, optional local services, payphone service, and non-discounted long distance rates. Regulated services do not include discounted long distance rates, wireless service or Internet service. Call [insert name of ILEC] if you are uncertain whether a service is covered by this Bill of Rights.

The term “consumers” includes residential and business service subscribers. It also includes non-subscribers seeking to obtain service or using telecommunications services subscribed to by others.

ACCESS TO SERVICE

1. Consumers have the right to reasonable access to basic telephone service.

Telephone companies must provide basic telephone service to consumers unless the applicant for service:

a) owes the company money,

b) is a credit risk and does not provide a reasonable deposit (no more than three months estimated charges), or

c) does not pay their share of construction costs ($1,000 + any costs exceeding $25,000) where facilities do not already exist.

Basic telephone service includes:

  • individual line, touch tone service with the capability to connect to the Internet at local rates (except where facilities do not yet exist)
  • free access to emergency services (911)
  • access to operator and directory assistance services
  • a free local print directory (white pages + Yellow Pages)
  • free local calling within a defined area that includes the subscriber’s local community
  • access to long distance service, or local-only service (as requested)
  • access to local (or toll-free) Internet service
  • access to enhanced local calling features (e.g., voicemail, Call Display, Call Waiting)
  • blocking of pay-per-use features and/or 900 services (upon request)
  • free access to Message Relay Service (for deaf users)

For more detail, refer to sections [insert section numbers] of the General Terms of Service located at page [insert page number] of these white pages.

2. Consumers have the right to choice among services and service providers.

All services other than basic service as defined above are optional. Consumers have the right to subscribe to some, all, or no optional services.

Consumers also have the right to subscribe to different service providers for local, long distance, wireless and/or Internet service, where alternative providers of such service(s) offer service. A consumer could, for example, use a different provider for each of these services.

Consumers who switch local service providers within a local area have the right to keep their existing telephone number, except in locations where number portability has not yet been implemented.

3. Consumers have the right not to be disconnected except as specifically permitted by regulation.

Consumers cannot be disconnected if:

a) they agree to a reasonable deferred payment plan, and honour that agreement; or if

b) there is a dispute regarding the grounds for disconnection, the consumer pays all undisputed amounts, and there is no reason to believe that the purpose of the dispute is to avoid payment.

Consumers cannot be disconnected for failure to pay charges for a different class of service at different premises, or for service in the name of another consumer.

Consumers cannot be disconnected from local service for non-payment of long distance, 900 service, or other non-local charges. [pending – see Telecom Public Notice CRTC 2002-2]

Prior to disconnection, the telephone company must provide the consumer with reasonable advance notice. Such notice must include the scheduled disconnection date, the reason for disconnection, and all applicable charges.

The telephone company must restore service, without undue delay, once the grounds for disconnection no longer exist or once a payment agreement has been negotiated.

For more detail, refer to sections [insert section numbers] of the General Terms of Service located at page [insert page number] of these white pages.

PRIVACY

4. Consumers have the right to privacy of their personal information.

Consumers have the right not to have their name, address or telephone number published in the telephone directory (print or online). Charges for unlisted service must not exceed $2/month.

Consumers have the right to block, at no charge, the display of their name or number on a called party’s telephone. Consumers requiring special protection, such as shelters for victims of abuse, have the right to automatic blocking of such information display, at no charge. Call display blocking must be applied automatically to all unlisted service consumers. [Privacy Commissioner, Finding #172, April 28, 2003]

Consumer information other than name, address and listed telephone number is confidential and shall not, without the consumer’s express consent, either in writing, orally or electronically, be disclosed by the company to anyone other than:

  • the consumer;
  • a person who, in the reasonable judgement of the company, is seeking the information as an agent of the consumer;
  • another telephone company, provided the information is required for the efficient and cost-effective provision of telephone service and disclosure is made on a confidential basis with the information to be used only for that purpose;
  • a company involved in supplying the consumer with telephone or telephone directory related services, provided the information is required for that purpose and disclosure is made on a confidential basis with the information to be used only for that purpose; or
  • an agent retained by the company in the collection of the consumer’s account, provided the information is required for and is to be used only for that purpose.

Telephone companies are also subject to the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (“Act”), which gives consumers rights to control the use and dissemination of their personal information. “Personal information” means any information about an identifiable individual. In particular, this Act requires the knowledge and consent of individuals to the collection, use or disclosure of their personal information, except in specified circumstances. One exception is “publicly available” information, which includes information listed in telephone directories. The Act also gives consumers the right to access information about them held by the company, and to have inaccurate information corrected.

For further information, see http://www.privcom.gc.ca/legislation/02_06_01_e.asp or http://www.privcom.gc.ca/information/02_05_d_08_e.asp.

For more detail, refer to sections [insert section numbers] of the General Terms of Service located at page [insert page number] of these white pages.

5. Consumers have the right to block unsolicited telemarketing calls.

Telemarketers must identify themselves, and must display a telephone number at which they can be reached.

Telemarketers must cease unsolicited marketing calls (by telephone or fax) upon request. If the calls do not stop or the telemarketing company cannot be contacted, the telephone company or the CRTC can assist.

Consumers can have their telephone numbers removed from marketing lists or have their names removed from any directories made available by the telephone company to publishers of independent or electronic directories.

Automatic dialing and announcing devices are prohibited except where there is no attempt to solicit (e.g., emergency announcements, scheduling appointments, market research).

Unsolicited faxes are permitted only between the hours of 9:00am and 9:30 pm on weekdays, and 10:00am to 6:00pm weekends and holidays.

For more information on telemarketing rules, see http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/INFO_SHT/T22.htm.

6. Consumers have the right to privacy of their telephone communications.

It is a criminal offence to intercept telephone communications between two other parties, without authorization or consent.

7. Consumers have the right to control access to their premises.

Before entering a consumer’s premises, the telephone company must obtain permission. The telephone company cannot enter a consumer’s home outside normal working hours unless it is an emergency or there is a court order. The company representative must show proper ID upon request by the consumer.

For more detail, refer to sections [insert section numbers] of the General Terms of Service located at page [insert page number] of these white pages.

PAYMENT

8. Consumers have the right to pay telephone bills by any reasonable means.

This includes payment by cheque, major credit card, or cash.

9. Consumers have the right to pay up-front charges of $45 or more by instalment.

Interest rates may apply.

10. Security deposits earn interest, and must be refunded with interest to the consumer when service is terminated or when the conditions justifying the deposit no longer exist.

Such refunds may be applied against amounts owing by the consumer.

For more information on security deposit rules, refer to sections [insert section numbers] of the General Terms of Service located at page [insert page number] of these white pages.

11. Consumers have the right to a reasonable payment period before late payment charges apply.

Charges cannot be considered past due until at least 30 days after the date that the bill was mailed or otherwise sent to the consumer.

For more detail, refer to sections [insert section numbers] of the General Terms of Service located at page [insert page number] of these white pages.

CONSUMER RELATIONS AND REMEDIES

12. Consumers have the right to an effective complaints and dispute resolution process.

Consumers are entitled to have their complaints heard and dealt with in a timely and effective manner.

Consumers have the right to:

  • speak with management or supervisors upon request;
  • full and accurate information regarding rules relevant to an inquiry or complaint;
  • be referred to the CRTC once it is clear that the matter cannot be resolved internally to the consumer’s satisfaction.

Full information regarding the complaint procedure (including toll-free number, physical address, fax number and other contact information for the CRTC) should be easily accessible and understandable, in both the telephone directory and on the company website.

For information on [ILEC name’s] complaints process, refer to sections [insert section numbers] of the General Terms of Service located at page [insert page number] of these white pages.

13. Consumers have a limited right to redress when they have been wronged by the telephone company.

Consumers have the right to reimbursement of overbilled charges, where they dispute the charge within one year of the date of an itemized statement showing the correct charge.

In the case of directory errors or omissions, or service problems, the telephone company’s liability is limited, in general, to a refund of applicable charges. The telephone company’s liability is not, however, limited in cases of deliberate fault or gross negligence.

For more information on consumer rights to redress, refer to sections [insert section numbers] of the General Terms of Service located at page [insert page number] of these white pages.

CONSUMER INFORMATION

14. Consumers have the right to full and accurate information.

Consumers have the right to full information about all rates, terms and conditions of telephone services available to them. Such information must be generally accessible to consumers, and provided to individuals upon request. All relevant information must be provided to individual consumers prior to entering into a contract for service.

Company policies regarding such matters as consumer privacy and complaints handling must be easily accessible, in both the print directory and on the company’s website. Company representatives must be able to provide consumers with such information over the phone.

All information designed for consumers should be in plain language.

All bill statements, invoices and notices must include a telephone number at which a knowledgeable company representative can be reached.

For further information, see www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/INFO_SHT/t1007.htm and www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/INFO_SHT/t1008.htm

15. Consumers have the right to detailed, itemized information regarding equipment and service charges.

Consumers have the right to know, on an ongoing basis, what services they have subscribed to, which services are optional, and how much they are paying for each service. This information must be provided on each monthly bill, as well as initially and upon request.

16. Consumers have the right to reasonable advance notice of rate increases and other important service changes.

Consumers are entitled to at least 30 days advance notice of rate increases or other significant changes to their service.

17. Consumers have the right to paper bills at no extra cost.

Where online or other forms of billing are offered, they are optional. Consumers always have the right to monthly billing by mail, at no extra cost

18. Consumers have the right to be informed about current telecommunications fraud and scams, and about how to avoid them.

Telephone companies should inform users about risks arising from known scams and frauds affecting their networks and/or billing, and about how such risks can be minimized.

OTHER

19. Consumers are entitled to have disputed 900 service charges waived the first time that they dispute such charges.

When consumers dispute 900 service charges, the telephone company must offer blocking of such services to the consumer. Such blocking is free of charge, other than a maximum $10 one-time charge.

For further information, see www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/INFO_SHT/t1001.htm

20. Consumers have the right to quality of service.

Telephone companies are held to specific quality of service standards by the CRTC. These standards cover such matters as delay in answering calls to the business office, time taken to connect service and to repair broken service, and directory accuracy. Where companies fail to meet these service standards on a generalized basis, they may be required to rebate consumers.

21. Consumers have the right to participate in the regulatory process.

Consumers have the right to be involved in the regulatory process. Information is contained on the Commission’s website in that regard, including information on upcoming proceedings and how to participate.

For further information, see www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/publicpar_1.htm

22. Telephone companies must accommodate consumers with visual or hearing disabilities.

Consumers with hearing or visual disabilities have all of the rights listed above, and must be accommodated in accordance with human rights law (i.e., to the point of undue burden).

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