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The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) today welcomed a decision by the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission ordering incumbent local telephone companies to halt the practice of disconnecting customers from their local telephone service when the customers do not pay their total bill for all telephone services received. In the past, for example, a customer of Bell Canada obtaining both long distance and local service from Bell Canada could have been disconnected from local service if the total telephone bill for both local and long distance service was not paid. Now, customers can maintain their local telephone service, even if their toll (long distance) service is discontinued, if they pay enough to cover the cost of the local service. In a decision released yesterday by the CRTC (CRTC 2004-31), the Commission ruled that local telephone companies, which include such companies as Bell Canada, Telus, Aliant, MTS, NWTel and SaskTel, cannot disconnect or threaten to disconnect for non payment when the customer has made sufficient partial payment to cover the outstanding arrears from the local telephone charge portion of the bill.
PIAC brought the matter before the Commission and filed written argument on behalf of several Canadian consumer and anti-poverty groups. Michael Janigan, Executive Director and General Counsel of PIAC noted:
Sometimes a family member or friend runs up charges for long distance or other non-essential telephone services that threaten the ability of the family to keep its local telephone service. This decision does not wipe out that debt but simply prevents such an occurrence from potentially cutting off families from telephone service.
Janigan added that it makes no sense, now that telephone services have been unbundled, to allow disconnection of one service for failure to pay on another.
The CRTC decision comes two years after PIAC raised the initial complaint with the Commission in a CRTC committee in April 2002.
For further information contact
Michael Janigan (613)-562-4002 ext. 26
Executive Director/General Counsel (613)-562-0007 fax