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PIAC Media Release: Consumer Bill of Rights Needs Enforcement

August 29, 2006

For immediate release

Attention: News/Business Editors

(Ottawa) The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today released its long-awaited decision on the “Consumer Bill of Rights” regarding local telephone services. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre, which represented a number of consumer groups in matters before the CRTC in the proceeding and led the call for such a document, met the announcement of the Consumer Bill of Rights today with cautious optimism.

The “Consumer Bill of Rights” is a clear and concise statement of existing telecommunications consumer rights, written in plain language. It is intended to help consumers with information regarding their local phone service that is currently either hard to find or difficult to understand. “This document will help ordinary Canadian telephone customers,” said John Lawford, Counsel for PIAC. “It will let them better understand and advocate their position when they have a dispute or other dealings with their local phone provider.”

PIAC sounded two notes of caution, however. First, the Consumer Bill of Rights won’t apply to “competitive local exchange providers” or “CLECs”, such as Rogers, Shaw or Cogeco when they offer phone service in the territory of “incumbent local exchange providers” or “ILECs” such as Bell Canada or TELUS. Second, there is no really effective enforcement mechanism paired with these rights. “To translate these rights into action or compensation, you need an telecommunications ombudsman’s office, which the Telecommunications Policy Review Panel recommended,” concluded Lawford. The Consumer Bill of Rights is available as an appendix to the Commission’s decision.

The ILECs are required by the decision to make the Consumer Bill of Rights available on their websites within a month, and must publish it with the next white pages directory. Consumers will also be able to obtain a copy from any ILEC retail outlet upon request. A reminder of the Consumer Bill of Rights and where to obtain it should be printed on consumer phone bills soon.

 

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