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Public Interest News: $310 million for consumers / Hydro rate shocks / C-36 / Les cartes de crédit / SuperNet / SLAPP

The consumer advocate who took on the telecom giants and got them to pay up: Michael Janigan

(PIAC 15/September/2010) “Canadians who find a chunky phone rebate in the mail should consider giving Michael Janigan a call to say thank you. Sure, it was the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that forced the major phone carriers to pay consumers back the hundreds of millions of dollars they had overcharged over the years. But Mr. Janigan, a former Ottawa city councillor who is now the executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, has been representing consumers on the file for more than eight years,” Steve Ladurantaye wrote for the Globe and Mail on Sept. 4. PIAC worked with the Consumers Association of Canada and Canada Without Poverty to make the big phone companies pay up. The watchdog group is asking consumers to donate part of their rebates. Tax deductible donations can be made to the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

Hydro rate shocks across Ontario: PIAC represents consumers during OEB review

(PIAC 15/September/2010) “Hydro Ottawa has applied to the Ontario Energy Board to increase its rates by 1.1 per cent as of Jan. 1. Power rates rose eight per cent in May as part of a general increase, then shot up another eight per cent on July 1 with the introduction of the HST in Ontario,” CBC News reported on Sept. 7. “Steeper prices for electricity, however, put more people at risk of not being able to afford it, an Ottawa consumer advocate said. “Any time you have these kinds of percentage increases, with more on the horizon, you’re in a circumstance where there may be rate shock, which means that people fall off the system,” said Michael Janigan … Hydro Ottawa may not get approval of its rate increase within its requested time frame. The Ontario Energy Board said it could take until the spring for a decision,” CBC News reported.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre is representing the Vulnerable Energy Consumers Coalition during the OEB proceedings. The VECC is made up of the Ontario Coalition of Senior Citizens Organizations (OCSCO) and the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations (FMTA).

On August 31, 2011: Don’t leave Canadians in the dark

(PIAC 15/September/2010) On Sept. 10 a group of media watchers and researchers sent a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper calling for a public education campaign on the transition to digital television. On August 31, 2011—just under a year from now—broadcasters will start shutting down their analog TV transmitters, which may come as a rude shock to as many as 3 million Canadians who rely on them for TV service.

“The transition requires a sophisticated public awareness campaign,” says Michael Janigan, Executive Director and General Counsel of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre. “One day soon, Canadians are going to turn on their TV sets to watch the news or their favourite show, and all they’ll see is static. People need to understand what is happening to TV broadcasting where they live and they’ll need clear information, repeated over and over again.” The Canadian Association for Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS) is on the web.

Bill C-36 Consumer Product Safety Act: Let’s get it through Parliament

(PIAC 15/September/2010) “The product safety legislation has been derailed several times in the past. Option consommateurs does not want this bill to suffer the same fate. It should be passed as soon as possible,” says Anu Bose, Head of the Ottawa office of Option consommateurs. “It is an important bill for Canada and Canadians on several counts. It shows the government’s commitment to consumer protection. It will improve the health and safety of Canadians, especially children, by preventing injury from unsafe products. Better consumer safety standards will allow to Canada to increase trade with the EU and the USA,” Bose says.

Incumbent telcos argue they have no obligation to serve: Broadband access

(PIAC 15/September/2010) “The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) is challenging the incumbent Internet service providers (ISPs) that say, in the CRTC’s obligation to serve proceeding on Internet access, market forces are enough to provide universal Internet access across Canada. “They’re not going to drive [wireline] DSL or some other form of Internet out to high cost areas without being really pushed [by the CRTC],” John Lawford, counsel with PIAC, said,” Jonathan Migneault wrote for Wire Report on Sept. 7.

“Whether the CRTC should implement “obligation to serve” rules on broadband Internet providers is at the top of the commission’s proceeding to review access to basic telecommunications services. Public hearings will start in Timmins, Ont., on Oct. 26,” Migneault wrote for Wire Report. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre will represent consumers at the hearings.

Nouvelles règles pour les cartes de crédit: Option consommateurs aurait préféré …

(PIAC 15/September/2010) « “On est contents… mais on voudrait toujours plus”, a commenté Elise Thériault, conseillère juridique chez Option consommateurs. L’organisme croit que l’information sur les relevés de compte incitera les consommateurs à rembourser leurs achats plus vite. “Mais il aurait pu y avoir des mesures préventives”, dit Me Thériault, comme l’imposition d’un paiement minimal plus élevé. Elle rappelle que les émetteurs ont réduit, au fil des ans, le paiement minimum de 5%, à 3%, et même à 2% dans certains cas, » Stéphanie Grammond a écrit pour La Presse le 2 septembre.

« “Maintenant, il est impossible de faire perdre aux consommateurs le bénéfice du délai de grâce pour leurs achats futurs, parce qu’ils n’ont pas payé au complet leurs achats passés”, résume Me Thériault. … Option consommateurs aurait préféré que les émetteurs soient forcés d’attribuer 100% des paiements à la dette la plus coûteuse. “Ottawa a raté une belle occasion de mieux servir les consommateurs” » La Presse a rapporté.

Bell, Telus told to open access to independent ISPs

(PIAC 15/September/2010) On Aug. 3O the CRTC ordered Bell Canada, Bell Aliant, and Telus to give independent internet service providers open, speed-matched access to their networks. “It is a common sense decision that speaks to the need for Canadians to have more choice, better service and prices,” Michael Janigan, Executive Director and General Counsel of PIAC, said. “The Commission was careful to balance the needs of the suppliers of the facilities to recover their investment with the requirements of competition and the needs of Canadian customers. We may accordingly see some greater efforts to fracture the current broadband duopoly.” PIAC represented consumers in the wholesale high-speed access proceedings.

CRTC orders Bell, Telus and MTS to give consumers $310 million in rebates

(PIAC 15/September/2010) “We are pleased that the CRTC has shut the door on the blank check approach of Bell Canada and Telus to expanding their broadband networks,” Michael Janigan, PIAC’s Executive Director and General Counsel stated. And while $311 million to be rebated is a fraction of the $1.6 billion in excess rates that were collected in the mistaken belief that artificially high incumbent rates would increase business for local service competitors, Janigan noted that it ensures that some recognition of customer interests takes place, and that the additional telephone rates paid into the deferral accounts are not squandered on expenditures benefiting only the telephone companies that collected the excess rates,”digitalhome reported on Sept. 1.

Expansion d’Internet à large bande et remboursements

(PIAC 15/September/2010) « Le Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), un organisme sans but lucratif qui fournit des services juridiques et de recherche au bénéfice des intérêts des consommateurs, a qualifié les décisions du CRTC de « conclusion raisonnable à une aventure réglementaire défaillante » . « Nous sommes ravis que le CRTC ait fermé la porte à l’approche de “chèque en blanc” de Bell Canada et Telus quant à l’expansion de leurs réseaux à large bande, déclare Michael Janigan, le directeur du PIAC » Jean-François Ferland a rapporté pour Direction Informatique le 2 septembre.

« L’organisme estime que la somme de 311 M$ qui sera retournée aux consommateurs constitue une fraction de la somme de 1,6 G$ qui aurait été perçue en excédent par les compagnies de téléphone pour les services de téléphonie locale. Le PIAC ajoute les montants excédentaires des comptes de report « ne seront pas affectés à des dépenses qui auraient été bénéfiques seulement aux compagnies de téléphone qui ont recueilli des montants excessifs » Direction Informatique a rapporté.

Government focus on delivering SuperNet to rural Alberta

(PIAC 15/September/2010) “Governments around the world are facing intense political pressure to develop policies in support of rural broadband initiatives. The Obama administration has allocated $7.2 billion in stimulus money for broadband grants, saying fast access to the Internet is essential to bolster the American economy. In Canada, the Harper government rolled out $225 million in stimulus funding last year to extend high-speed Internet in underserved areas. And a 50-page report released last month by the non-profit Public Interest Advocacy Centre has called on Ottawa to follow the lead of Finland and Spain and make high-speed Internet a right in Canada, much like basic telephone service,“ Tamara Gignac reported for the Calgary Herald on Sept. 6.

“But despite all the attention being given to the plight of rural residents, some within the industry are skeptical the province can deliver on its goal to supply broadband to virtually every Albertan within three years,” The Herald reported.

Investment industry planning to challenge new do-no-call ruling

(PIAC 15/September/2010) “The financial industry says it plans to lobby against a recent CRTC decision that brings financial planners under the rules of the national do-not-call list said Ian Russell, president and CEO of the Investment Industry Association of Canada (IIAC). “This [decision] has happened without any notice and any opportunity to adjust to the new reality,” Jonathan Migneault wrote for Wire Report on Aug. 23.

“John Lawford, counsel with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), said he expects the financial industry to apply for a review and vary the decision,” Migneaul reported. PIAC was involved in the creation of the do-not-call list. The Centre represents consumers on the DNC oversight committee. Last December a PIAC report called for the regulation of the financial planning industry in the public interest.

PIAC Comments on Potential SLAPP legislation in Ontario

(PIAC 15/September/2010) “The Anti-SLAPP Advisory Panel requested submissions from organizations, including PIAC, and the public to assist them in successfully discussing what the potential content of Ontario legislation against strategic litigation against public participation (SLAPP) should include. PIAC has extensively studied this subject matter, evidenced by its 2004 report titled “Corporate Retaliation Against Consumers: The Status of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) in Canada”, in which PIAC provided rationale for the passage of Anti-SLAPP legislation.

 

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