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Telecommunications: Consumers Need the Right Kind of Help

Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Telecommunications: Consumers Need the Right Kind of Help

OTTAWA –Canadian consumer groups today condemned a limited and hasty telecommunications industry ombudsman proposal and instead called on the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) to hold an open, public process towards creating an independent and effective telecommunications consumer protection agency.

The British Columbia Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Consumers Council of Canada, Option consommateurs, Public Interest Advocacy Centre and Union des consommateurs, called the industry’s Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS), announced yesterday by Bell Canada, Rogers, TELUS and several other telephone, wireless and Internet providers, inadequate to protect consumers in their disputes with these telecommunications giants. The limited powers and type of problems the telecommunications providers have seen fit to allow the CCTS to handle, as well as its clear lack of independence from industry severely limits the ability of such an organization to truly resolve consumer complaints in the effective and efficient manner which consumers deserve.

A recent Cabinet directive issued at the behest of the Minister of Industry, Maxime Bernier, requires the creation of an independent consumer agency, approved by the CRTC, as a counterbalance to the rapid deregulation of local telephone service and the existing deregulation of wireless and Internet services. The report of the Telecommunications Policy Review Panel (TPRP), supported by the Minister and Industry Canada, likewise recommended the creation of an independent and effective “Telecommunications Consumer Agency”. The CCTS created by industry players falls well short of providing the minimal consumer protection guarantees recommended by the TPRP, notably the power to adequately compensate consumers.

As the CRTC has already indicated its intention to hold a public proceeding to hear proposals for such an agency, the consumer groups above decry the haste with which the telecommunications providers have put in place a flawed organization which effectively serves only the interests of the industry. The consumer groups further denounce the strategy of the large telecommunications companies that, while appearing to respond to the government’s requirements for such an agency, uses the creation of the CCTS as a green light for deregulation of local telephone service while painting the CRTC and its public process into a corner. Contrary to the suggestion in the CCTS press release yesterday that consumer groups were consulted and content with the proposal, the consumer groups above clearly indicated their dissatisfaction with it and their intention to oppose the proposal, as such, before the CRTC.

As a result, the consumer groups call for the soonest possible public process to create a sanctioned telecommunications consumer protection agency and call upon the CRTC to delay the approval of local telephone service deregulation prior to the approval and implementation of such an independent and effective agency. The consumer groups recommend to consumers in the meantime to refer their complaints with telecommunications service providers to their provincial consumer protection ministries and agencies and to the CRTC.

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For more information:

Me Marie-Eve Rancourt,
Analyste politique et réglementation en matière de télécommunications,
radiodiffusion et vie privée
UNION DES CONSOMMATEURS
6226, rue Saint-Hubert
Montréal (Qué.)
H2S 2M2

Tél. : 1(514) 521-6820, poste 211
Fax : 1(514) 521-0736
Courriel: rancourt@consommateur.qc.ca
Site web: http://www.consommateur.qc.ca/union

Patricia MacDonald
Staff Lawyer
BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre

#208-1090 W Pender St
Vancouver, BC V6E 2N7
Phone: (604) 687-3063
patmac@bcpiac.com

 

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