In this issue:

• Cellphone rates in Canada
• Bell stung by $1.00 payphone backlash
• Airline fees, services, advertising and on-time performance
• Bell veut augmenter ses tarifs

PIAC supports wireless consumer code

In a May 4 CRTC submission the Public Interest Advocacy Centre supported a national code to protect wireless consumers. PIAC wants a code that at least meets the provincial consumer protection standards now in place or before legislatures.

Finance Minister chooses banks over bank customers

On May 1 the Minister of Finance announced plans to effectively allow Canadian banks to choose their own judge in disputes with customers. PIAC’s John Lawford said, “The Minister had to pick between consumers and banks. He chose the banks.” PIAC will continue to fight for the independent Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI).

Consumer transactions, 60 per cent of Ontario’s economy

PIAC’s Michael Janigan told the Windsor Star Ontario consumers have substantial legal protection but often lack information and resources to exercise their rights. What’s missing is adequate funding to enforce the rules and make consumers more aware. Janigan said: “You can’t have a province where you have 60 per cent of the economy based on consumer transactions and have a department with a $45-million budget that deals with consumer services.” Ellen Van Wageningen wrote for the Windsor Star on Apr. 23.

Avoiding smartphone ‘bill shock’, You can’t give all of the responsibility to the consumer

“PIAC’s John Lawford thinks a possible solution would be to institute a system where cell providers notify customers when there is suspicious activity with their account, including a sudden increase in expensive international text messages or a sudden spike in data usage. He said, “I just think at a certain level, you can’t give all of the responsibility to the consumer,” CBC News reported on Apr 17, 2012.

Ontario promises legislation to make wireless contracts for cellphones clearer

“PIAC welcomed the Ontario legislation to control what it called “unfriendly practices” in the cellphone industry, noting that Quebec and Manitoba are also taking action. PIAC’s Michael Janigan said: “We want a thriving rivalry in the wireless market, not one where customers are locked into plans and contracts that no longer serve their needs and are one-sided in favour of the provider,” Keith Leslie reported for the Canadian Press on April 12.

Bell’s $2.80 touch-tone fee, Roll it into the basic rate

“Why does Bell charge $2.80 a month for touch tone service on customers’ home phone bills? … Push button dialing became commercially available 40 years ago and is now the standard. Without a touch-tone phone, you can’t carry on business with the world. … Bell should roll the touch-tone fees into its basic rate, says John Lawford, a lawyer with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Ottawa. He believes that only charges required by government should be broken out on clients’ bills,” Ellen Roseman wrote for the Toronto Star on Apr. 10.

Adding wireless competition, A hell of a job

The Calgary Herald “favour(s) more competition over regulation, but recognize the difficulties of opening the market in a country as large as Canada, but with a relatively small population. Ottawa-based consumer group Public Interest Advocacy Centre … points to the European Union model of regulation. … Roaming charges will be cut to 90 euro-cents per megabyte starting in July. (PIAC’s John) Lawford believes competition, in theory, would bring down the prices in the long run, but points out the reality: “Getting even one new player into the market, in Canada, is a hell of a job,” the Calgary Herald reported on Apr. 7.

Airline fees, services, advertising and on-time performance

In testimony to the Senate Public Interest Advocacy Centre outlined basic problems with the way Canadian airlines do business. Michael Janigan said the industry is constantly changing the terms and conditions of fares, advertised prices are misleading and smaller cities are not well-served. He said there is no financial monitoring of the airlines. When an airline goes bankrupt there is no guarantee that pre-paid ticket holders will be reimbursed. Janigan called for “an Airline Users Council to fight for consumers in his Apr. 3 testimony to the Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications.

Bell veut augmenter ses tarifs dans les téléphones payants

Bell a demandé au Conseil de la radiodiffusion et des télécommunications canadiennes (CRTC) d’approuver l’augmentation du tarif de ses téléphones de 100 %. Le prix à payer pour un appel local passerait de 50 cents à 1 dollar. Un appel local, fait avec une carte (et non pas de la monnaie), coûterait maintenant 2 dollars, au lieu de 1 dollar. Les associations de protection de consommateurs, comme le Centre pour la défense de l’intérêt public et le Canada sans pauvreté, dénoncent cette mesure. Elles croient que cela va nuire grandement à l’utilisation des téléphones publics, tout en empêchant les entreprises de télécommunications d’offrir ce service à un prix raisonnable» Branchez-vous a rapporté le 2 avril 2012.

Bell payphone rate hike proposal under fire

On April 1 the Globe and Mail reported “Bell Canada and Bell Aliant Inc. are jointly asking the (CRTC) to approve payphone price increases of up to 100 per cent. …. Consumer groups, including the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, and Canada Without Poverty, say the price increases would “destroy” payphone use and enable the companies to wriggle out of their obligations to provide the service,” Rita Trichur reported for the Globe and Mail on Apr. 1.

New fund supports presenters at CRTC broadcasting hearings

“When BCE purchased CTVglobemedia in 2011, it committed $3 million to create the Canadian Broadcasting Participation Fund. The company subsequently presented a proposal to the CRTC. … CRTC approval for the Fund is subject to the requirement that BCE Inc. and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (jointly, BCE and PIAC) file signed and dated executed copies of the requested documents as well as the agreements amended according to Commission’s directions set out in the appendix to this document within 30 days of this regulatory policy,” Mediacaster reported on March 27.