Interprovincial trade and the consumer interest: New report

(PIAC 20/08/09) Next week PIAC will release “The Consumer Perspective of Trade & Commerce Powers”, a report that examines the use of federal trade and commerce powers to regulate interprovincial trade and the consumer interest in interprovincial trade.
In recent years, there have been increasing political efforts to eliminate barriers to interprovincial trade through interprovincial agreements. The focus of these agreements on eliminating interprovincial trade barriers and trade dispute resolution come at the expense of the consumer interest.
“Efforts must focus on laying down proper foundations in the market for effective competition policy in Canada,” said Janet Lo, Legal Counsel for PIAC. “Competition benefits consumers and consumers are best served when the focus of trade agreements works to improve competition in Canadian markets, not simply the removal of interprovincial trade barriers.”

Commission for Complaints for Telecommunications Services

(PIAC 20/08/09) ”’I get calls from members of Parliament about resolving telecommunications issues, and they’re unaware of the CCTS,’ says Michael Janigan, executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre,” CBC News reported on Aug. 14.
The Commission was established in July 2007 to help consumers with internet and cellphone complaints. It is only now starting a publicity campaign which will include a long-standing, low-cost PIAC suggestion—printing the Commission’s contact information on customers bills.
The CBC report says CCTS director Howard Maker blames the difficulty in finding consensus between its members—which include Bell, Rogers, Telus, MTS Allstream, Shaw, Videotron and EastLink—for the long delay.
CBC’s Peter Nowak reported: ”’Janigan says it is obvious the CRTC will have to extend the mandatory membership period next year, given how long it has taken for the CCTS to get fully up and running. “It’s in no position to judge the effectiveness of popularity of it with consumers until there’s been a chance to publicize it.’”
Canadian cell phone rates among world’s worst
(PIAC 20/08/09) An OECD report released Aug. 11 suggests Canadians pay some of the highest cell phone rates in the industrialized world. Canada ranks third most expensive at 500 dollars a year followed by Spain at 508 dollars and the United States at 635 dollars, CBC National News reported.
“There’s not enough competition in the wireless market. The players, the three top players are fat and happy, and there’s very little reason for them to compete aggressively for market share,” PIAC’s Michael Janigan told CBC’s Ron Charles.

Bell-Telus: la «probable» fusion soulève des craintes

(PIAC 20/08/09) « Le spectre d’une fusion entre Bell et Telus est revenu à l’avant-scène hier, ce qui soulève des inquiétudes à Option consommateurs » La Presse a rapporté le 13 août.
« Michel Arnold, directeur général de l’organisme Option consommateurs, craint que ce soient les clients qui paient le prix d’un tel mariage. De leur poche. « Toute fusion de compagnies met en péril la concurrence qui pourrait être au bénéfice des consommateurs », a-t-il fait valoir à La Presse Affaires. »
« Michel Arnold est loin d’être convaincu que l’arrivée de nouveaux fournisseurs dans le sans-fil contrebalancera le poids immense qu’auraient ensemble Bell et Telus, » Maxime Bergeron a rapporté.

CTV urges CRTC to put brakes on TV costs

(PIAC 20/08/09) CTV posted a message on its “Save Local TV” website urging regulators to put the brakes on cable and satellite companies including Rogers and Bell, who recently announced prices will be going up 1.5 per cent on Sept. 1, CBC News reported on Aug. 12.
“Consumer groups support CTV’s position and say the competition the CRTC hoped for has not emerged. In most cases, customers have two providers to choose from at best and in many cases they have only one.
“We would like the CRTC to wake up and realize they have deregulated a monopoly,” said Michael Janigan, executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre. “The chickens have come home to roost. No realistic competition exists. At most, it’s a duopoly and it’s certainly a fat and happy duopoly.”
“PIAC’s Janigan said it’s unfortunate that consumers are getting stuck in the middle of a blame-game triangle and hopes the three sides can come together and hammer out a better arrangement when the LPIF (Local Program Improvement Fund) is re-examined by the CRTC in the fall.
CBC News reported Janigan said: “The way this is being conducted is with the assumption that the only pot available for contribution is from the consumer.”

Copyright Consultation: Lawful Access creeping in

(PIAC 20/08/09) The copyright consultation roundtables have now passed the midway point with four issues dominating—fair dealing, WIPO Internet treaties, fees to compensate online copying and the role of intermediaries, Michael Geist reported on Aug. 13
Geist highlighted the basic message of the 64 organizations which have presented so far including the BC Library Association, Writers Guild of Canada, Canadian Association of Broadcasters, Canadian Film and Television Production Association, Shaw Communications, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Microsoft Canada.
Geist wrote PIAC’s John Lawford stressed: “Danger of anti-circumvention without link to copyright infringement, legalize time and format shifting, favour notice-and-notice, concerned about Lawful Access creeping into copyright.”

Merchant Processing Fees: Safeguards needed

(PIAC 20/08/09) PIAC is supporting efforts to take on the banks over escalating credit card merchant processing fees.
“We have great difficulty reconciling the increase in costs faced by (Canadian travel agencies) with the risks associated with the extension of credit or the costs associated,” Michael Janigan, wrote in a letter to the Presidents of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses and the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies.
“PIAC has, in the past, taken issue with the level of competition and lack of a level playing field in the financial services market. We believe that these problems are particularly acute in relation to the terms upon which merchants must accept credit cards from the issuing banks. There would appear to be a necessity to implement safeguards to ensure reasonable terms and conditions between stakeholder,” Janigan wrote on Aug. 7.

Option consommateurs: la surtaxe de carburant

(PIAC 20/08/09) « Option consommateurs s’est joint à la requête pour autorisation d’exercer un recours collectif contre deux transporteurs aériens qui ont admis avoir fixé le prix de la surtaxe de carburant, British Airways et Virgin Atlantic Airways, » la Presse Canadienne a rapporté le 4 août.
« En mai 2004, ces transporteurs ont introduit une nouvelle composante à leurs tarifs pour le transport de passagers: la surtaxe de carburant. Ils prétendaient réagir ainsi aux augmentations de leurs coûts de carburant.
Les deux transporteurs se seraient consultés plusieurs fois afin de fixer le prix de la surtaxe de carburant, entre août 2004 et février 2006. Option consommateurs écrit que le prix de la surtaxe est passé d’environ 6 $ en août 2004 à 60 $ en février 2006.
« Option consommateurs estime que le cartel mis en place par les deux transporteurs a eu pour effet de gonfler artificiellement le prix des billets achetés par les membres du recours. prix de base des billets, » la Presse Canadienne a rapporté.