The Senate Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce has spent the past month and a half actively engaged in a detailed study of the regulatory framework for open banking. The study has included government officials, representatives from Australia and the UK, and Canadian banking stakeholders. I appeared before the committee yesterday as a single person panel, spending a full hour discussing a wide range of policy concerns. My core message was that the committee debate over whether Canada should have open banking missed the bigger issue that millions of Canadians already use open banking type services despite the friction in making their data easily portable to third party providers. I recommended several reforms in response, including stronger privacy laws, mandated data portability with informed consumer consent, and consumer protection safeguards that recognizing the likely blurring between incumbent banks and third party providers.
Post Tagged with: "consumer protection"
Open Banking Is Already Here: My Appearance Before the Senate Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce
The Canadian wireless sector was hit by a shock yesterday as the three major new entrants – Wind Mobile, Public Mobile, and Mobilicity – announced that they were withdrawing from the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association. The companies argued that the CWTA has shown consistent bias in favour of Bell, Telus, and Rogers, the three incumbent providers. All three used strong language to emphasize their frustration with the CWTA, speaking of a “blatant disregard” for new entrants and failures to honour promises of fair representation.
The move is a major blow to the CWTA, which has long promoted itself as the voice of the industry. For example, during the recent CRTC consumer wireless code hearing, it opened by stating:
CWTA represents virtually all of the major companies in Canada’s wireless telecommunications ecosystem. Our members include wireless service providers, handset manufacturers, builders of network, infrastructure and numerous other companies that develop and produce products and services for the industry and for consumers.
No longer. So why the change?
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes the decision to embark on a national, enforceable code of conduct for wireless services supported by the wireless carriers represents a dramatic policy shift that was scarcely imaginable only a few years. Indeed, when then-Industry Minister Maxime Bernier pushed through a policy direction to the CRTC in 2006 aimed at limiting regulation by calling for “greater reliance on market forces”, consumer-focused regulations were viewed as an impossibility. Consistent with the market-led approach, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association introduced a voluntary code of conduct in 2009 with no expectation of government regulation.
The move toward new regulations provides a valuable lesson on the role that the provinces can play to jumpstart otherwise stagnating issues. In the case of wireless services, the introduction of provincial consumer protections geared specifically toward the wireless sector ultimately encouraged the carriers to drop their opposition to new regulation as they recognized that a uniform federal policy was preferable to the emerging piecemeal provincial framework.
The Ontario Government has announced plans to introduce new consumer protection legislation to increase transparency on wireless plans and to establish some contractual limitations. The wireless industry has indicated it would prefer a national code of practice. I wrote about the issue last year during the provincial election campaign.
The Manitoba government is expected to introduce new legislation today to regulate consumer cellphone contracts. The bill follows a consultation on the issue last year.