Earlier this month, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains took his most significant policy step to date to put his stamp on the Canadian telecom sector by issuing a proposed policy direction to the CRTC based on competition, affordability, consumer interests, and innovation. To help sort through the policy direction, the state of the Canadian telecom market, the role of independent companies that rely on regulated wholesale access, and lingering frustration with the CRTC, this week’s LawBytes podcast features a conversation with Andy Kaplan-Myrth, Vice President of Regulatory and Carrier Affairs with TekSavvy, Canada’s largest independent telecom company.
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Enough is Enough: Bains Proposes CRTC Policy Direction Grounded in Competition, Affordability, and Consumer Interests
It would appear that Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains has had enough. Enough of incumbent telecom giants claiming that more competition would be bad for consumers. Enough of CRTC Chair Ian Scott dismissing consumer concerns about the state of communications services. Enough of half-measures that fail to […]
The CRTC Opens a Penske File: Chair Ian Scott Commits to Little Action Despite Finding Misleading Telecom Sales Tactics
In the fall of 2017, the CBC ran a high-profile story on high pressure sales tactics used by Canadian telecom companies, sparking a wide range of additional complaints. While Bell claimed the allegations were unfounded and untrue, the CBC followed up with a hidden camera investigation that found more misinformation from Bell sales representatives. Soon after the initial CBC story, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre wrote to CRTC Chair Ian Scott to request a public inquiry into the sales tactics. One month later, Scott rejected the request, noting “Canadians already have a variety of options available to them to seek redress depending on the nature of the issue.” The CRTC response did not sit well with the government, forcing ISED Minister Navdeep Bains to order the Commission to conduct an inquiry.
Yesterday, the CRTC issued its report to the government, where it was shocked – shocked – to find that there are misleading sales tactics being used by Canadian telecom companies that are harming consumers:
The CRTC’s low-cost data-only plan decision released yesterday was as unsurprising as it was uninspired. Under CRTC Chair Ian Scott, the Commission has abandoned any pretense of consumer focus, reverting to the days when Canadians perceived the regulator as a guardian of industry interests. The low-cost data-only decision, which is ostensibly designed to address a serious gap in affordable wireless services, will do little to solve the problem. Indeed, even the CRTC admitted that “none of the revised plans on their own would necessarily be enough to fill the gap identified by the Commission with respect to lower-cost data-only plans.” Those revised plans, which CRTC largely supported, would be laughably uncompetitive in most developed countries (as one expert noted yesterday, $30 for 1 GB is not a low cost data plan).
The continuing consumer group boycott of the CRTC’s Internet code proceeding was raised directly with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during Question Period in the House of Commons yesterday. NDP MP Brian Masse noted “the CRTC says it wants to establish a consumer Internet code of conduct, but has failed to provide sufficient time for consumer groups and the public. The result is a boycotted and broken system.” Trudeau’s responded that the government was proud of working with the CRTC and included a parting shot at the NDP, commenting on its support of a taxes on Internet usage. Regardless of the NDP position on an Internet tax (Masse says he opposes one), what is notable is that it is the CRTC that has emerged as a vocal supporter of an ISP tax. CRTC Chair Ian Scott’s decision to back an ISP tax as part of a larger scheme to regulate Internet-based services not only runs counter to Trudeau’s opposition to an Internet tax but it also points to a regulator that is increasingly anti-consumer in approach.