The CRTC has announced that subscribers may cancel their service at any time without giving a 30-day notice.

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Fed up with your cable company, Internet service provider, or provider of your land line? Good news, you can now drop them at will.

The telecom watchdog handed a welcome victory to consumers, today. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has announced that, starting next January, you can cancel your home phone, Internet, or broadcast service at any time.

This puts an end to the frustration consumers have faced for years in which you were told you had to give 30 days’ notice before you could leave a provider.

As the DiversityCanada Foundation and the National Pensioners Federation (DiversityCanada/NPF) argued before the CRTC, the 30-day cancellation policy was unfair to consumers. It meant you ended up having to pay both the old provider (for a service you no longer wanted), and the new one (if you switched companies within the 30 days to ensure no service interruption).

Today’s announcement by the CRTC follows its decision in June 2013 to ban the 30-day notice requirement for wireless service customers who wanted to switch providers.

That development prompted a small, regional Internet provider to request that the CRTC prohibit telecom and broadcast providers from preventing consumers of any service from cancelling at will.
During the CRTC’s deliberations on the matter, DiversityCanada/NPF pointed out to the regulator that consumers who wanted to switch often were subjected to a relentless onslaught by the customer retention department of the existing provider, during the notice period.

“It is clear that the primary purpose of the 30-day delay is to give the customer retention department time – at the consumer’s expense – to make up for the failures of the current provider’s marketing department (which hadn’t previously made a sufficiently competitive offer), or customer service or technical support departments (whose level of service may have alienated the customer),” DiversityCanada/NPF noted.

The telecom regulator listened, and has issued a good, common sense decision which should allow consumers to more freely make choices in the Canadian telecom and broadcast market.

The 30-day cancellation policy, like the prepaid wireless balance expiry policy (which prompted DiversityCanada/NPF to start campaigning on behalf of consumers) was abusive and reflected the unhealthy balance of power between service providers and their customers. We will continue to fight to ensure consumers’ voices are heard so that they receive fairer treatment from broadcast and telecom service providers.

by Celia Sankar

February 27, 2015 – Payphones still needed in Canada
By Celia Sankar – Diversity Canada

The headlines on stories about yesterday’s release of findings by the telecom regulator, the CRTC, on the role of payphones in Canada were all over the place.

While The Globe and Mail declared, “Canadians aren’t ready to cut cords with payphones just yet”, the radio station NewsTalk1010 asked, “Who uses payphones anymore?”; and the Winnipeg Free Press said, “In wireless era, CRTC sets stage for humble coin-operated phone’s orderly end”.

The National Post summed up: “Pay phones obsolete for most Canadians but still critical for remote communities and low-income people”. And the Medicine Hat News headline read, inexplicably: “When the caribou stop dropping: CRTC wants rules for payphone’s orderly demise”.

Caribou references aside, the news reports were quite clear. Payphones usage is dwindling. Whereas 50 per cent of Canadians stated they used payphones in 2004, today, that number is down to just over one third, according to CRTC (the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission).

During a fact-finding process, last year, (in which the DiversityCanada Foundation and the National Pensioners Federation filed a joint submission), the telephone companies told the regulator that they can’t afford to operate low-revenue-generating payphones. The CRTC’s announcement showed it heard them loud and clear.

As part of the fact-finding exercise, the CRTC had banned telephone companies from removing the last payphone in any community. Now, the regulator says it will lift that ban in the near future.

First, however, it wants to modify its rules so that the telcos will have to give notice to municipalities and First Nations reserves before tearing out the last payphone in their community.

This leaves the impression of an unsatisfactory state of affairs. It is certainly a good thing to ensure that the phone company cannot sneakily rip out the last payphone by making it mandatory that the telco inform the local authority and residents of its intentions. But what happens when the community does not want to lose its last payphone?

The CRTC’s announcement was silent on whose responsibility it would or should be to pay for maintaining the last payphone in communities across Canada.

The implication, however, is that the burden will be shifted onto the communities themselves.

This would mean that billion-dollar corporations will be able to cherry-pick sites where payphones would contribute to their profits, while leaving low-revenue-generating communities (particularly those that are small, rural and remote) in a lurch. Talk about a clear case of privilege without responsibility.

DiversityCanada (which is responsible for this website) and the National Pensioners Federation were among consumer interest groups that called on the CRTC to take a different tack. The approach we recommended would see Canada operate under a regime that 1) acknowledges that every person has a right to have access to telecommunications services, and that 2) recognizes that payphones are the best means of ensuring universal access to at least the most basic form of telecommunications services.

Consumer interest groups argued, and a report commissioned by the CRTC corroborated, that payphones are still required to serve the telecommunications needs of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, as well as those of all Canadians (regardless of socio-economic status) in times of distress or emergency.

Fortunately, statements by chairman Jean Pierre Blais indicate that the CRTC also heard consumer interest groups loud and clear.

“It’s certainly true that the reduction of payphone use is considerable, but I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that everybody is not using it … because there are people, more vulnerable Canadians, that still see value in it,” Blais was quoted as saying. “We’re talking here about Canadians that are more vulnerable, low-income Canadians, the homeless, maybe perhaps victims of abuse that don’t have the financial means to even have landlines or wireless phones that need to contact the government for social and medical services.”

So while yesterday’s CRTC’s release was silent on how it will be possible for communities to keep their last payphone if it is scheduled for decommissioning, there is still a chance for Canadians to tell the regulator how to get this right

According to its three-year plan, the CRTC is soon to hold a public hearing on what constitutes basic telecommunications services in Canada, and how it should be paid for.

Canada’s problems with dwindling payphone usage and disappearing devices are not unique. Other jurisdictions have dealt with the situation by mandating that telecommunications companies contribute to a fund which communities can apply to in order to pay for the maintenance of payphone service in their community.

This solution seems to strike the right balance. No telephone company would be forced to maintain service where it does not want to operate. At the same time, the highly profitable telecommunications sector as a whole would be contributing to ensuring that all communities that require payphone service have it. And the communities would be empowered to, themselves, maintain the level of telecommunications services they consider necessary.

We think it’s a win-win solution, and we’ll make sure the CRTC takes it into consideration when deciding what the words “basic telecommunications services” should mean in Canada.

November 6, 2014 – Bell Give Our Money Back
by Celia Sankar

Fed up with your cable company, Internet service provider, or provider of your land line? Good news, you can now drop them at will.

The telecom watchdog handed a welcome victory to consumers, today. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has announced that, starting next January, you can cancel your home phone, Internet, or broadcast service at any time.

This puts an end to the frustration consumers have faced for years in which you were told you had to give 30 days’ notice before you could leave a provider.

As the DiversityCanada Foundation and the National Pensioners Federation (DiversityCanada/NPF) argued before the CRTC, the 30-day cancellation policy was unfair to consumers. It meant you ended up having to pay both the old provider (for a service you no longer wanted), and the new one (if you switched companies within the 30 days to ensure no service interruption).

Today’s announcement by the CRTC follows its decision in June 2013 to ban the 30-day notice requirement for wireless service customers who wanted to switch providers.

That development prompted a small, regional Internet provider to request that the CRTC prohibit telecom and broadcast providers from preventing consumers of any service from cancelling at will.

During the CRTC’s deliberations on the matter, DiversityCanada/NPF pointed out to the regulator that consumers who wanted to switch often were subjected to a relentless onslaught by the customer retention department of the existing provider, during the notice period.

“It is clear that the primary purpose of the 30-day delay is to give the customer retention department time – at the consumer’s expense – to make up for the failures of the current provider’s marketing department (which hadn’t previously made a sufficiently competitive offer), or customer service or technical support departments (whose level of service may have alienated the customer),” DiversityCanada/NPF noted.

The telecom regulator listened, and has issued a good, common sense decision which should allow consumers to more freely make choices in the Canadian telecom and broadcast market.

The 30-day cancellation policy, like the prepaid wireless balance expiry policy (which prompted DiversityCanada/NPF to start campaigning on behalf of consumers) was abusive and reflected the unhealthy balance of power between service providers and their customers. We will continue to fight to ensure consumers’ voices are heard so that they receive fairer treatment from broadcast and telecom service providers.