The DiversityCanada Foundation (“DiversityCanada”) and the National Pensioners Federation (the “NPF”; collectively “DiversityCanada/NPF”), today called on the federal telecom watchdog to stop Telus from forcing prepaid wireless, pay-per-use customers to acquire monthly plans.
In an application filed with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, DiversityCanada/NPF noted that on October 20, 2013, TELUS Communications Company (“Telus”) established a new policy whereby the company made it mandatory for prepaid wireless consumers who have accumulated a balance of over $300 to acquire a 30-day rate plan or a 30-day add-on. Customers who did not select a 30-day add-on were placed on a 30-day rate plan which cost $10 per month and provided 50 local minutes and 50 Canadian texts. Telus applied this policy to consumers who were customers prior to October 20, 2013.
DiversityCanada/NPF stated that even though this represented a material change to consumers’ agreement with Telus for prepaid wireless services, Telus made no effort to obtain their consent, gave them no opportunity to refuse the change, and provided no reasonable opportunity for them to annul the new agreements.
DiversityCanada/NPF submitted that Telus breached the basic contract principle whereby the consent of the contracting party is required in order to make a material change to a contract; Telus abused its unequal bargaining power and placed prepaid wireless, pay-per-use customers under duress, thus rendering any such-formed contract invalid; the duress persists, and allows no reasonable opportunity for consumers to annul the contracts for 30-day rate plans or 30-day add-ons, thus rendering any such contract void; Telus’ policy contravenes s. 27(1) of the Telecommunications Act; and Telus’ policy contravenes s. 27(2) of the Act.
DiversityCanada/NPF submitted that while some customers may welcome a switch from a pay-per-use arrangement to a monthly subscription, this cannot justify the manner in which Telus implemented this policy for all of its customers: Telus denied all prepaid customers their right to accept or refuse paying for wireless services under a monthly subscription. DiversityCanada/NPF submit that it is not in the public interest that a telecommunications carrier should be allowed to retain profits gained from unilaterally changing a consumer agreement or from placing consumers under duress to accept an agreement for services.
DiversityCanada/NPF have requesed that the Commission direct Telus to:
i. refund, with interest, all sums deducted for 30-day rate plans or 30-day add-ons under this policy from all customers who were existing prepaid wireless, pay-per-use customers prior to October 20, 2013;
ii. inform all customers who were existing prepaid wireless, pay-per-use customers prior to October 20, 2013 that, henceforth, acquiring a 30-day rate plan or a 30-day-add-on is entirely optional;
iii. inform all customers who were existing prepaid wireless, pay-per-use customers prior to October 20, 2013 that they may choose to continue to acquire wireless services under the prior arrangements.
Established in 1945 and incorporated in 1954, the NPF (formerly the National Pensioners and Senior Citizens Federation) is a non-partisan, non-sectarian organization composed of 350 seniors chapters and clubs across Canada. It has a collective membership of 1,000,000 seniors and retired workers. The mission of the NPF is to stimulate public interest in the welfare of aging Canadians and its goal is to help seniors and retirees have a life of dignity, independence and financial security. Established in 2004, DiversityCanada is a federally-registered not-for-profit organization based in Elliot Lake, Ontario. DiversityCanada works to protect the rights and promote the interests of the disadvantaged, the vulnerable, and the marginalized.