Tuesday 8 May 2012

CRTC Consultation on the Cellular Sector - Part II

The period for submission of interventions in the CRTC Consultation on Competition in the Wireless Sector announced on 04 April 2012 closed on 03 May 2012. After an initial burst of activity, inputs slowed down for a while and then picked up again when the corporate entities weighed in near the end of the window.

As of 07 May, 272 line items or interventions are listed on the CRTC site. Line item #226 identifies approximately 706 form letters in support of CRTC action to regulate or otherwise control the Mobile (wireless) industry. The source of the form letter is at a site run by Open Media and reads:

“I support the development of minimum national standards to protect wireless customers.

I find there to be a lack of competition in the wireless sector as “three large companies currently control about 94% of the market” and in the absence of sufficient competition we need clear rules to protect Canadians.

I believe the CRTC should protect Canadians when they enter into wireless contracts from unfair practices, such as lack of clarity, abusive fees, and changes without our consent.

I suggest that the CRTC build upon frame works in the provinces of Quebec and Manitoba, as well as on the framework proposed in Private Members Bill 133 in Ontario, in creating these rules. Most importantly, the CRTC must listen to the voices of people in communities across Canada who want more customer control and independent cell phone options.”

Most of the non-form letter interventions expressed the same feelings in different words.

Other areas of concern were, in no particular order:

  1. Three year contracts should be banned and the related issue of cancellation charges and contract changes;
  2. Interveners often mentioned they considered the price structure exorbitant and gouging:
  3. The need to control roaming costs and/or create a nationwide coverage plan;
  4. Numerous comments on various aspects of network locked cell phones and data units;
  5. The word “collusion” was often used when referring to the incumbent carriers and the perceived lack of true market driven competition;
  6. Poor customer service at all levels from the retailer to technical support;
  7. The Canadian market should be opened to foreign investors and operators. (This was generally perceived as the panacea for all the problems.)

I also noticed the following general areas:

  1. References to Bell and Rogers far exceeded the other vendors. This was even the case when the intervenor lived an area where another vendor was the dominant service provider.
  2. Only about six comments from Northern Ontario were posted to the site and these mainly concerned the high cost of service and/or the lack of service away from the main highway corridors.

Corporate responses were submitted by:

Carrier Corporations


Bell Canada CCTS – Comm for Complaints for Telecom Services
Bragg Communications (Eastlink) CEP - Communications, Energy and, Paperworkers Union
Data & Audio-Visual Enterprises (Mobilicity) Consumer Protection BC
GlobeAlive (Wind) CWTA - Canadian Wireless Telecom Association
MTS Allstream Manitoba Government
Public Mobile Ministry of Culture Quebec
QuĂ©becor  (VidĂ©otron) NWT Government
Rogers PIAC - Public Interest Advocacy Centre

With the notable exception of SaskTel who was against CRTC intervention for any reason, the majority of the intervenors favoured the creation of some sort of national wireless services consumer code. This was somewhat like a negative option as the main reason cited for the need of a nationwide code was the recent activity by individual provinces to create their consumer protection legislation. The carriers felt the ultimate outcome of this approach could be a hodgepodge of up to 13 different standards throughout the country.

The Data & Audio-Visual Enterprises (Mobilicity) submission included an excellent table which compared all the provincial regulations and selected the best features of each to create the ideal legislation.

When it came to the issue of forbearance (no regulations concerning price) it should be no surprise that the incumbent vendors saw no need for CRTC intervention. Likewise it should be no surprise that the private and “Others” generally supported a regulatory process.

It would appear the battle lines are drawn on this issue.

The next step in this process takes place on 14 May 2012 which is the deadline for submissions of submissions of reply comments to all other parties that are formal intervenors.

1 comment:

  1. Reading the CWTA submission (May 3rd) this particular assertion made me scratch my head:

    "If no wireless contract regulation existed at the provincial level anywhere in Canada, there would be no need for CRTC intervention."

    That's a laugh. If no wireless contract regulation existed at the provincial level anywhere in Canada, there would be an even GREATER need for CRTC intervention, in the midst of an avalanche of consumer complaints. The provinces were doing something precisely because the CRTC was doing nothing.