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Groups call on CRTC to help create consumer-run telecom watchdog group using low-cost innovative method that has worked in U.S.

Changing the rules and enforcement powers won’t stop gouging and abuse by telecom companies – empowering consumer with their own watchdog group will

CRTC can work with federal government to create group – telecom companies would be required to send notices to customers inviting them to join group

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

OTTAWA – Today, as the CRTC holds its week-long hearings and hears hundreds of stories about abusive sales practices and gouging by Canada’s large telecommunications companies, Democracy Watch and more than 30 other citizen and consumer groups called on the CRTC to work with the federal government to create a broad-based, well-resourced, consumer-run Telecom Consumer Organization (TCO) using an innovative, low-cost, effective method that has worked in the U.S. Democracy Watch is testifying at the CRTC hearings today at about 3 pm – to listen to the hearings, click here.

The TCO could easily be created by the CRTC and the federal government at no cost, and no cost to telecom companies. Creating the TCO is the most low-cost, effective way to protect consumers and ensure companies serve everyone fairly and well at fair prices.

“Strengthening the consumer protection rules, enforcement and penalties will help a bit, but to really stop ongoing gouging and abuse by Canada’s big telecom companies the CRTC and the federal government need to create a national, consumer-run telecom watchdog group that can empower and provide free help to consumers with shopping around, complaining and suing to get good, fairly priced service from the companies,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and the Corporate Responsibility Coalition, which has 31 member groups from across Canada that all endorse the call for the creation of a TCO. “States in the U.S. have successfully used a low-cost, effective method to create consumer-run industry watchdog groups, and the CRTC and the federal government should use this method to create a telecom watchdog group for Canadians.”

“If the CRTC and the federal government don’t require telecom companies to send out email and other notices inviting their customers to join a national, consumer-run telecom industry watchdog group, they will make it clear they don’t really care about protecting consumers from gouging and abuse,” said Conacher. “Telecom consumers pay all the costs for telecom companies’ ads, lawyers, lobbyists and other advocacy efforts, and requiring the companies to help create a consumer-run telecom watchdog group is most simple, low-cost, effective thing to do to empower and educate consumers, and give them a place to call that will give them free, effective help when they are gouged or abused, and will help ensure telecom companies serve everyone fairly and well at fair prices.”

In addition to the more than 30 citizen groups in the Corporate Responsibility Coalition (see its submission to the CRTC here), the four groups in the ad hoc Fair Communications Sales Coalition (FCSC) are also testifying at today’s CRTC hearings and calling for the creation of the TCO. The FCSC is made up of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), ACORN Canada, the National Pensioners Federation, and the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP). To see the FCSC’s submission calling for the creation of the TCO, click here and download the second document.

How would the TCO be created and what would it do?

The Telecom Consumer Organization (TCO) would be created by the federal government passing a law establishing the organization (at no cost, with an interim board appointed by the government) and requiring telecom companies to send out notices by email and mail to their customers. Sending out the emails would not cost anything, and the TCO would pay for the printing costs for the pamphlet the telecom companies would mail to customers who still receive bills and notices by mail.

The notices about the TCO would describe the group and invite customers to join, with a nominal annual membership fee of $30 average. Such groups have been created in some U.S. states to watch over state utilities, with usually about 5% of consumers joining. To see more details about the TCO, click here.

The TCO would be consumer-directed, with a board elected from among its members. If only 5% of the more than 20 million individual telecom customers in Canada joined, the group would have 1 million members and a $30 million annual budget.

The TCO would provide telecom customers across Canada with free help shopping around, filing complaints, free lawyers for lawsuits to stop gouging and abuse, and would represent telecom customers in all government policy-making and regulatory processes.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca

Democracy Watch’s Questions and Answers about the Telecom Consumer Organization (TCO) and Democracy Watch’s Citizen Association Campaign