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Whether Rogers-Shaw deal is approved, consumer-run telecom watchdog group must be created using method that has worked in U.S.

Strengthening rules, enforcement and competition won’t stop gouging and abuse by telecom companies – empowering consumers with their own watchdog group will

Government would pass law to establish group and require telecom companies to send notices to customers inviting them to join group – likely 1 million would join

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch called on the federal government, whether or not the Rogers-Shaw deal is approved, 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.

During CRTC hearings in October 2018 about hundreds of stories about abusive sales practices and gouging by Canada’s large telecom companies, Democracy Watch and more than 30 citizen and consumer groups called for the creation of the TCO. The CRTC recommended the creation of the TCO in its February 2019 report (p. 37).

The TCO could easily be created by 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.

“Whether the Rogers-Shaw deal is approved, or competition increased, to really stop ongoing gouging and abuse by Canada’s big telecom companies the federal government must create a national, consumer-run telecom watchdog group that will 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 federal government should use this method to create a telecom watchdog group for Canadians.”

“If the Trudeau Liberals 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 low-cost, effective thing to do to empower and educate consumers, give them a place to call that will give them free, effective help when they are gouged or abused, and ensure telecom companies serve everyone fairly and well at fair prices.”

In October 2018, 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) also called for the creation of the TCO. The FCSC was 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 Intervention document.

How can the TCO be created and what will it do?

The Telecom Consumer Organization (TCO) can 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 1-2 times each year 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, which would create a group with 1 million members and a $30 million annual budget. To see more details about the TCO, click here.

The TCO would be consumer-directed, with a board elected from among its members.

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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Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

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