The Supreme Court of Canada granted the application of Consumers Council of Canada and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre for leave to intervene in Telus Communications Inc. v. Avraham Wellman in an order released August 16.
The case addresses a provision in Ontario's Arbitration Act when there are class actions involving two different types of potential claimants.
Ontario's Consumer Protection Act states that, in the case of consumers, any user agreements that call for arbitration are invalid in terms of restricting the right to be part of a legal action. For the Ontario Court of Appeal, in its decision last year, the main issue was whether business customers of Telus should be excluded because those contracts included a mandatory arbitration clause. Section 7(5) of the Arbitration Act permits a court to stay certain “matters” within an arbitration agreement.
In the Telus litigation, the proposed class affected is made up of consumers in and outside of business plans.
The Council is being represented for purposes of the intervention by Sotos LLP.
The review by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission of the structure and mandate of the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services, which provides dispute resolution for Canadian retail consumers of telecommunications and soon television services, supported many positions taken by the Consumers Council of Canada in recent hearings.
The CRTC decision prompts CCTS to:
Act more boldly to monitor and enforce dispute resolution resulting from telecommunications service providers’ conduct and promote the service CCTS can provide consumers.
Note in its annual report those service providers who don’t follow the rules by making their customers aware dispute resolution can be obtained through CCTS.
Make public its budget in its annual report, which would help the public ascertain how CCTS spends its money doing its job.
Promptly provide to the CRTC the results of a study of public awareness of CCTS that CCTS agreed to conduct.
The CRTC expanded CCTS’s mandate to include addressing complaints related to the provision of subscription television services provided by a television service provider, a step the Council has supported. All licensed TV providers must participate in CCTS by September 2017.
“By giving CCTS responsibility for resolving disputes with both television service providers and telecommunications service providers, CCTS should be able to become more efficient and better known by the public,” said Howard Deane, who represents the Council concerning issues before the CRTC.
“When CCTS gets customer problems to solve, it frequently solves them,” he said. “So, the CRTC very appropriately directed CCTS to enforce upon telecommunications service providers, and now television service providers, their obligation to inform their customers that CCTS exists to help them with their problem — in general and especially when involved in a dispute.”
The Council is one of the consumer groups nationally that nominates two persons to serve among the four ‘independent directors’ on CCTS’s board.
At the moment, the Council is conducting an online one-question survey for Canadian consumers about their awareness and/or use of CCTS’s service. Consumers can answer the question on the Council’s homepage at: http://www.consumerscouncil.com
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has prohibited all incumbent local exchange carriers from removing the last payphone in a community pending the conclusion of its fact-finding process initiated in its Telecom Notice of Consultation 2013-337 and, if required, any related follow-up process. At the core of this issue is the public interest obligations of telecommunications companies, acquired in exchange for the rights and privileges they are afforded by the people of Canada to conduct their businesses. Solutions to the problem of meeting the basic needs of some Canadians that may go unmet as a result of a decline in the size of the network of payphones need to be found.
Manufacturers and retailers of smartphones and mobile Internet devices can and should do more to keep their customers safe, research by the Consumers Council of Canada has found.
"Most consumers don't understand the risks they take and often fail to take simple, inexpensive actions to prevent the loss and exposure of their private information," Council President Aubrey LeBlanc said. "Retailers, in particular, can help consumers protect themselves better."
The Council advises consumers to do the following:
Lock the smartphone (or other mobile device) with a password.
Buy a sturdy case.
Don't connect to unfamiliar public Wi-Fi sites.
"Think before you click" on a link or an e-mail that "doesn't smell right."
Scare yourself. Pretend you've lost your smartphone. What will nosy people find? What would your parents or your kids say if they found it?
Check carefully that the device you buy will let you avoid risks you cannot accept. (e.g., How sturdy does the device need to be? Can you afford all the costs if the device is lost, stolen or broken? Are the security features easily understood?)
Focus groups of consumers who participated in the research said wireless carriers and device retailers are in a key position to help them avoid the risks of using smartphones.
The report advises that device manufacturers need to make "on" and not "off" the default setup for security features. Also, wireless carriers, manufacturers and software platform providers should distribute software updates faster and for more years of device ownership to protect against new, malicious activity.
Regulators should ensure systems get put in place that make it easy to secure and disable stolen and lost devices, so they are less attractive to thieves.
Dennis Hogarth and Howard Deane, who specialize in data governance, knowledge management, information risk management and personal data privacy, authored the report for the Council. Research House, a division of Environics, conducted focus groups for the research.
The Council received funding from Industry Canada’s Contributions Program for Non-profit Consumer and Voluntary Organizations to conduct the research. The views expressed in the report are not necessarily those of Industry Canada or the Government of Canada.
Now is consumers' opportunity to give their two cents worth to the CRTC on Bell Canada’s proposed price increase to $1 for payphone calls made with coins. That’s because the CRTC is about to decide whether to give Bell this price increase or not. The CRTC is having a written hearing on Bell’s request, and interested consumers must let the CRTC know what they think by March 30, 2012. Click here to fill out the CRTC's comment form.
Or write a letter to the CRTC at: Secretary General, CRTC, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N2
Or call the CRTC: 1-877-249-2782 (Toll-free); by toll-free TTY: 1-877-909-2782; by fax: 819-994-0218