Codes, consumers, competition and greedy monsters

Here are two words that get us fired up: consumer protection. Add in a bit of “CRTC” and maybe “wireless service providers” and the debate really gets going.

Over the past week, a story we wrote about wireless carriers appealing to the (CRTC) Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to create a Canada-wide wireless “code” to protect consumers seemed to rub our readers the wrong way. The motivation behind these companies’ efforts is apparently to avoid seeing provinces create their own regulations, which could be harsher for the providers. Not everyone took well to that.

Reader Dustin Hyatt, for example, suggested that the CRTC was in the pocket of the telcos and uninterested in helping ordinary Canadians.

“The CRTC doesn’t do anything for consumers, but screw them. I hope the provinces adopt consumer protection laws to help consumers, not the big three’s bottom line…. like the CRTC usually does!”

Telmeastory also scoffed at the idea of Rogers Communications Inc. advocating on behalf of its customers:
“Rogers? The champions of consumer protection? Haw haw haw!”

Meanwhile, JR Smithman complained that whenever the CRTC gets involved in supposed consumer protection schemes, the opposite effect occurs. He called on the CRTC to stop taking advice from corporations, and told Rogers to back off:

“If Rogers is pushing for this then this could only be saving (making!) more money for them and their ilk. The consumer always gets ‘shafted’ when the CRTC listens to these corporate greedy monsters and comes up with a plan that ‘helps’ the consumer.

“This kind of help we can do without. Leave it be and deal with things the way they are, Rogers.”

Readers weren’t necessarily opposed to a national policy, however. But one argued that the CRTC shouldn’t oversee it. Commenter A-Man felt that the organization’s track record should disqualify it:

“It’s so much cheaper to only peddle influence to one group … But seriously, it should be a national policy, but the CRTC’s history of siding with Bell and Rogers should eliminate them as the group to draft the rules. Form an independent panel.”

Others offered specific suggestions for what a nation-wide wireless code could look like. InfinitiGuy pointed to long-term contracts as one area that should be regulated:

“Part of this national legislation should state that carriers cannot offer three-year contracts. Most modern devices are outdated or break way before the three-year contract term is expired, which forces consumers to upgrade early or pay hefty cancellation fees to get another phone.

“Many other countries have a two-year maximum term, which is a lot more fair. Can you imagine what phone you were using three years ago?”

Another reader wrote that the big service providers were trying to preserve an unfair advantage in an increasingly free market. These companies, Mrludite wrote, had blown their chance to earn customer loyalty:
“Isn’t competition wonderful? Now that new players have entered the Canadian market and Canadians have been exposed to fair treatment that these companies give to consumers in their own markets, the Canadian MONOPOLIES are crying unfair. If they had treated the Canadian consumer fairly this legislation would not be necessary.”

And speaking of unfair, one commenter complained that ComputerWorld Canada wasn’t giving its readers the whole story. Cariboo chided us for neglecting to give the consumer a voice in our stories:

“I’m getting the impression that your orientation is decidedly pro-corporate. I was looking for objectivity and inclusion of consumer perspectives but haven’t found much of that.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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