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‘I feel cheated’: Telco customer set to speak on Day 1 of CRTC hearing into misleading sales practices

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Shawn Ahmed says he knew he wanted to participate, as soon as he learned the CRTC asked to hear, in person, from consumers frustrated by their telecom service provider.

The federal telecom regulator is holding a five-day public hearing this week in Gatineau, Que., part of an inquiry into misleading and aggressive telco sales practices, ordered in June by the federal government.

« For the average consumer, this affects every one of us, » says Ahmed, a Rogers customer who outlined in his submission to the CRTC concerns that he was misled about price. 

« It might be the most important inquiry the CRTC hears for years to come. »

Over the course of the week, the CRTC is set to hear from 31 presenters. They range from telco customers such as Ahmed — scheduled to speak on Day 1 — to advocacy groups, researchers and the country’s three largest telecom service providers (Bell, Rogers and Telus).

The hearing is part of a months-long inquiry that received almost 1,300 submissions and was called by the federal minister for telecommunications after months of Go Public stories on the issue. 

OpenMedia, a consumer advocacy group pushing for affordable internet, submitted another 1,100 complaints from Canadians.

« I feel cheated by them’

Ahmed, 37, says that as a gay Muslim and social media activist, he has received death threats and has had to resort to worshipping online to protect his safety. He says the internet is not a luxury like cable TV, it’s crucial.

« For people on the margins, like the elderly, disabled or immigrants, we use it as a lifeline, » says Ahmed.

So when the Toronto man saw a billboard and Facebook ad for high speed internet with Rogers for $74.99 a month, he signed up last January.

« I trusted what I was told over the phone, » he says, but then three months later his Rogers bill increased. « I feel cheated by them. »

Telcos are allowed to raise internet, cable and home phone rates during a contract as long as they provide advance notice, but Ahmed says it’s unethical.

After filing a complaint with Rogers’ office of the president and the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services (CCTS), Rogers credited his bill. 

Do your job. Protect Canadian consumers, not the telecommunications industry.– Shawn Ahmed, Rogers customer 

Ahmed says the company has also changed the wording in its ads, now telling people they’ll receive « guaranteed savings » not a « guaranteed price. »

At the hearing, Ahmed says he will urge the CRTC to require all telcos to offer fixed prices for internet contracts.

« Do your job, » says Ahmed. « Protect Canadian consumers, not the telecommunications industry. »

Shawn Ahmed says he was misled on price. He wants the CRTC to make telcos stick to a set price in a contract, after his Rogers bill increased in the third month of a 12-month contract. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

77% want action from government

As part of the public inquiry into telecom sales practices, the CRTC commissioned public opinion research, which included focus groups and an online survey, and the results were recently published.

Some of the key findings:

  • 40 per cent reported experiencing sales practices they considered to be aggressive or misleading, most within the past year.
  • 77 per cent want governments at all levels to act to protect consumers from these sales practices.
  • 83 per cent support a mandatory code of conduct for the telecom industry. 

Government supports ‘code of conduct’ 

It’s all fodder for the Liberal minister responsible for telecommunications, Navdeep Bains, who is calling for the creation of a mandatory code of conduct to protect telecom consumers.

Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains says his government has heard from a high number of Canadians who feel misled by their telecom service providers. (Guillaume Lafreniere/CBC)

« We want to make sure there’s a clear code of conduct to protect consumers when it comes to wireless, internet and cable when they deal with their service provider, » Bains told Go Public.

The Wireless Code, created five years ago, makes it mandatory for cellphone prices to remain fixed during the duration of a contract, but price protections don’t exist for internet and cable services. 

« We want to move forward in a manner that re-establishes that people trust and feel confident about their dealings with telecommunication providers, » said Bains.

‘People are angry’

One of Canada’s most vocal consumer advocacy groups, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, is also urging the creation of a code of conduct, which it called a sales practices code.

« The code would generally say, ‘We don’t want to have misleading sales, overly aggressive sales, or ones that are unsuitable for the customer,' » says PIAC executive director John Lawford.

« It might have sections, for example, banning door-to-door sales, which are problematic, » says Lawford. « It might have sections forbidding companies from disciplining employees for not making sales targets. It might have prohibitions on offers of free hardware where there’s an underlying contract, and so on. »

Lawford says a sales practices code would go a long way toward restoring people’s trust in the telco industry.

« Right now, they basically believe that these guys are the used car salesmen of the 21st century, » he says. « People are angry and they feel they’ve been misled. »

Consumer advocate John Lawford says a sales practices code of conduct would restore people’s trust in the telecom industry. (Jonathan Dupaul/CBC)

Telcos deny widespread problems

Later this week, a dozen telecom service providers will participate in the CRTC’s public hearing.

In their written submissions to the commission, the largest three telco companies — Bell, Rogers and Telus — downplay the prevalence of aggressive or misleading sales tactics, and argue that many avenues for consumer protection already exist — such as the CRTC, the Competition Bureau, the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services (CCTS) and various provincial agencies.

‘Mismatch’ between expectations and outcomes

The first intervener to present on Monday will be the CCTS, an industry-funded independent agency that mediates thousands of complaints a year between consumers and their telecom service providers.

In its submission to the regulator, the CCTS writes that it can’t say whether those complaints 
are the result of deliberate « misleading » by telecom companies.

« It is not the CCTS’s role to investigate intent, nor would our current process allow it, » the submission states.

It writes that a « mismatch between expectations and outcomes » often results in complaints about billing charges, service, delivery or usage, and that changes to any of these « take the customer by surprise. »

The CRTC has to complete its inquiry and report its findings to government by the end of February 2019.

— With files from Enza Uda

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Anglais

A stunning Water Lantern Festival is coming to Montreal

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What might just be the most magical night ever is coming up for Montreal this year.

The Water Lantern Festival has announced that it will be gracing Mississauga with thousands of floating lanterns later this year, as part of a celebration that spans the entire world.

According to the festival’s official website, the event is a celebration of life with proceeds going towards charities and non-profit organizations within the area.

“Water Lantern Festival brings together individuals from all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life to join in one emotional and memorable night. At the Water Lantern Festival, we cherish these moments and will do our best to help you have a memorable experience that you’ll never forget as you witness the beauty of thousands of lanterns reflecting upon the water,” the website states.

The festival takes place throughout multiple cities around the world, with the Canadian cities of Quebec, Regina, Vancouver, Hamilton, Calgary, Ottawa, Mississauga, and, of course, Montreal taking part.

For the Calgary event, a date has been confirmed and tickets are already rolling out. Montreal shan’t be far behind, and you can click the Notify Me tab on the event’s site to be kept in the loop.

Expect an evening filled with food trucks, music, lantern designing and finally, a magical launch of the lanterns into the water as the sun goes down.

For our pals over in Calgary, their event includes a floating lantern, a commemorative drawstring bag, a marker, and a wristband. Expect something similar, if not the same, when more details float through about Montreal’s event.

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Anglais

Euthanasia order on hold for Montreal dog that attacked children

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A pit bull dog that attacked four children and two adults in August 2018 in Montreal North will not be euthanized in the immediate future.

The euthanasia order has been temporarily suspended pending the appeal of a Quebec Superior Court decision.

On Tuesday, Judge Lukasz Granosik rejected a request to halt the euthanasia order issued by the Montreal North borough, which declared the animal a “dangerous dog.”

The City of Montreal has not changed its mind. This is only a delay before it proceeds with euthanizing the dog, a source told the Canadian Press.

Shotta, the one-year-old dog, was in the care of its owner’s acquaintance in August 2018. The dog attacked four children and two adults, causing serious injuries in separate incidents on the same day.

After the attacks, the dog was taken from the home and entrusted to the SPCA.

WATCH: Dog found dead in Angrignon Park

The Road to Home Rescue Support, an American shelter, asked the court if it could take in the dog. Christa Frineau, the dog’s owner, had also asked that Shotta not be euthanized.

Granosik refused to grant the request.

—With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise

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Anglais

9 Things To Do In Montreal This Friday, Saturday & Sunday

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Today’s sunny skies have me itching to make weekend plans. I absolutely cannot wait to make the most of this warmer weather. This might be the time to inflate my bike tires and dust off my running shoes…

Whether you want to brush up on your cooking skills, let loose, or fill your stomach with amazing food, there’s an event out there for you. Read on for 9 fun things you can do with friends or a fling this weekend.

TL;DR Read on for 9 fun things you can do in Montreal this weekend.

Let Yourself Go At Dress Up

Where: 185 Avenue Van Horne, Montréal.

When: Friday, March 29, 9:00 p.m.

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