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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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We tell your stories and hold the powers that be accountable.

We want to hear from people across the country with stories you want to make public.

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114th Santa Claus Parade marked largest parade in city’s history

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Zyana Mangubat didn’t care that she was about to witness the largest parade — of any kind — in the city’s history.

The antler-wearing Stouffville tot was there for the star of the show.

The Fernandes family takes a selfie.
The Fernandes family takes a selfie.  (Steve Russell / Toronto Star)

“Santa!” Zyana, 7, erupted when asked what she was most looking forward to Sunday from Toronto’s annual Santa Claus Parade.

But before she’d see the rotund elf — and bid him bring her a Hatchimal egg — some 32 floats, 21 marching bands and thousands of clowns, knights, skunks, fish, princesses and upside-down monkeys would pass by her University Ave. perch.

And those combined floats and players would make the 114th edition of the Christmas season kick off larger than any of its predecessors, says Clay Charters, the parade’s executive director.

“And if the Santa Claus parade has always been the largest in the city and this is our largest Santa Claus parade, then I’m inclined to agree with (the largest parade ever claim),” Charters says.

“The previous high mark was 30 floats, so we’re two floats longer than there’s ever been before.”

The parade’s fanciful new entrants included a float sponsored by Sunwing.ca and Autentica Cuba featuring sunning elves on a Caribbean beach as well as a Canada Protection Plan entrant called Sledding Fun.

There were also 19 returning sponsors who’d done complete rebuilds of previous floats, Charters says.

Celebrity clowns smile during the parade.
Celebrity clowns smile during the parade.  (Steve Russell/Toronto Star)

Charters says his not-for-profit organization relied on more than 3,000 staff and volunteers to build, march in, and marshal this year’s parade.

Kalayce Brown — a parade sticker on her 6-year-old face — also enjoyed Santa and was asking him for an L. O. L Surprise Doll.

Dinosaur-mad James Chong, 7, hoped to see a Jurassic World movie float, but would have to make do with a Toronto Raptors raptor dribbling a basketball across a Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment entrant.

Charters is not surprised that the parade is still growing and beckoning hundreds of thousands of kids and their parents to Toronto’s downtown sidewalks in this video-game age.

“I think that even if kids are attracted to video games and their screens, inevitably everyone wants to be able to share experiences with people they love,” he says.

“And that’s what the Santa Claus Parade offers is a chance to get outside, to share something with your friends and family and to build traditions with them.”

The three-hour parade travelled from Christie Pits, wending along Bloor St., University Ave, and Wellington, Yonge and Front Sts. before breaking up at the St. Lawrence Market.

The North Toronto Marching band. The 114th Santa Claus Parade starts at Christie Pits and ends at the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.
The North Toronto Marching band. The 114th Santa Claus Parade starts at Christie Pits and ends at the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.  (Steve Russell/Toronto Star)



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Puppies saved from Korean meat trade up for adoption in Calgary

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Two puppies rescued from a meat farm in South Korea are looking for forever homes in Calgary.

The dogs were born and raised for meat but with the help of an Alberta animal rescue group, the two canines are getting a second chance at life.

After a 16-hour flight, puppies Alison and Liz arrived in Calgary over the weekend met by members of Rocky Mountain Animal Rescue (RMAR).


READ MORE:
110 pooches rescued from dog meat festival arrive in Canada

In partnership with Go Rescue Korea, RMAR was able to carry out the rescue — the first of its kind for the Canadian group.

Both dogs were found on an illegal dog meat farm in South Korea where the conditions were described as horrific by RMAR volunteer Krishneel Prasad.

“[The dogs] were living under a bridge in cages with 10 to 15 dogs and drinking out of muddy rainwater,” said Prasad. “They were just waiting for their time to be slaughtered.”

Alison arrived in Calgary over the weekend after being saved from a South Korean dog meat farm.

Global News

Because of the abuse Alison and Liz endured, they have been reluctant to leave their kennel since landing in Calgary. Amanda Lo, operations manager of RMAR, is optimistic the dogs’ demeanors will change.

“When they came [to Calgary], they were extremely fearful, which is understandable for their history,” Lo said. “But I think they’ll do really great.”

Officials estimate there are still more than 17,000 dog meat farms in South Korea.

Despite a decline in demand over the past decade, millions of dogs are slaughtered every year for their meat, RAMR said.


READ MORE:
Terrified dogs rescued from Korean dog meat farm recovering in Montreal shelter

Both Alison and Liz are Jindo Cross, a breed described by the American Kennel Club as being “alert, bold and intelligent.” Prasad said these pups just need a second chance.

“They’re our best friends and they don’t know what it’s like [to be pets],” said Prasad. “They just need to have that opportunity.”

Liz arrived in Calgary over the weekend after being saved from a South Korean dog meat farm.

Global News

The next step is to find homes for Alison and Liz in Alberta or British Columbia. Lo said the families who adopt the dogs will need to be patient as the animals transition from being livestock to family pets.

“I need to wonder what their personalities will be like and what sort of family I should be matching them up with,” said Lo.

RMAR said it will continue to try to save more dogs from meat farms across the world in order to give them the same opportunities as Alison and Liz.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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‘Just something you do’: Bystanders save man from burning vehicle

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Four bystanders used a muffler to break the windows of a burning vehicle to save the driver inside on Saturday morning in Upper Rawdon, N.S.

Ronnie Densmore was working behind his home at around 11:20 a.m. when he heard a vehicle’s tires spinning out of control on Highway 14.

He looked over, saw a vehicle off the road that was on fire. He hopped on his all-terrain vehicle and headed over.

Densmore joined three other people there to carry out the rescue. He grabbed the muffler that had broken off the vehicle and used it to break some windows.

« It’s just something you do, » Densmore said Sunday. « You can’t see whether there’s someone in there or not. I thought I saw a glimmer of something moving, so I thought, ‘We got to get that smoke out to see if there’s someone in there.’ It turns out there was. »

The other three bystanders then pulled the 30-year-old man from the vehicle.

The driver of the vehicle was airlifted to hospital in Halifax. (Submitted by Beth Densmore)

Densmore said first responders arrived in what seemed like no time and he was back home by about 11:50 a.m.

RCMP said the driver was airlifted to hospital in Halifax with serious injuries.

One of the bystanders who helped with the rescue was Richard Dorey-Robinson, of nearby Rawdon Gold Mines. He’s a volunteer firefighter and got a page about the fire.

Rather than head to the fire station, he went straight to the scene, which was about two kilometres away. His brother, James, was also involved in the rescue.

It’s not clear who the fourth person is who helped with the rescue.

‘The right place at the right time’

This wasn’t Densmore’s first time rescuing someone from a burning vehicle. He was a volunteer firefighter for 31 years, but only stopped when he retired and moved from Noel to Upper Rawdon.

He said the experience brought back the feeling of adrenaline he encountered on so many other rescues.

« It feels good you were able to help somebody, being in the right place at the right time, » he said.



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