Banking consumer protection downgrade

Ontario Energy Board rulings are
saving ratepayers about $114 million a year
PIAC executive director Michael Janigan says. 
In this week's consumer protection news - 30 days consultation to replace Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investment with ADR Chambers, multiple data leaks,  85 per cent of B.C.'s adult population in BC police database, tracks and more.

J. Goss + Associates provides media intelligence services for a number of leading consumer groups. For results contact J. Goss + Associates.

Regulation bogeyman not driving up electricity costs

"An analysis of OEB data, made public by veteran consumer legal counsel Robert Warren, demolishes any reasonable basis for the electric distribution companies assertions.  It shows that the current OEB regulatory process has saved millions of dollars for Ontario ratepayers by making the EDCs justify their claims for operating and capital expenses," Michael Janigan, executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre wrote in a Toronto Star op-ed. 

In a provincial electric distribution industry generating more than $3 billion in revenues, the average EDC  ( municipal electricity distributors ) rate application in 2010 and 2011 was reduced 3.8 per cent by the OEB, or about $28 per customer. If this result obtains across the entire set of EDCs, it means that regulation is saving Ontarians at least $114 million a year. And what about those needless interventions getting in the way of EDC rate increase plans? It turns out they have cost a little over 2 cents per customer on average, and that amounts to about a tenth of one per cent of the average EDC revenue request, " Michael Janigan, wrote for the Toronto Star on July 22, 2012

Option consommateurs se joint au recours collectif contre plusieurs fabricants de mousse de polyuréthane

Option consommateurs s'est joint à la requête pour autorisation d'exercer un recours collectif contre plusieurs fabricants de mousse de polyuréthane, dont notamment Domfoam, Valle Foam, Woodbridge, Foamextra, le Groupe Vitafoam et le Groupe Carpenter Selon Option consommateurs, depuis le 1er janvier 1999, ces fabricants ont comploté entre eux afin de fixer artificiellement le prix de la mousse de polyuréthane en Amérique du Nord. Ce complot a été mis à jour par une enquête menée par le Bureau de la concurrence du Canada. Il contrevient à la Loi sur la concurrence et a amené les consommateurs à payer des milliers de dollars en trop. Ce recours collectif vise à les dédommager. Le 5 janvier 2012, les entreprises Domfoam et Valle Foam ont plaidé coupables à des accusations de complot en vertu de la Loi sur la concurrence et ont été condamnées à payer des amendes totalisant 12,5 millions de dollars. MONTRÉAL, le 25 juill. 2012 /CNW Telbec.

OBSI to ADR Chambers: 30-day consultation period for new rules on bank complaints opens

The Canadian Press, July 27, 2012 
On Friday, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada announced it has begun consultation on a proposed guide for applicants to become external complaints bodies for the banks — running from July 27 to Sept. 10. It also announced a 30-day consultation period for proposed guidance on the internal dispute resolution procedures of federally regulated financial institutions.

Banks beefing up anti-hacker insurance

John Greenwood, National Post, Jul 28 2012
"Annual cyber-risk insurance premiums for the United States alone are worth as much as $1-billion a year, according to analyst estimates. … The federal Privacy Commissioner has guidelines requiring organizations to notify affected customers following a breach in which personal information is stolen, but there's no rule about broader public disclosure. Presumably, securities rules around disclosure of material events would cover major network break-ins but such events are rarely, if ever, mentioned in financial reports or press releases by financial companies. That may be about to change.

Privacy Guidelines For The Use Of Social Media For Background Checks

Clark Wilson, Nicole Byres, 26 July 2012
Given the large amount of potential sources of information about individuals on social media1, it is not surprising that many employers have, or have considered, searching social media sites as part of their background checks on prospective employees and volunteers. Most of us assumed that if someone posted information about themselves online, he or she could not then complain if a prospective employer accessed and used that information when making their hiring decisions. The Information and Privacy Commissioners in BC and other provinces have now confirmed that this assumption is not correct. They say that just because someone publishes information online about themselves, it doesn't mean that such individuals consent to the use of that information for background checks. Further, even if consent can be implied, privacy laws still apply to the kinds of information that is accessed and collected. In other words, irrespective of whether the information is available online, employers are still subject to privacy laws if they intend to view, collect and use such information.

In October 2011, BC's Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner published Guidelines for Social Media Background Checks

PRIME-BC database draws fire

Sam Cooper And Elizabeth Conners, The Province, Jul 26 2012
For more than 10 years, police officers in B.C. have been quietly amassing potentially damaging personal information in a little-known data-base called PRIME-BC. You don't have to be a criminal to have a file. If you've phoned 911, witnessed a crime, been a suspect, or been pulled over by an officer in B.C., then your name and personal information are likely logged in the system. More than 85 per cent of B.C.'s adult population is in PRIME-BC, officially known as Police Records Information Management Environment.

Prime Minister’s website privacy policy requires a rewrite

Toronto Star, Michael Geist, July 29, 2012
.. a reader recently noticed that the Prime Minister’s Office website may be incorrectly stating its use of cookies, which are small files that may be placed on user’s computer hard drive by a website to monitor usage or identify repeat visitors.  Cookies can be used for a single visit to track how a user arrived at the site or which pages they visit. Alternatively, some cookies are “persistent” since they remain on the user’s hard drive for months or years, often storing information such as language preferences or repeat visit data.

The Prime Minister’s website … privacy policy … states: We do not regularly use “cookies” to track how our visitors use the site. Whenever we enable “cookies” to facilitate your transactions, we will first inform you. Notwithstanding the assurances that no cookies track how visitors use the site, the site currently inserts at least five cookies on a user’s computer. Two cookies expire at the end of the visit, one lasts for the day, another remains on the computer for six months, and one stays on the computer for two years.  The site does not provide explicit information on the cookies, but it appears that several are related to Google Analytics, a commonly used service that analyzes website traffic and visitors. The cookies on the Prime Minister’s site can be used to track the time of the visit, repeat visits, how the visitor arrived at the site (search engine, link from another site), and how long the visitor stays on the site.

Junior minister's fundraising linked to bid for radio licence

Bill Curry, The Globe and Mail, Jul 25 2012
A Conservative MP who serves as parliamentary secretary to the  Canadian Heritage Minister raised thousands of dollars in political contributions from people involved in a high-stakes campaign to win a new Toronto radio licence. Paul Calandra, the MP for Oak Ridges-Markham, attended and received money at two private fundraising parties that included people connected to two of the bids under consideration by the CRTC, which reports to Canadian Heritage.

In late March, one of the applicants, WorldBand Media Inc., owned by CEO Prabha Selvadurai, hired Hill and Knowlton to lobby Canadian Heritage, the CRTC and members of Parliament on its proposal for a new talk-radio station. The Globe has learned that just over two weeks later, on April 10, a private fundraiser took place in the basement of a suburban Markham, Ont., home owned by Mr. Selvadurai’s sister, Kirupalini Kirupakaran. Dr. Kirupakaran has pledged to the CRTC that she will invest up to $2-million in WorldBand Media should it win the competition. About $22,000 was raised at the event. Mr. Calandra also received a contribution at another basement fundraiser from the head of a second company competing for the prized spot on Toronto’s radio dial.

CHCH hit by CRTC decision to axe the $106-million Local Programming Improvement Fund 

Meredith MacLeod, The Hamilton Spectator, Jul 27 2012
But an industry insider says the Hamilton outlet was likely the biggest recipient among the independent stations that accounted for about a quarter of the fund. The source pegs the CHCH share at somewhere between $5 million and $8 million. The same insider estimates CHCH’s annual revenues at somewhere around $40 million, meaning the LPIF could account for between 12 to 20 per cent of total revenues.

Telus says it's not breaking foreign ownership limit

LuAnn LaSalle, The Canadian Press, Jul 23 2012
Telus (TSX:T) said Monday that it is under the federal foreign ownership limit of 33.3 per cent for telecom companies, responding to accusations that it was breaking the restriction. The Vancouver company said it's 32.59 per cent foreign-owned, as of June 29, and wants the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to dismiss a complaint filed by smaller competitor Globalive. The release of its foreign ownership level should also satisfy hedge fund investor Mason Capital Management, which had questioned Telus' foreign ownership level, said Ted Woodhead, vice-president of telecom and regulatory affairs.

Comment tuer les petites télécoms

La Presse - 07-23-2012, MICHEL GIRARD
Fini le «monopole» que des petites compagnies de téléphone locales détenaient dans des zones rurales et villages, comme St-Élie-de-Caxton, St-Alexis-des-Monts, St-Paulin, Charrette, Ste-Perpétue, St-Odilon-de-Cranbourne, Ste-Sabine, Lac-Frontière, Ste-Séraphine, Upton, etc. Conséquemment, ces PME de la téléphonie locale sont appelées soit à rendre l'âme ou à se faire acheter pour une bouchée de pain par l'une des grandes télécoms canadiennes, comme Bell, Telus, Cogeco ou Vidéotron.

Il reste actuellement au Québec neuf petites compagnies de téléphone qui desservent 50 000 clients dans des zones rurales où les grandes télécoms sont totalement absentes. Elles ont pour nom Sogetel, Milot, Cooptel, Guèvremont, St-Éphrem, Upton, St-Victor, Lambton, Courcelles. En Ontario, les petites télécoms sont au nombre de 24, pour desservir 80 000 clients de régions rurales.

The Greatest Legal Columnist on Earth
Drew Hasselback, National Post, Jul 24 2012 
One reason the rules are so complex is that there are several sources of advertising law in Canada. The most important piece of legislation is a federal law called the Competition Act, but some provinces also regulate marketing practices under consumer protection rules. Advertising is also subject to selfregulatory rules, such as the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards.
Drew Hasselback, Legal Post editor, is a lawyer called to the Bar of Ontario. His Legal Tender column appears monthly in FP Entrepreneur. He can be reached at dhasselback@

The Public Is Left in the Dark When Courts Allow Electronic Surveillance

ADAM LIPTAK, The New York Times - Tue Jul 24 2012
WASHINGTON — A big part of Magistrate Judge Stephen W. Smith’s job in Federal District Court in Houston is to consider law enforcement requests for cellphone and e-mail records. It requires him to apply old laws to the digital age and balance the government’s interest in solving crimes against the importance of protecting privacy.   That is hard enough. What he has trouble understanding is why all this is kept from public view.

“Courts do things in public,” Judge Smith said in an interview. “That’s the way we maintain our legitimacy. As citizens, we need to know how law enforcement is using this power.” But most court orders allowing surveillance are so secret, he wrote in a provocative new article, that they might as well be “written in invisible ink.” The article chronicles the rise of a secret docket on a scale that has no parallels in American history.

CRTC's message to Broadcasters: Regulatory games coming to an end

Michael Geist, - Sun Jul 22 2012 
The result was a myriad of proposals with the common theme that consumers would be footing the bill. The CRTC first established the LPIF, which added 1.5 per cent to consumer cable and satellite costs to help support local television programming. In 2009, broadcasters renewed longstanding efforts for a fee-for-carriage system that would have added up to $10 to subscribers’ monthly bills to pay for local television stations. Soon after came demands to regulate over-the-top video services such as Netflix and to implement fees for Internet providers to support the creation of new Canadian content. 2012 has spelled the end for most of these plans. In February, the Supreme Court of Canada decisively rejected the possibility of new Internet provider fees. Two months later, the Commission released a public letter indicating that it was dropping plans for another “fact finding” exercise into online video. The letter was widely seen as a clear indication that the CRTC had no interest in regulating online video services. The trend continued last week with the termination of the LPIF as of 2014. The decision split the Commission, with five commissioners voting to terminate the LPIF, three publishing dissents in favour of continuing it, and one commissioner, Michel Morin, issuing a separate opinion that supported terminating the fund.

Bell Media to unbundle TV channel packages
Jamie Sturgeon, Financial Post, Jul 21 2012
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission decided Friday to adopt a proposal from Bell to allow its channels to be unbundled while rates for individual networks will fluctuate based on the number of subscribers who sign up. Friday’s ruling rejected a plan from a group of smaller distributors that included Cogeco Cable Inc. and MTS Inc. to keep a fixed rate on channels regardless of penetration. A key reason in accepting Bell’s model was the telecom giant’s relenting on its demand that cable partners distribute all 29 of its networks, which include channels like TSN, Discovery and MuchMusic. Instead, Bell will allow operators to sell services individually.

Column: Concerned over privacy? It's about time

Iain Hunter, Times Colonist, Sun Jul 22 2012
It's just dawning on people, apparently, that what information about themselves they convey can be passed on and used in any way it can be used. As Canada's Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart has said, social media users are "not among friends." Stoddart took Google to task in 2010 for turning its private email service into a social networking service without informing its customers.
Last month, the commissioner urged MPs on the House of Commons privacy committee to recommend financial penalties for social media companies that ignore Canada's privacy laws.
She testified that some are still requiring users to opt out of an assumed consent for the use of their personal information. Some still don't inform users how to use default privacy settings to protect themselves.
Photographs, marital status, age and hobbies are of use to companies anxious to target prospective customers for their products or services. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the top 50 websites in the U.S. installed tracking technology on the computers of visitors to those sites "usually with no warning."

Privacy law eroding:  Commissioner Elizabeth Denham 'very concerned'

B.C.'s information and privacy law is being undermined by the provincial government, says Elizabeth Denham. The information and privacy commissioner said recent government legislation that bypassed or overrode the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act was chipping away at 20-year-old protections for privacy and government transparency. "I am very concerned," said Denham, who released her office's annual report this week. "I hope this isn't a trend, but when we saw four pieces of legislation work their way quickly through the legislature, and we had very little time to get our message to the ministries during confidential consultation, we are really concerned about that."
The four bills, which changed rules for animal health, ferries, emergency disclosure and PharmaCare, "chip away" at a careful balance between a legal right to privacy and mandated government transparency set by the legislature 20 years ago, she said.