Consumer opposition to Bell-Astral takeover and OBSI takedown

Quebec's biggest consumer protection group is
opposed to the takeover of Astral Media by
Bell Canada. 
Consumer protection readings this week include Option consommateurs opposition to the tangible benefits offered by Bell Canada in return for taking over Astral, CIPPIC on last week's Supreme Court of Canada copyright decisions, Aitken nails another airline fixing cargo rates et plus.

BCE's Astral purchase to hit Canadians' wallets, consumer group warns

Quebec's largest consumer group is condemning BCE Inc.'s planned $3.4-billion purchase of entertainment company Astral Media Inc., saying the deal is "worrying" for cable and wireless customers. … "History shows us that this type of mega alliance brings nothing good for consumers," the group's managing director, Robert Cazelais, said in a statement. … "In Canada, we pay much more than most other western countries for cell phone and cable service." "What will be the negotiating power left for consumers," Mr. Cazelais asked. "The strong concentration of players on the market offers few alternatives for those who want to change providers. It's worrying." BCE shares rose 28¢ to $42.66 in trading Friday afternoon on the Toronto Stock Exchange. They've gained 6% since the Astral deal was announced.

La maison du développement durable inaugure son espace de diffusion

La Maison du développement durable a pignon sur la rue Sainte-Catherine, à côté du Théâtre du Nouveau Monde. La Maison du développement durable inaugure mardi son espace de diffusion, baptisé L’Atrium, avec l’exposition L’industrie du recyclage à Delhi, du photographe François Pesant. Huit organisations engagées dans la promotion du développement durable, Amnistie internationale, le Centre de la petite enfance Le Petit réseau, le Conseil régional de l'environnement de Montréal, ENvironnement JEUnesse, Équiterre, Option consommateurs, le Regroupement national des conseils régionaux de l'environnement du Québec et Vivre en Ville.

Recours collectif DRAM : entente conclue entre Option consommateurs et Elpida Memory Inc.

Le 27 juin 2012, le juge Pierre-C. Gagnon de la Cour supérieure du Québec a approuvé l’entente conclue entre Option consommateurs et Elpida Memory Inc, l’une des entreprises poursuivies dans le cadre du recours collectif DRAM. Option consommateurs est représentée par le cabinet d’avocats Belleau Lapointe. … L’entente conclue avec Elpida prévoit que l’entreprise s’engage à verser une somme de 5,75 millions de dollars plus intérêts aux membres du groupe. Elpida s’engage également à collaborer à l’enquête qui se poursuit contre les autres entreprises poursuivies.

Bell-Astral, Option consommateurs s'oppose

«Au Canada, ajoute M. Gazelais, nous payons beaucoup plus cher que dans la plupart des pays occidentaux nos services de téléphonie cellulaire et de câblodistribution». Option consommateurs craint que la transaction Bell-Astral donne naissance à un empire aux parts de marché sans égal en Occident. L'entreprise regroupée détiendrait une cinquantaine de chaînes spécialisées, en plus d'un important réseau de stations de radio et d'affichage publicitaire. «Quel sera, demande M. Cazelais, le pouvoir de négociation laissé aux consommateurs ? La forte concentration des joueurs sur le marché donnerait peu d'alternatives à celui qui souhaite changer de fournisseur. C'est inquiétant.»

Parlons du projet de BCE d'acheter Astral

SRC Télévision - Le Téléjournal / Le Point a rapporté le 13 juillet 2012
CLAUDINE BOURBONNAIS: Alors le projet fait face à de nouveaux obstacles. En fait, on craint que la transaction n'entraîne des coûts supplémentaires pour les consommateurs. ANDRÉE-ANNE SAINT-ARNAUD : Oui. C'est Option consommateurs, en fait, qui demande purement et simplement au Bureau de la concurrence de bloquer cette transaction-là de 3,4 milliards de dollars parce que grâce à cette transaction, BCE va mettre la main sur une vingtaine de chaînes spécialisées qui vont s'ajouter à la trentaine qu'elle a déjà. Donc position peut-être plus dominante sur le marché, et Option consommateurs craint une hausse des prix.

Competition Bureau, Korean Air Pleads Guilty to Price-Fixing Conspiracy

The Competition Bureau announced that Korean Air Lines Co., Ltd. (Korean Air) pleaded guilty today to conspiracy under the Competition Act and was fined $5.5 million for its participation in an air cargo price-fixing cartel between April 22, 2002 and February 14, 2006. "Korean Air is the 7th international air carrier fined in this investigation," said Melanie Aitken, Commissioner of Competition. To date, the Bureau's air cargo investigation has resulted in seven convictions and fines of over $22.6 million. Cargolux, Air France, KLM, Martinair, Qantas, and British Airways have pleaded guilty to fixing air cargo surcharges for shipments on certain routes from Canada. The Bureau's investigation into the alleged conduct of other air cargo carriers continues. Jul 19, 2012, Marketwire

CIPPIC,  Copyright decisions will grow the market

Jeremy de Beer, associate professor at the University of Ottawa, acted as co-counsel in all five cases for the intervenor, the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC). 

The Supreme Court of Canada’s copyright quintet — five landmark decisions released together last week — has been criticized as giving a free ride to tech companies and users of copyrighted materials. The reality is that the decisions will help grow the market for online content by streamlining copyright clearance, simplifying royalty structures, reducing legal fees and transaction costs, boosting digital sales and making the Canadian marketplace for digital content more competitive.

July 7, 2012 – Organizations and people belonging to the Coalition delivered 90,000+ signatures from around the world to Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations Friday, arguing that the trade agreement’s Internet restriction provisions would create an “Internet trap”. The Coalition represents a diverse range of organizations and people committed to standing against the TPP's extreme intellectual property restrictions.

CIPPIC. Copyright law a win for consumer, educators, and telecoms as court reins in multiple fees 

David Fewer, director of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, said the decision ensures a sleekerbusiness model for video game manufacturers. “When you think about the Internet as a platform for doing business, this is a huge win because it cuts down the amount of red tape you have to deal with,” says Fewer. “For software or (television shows) or film or even eBooks, all that stuff would have run into this second layer of copyright clearance. Any layer of clearance is a pain . . . It makes (products) more expensive.”

Professor Gabo Lukacs fights for your flight rights

But Gabo Lukacs claim to fame comes not from his academic side, but rather from his determination to challenge the rules of the airline industry.Last year, after filing a complaint to the Canadian Transportation Agency, he won his argument that Air Canada (and Westjet) policies limiting compensation for lost luggage and valuables were set unreasonably low. The airlines, after losing appeals to the CTA, were forced to change their policies regarding lost bags. Now, in a ruling on Lukacs' most recent complaint relating to passenger rights when flights are cancelled or delayed, the CTA ruled that passengers must be given either a full refund or a free trip home, even on a competing airline. This transfers the power for this decision from the airline to the passenger. While this doesn't apply to circumstances like weather delays, when the passengers are transported back home they are also entitled to a full refund of the fare they paid.  It's very likely the airlines will appeal the new rules. They have 30 days to do so.


Investor disputes, Support for the OBSI 

I was asked by a widow why the RRSP account left to her by her husband went from $4.1-million to $2.9-million in a year. The question was posed because I had worked in the industry for 20 years. I found that the investment firm had, upon receiving the RRSP, divided it into two parts, one for bonds, the other for shares on a 50:50 basis. Within a year, the broker had done  7 trades in the equity portion of the account and diminished it to the extent that bonds had to be redeemed to maintain the equity proportion of the account and the trading this allowed.I complained to the Ontario Securities Commission, which passed this on to the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (the brokerage industries’ self-regulator), which found no problem with the broker’s activities. The OBSI, however, took a different stance and obtained a large settlement from the broker.

New ombudsman rules tip playing field in banks’ favour

Canada’s highly profitable major banks operate under a charter system that limits competition, and the average retail customer needs something to level the playing field in a dispute. The Finance department says it will regulate the makeup and practices of the companies that get into the bank ombudsman business in order to guarantee their impartiality. But by creating an open market for ombudsman services, the field has been tipped back in the banks’ favour. Will these for-hire bodies be able to make recommendations that go against their paying clients without fear of losing business to a competitor? A single industry-funded body such as the OBSI that all financial institutions must join would be protected from commercial pressures and be able to help settle disputes without fear of economic consequences. That in turn would help secure Canadians’ faith in the fairness of our banking system.

Canadian credit unions; New rules will allow firms to operate beyond home provinces, battle big banks

Doug Alexander And Sean B. Pasternak, 

 Coast Capital Savings and Meridian Credit Union lead Canadian credit unions planning to take advantage of regulations allowing them to expand across the country, challenging bigger competitors such as Royal Bank of Canada.Credit unions, financial institutions owned by their customers and overseen by provincial regulators, are awaiting changes promised in the 2010 federal budget giving them the option to become federally-regulated entities. Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty released draft rules this month.

Banks will win, customers lose under Flaherty’s new spat-resolution rules

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty could have ordered RBC and TD back into the fold of the existing Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments. Instead, he’s letting banks choose their own mediators, a potential conflict of interest.  An already weak system is being watered down even more. Anita Anand, an associate law professor at the University of Toronto, said the proposed changes are unlikely to be consumer-friendly. “A single system that applies to all firms would be preferable because it provides certainty for consumers,” Ms. Anand said.
… In a submission to the Finance Department, investor advocate and blogger Ken Kivenko said the private-sector system will add “opaqueness and secrecy,” weaken consumer protection and undermine OBSI’s ability to fund itself over the long-term.

Consumer protection

Constitutionality Of Anti-Spam Legislation

While Canada's new anti-spam legislation1 received Royal Assent in December 15, 2010, the law is expected to come into full force in 2013 with the promulgation of a Governor in Council order. When it does, businesses operating in Canada will be governed by what many regard as one of the toughest anti-spam laws in the world.


Bell Media Applauds Pro-Consumer CRTC Decision Supporting Flexible Pricing Model
Canada Newswire - Fri Jul 20 2012, 11:21am ET - 97 minutes ago

Consumer cable bills to be adjusted with phase out of fund

CRTC, July 18, 2012 
Today, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced that the Local Programming Improvement Fund will be phased out by August 31, 2014. The contribution to the Fund will be gradually reduced until it is discontinued. As a result, the charge many cable and satellite companies have passed through
to their customers will be removed from their bills.
Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2012-385
Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2012-386


Commissioner Cavoukian investigates Elections Ontario's massive loss of voter data

TORONTO, July 17, 2012 /CNW Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner, Dr. Ann Cavoukian, is investigating a privacy breach at Elections Ontario involving the personal information of an unprecedented number of individuals - up to 2.4 million Ontarians. On July 5, the Commissioner's office was advised of the loss of two USB keys containing the unencrypted names, home addresses, dates of birth, and gender, as well as whether or not the person had voted in the last election - all included on Ontario voters' lists. The Commissioner advised Elections Ontario to notify the public of this breach as soon as possible. An investigation was immediately launched, with the full cooperation of Elections Ontario, to examine how the breach could have occurred and the existence of privacy policies and procedures in place at the province's election agency.