Consumer protection loses two champs, Aitken and OBSI

Canadian consumers lost a strong champion when
the Commissioner of Competition Melanie Aitken
announced she will be stepping down on Sept. 21.
Photo: CTV News
J. Goss + Associates provides media intelligence services to two leading consumers groups. In the last weeks we analysed Bell Canada's tangible benefits offer to Canadians for the Astral deal, the destruction of the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments and the throttled gamers versus Rogers Communications decision. Consumer advances included the Canadian Transportation Agency decision on airline fares and the gazetting of the full price airline advertising regulations.

PIAC Job opportunity: Research Analyst

Required immediately by Ottawa-based NGO engaged in regulatory intervention, policy research and advocacy on behalf of ordinary consumers of important public services. Initial six month contract. Postgraduate degree required, law, economics or public administration preferred .Must be capable of generating timely, self-directed research reports. Salary $40-45K annually. Fax or e-mail resume to: 613-562-0007 . Email Organizational information at No phone calls or in-person drop-off please. DEADLINE for applications: 24 July 2012, 5 p.m. EDT

New rules give banks permission to pick favoured dispute-settling body

"The Public Interest Advocacy Centre called the regulations weak and said they would could "destroy" the (Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments OBSI) since rivals more to the banks' liking are likely to emerge. "The regulations require these external complaints providers to have people who are working on complaints be impartial and independent of the parties but everyone knows the banks will choose a provider that gives them favourable results,” said John Lawford, counsel for the group.
Julian Beltrame, The Canadian Press July 6, 2011 

Final Betrayal: Finance Minister’s Multiple Banking ADR Decision Harms Consumers

PIAC noted that the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) is to provide oversight of the new banking dispute resolution services, but FCAC may only review the services once every five years and it is not clear what authority FCAC possesses to “de-authorize” or otherwise oversee an arbitration service. “Consumers are often confused by multiple arbitration systems, which have been condemned as inefficient by the World Bank and G20,” stated John Lawford, Counsel for PIAC. “The regulations require reporting by the new services and PIAC will monitor consumers’ experiences with them with a view to de-authorizing any poor actors.”
PIAC,  July 6, 2012

Option consommateurs s'inquiète du projet d'acquisition d'Astral par BCE 

Option consommateurs dénonce le projet de rachat d'Astral par Bell et demande au Bureau de la concurrence et au Conseil de la radiodiffusion et des télécommunications canadiennes (CRTC) de veiller aux intérêts des consommateurs.

Option consommateurs pense que cette fusion entre Bell et Astral pourrait entraîner une escalade des prix, pour des forfaits moins avantageux. « Il faut arrêter de nous faire croire que l'entrée en scène de ce gros joueur permettrait de relancer la concurrence! L'histoire nous montre que ce type de méga alliance n'apporte rien de bon aux consommateurs. Au Canada, nous payons beaucoup plus cher que dans la plupart des pays occidentaux nos services de téléphonie cellulaire et de câblodistribution », déclare Robert Cazelais, directeur général d'Option consommateurs. 
le 13 juill. 2012, CNW Telbec


Bell proposes $200M for broadcast industry

The proposed benefits package includes $96-million for the development and production of Canadian programming and $61-million to help support, promote and develop Canadian musical talent and to assist community radio and other initiatives. The deal also includes $40-million to help make Canadian programming more widely available in the North through the extension of new broadband services and $3.5-million to help raises money and awareness to help combat mental health issues.
The Canadian Press, July 10, 2012  

Bell-Astral transaction boosts Canadian broadcasting coast to coast to coast

July 10, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - Bell today announced it is proposing to contribute tangible benefits valued at $200 million in support of Canada's broadcasting industry as part of the company's acquisition of Astral Media. CRTC approval of the Astral acquisition will also require Bell to meet the Commission's Radio Common Ownership Policy and sell 10 radio stations (nine FM and one AM) in five markets - Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa-Gatineau and Winnipeg.

CRTC investigation prompts Rogers to stop slowing down Internet traffic

OTTAWA-GATINEAU, June 28, 2012 — Today, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) closed its investigation into Rogers Communications’ Internet traffic management practices. The CRTC is satisfied that Rogers has addressed its concerns regarding the company’s practice of slowing down certain types of Internet traffic. The CRTC reviewed a complaint from the Canadian Gamers Organization. Once an enforcement action was launched, Rogers cooperated and changed its traffic-management practice. The company then announced that its traffic shaping policy would be phased out for all customers by December 2012.
Thu Jun 28 2012


CTA, Regulations on the advertisement of the price of air services

The proposed regulatory amendments pertaining to air service price advertising have been pre-published in Part I of the Canada Gazette . Canadians have until September 13, 2012 to comment on the proposed amendments. As follow up to the December 2011 announcement by the Government of Canada, the Canadian Transportation Agency drafted proposed amendments to the Air Transportation Regulations and the Designated Provisions Regulations pertaining to the advertisement of the price of air services. The proposed amendments will require any person who advertises the price of an air service to display the total price, inclusive of all taxes, fees and charges. The amendments will apply to the advertising of air travel from and within Canada.
Canadian Transportation Agency, Tuesday, 03 July 2012

Competition Bureau head Melanie Aitken to step down

Ms. Aitken's surprise announcement Thursday that she will resign her position two years short of her five-year term as competition commission is likely to draw the same reactions. No reason was given for her departure on Sept. 21, but a big part of the motivation appears to be to spend more time closer to her family in Toronto.   … The bureau is still studying a bid by a consortium of Canadian banks, called Maple Group Acquisition Corp., to buy stock exchange operator TMX Group Inc. The agency is also looking at a proposal by Glencore International PLC to sell some of the assets owned by Canadian grain handler Viterra Inc., which Glencore wants to acquire, to two other Canadian companies, Agrium and Richardson International Ltd. Bell Canada's parent BCE Inc. also needs clearance from on its purchase of Astral Media Inc. in a $3-billion deal. The bureau is currently seeking to address competition concerns in the airline, telecommunications and credit card industries, according to the statement.
Gordon Isfeld, National Post, Jun. 29, 2012 

Agency Decisions Increase Rights and Remedies for Passengers Travelling with Air Canada, WestJet and Air Transat

In five separate decisions released today, the Canadian Transportation Agency ruled on the reasonableness of international tariff provisions of Air Canada, WestJet and Air Transat, and domestic tariff provisions of Air Canada and WestJet relating to the overbooking, cancellation, delay and rerouting of flights. … Today's decisions increase the rights and remedies for passengers travelling with Air Canada, WestJet and Air Transat. In the event a flight is delayed, overbooked or cancelled, passengers can now choose whether they prefer a refund or to be rebooked. In certain cases, carriers must consider rebooking passengers on the first available flight(s), including flights with non-partnered carriers. If overbooking or cancellation of a flight results in the passengers choosing to no longer travel, they will be entitled to a return flight home within a reasonable time, free of charge, and a full refund of the ticket price.
Canadian Transportation Agency, June 28, 2012 


Considerations for Organizations Moving to the “Cloud”

On June 14, 2012, the Privacy Commissioners issued Cloud Computing for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises: Privacy Responsibilities and Considerations (the Guidelines) which outline the Privacy Commissioners’ joint position on privacy considerations and risk-management strategies for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that receive the delivery of computing services over the Internet, otherwise known as cloud computing.
Claire Marchant, Mondaq - Wed Jul 11 2012,

U.S.-Canadian border info under new privacy charter

OTTAWA—The United States will be allowed to share information about Canadians with other countries under a sweeping new border deal. A newly released binational privacy charter says that in most cases it won’t have to tell Canada about its plan to pass along the information. Information-sharing about security cases has sometimes been a sore point between the two countries since the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Canada and the U.S. jointly released the 12-point statement of privacy principles late Thursday, covering areas including data quality, information security, effective oversight, and redress for people whose privacy is infringed. The principles help flesh out a perimeter security deal struck by the two countries last year.
Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press, June 28, 2012 

Identity Theft Support Centre, Jennifer Stoddart

Federal Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart helped to open Canada’s Identity Theft Support Centre Thursday morning.  The centre is a government-funded organization aimed at helping Canadians deal with a growing fraud problem that is said to amount to $10 billion to $30 billion a year.  Stoddart spoke at an ceremony at the Westin Hotel in Ottawa to announce the official opening of the Vancouver centre, which has four full-time staff members and has been in operation since March. 
Vito Pilieci. Ottawa Citizen, Jun 28 2012
Identity Theft Support Centre

New Canadian Policy Position On On-Line Behavioural Advertising

The OPC defines on-line behavioural advertising as advertising that uses information regarding the multiple websites that a person has visited and will usually involve advertisements on multiple websites. The OPC gives the following example: "a user has visited websites about pets in the past, then ads related to pets might be shown on various web sites, even sites that are not related to pets (e.g., an online newspaper)."
FMC Law, Timothy M. Banks, 24 June 2012 

Canadian Privacy Gets Toews-ed Again: Why a PIA on Airport Eavesdropping Isn't Good Enough

The toxic connection between Toews and privacy escalated over the weekend with a report that Canada Border Services has installed surveillance equipment in the Ottawa airport that will allow for eavesdropping on traveller conversations. The report led to immediate questions in the House of Commons with Toews defending the practices and even revealing that the eavesdropping activities may be more extensive than initially reported. A day later, Toews was backtracking, announcing that the eavesdropping plans were on hold pending a review from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.That's a start (the federal commissioner's office expressed concern that no privacy impact assessment (PIA) has been filed), but frankly it isn't nearly good enough to address the privacy concerns associated with this issue. 
Michael Geist, Jun 20 2012


New mortgage rules, fewer buyers and a whole new outlook for housing: Reining in CMHC 

The growth of CMHC in the past five years was unnerving. … Year by year, it would blow past its sales targets, with the amount of insurance it was writing ballooning. The insurance book at CMHC grew from $345-billion at the end of the 2007 fiscal year to $567-billion in 2011. That's a compound annual growth rate of a little more than 13 per cent.
Boyd Erman, The Globe and Mail, Jun 22 2012

OSFI Releases Final Guideline For Consumer Mortgage Business

Hard Choices: Financial Exclusion, Fringe Banks and Poverty in Urban Canada

Jerry Buckland argues that recognizing financial exclusion and providing relevant accessible services to the urban poor can be profitable for mainstream banks and good for the economy through decreasing the rate and depth of poverty. In the approximately 200 pages between the two quotations, Buckland presents a balanced, evidence-based and accessible analysis of the causes, context and consequences of financial exclusion. But the book is about more than financial exclusion. 
By Jerry Buckland, University of Toronto Press, 270 pages, $33, Reviewed by Sid Frankel, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg Free Press, Jul 7 2012

Cash Store accused of violating B.C. payday lending laws, Lender ordered to pay $6,200

Consumer Protection BC says Cash Store Financial Inc.. (TSX:CSF)  has been ordered to pay $6,200 in administrative penalties for violating the province's payday lending laws. The not-for-profit organization, created by the provincial government to administer B.C.'s consumer protection laws, said Wednesday that it has found 30 violations involving three separate regulations.
The Canadian Press, Jun 20, 2012 

Credit unions and community groups are the core's solution to fringe banks

Manitoba's payday lenders regulation is stricter than other provinces with legislation in place, says U of W professor Jerry Buckland. Manitoba prohibits fees higher than $17 per $100 of a payday loan. (The loan can't be more than $1,500 or longer than 62 days.) Caps in other provinces range from $20 to $25 per $100. Only Quebec and Newfoundland do not have legislation. As a result, the Criminal Code exemption does not apply in those jurisdictions, and payday lenders cannot charge more than 60 per cent per year interest. But Sylvie De Bellefeuille with Quebec consumer watchdog group Option consommateurs said recently at the Winnipeg conference on the financially excluded that high-interest lending still takes place in Quebec.
Joel Schlesinger, Winnipeg Free Press, June 23, 2012 B11

Other readings

CPA Payments Strategy
Vision 2020
Canadian Payments Association
Association canadienne des paiements
February 2010

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