Competition Bureau sues Bell, Rogers, Telus over "misleading advertising" about texting services
Canada's Competition Bureau is suing Bell Canada, Rogers Communications Inc., Telus Corporation, and the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association over what it calls "misleading advertising" promoting premium texting services.
In a news release today (September 14), the federal agency announced it has begun legal proceedings in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, seeking full customer refunds and penalties totalling $31 million.
The proposed administrative penalties would see Bell, Rogers, and Telus pay $10 million each, with $1 million coming from the CWTA.
The bureau also wants the big three wireless carriers to each issue a corrective notice, as well as a "stop to any representations that do not clearly disclose the price and other terms and conditions applicable to premium-rate digital content".
Its allegations have not been proven in court.
According to the bureau, its five-month investigation found that the companies and their industry association "facilitated the sale to their own customers of premium-rate digital content (such as trivia questions and ringtones) for fees that had not been adequately disclosed". The carriers then earned a share of the revenues collected.
"Our investigation revealed that consumers were under the false impression that certain texts and apps were free," Melanie Aitken, commissioner of competition, said in the bureau's release. "Unfortunately, in far too many cases, consumers only became aware of unexpected and unauthorized charges on their mobile phone bills."
In response, the CWTA issued today a news release calling the bureau's actions "alarming".
According to the CWTA, the bureau's actions could disrupt the use of common short codes, which customers use to access public transit schedules, get news alerts, donate to charities, vote on reality TV shows, and update social networks.
This could "significantly slow down – or even reverse – the deployment of e-commerce in Canada", the CWTA claimed.
“It is most unfortunate that the Competition Bureau’s actions could potentially impact the ability of Canadian consumers to access the text messaging services they have come to enjoy and rely on,” CWTA president and CEO Bernard Lord said in the release. “CWTA and our members will do everything we can to ensure our customers can continue to choose to access these services.”