Last week the CRTC announced it was set to hold private closed door discussions with telcos over the issue of paper billing fees.
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and the Consumers’ Association of Canada (CAC) protested the move, and today published an open letter to CRTC Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais, asking him to reconsider the decision to close the former’s complaint about paper billing fees and rather hold private talks with the industry.
Below is a snippet of the letter, where both consumer groups raise concerns about the transparency of closed door meetings:
In addition, dismissing our formal complaint without any notice nor opportunity to defend its requests takes a powerful advocate away from the average Canadian, and in particular vulnerable Canadians. We have no confidence that the formal requests in our complaint will be raised by the Commission in the closed-door meeting nor that the arguments we made and would have made about the cost of this practice to consumers will be seriously addressed.
The PIAC also notes an upcoming report pegs Canadians pay $600 million annually (or roughly $17 per person) in paper billing fees to the telecommunications industry. They also cite how that number could go up if others decide to also implement fees:
PIAC has prepared an estimate of present communications industry-wide revenues for an upcoming report. However, we will give you the punchline: $600 million a year. That’s what we estimate Canadians presently pay the industry for paper bills. And if the “agreement” reached at this private meeting blesses the practice, those companies that presently do not charge may begin charging – so even if the amount per bill is lowered, this tab could actually go up.
Both the PIAC and CAC also bring up a separate point, where it believes communications companies ‘penalize’ consumers that don’t subscribe to internet services, when they only want wireline telephone or cable TV service.
The CRTC Chairman is being urged to hold public discussions regarding paper billing fees or explain how closed door meetings will be putting consumers first.