Public Mobile Customers Protest Telus Move to Shut Down Network

With their acquisition of Public Mobile, Telus will be shutting down the latter’s older network and replace it with the company’s faster 4G network. This means close to 280,000 customers will be forced to buy new cellphones ahead of the network switch coming in May.

According to the Globe and Mail, Public Mobile customers are upset with Telus’ decision to move to a new network, which has drawn criticism from Industry Minister James Moore, who commented while on a trade mission in Europe yesterday:

“Seems like an odd business decision to alienate thousands of Public Mobile users as you absorb Public Mobile itself,”

[…]

“Ultimately it’s a business decision I’ll leave for Telus to explain.”

Kevin Banderk, general manager of Public Mobile and the head of Telus’s Koodo brand, defended the company’s business decision by calling the move is “incredibly beneficial”:

“For a large majority of the customers, this is actually an incredibly beneficial move…To move from where they are today and, generally speaking, keep the price points where they are today onto a network that is of the latest and greatest technology – much more reliable, much faster data speeds and national in scope – is actually a good thing. We understand that the transition is a bit tricky and we’re doing everything we can to make that as easy as possible.”

“Public Mobile was in financial distress when we purchased it. They were losing a significant amount of money every month in large part [due] to the technology decisions they had made early on and the network they chose,” […]

“So, as part of the plan to sort of rectify this, we are moving customers from that old, very small regional legacy network to our new national 4G network.”

Public Mobile customers have filed complaints with the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services, an ombuds office which deal with telecom complaints. This is the same office where wireless customers can lodge cases to fight charges of being billed an extra month when cancelling and not giving 30 days notice.

John Lawford from Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Ottawa, says they are “concerned” about Public Mobile’s “cost conscious customers” incurring costs with the Telus move.

Lawford argues it was a “foreseeable” outcome the networks would be merged and the Competition Bureau should get Telus to supply replacement phones free of charge, since the cost of new phones would be a burden on low-income customers.

When the Competition Bureau approved the Telus acquisition of Public Mobile last fall, it issued the former a ‘no action letter. Telus said it would continue to offer Public Mobile’s $19/month ‘unlimited talk’ plan at least until the end of 2014. Recently, Telus increased the price of select Public Mobile plans by $5/month, in line with other incumbent moves.

The Competition Bureau wouldn’t comment on its private review of Telus and Public Mobile, but did say:

“As the vast majority of Canadian wireless subscribers are served by three national incumbent providers, the Bureau will continue to closely monitor the evolution of competition in Canada’s wireless telecommunications industry, and will take action where appropriate.”

Wind Mobile CEO Anthony Lacavera said his company will offer incentives and promotions to Public Mobile customers to help “ease their pain” from the Telus transition. He added “incumbents have shown their true colours,” and recent wireless industry changes have shown “the strength of the oligopoly.”

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