Consumer Advocacy Groups Petition Ottawa to Overrule CRTC Approval of Rogers-Shaw

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and the National Pensioners Federation (NPF) on Wednesday filed a petition for the federal Cabinet to reverse the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)’s approval of Rogers Communications Inc.’s proposed $26 billion acquisition of Shaw Communications Inc., Canada’s fourth-largest telecom operator.

The CRTC was responsible for reviewing the broadcasting side of the Rogers-Shaw merger,  furnishing its approval of the deal last month. The commission has authorized the transfer of Shaw’s broadcasting assets, including certain broadcasting undertakings, along with broadcasting distribution undertakings (BDUs) that include cable TV services, satellite TV services, and some Internet protocol-based TV services (IPTV), to Rogers.

The PIAC and the NPF are concerned the merger will have a negative impact on the affordability of TV services, especially for Shaw’s TV-only customers who don’t subscribe to any underlying or additional internet services from the company.

“Consumers shouldn’t pay for these mergers,” said John Lawford, PIAC’s Executive Director and General Counsel. “This Petition is a result of our concern that the CRTC failed to impose enforceable conditions to protect consumer affordability of TV services.”

The two consumer advocacy groups submitted survey evidence to the CRTC demonstrating that Canadians, especially seniors, were concerned that pricing for TV service would increase if Rogers acquired Shaw — and that this concern was greatest for Shaw’s TV customers.

The Rogers-Shaw deal still requires approval from two regulators: the Competition Bureau and the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Canada.

The Competition Bureau is looking at the merger’s possible impact on competition across relevant industries, while ISED Canada is evaluating the transfer of Shaw’s spectrum licences to Rogers.

Rogers reiterated in its announcement of strong first-quarter results last week that it expects the deal to close sometime in the second quarter of this year. Rogers and Shaw are working under a self-established deadline of June 13 for the merger. The two telcos are currently looking to divest Shaw’s wireless unit, Freedom Mobile, to push the merger through ISED Canada.