January 7, 2016 – Ottawa-Gatineau – Canadian – Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today unveiled a Code that will help Canadians make more informed choices about their television service providers and resolve disputes in a fair and effective manner.
During the Let’s Talk TV proceedings, many Canadians said that cable and satellite companies do not always provide adequate information about service packages and pricing. As a result, in March 2015, the CRTC published a draft Code that addressed the issues raised during Let’s Talk TV. The Code was designed to ensure consumers have access to as much information as possible regarding television service providers so they can make informed decisions.
The Code will result in a number of improvements for Canadians. Among them, television service providers will have to:
- provide consumers with the information they need in a format that is easy to understand, including the list of channels or bundles they subscribe to
- clearly set out the duration of promotional offers, the regular price once any discounts end, and any obligations placed on a consumer if they accept the offer, such as a minimum commitment period
- provide customers with a timeframe and information on any potential charges regarding service calls for installations and repairs
- ensure that prices set out in written agreements are clear and state whether they include taxes or other charges, and
- give 30 days’ notice to consumers in the event of a change in price of channels, bundles of channels or rental equipment.
In addition, television service providers will have to offer Canadians with disabilities a 30-day trial period, which will enable them to decide whether the service meets their needs. Canadians with disabilities will also be able to request a copy of their agreements in an alternative format, which will have to be provided at no charge upon request.
During consultations, some television service providers resisted these new obligations and wanted adherence to the Code to be voluntary. To ensure that Canadians benefit from its protections, the CRTC has decided that the Code will become mandatory on September 1, 2017. This implementation time frame will give companies enough time to change their computer systems and processes. Once it is fully implemented, 95% of Canadians who subscribe to a television service provider will benefit from the Code.
There is, however, nothing preventing television service providers from adopting the Code before it comes into force. They are strongly encouraged to make the necessary adjustments to their respective processes so that Canadians may benefit from the Code as soon as possible.
The CRTC considered a number of ways to implement the Code and felt that an implementation by way of condition of license to be the best method. Television Service Providers will therefore be required to comply with the Code by way of condition of license. This condition of license will be imposed by their next licence renewal.
- Further to Let’s Talk TV: A Conversation with Canadians on the future of their television system, the CRTC introduced significant changes that will foster a more dynamic marketplace.
- During the Let’s Talk TV proceedings, the Commission heard from individual Canadians, television service providers, consumer and public interest groups, the Canadian Network Operators Consortium, the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunication Services and the Government of Québec, as well as from Canadians in an online forum.
- The Television Service Provider Code also sets out new rules for the handling of customer requests to change programming options, service calls, service outages and disconnections.
- The Television Service Provider Code will come into force through strict conditions of licence by September 1, 2017, once the CRTC has renewed the licences of cable and satellite companies, as well as those that provide Internet Protocol television services.
- An independent ombudsman, the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services, will administer the Code once it is in effect and help Canadians resolve disputes with their service provider.
- Prior to the Code coming in effect, Canadians should continue to resolve their disputes by contacting their television service provider at first; if they are unsuccessful, they should contact the CRTC.
- Television service providers include cable, Internet Protocol television and national satellite direct-to-home service providers.
“The new Code of conduct will empower Canadian TV viewers as they navigate a dynamic marketplace. It will ensure that they receive information that is easy to understand and that they are notified of changes to their services. The Code will also will improve customer service and how complaints are handled in the future.
Canadians expect that their television service providers will implement the Code as soon as possible. Providers are strongly encouraged to take the necessary actions now, so that Canadians have the information to choose the provider that best meets their needs. Doing so may also prove to be a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”
Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC