ARCHIVED -  Telecom Costs Order CRTC 98-2

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Telecom Costs Order

Ottawa, 22 January 1998
Telecom Costs Order CRTC 98-2
In re: Review of Joint Marketing and Bundling Restrictions - Telecom Public Notices CRTC 97-14 and 97-21
Reference: 8620-C12-01/97
Application for costs by the Consumers' Association of Canada, the Fédération nationale des associations de consommateurs du Québec and the National Anti-Poverty Organization (hereinafter CAC et al).
1. Pursuant to Review of Joint Marketing Restrictions, Telecom Public Notice CRTC 97-14 and Review of Joint Marketing and Bundling Restrictions, Telecom Public Notice CRTC 97-21, dated, respectively, 25 April 1997 and 6 June 1997 (PNs 97-14 and 97-21), the Commission initiated a proceeding to consider whether the joint marketing restrictions should continue to be imposed on the Stentor member companies and the independent telephone companies and to consider broader issues related to the bundling of tariffed telecommunications with other types of in-house services or with services of other entities. CAC et al intervened in the proceeding, and by letter dated 31 July 1997 applied for costs. Stentor Resource Centre Inc. (Stentor) filed a response by letter dated 18 August 1997 to which CAC et al replied on 27 August 1997.
Position of Parties
2. In its application, CAC et al submitted that it had met the criteria for an award of costs, stating that it represents a large body of telecommunications subscribers who stand to be affected by the Commission's decision in this matter; that it has participated in a responsible way by filing comments and reply comments; and that it has contributed to a better understanding of the issues, by pointing out the main concerns for consumers of telecommunications services and the reasons why continued restrictions, and even new restrictions, are needed, as well as critiquing arguments made by some parties.
3. In its answer, Stentor submitted that CAC et al had failed to contribute to a better understanding of the issues as required by subparagraph 44(1)(c) of the CRTC Telecommunications Rules of Procedure (the Rules), and that accordingly, the application should be denied. Stentor submitted that CAC et al provided inadequate supporting analysis for its views and failed generally to add significantly to the record of the proceeding. Stentor noted that CAC et al restricted its comments almost exclusively to the bundling issues, but that this narrowed focus did not result in the more detailed analysis one would have expected. Stentor stated that CAC et al's submissions mostly amounted to unsupported opinion and bald assertions with little independent substantiation, and that the discussion of tied selling was not relevant to the issue of bundling tariffed services. Finally, Stentor submitted that CAC et al "failed to add to the record of the proceeding by providing little, if any, elaboration, analysis or alternatives which could have contributed to the Commission's better understanding of the issues; such failure is evidenced by their scanty treatment of the issue of competitive safeguards as well as the absence of any support as to why the status quo would be appropriate regarding the pricing rules established by the Commission for bundled services".
4. In reply, CAC et al objected to the characterization of its comments as "unsupported opinion" and "bald assertion" by Stentor. CAC et al stated that consumer groups have limited access to the kind of company, product and market information that would be required to support their concerns regarding the competitiveness of the marketplace, and that accordingly, they are dependent on the interrogatory process for such information. CAC et al noted that the proceeding initiated by PNs 97-14 and 97-21 did not include interrogatories. CAC et al stated that its comments were necessarily limited to expressing views of consumer groups on policy issues. CAC et al acknowledged that its comments did not address all of the issues identified by the Commission, did not reply to each adverse submission, and were not as extensive as some other parties' submissions. However, CAC et al suggested that Stentor's concern with the depth and extensiveness of the comments is a matter which goes to the appropriate level of award, not whether an award is appropriate in the first place. Finally, CAC et al also submitted that Stentor's comments amounted, in effect, to "a thinly veiled attempt to refute the submissions of [CAC et al] on issues before the Commission", and that it is an abuse of the costs award process for Stentor to attempt to re-argue its case in this way.
5. In the Commission's view, while CAC et al's submissions were short and did not contain a great deal of elaboration or detail, they nevertheless contributed to a better understanding of the relatively complex issues in question. The Commission agrees with the applicants that the extent of participation will be a factor to be considered during taxation. In the Commission's view, CAC et al have met the three requirements of subsection 44(1) of the Rules. Accordingly, an award of costs is warranted in the circumstances.
6. The application for an award of costs in respect of the above-mentioned proceeding is approved.
7. Costs awarded herein shall be payable by Stentor on behalf of BC TEL, Bell Canada, The Island Telephone Company Limited, Maritime Tel & Tel Limited, MTS NetCom Inc., The New Brunswick Telephone Company, Limited, NewTel Communications Inc. and TELUS Communications Inc.
8. Costs awarded herein shall be subject to taxation in accordance with the Rules.
9. Costs awarded herein shall be taxed by Karen Moore.
10. CAC et al shall, within 30 days of the date of this Order, submit a Bill of Costs and an Affidavit of Disbursements directly to the Taxing Officer, serving a copy on Stentor.
11. Stentor may, within two weeks of receipt of these documents, file comments directly with the Taxing Officer with respect to the costs claimed, serving a copy on CAC et al.
12. CAC et al may, within two weeks of receiving the comments of Stentor, file a reply directly with the Taxing Officer, serving a copy on Stentor.
13. All documents to be filed or served by a specific date must be actually received, not merely sent, by that date.
Laura M. Talbot-Allan
Secretary General
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