ARCHIVED - Telecom Costs Order CRTC 2003-10

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Telecom Costs Order CRTC 2003-10

  Ottawa, 19 September 2003

Public Interest Advocacy Centre - Application for costs - Part VII application by PIAC for enforcement and relief regarding Bell Canada's unauthorized rate increases to party-line rental sets

  Reference: 8661-P8-02/02 and 4754-216


By letters dated 14 August 2002 and 24 March 2003, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) applied for costs for its investigation and pursuit of a matter initiated by PIAC's Part VII application seeking enforcement and relief in alleging Bell Canada had made unauthorized rate increases to party-line rental sets. PIAC's requested for costs within its Part VII application on 14 August 2002 and made a costs application again on 24 March 2003.


On 9 September 2002 and 23 April 2003 Bell Canada provided its comments to PIAC's claim for costs.

The application


PIAC submitted that it had met the criteria for an award of costs set out in subsection 44(1) of the CRTC Telecommunications Rules of Procedure (the Rules) as it:
a) represented a significant body of subscribers (i.e., Bell Canada party-line subscribers) who will be affected by the outcome of the proceeding relating to PIAC's Part VII application; b) participated responsibly by thoroughly investigating the matter and by bringing a Part VII application only when it felt it was necessary to do so; and
c) contributed to a better understanding of the issue through its Part VII application.


PIAC requested that the Commission fix its costs at $6,611.91, consisting of $6,236.91 for legal fees and $375.00 for research fees. PIAC's claim included the Federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) on the legal fees less the rebate to which PIAC is entitled in connection with GST. PIAC filed a bill of costs with its application.


PIAC submitted that the appropriate respondent in this case was Bell Canada. In PIAC's view, Bell Canada's tariff violation would not have been uncovered and acted upon but for PIAC's persistent investigation and that it was only fair that Bell Canada reimburse PIAC for the costs of its investigation of this matter.



Bell Canada objected to PIAC's request for costs. Bell Canada submitted that PIAC's submission that the tariff violation would not have been discovered and acted upon but for PIAC's persistent investigation was incorrect. Bell Canada submitted that it uncovered the error regarding the rate on party-line rental set on its own initiative, undertook to assess the error and constructed a refund program, which rendered PIAC's investigation and subsequent Part VII application unnecessary.


Bell Canada submitted that when PIAC made inquiries concerning the appropriate
tariff rate, the correct answer was given in most cases and that individual billing issues brought forward by PIAC were promptly corrected and a refund given by Bell Canada. Bell Canada submitted that, to the best of Bell Canada's knowledge, PIAC never raised its more general concern about party-line terminal sets with Bell Canada or inquired about the possibility of a general refund. Bell Canada submitted that it had sound reasons for not publicizing this information until it fully understood the error and had developed a plan to provide refunds, but would have provided PIAC with a response in an honest and responsible manner if PIAC had revealed its general concerns to the appropriate regulatory personnel.



PIAC submitted that the seven and half month delay between detection and correction of a billing error was not reasonable, responsible or diligent. Having detected the error in late January of 2002, PIAC submitted that it was incumbent upon Bell Canada to correct the error immediately so as to minimize the number of wrongly charged customers who disconnected and who could then be reimbursed. PIAC submitted that it was only after it filed its Part VII application that Bell Canada assured PIAC that Bell Canada intended all along to issue refunds to the affected customers.


PIAC submitted that it specifically asked Bell Canada regulatory personnel to explain
the discrepancy between the tariffed rate and the billed rate and that at no time did
Bell Canada regulatory personnel inform PIAC that a widespread billing error had been detected and was being corrected.


PIAC submitted that its Part VII application, contrary to Bell Canada's submissions, was necessary due to: i) Bell Canada's failure to respond adequately to numerous inquiries
 by PIAC, beginning in March 2002 with a specific customer inquiry by not disclosing its knowledge of the overcharging and its actions to correct such overcharging and
ii) the fact that Bell Canada's current Terms of Service did not require it to refund all affected customers.

Commission analysis and determination


The Commission finds that PIAC has satisfied the criteria for an award of costs set out in subsection 44(1) of the Rules. The Commission finds that PIAC is representative of a group or class of subscribers that has an interest in the outcome of the proceeding, has participated in a responsible way, and has contributed to a better understanding of the issues by the Commission.


The Commission notes that PIAC filed its Part VII application only after investigating and coming to the conclusion that Bell Canada was in violation of General Tariff item 2300. The Commission notes that before filing the application, PIAC brought the matter to the attention of Bell Canada and that at no time did Bell Canada indicate to PIAC that
Bell Canada was planning to correct the overcharging to all affected customers. The Commission considers that in the circumstances it would be unreasonable for PIAC to have assumed that the problem would have been corrected absent a Part VII application.


The Commission notes that the rates claimed in respect of legal and research fees are in accordance with the rates set out in the Legal Directorate's Guidelines for the Taxation of Costs, revised as of 15 May 1998. The Commission also finds that the total amount claimed by PIAC was necessarily and reasonably incurred and should be allowed.


The Commission is of the view that this is an appropriate case in which to fix the costs and dispense with taxation, in accordance with the streamlined procedure set out in New procedure for Telecom costs awards, Telecom Public Notice CRTC 2002-5, 7 November 2002.


The Commission finds that the appropriate respondent to PIAC's costs application is Bell Canada.

Direction as to costs


The Commission approves the application by PIAC for costs with respect to its participation in the proceeding relating to PIAC's Part VII application.


Pursuant to subsection 56(1) of the Telecommunications Act, the Commission fixes the costs to be paid to PIAC at $6,611.91.


The Commission directs that the award of costs to PIAC be paid forthwith by
Bell Canada.
  Secretary General
  This document is available in alternative format upon request and may also be examined at the following Internet site:

Date Modified: 2003-09-19

Date modified: