Digital Competitive Services Standards
[Note: The following set of standards was submitted to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) on 3 November 2000.]
The DIGITAL COMPETITIVE SERVICE STANDARDS ("the Standards") is a set of standards which applies to those Direct-to-Home (DTH) satellite distribution undertakings and Multipoint Distribution Systems (MDS) undertakings which are licensed to operate in Canada. At the present time, these undertakings include Bell ExpressVu Limited Partnership (DTH), Star Choice Television Network Incorporated (DTH), Craig Wireless International Inc. (operating as SkyCable) (MDS), Image Wireless Communications Inc. (MDS), and Look Communications Inc. (MDS). Collectively, these companies are referred to hereunder as the "Digital Competitors".
The Digital Competitors have found common ground in the area of customer satisfaction. The Standards represent a formal acknowledgment that the Digital Competitors will guarantee high levels of customer service. Consistent with this longstanding commitment, the Digital Competitors hereby provide the following Digital Competitive Service Standards.
This is a new age of television distribution: the age of competition. Customers now have a choice of providers and this changes everything. Simply put, if a broadcasting distribution undertaking provides unsatisfactory customer service, then it will not acquire new customers. Neither will it keep the customers it already has.
Now there are alternative providers. Accordingly, customer expectations are high. None of the Digital Competitors can risk losing business to another distributor which provides superior service.
As such, each Digital Competitor is already operating under its own high internal standards. The following Standards, therefore, merely represent an expected minimum comfort level that customers can expect to receive when they subscribe to the service of a Digital Competitor.
Importantly, the Digital Competitive Service Standards are not intended to be a re-hashing of the Cable Television Customer Service Standards. The latter document was written by the cable industry for the cable industry; it was more suited to addressing customer concerns in a monopoly environment; and it was conceived in a different time.
The Digital Competitive Service Standards which follow encompass a wide range of company characteristics, since each Digital Competitor faces very different business realities. Yet the Standards have been designed to reconcile inherent differences between the distribution technologies, the modes of packaging, the business practices (especially installation and equipment rental/purchase), the distribution patterns and the different company scopes and sizes. The Digital Competitors are pleased to present a unified set of Standards but, at the same time, recognize that certain elements of the Standards will affect each company in a different way.
Individually, the Digital Competitors will continue to strive to improve all areas of customer service in order to remain competitive.
As noted above, the Digital Competitive Service Standards is a set of standards which applies to those DTH and MDS distribution undertakings which are licensed to operate in Canada.
Due to underlying differences in technology, marketing and the relevant regulatory framework, certain service standards may not be applicable to a particular type of distribution undertaking. As one example, MDS companies perform installation and repair activities at a customer's premises as a normal part of their business. DTH companies, however, do not carry out installation and repair activities, although these companies do provide their customers with technical assistance by means of call centres. Installation and repair activities, instead, are carried out by third parties such as authorized dealers and, oftentimes, by the customer itself. Such practices are a reflection of the fact that the relevant customer equipment (i.e., the satellite dish and receiver) is owned by the customer after being purchased from another party, such as an authorized dealer, which is not the DTH company.
These Standards do not cover the setting of service rates, as the CRTC does not regulate the subscriber fees of DTH or MDS distribution undertakings. In Public Notice CRTC 1997-25, the Commission considered that "… to do so would not be in keeping with the objectives of encouraging increased reliance on market forces in the provision of services and ensuring fair and sustainable competition in the delivery of communications systems to the home."
It is also important to recognize that the following service standards are viewed by the Digital Competitors as minimum service standards only. Given the highly competitive marketplace in which the Digital Competitors operate (against the incumbent cable companies, as well as against each other), it is vitally important to their very existence that each of the Digital Competitors offer each of their customers the highest quality of customer service which they can provide.
B. Basic Commitment
The Digital Competitors commit to provide each of their customers with:
- High quality satellite or multipoint distribution systems signals to the customer's home;
- Access, at reasonable prices, to a wide array of video and audio programming services, packaged in a manner which offers the customer the maximum choice of selection, given regulatory, financial and marketing requirements;
- Professional and knowledgeable customer assistance provided with minimal delay at times which are convenient to the customer; and
- Clear, comprehensive and accurate billing, with a choice of convenient payment options.
C. Privacy and Fair Information Practices
The Digital Competitors will fully comply with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, which comes into effect on 1 January 2001, as well as with the requirements of any other applicable legislation, tariffs and regulations.
Upon request, the Digital Competitors shall afford to each customer a reasonable opportunity to review the personal information in the individual's file. Such personal information will include a customer's credit information, billing records, service and equipment and any recorded complaints.
Personal information shall be provided in an understandable form within a reasonable time and at minimum or no cost to the individual.
In order to safeguard personal information, a customer will be required to provide sufficient identification information to permit the Digital Competitor to account for the existence, use and disclosure of personal information and to authorize access to the individual's file.
The Digital Competitors shall promptly correct or complete any personal information found to be inaccurate or incomplete. Any unresolved differences as to accuracy or completeness shall be noted in the individual's file.
A customer can obtain information or seek access to his or her individual file by contacting the Digital Competitor's business office.
A customer can also obtain further information on each Digital Competitor's Privacy Code and Fair Information Practices directly from that company.
D. Provision of Service
The Digital Competitors will fully comply with applicable Industry Canada standards.
Service to the customer will commence pursuant to the terms and conditions set out by each individual Digital Competitor. Such terms and conditions may include, among other things:
- ownership of a receiver which has been authorized by the Digital Competitor to receive its services. Such authorization will be given if the receiver has been acquired legitimately and, in the case of resale, if no outstanding amounts are owed to the Digital Competitor with respect to such receiver;
- the requirement for a deposit on service equipment;
- advance payment of installation fees;
- advance payment by the customer for one month of programming services; and
- payment by the customer of any overdue debt which that customer owes to the Digital Competitor.
Each Digital Competitor will continue to provide service to a customer as long as technically feasible, provided that the customer pays, in full, all amounts billed for services, taxes, fees and other charges which may be assessed on such services, and as long as the customer is otherwise in good standing with the Digital Competitor.
Certain services transmitted by the Digital Competitors, including but not limited to sports events, may be "blacked out" in the customer's area from time to time at the request of the programmer for copyright or other reasons. The Digital Competitors will not refund charges for the black-out period.
If a complete and extended interruption of services occurs, the Digital Competitor will provide an appropriate credit or refund, at the request of the customer, for the service interruption period, except if that interruption was caused by circumstances outside the control of the Digital Competitor.
Each Digital Competitor will have professional and knowledgeable personnel available to answer inquiries from the public with respect to customer service and technical assistance for a minimum period of eight continuous hours per day, seven days a week.
Each Digital Competitor will make available convenient methods of payment for services, recognizing that customers are obligated to pay one month in advance for programming services.
Upon request, each Digital Competitor will provide a detailed customer invoice, or other appropriate notification, which clearly identifies those services which are programming services and those which are pay-per-view services. That detailed invoice, or notification, will also identify the applicable rate for each package of services, for each pay-per-view service, for extra-cost equipment and for non-recurring charges, including taxes. The notification will also inform the customer how to subscribe to or to discontinue the services.
Upon request, each Digital Competitor will provide a detailed breakdown of a customer's balance.
Each Digital Competitor will inform customers at least 30 days in advance of any monthly rate change for services.
Each Digital Competitor will permit termination, without penalty, of the service of a customer whose account is in good standing with all payments up to date, upon receiving the required notice (not to exceed one month). The Digital Competitor will refund any prepaid funds remaining within not more than 45 days after discontinuation of the service and after return of all company-owned equipment in satisfactory operating condition, excepting normal wear and tear. The Digital Competitor will not be obligated to issue refunds for amounts of less than $10.
Where service is to be terminated for non-payment of amounts owing, the Digital Competitor will provide notice to the customer within a reasonable amount of time in advance of the termination. The notice shall provide the reason for the termination, the amount owed, the final payment date, any deactivation fee, any reconnection charge, and a telephone number to call for further information or comment. After suspension or termination of a customer's service, the Digital Competitor may restore service to the customer upon payment, in full, of monies owing on the account, including any applicable administrative, collection and connection fees and after receipt of a reasonable security deposit where the situation warrants. For specific terms and conditions, refer to each Digital Competitor's Customer Service Agreement.
Where service termination has been done in error or is found to be unjustified, the Digital Competitor will restore service on the next working day following discovery of the error, or as soon as practicable thereafter, without the payment of a reconnection charge.
E. Specific Indicators
Customer and technical assistance personnel will be available for business for a minimum of eight continuous hours per day, seven days a week. The times of opening and closing of a Digital Competitor's customer service and technical assistance departments will be specified and made known by means of the customer's bill or by other means, as available and appropriate.
Technical assistance calls will be promptly answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week. (This could include use of an answering machine/service outside normal business hours.)
The times when all telephone trunks are busy will not exceed 3% of the normal operating hours, under normal operating conditions.
In those cases where a Digital Competitor carries out premises visits and circumstances require such a visit, the Digital Competitor will do whatever is reasonably possible to provide flexible service call arrangements. In addition, when service personnel become aware that they will be late for an appointment, they will make every reasonable effort to advise the party waiting for them.
To the extent that a Digital Competitor is responsible for any outage, such outages will be corrected as soon as reasonably possible.
F. Customer Service
Each Digital Customer will indicate clearly on invoices and on the company's website the address, telephone number and hours of operation for both customer service and for technical assistance.
Each Digital Competitor will inform its customers of the existence of the Digital Competitive Service Standards.
Each Digital Competitor will make every effort to resolve all complaints received from its customers as quickly as possible and to the satisfaction of the customer.
Each Digital Competitor will inform its customers of the contact point within its organization where complaints may be escalated, if any inquiry or request has not been handled to the satisfaction of the customer during the ordinary course of business.
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