ARCHIVED - Transcript, Hearing September 8, 2016

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Volume: 2
Location: Gatineau, Quebec
Date: September 8, 2016
© Copyright Reserved

Attendees and Location

Held at:

Outaouais Room
Conference Centre
140 Promenade du Portage
Gatineau, Québec



Gatineau, Québec

--- Upon resuming on Thursday, September 8, 2016 at 9:05 a.m.

1523 THE CHAIRPERSON: Alors, good morning, everyone. Bonjour tout le monde.

1524 Madame le secrétaire.

1525 THE SECRETARY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and good morning.

1526 We will now proceed with Phase 2. Intervnors will appear in the order set out in the agenda to make their presentation.

1527 We will now begin with the presentation by Consumers Association of Canada and Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

1528 Please introduce yourself and your colleagues and you will then have 10 minutes for your presentation.

1529 Thank you.

1530 MR. LAWFORD: Thank you, Madam Secretary.


1531 MR. LAWFORD: Good morning Mr. Chair, Commissioners, and Commission staff. My name is John Lawford; I’m Executive Director and General Counsel to the Public Interest Advocacy Centre. To my left is Alysia Lau, legal counsel at PIAC, and to my right is Ben Segel-Brown, PIAC’s articling student.

1532 We are pleased to appear today on behalf of PIAC and the Consumers’ Association of Canada in the Commission’s proceeding to renew the licences of various Broadcasting Distribution Undertakings.

1533 We understand that the Commission intends to focus in this hearing on the packaging requirements resulting from the Let’s Talk TV decisions.

1534 In Broadcasting Regulatory Policy 2015-96, the Commission introduced new requirements in order to meet Canadians’ demands, enter in greater choice, flexibility, and affordability to the Canadian television market.

1535 We commend the Commission’s decision to empower consumers to choose the options which best meet the household’s needs. However, some of the means by which BDUs have implemented the small basic service do not align with these objectives; in fact, some practices cause customers to lose certain services or discounts, and constrain consumer choice and flexibility. These practices must be addressed.

1536 CAC-PIAC’s written intervention identified various issues related to the implementation of these new obligations. Specifically, these concerns were summarized in two umbrella categories; one, transparency and, two, unfair practices.

1537 Alysia?

1538 MS. LAU: First, there is an informational challenge. Canadians find it hard to obtain accurate information about the basic service, especially the channels included, the total cost, and how to add services on top of the skinny basic package.

1539 Our Environics survey of 4,000 Canadians found that about one in two had heard about the new skinny basic package. Of those who had heard about it and contacted a service provider, 62 percent found it somewhat or very challenging to get information they were looking for.

1540 Nor is the information provided by BDUs always accurate or complete. CAC-PIAC found several examples where even the information BDUs filed with the Commission differed from that available on their Web sites and promotional materials. Prices differed; options supposedly available to consumers were not mentioned, or information was presented in an unclear way. This makes it even more confusing when a consumer tries to find information from their BDU about their skinny basic and pick and pay options.

1541 In our intervention, CAC-PIAC proposed a number of solutions to address transparency and informational challenges. They included: All-in pricing; clearly stating all minimum additional charges and the total cost for the skinny basic service; displaying the least expensive options -- for instance, for a set-top box rental -- available to skinny basic customers; and providing a comparison chart of changes, including additional charges, lost discounts, and so forth, applicable where a customer wishes to switch to the small basic service.

1542 We believe these types of solutions will help consumers better understand the options available to them.

1543 MR. LAWFORD: CAC-PIAC also identified a number of unfair practices which, in our view, subject basic service subscribers to an undue disadvantage and should be prohibited.

1544 The majority of poll respondents who had contacted their providers were somewhat or very dissatisfied with the skinny basic options provided by BDUs. The Commission also received hundreds of complaints, of which 350 related to price increases, and loss of promotional bundles; 104 to equipment; and 87 related to the affordability of the basic service generally.

1545 We believe practices such as the removing the availability of bundling discounts and of certain services, including video on demand and free previews, subjects certain service -- basic service subscribers to an undue disadvantage which is not justified.

1546 Meanwhile, the loss of these discounts or services can have a material adverse impact on basic service subscribers, in particular those who rely on bundling discounts to pay for their communications services. This would run counter to the spirit of the Choice Policy, which was meant to provide Canadians with more choice and flexibility and to create a more affordable entry-level package.

1547 These practices deter customers from switching or subscribing to the skinny basic. Their effect restricts choice and affordability, contradicting the broadcasting policy objectives of providing efficient delivery of programming at affordable rates and reasonable terms for the carriage, packaging and retailing of programming services.

1548 In our view, practices which take bundling discounts and services available to all other customers away from skinny basic subscribers should be prohibited. We refer the Commission to CAC-PIAC’s intervention for a full description of the unfair practices identified.

1549 MS. LAU: Finally, we note the Commission has had several discussions with BDUs in this hearing regarding set-top box rental rates and practices. We believe the Commission should continue to examine this issue in closer detail. We have noted growing consumer frustration with set-top box policies in past proceedings, and the implementation of the basic service and flexible packaging rules has again revealed this is an important and relevant issue.

1550 We encourage the Commission to continue to gather information regarding BDUs’ set-top box practices and to monitor developments in other jurisdictions, such as the U.S., to understand their applicability in the Canadian context.

1551 We have reviewed the replies filed by the BDUs and find that none have demonstrated how the practices CAC-PIAC have identified have not subjected basic service subscribers to an undue disadvantage. Rather, BDUs have largely defended their prerogative to modify regulated services according to their business and marketing practices, and maintained it would be inappropriate for the Commission to intervene.

1552 CAC-PIAC disagree. The small basic service and flexible packaging rules are regulatory requirements, and the Commission would be entitled to intervene, particularly where it finds that certain practices contravene its policies and regulations, including findings of undue preference or disadvantage.

1553 Although some BDUs have stated they have adjusted or intend to adjust their skinny basic offerings, these efforts have taken place in piecemeal fashion and, in our view, occurred in response to some of the pressure created by consumer groups and the Commission. There is no guarantee the issues raised will be thoroughly addressed if left to BDUs alone. Therefore, we submit the Commission should impose rules which would protect consumer choice, address customer complaints, and which would apply uniformly to all BDUs across the board.

1554 MR. LAWFORD: We also look forward to the full implementation of the pick and pay packaging rules coming December 1. We believe pick and pay will complement the small basic service by giving consumers greater choice should they wish to switch; we are hopeful Canadians will feel they have greater control over their television bills at that time.

1555 We urge the Commission to continue monitoring implementation of the television packaging requirements and to publish comparison charts of the offerings provided by BDUs. Where, after one or two years, some BDUs continue to offer the basic service and pick-and-pay options in ways which undermine the spirit of the Choice Policy, the Commission may examine imposing greater pricing restrictions at that time.

1556 We appreciate that the Commission has taken the time to review the ways in which the rules intended to empower consumers through greater choice, flexibility, and affordability are implemented in order to ensure they achieve those goals. Your determinations will provide greater clarity and ensure consumers are able to fully benefit from the intended objectives of Commission policies.

1557 Thank you for the opportunity to appear this morning, and we welcome any questions you and the Commission staff may have.

1558 Thank you.

1559 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you for that presentation. And welcome to this hearing, those of you who are new, in particular, at your table.

1560 So Commissioner MacDonald will start off our questions.

1561 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Good morning, and again, thank you for being here and for your intervention. I found it very concise and clear as to the direction that you think that we should be going in with respect to some proposed changes. And you propose several measures throughout your intervention that I’d like to get your thoughts on where we stand today, because we’ve seen over the course of the presentations yesterday the various BDUs that have appeared have, in many cases, done some tweaking and changed some of their policies since the basic service was first introduced. So I’d like to get your current lay of the land, if I can, for a minute.

1562 One of the proposed measures that you suggested was promotion of the small basic service, similar to the first year offering. And I’d like to expand upon that a little bit. I had the chance to look at the various BDUs’ Web sites, at least the ones that appeared yesterday, and all of them seemed to have on their television Web page references to the skinny basic and pricing and things of that nature. I’m wondering what beyond that should be explored.

1563 MS. LAU: Yeah, I think that’s accurate, and actually, in our intervention that was a reiteration of previous comments the Commission had made but which I think we referred to the TV Code were ultimately excluded from the final version of the TV Code.

1564 The Web sites are a good start. We don’t know when it comes to -- I was listening yesterday but we don’t know when it comes to customers being touched with their providers and they’re provided CSRs, the extent to which both options, if it were between the tier 1 package and the small basic service, are being presented to customers.

1565 So we just want to make sure that when consumers are reaching out to their service providers and they are trying to find information -- that information about both options are available to them and that service providers are up front about what is included in both and what the consumer would be getting.

1566 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: When you were conducting your survey you highlighted that -- I think it was 62 percent of the people that knew about skinny basic that it also reached out to their service provider felt a bit of frustration or a lot of frustration. Were you able to unpack that at all? As a millennial I prefer to order everything online and I’d love to click a button and get what I want; whereas other individuals may prefer to call a customer service representative or walk into a store. Were you able to, even from informal conversations, understand where the frustration points were?

1567 MS. LAU: I don’t think the results of our survey were necessarily that granular. However, just from what we’ve been hearing it seems as though it’s when customers are contacting their service providers probably over the telephone or in person and are actually interacting with CSRs rather than just kind of surfing the website and subscribing online.

1568 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. I’m not in any say suggesting this is your job to do this, I’m just wondering, have your groups done anything to promote skinny basic, either on your websites or in your conversations, to help raise awareness?

1569 MR. LAWFORD: Yes, both Consumer Association of Canada and PIAC have done -- what we’ve done at PIAC blog posts and news stories to -- and news items to inform people about skinny basic coming in, give them a timeline. I know that Mr. Cran at CAC has done a lot of media in order to try to educate people about this. And we always do take individual complaints or comments from consumers and we tell them how it works. But we’re not an intake agency. So you’re right, our impact is somewhat limited, but we do ---


1571 MR. LAWFORD: --- make an effort.

1572 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. Thank you.

1573 One of the other proposed measures that you suggested was a list of all the minimal -- a minimum additional charges required for the installation and provision of the service. And again I looked at the websites and there seemed to be some of that information there. Perhaps it could be a little bit more complete with respect to set top box rentals, with respect to installation charges that may apply. Are there any other holes in that information that the BDUs are failing to present to their customers?

1574 MS. LAU: I think one of the problems we identified is that the information that is being presented just varies across different BDUs. So some BDUs are being very up front and clear about and listing actually the additional charges which customers should expect should they wish to subscribe to the small basic service. But others require a little bit more digging about how much the set top box rental would cost on top of the skinny basic and so forth.

1575 So what we’re looking for is a greater clarity and in some ways kind of a greater uniformity in the way that those charges are -- just to ensure those charges are clearly presented.

1576 MR. LAWFORD: And if I might add, consumers -- I mean there’s opportunity costs, if you will, to switching. And the more effort it takes to hunt down exactly what you’re being offered, the less likely it is consumers will understand what they’re getting and make a good choice. And our proposals are two. One is to have a list of changes when you’re changing from one package to another, and the other is to have the minimum cost spelled out quite clearly. And if that can be on one page or in some way brought before the consumer, either by the CSR or on the web page in a very concise manner, that will enable consumer choice because at the moment it’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of work to find out, oh, what’s your installation fee? Oh, it’s over here on this page. What’s your, you know, what’s your box rental fee? It’s over here. And oh, yes, I’m -- do I have this bundle or not? It’s quite a process for the consumer, I believe, at the moment still.

1577 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Is the -- and maybe it’s twofold, but is the concern more about being able to compare the products within one BDU to the other products that BDU offers or comparing what, for example, the basic television service looks like on one provider versus another provider and ensuring that they spell out all of those charges in a manner that is somewhat consistent?

1578 MR. LAWFORD: I believe it’s both. I mean, the companies will tell you they are doing their best to keep customers and I believe that’s true. On the other hand, knowing what’s being offered allows you to go to the market. And some consistency or at least some tool to bring consumers a more concise profile about these offers would be awfully helpful and that’s why we mentioned at the end of our remarks having some comparison charts be produced so that that work is not so onerous for consumers. So it’s both. It’s both within and across company.

1579 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. One of the other areas that you looked at -- well, you mentioned it right now, the comparison charts for the total cost and what additional charges a customer may face if they are coming off of one package onto another and spelling that out on the website, maybe that’s a conversation better had as a conversation with the CSR. Does that -- I understand the obvious value in it and as a customer I would want that as well, but does that become too cumbersome to put in any sort of promotional material?

1580 Because we heard from Rogers yesterday on the wireless side they have something like 9,000 different grandfathered plans. I don’t know how many they have on the cable side, but it may be a significant amount. And that may get very, very complicated for an individual consumer sitting in front of their laptop to be able to figure out what will actually apply.

1581 MS. LAU: Yeah, I don’t think we’d characterize it as necessarily a promotional requirement. But what we had heard was that consumers were switching to the small basic service and then losing certain services or discounts, which they had not expected to disappear when they made that switch. And so we were trying to make a proposal which would address those types of complaints.

1582 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So we heard two different approaches yesterday. One where individuals could make all of those changes online without interacting with a CSR, another service provider said anytime a change is made they must go into a store or contact a CSR. Do you have any thoughts on which the best approach is? Personal contact may not be the preference for many, but I’m concerned that people -- they may know what they’re buying but they may not know what they’re losing when they change certain packages.

1583 MR. LAWFORD: Sure. We view it that way and we also view it another way. The making a consumer go back to a rep is -- can be seen as problematic by some consumers such that they are put into the system where you have to then negotiate and hear the upsell talk and are pressured into taking a different package. Some people prefer to do it online because they are avoiding the salespeople. They are avoiding the customer service people. And I think that that is a growing segment of, you know, the consumer population, especially as you say more tech savvy or younger users.

1584 It’s not consumer’s, you know, problem but it’s difficult to do for a website. I believe the companies make extreme efforts to make their higher end packages easy to accept and to navigate. But for whatever reason, they’re making it -- they’re putting less effort into the programming of informing people what the differences are for their basic package.

1585 So I don’t know if that answers your question, but there is a concern I think from our end that forcing people to go through a CSR, forcing them to go through a CSR is a little bit abusive. If there is an online system, I’ve seen it for most of the big carriers where there’s a chat box on the side if you want to contact a real person. They’re often very good, you know, either about chat or speak to a real agent. And it’s left to the consumer’s choice. And I think that’s a better solution. And I believe we’re fine with that.

1586 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. Thank you. We had a lot of conversation yesterday with respect to the untying of the requirement to purchaser internet when a subscriber wants to purchase a cable package. And I’m wondering what your thoughts are on the best way forward with respect to such tied selling. Is it okay? Should we look at strengthening the rules around preventing those measures or does that just create problems for other service providers that are perhaps offering over-the-top services and trying to get into the market to create a more competitive situation?

1587 MR. LAWFORD: We noticed -- yeah, and we were -- we saw the press release from Bell Canada and we were pleased to see that they were decoupling Bell Internet from Fibe. And we believe that for the larger VI’s that that would have been necessary anyway and probably the Commission would have had to address that question at some point.

1588 The smaller ones is a different question. And I think you’re quite right to point out that they have a different economics at this time given the number of subscribers they have and the market. We still philosophically don’t like the fact that they have to tie it or they feel they have to tie it but I don’t know what their economics are. It may be that they’re making so little on the broadcasting side that they need to make money on the internet side and without the two packages it’s just not viable. And I think you can speak to VMedia and other people like that about their economics.

1589 So, you know, without having a full evidence about what the differences are, I can’t say, but philosophically we think they shouldn’t be tied, and for the large ones it is a big problem but now that Bell has changed course that’s very helpful and we will leave it in your hands whether the small carriers need a different approach.

1590 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Is the conversation in making that type of directional change is it between large providers and small providers, VI’s and the smaller competitors, or is it a problem that’s more acute in certain regions of the country?

1591 Being from Atlantic Canada, the basic internet service in many areas runs in the vicinity of $85 a month, whereas my friends in Toronto could probably get it for $50 a month. So the act of tying it together in certain regions with the basic television service means that Atlantic Canadians pay more than their friends and family in Quebec or Ontario as an example.

1592 MR. LAWFORD: It’s difficult because that’s often the way for things. Our concern is to get consumers the cheapest combination that will get them what they want, and if there’s good competition -- now, with the wholesale rules in the internet market it’s very conceivable that you could then put on top one of the major VI’s broadcasting television services on top of that with a third party if you will internet connection underlying and save a lot of money. That may not be available in our markets because there may not be the tech savvy’s of the world across Canada to bring lower internet prices, or the market hasn’t responded in those areas where there’s that pressure from the bigger ones as well.

1593 So, I mean, our main concern is to get the cheapest combination. And I hear you, but solving the competition problem is a tough one.

1594 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: We also had a lot of conversation yesterday around bundle discounts, and usually the Commission would not get involved and we’d leave that to market forces and for want of a better term we’d let the competitors duke it out and hopefully prices are reduced and services improved for customers.

1595 Do you think in this type of situation it warrants a departure from purely allowing competitive forces to shape the market?

1596 MS. LAU: I think what we said in our intervention is that in this specific case we identified practices, including the bundling and promotional discounts, where skinny basic subscribers seemed to be singled out as a group and treated differently from the rest of BDU customers, and so we found that in this specific case that this specific case did warrant Commission intervention.

1597 And so we think, in the context of this hearing, that any bundling discounts that aren’t available to skinny basic subscribers but for some reason are available to all other TV customers should be prohibited.

1598 MR. LAWFORD: If I might add, it is an undue -- we’re saying it’s an undue preference under the BDU reg’s and therefore you can intervene.

1599 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: How is that different than what a lot of other industries would do? If I’m back and forth to Ottawa a lot; if I fly more there’s certain incentives for me to fly with Air Canada. If I stay in the same hotel chain all the time there’s upgrades or reduced rates. Why is the television industry different?

1600 MR. LAWFORD: Alysia has something to add, but I’ll just start. Broadcasting, like telecom, is a common carriage. It’s treated with the BDU reg’s as if it were. So it’s not another service. I think someone yesterday was comparing it to like a point system. It’s not the same thing, because when you are preferring one set of your customers over another there’s a regulation that says you don’t do that if it’s undue. And what’s undue, well you get a different price. That’s about as undue as you can get to a consumer.

1601 And so this is one of those situations where it’s not a widget factory and it’s not a hotel chain it’s a regulated broadcasting distribution undertaking with a regulation that says you shall not unduly discriminate, and we think the discrimination between the two is undue and it certainly is that there is a preference.

1602 And I think you wanted to add something.

1603 MS. LAU: I was just going to reiterate that yeah, we understand that there are often different discounts that may apply to subscribers with different packages but these were practices where we found that it was skinny basic subscribers in particular that were -- for which the services and discounts were unavailable, and so to us it was this particular group that was being targeted and that does create an undue disadvantage.

1604 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Just one follow-up on that and then I’ll turn you back over to my colleagues. And I’d like to get your thoughts on this topic of what SaskTel had to say in their intervention. And I’ll paraphrase, but they said that the delivery of the basic package -- the cost to deliver the basic package are higher than the $25 charged for it and as such would not be reasonable to require a discount on those services. Do you care to comment on that? They’re suggesting the cost to provide the service are above what they’re able to charge for it and as such no discounts or bundling should apply.

1605 MS. LAU: Yeah, I would start maybe just with the bundling discounts because it’s kind of an easy discount to -- or an easy type of discount to discuss. But typically -- and this may be different for different BDUs, but bundling discounts typically apply when you subscribe to more than one communication service. So it isn’t about which of the -- which specific package which you subscribe to, it’s supposed -- I mean, it’s intended to be to award the customer for subscribing to several different services because there are efficiencies or some kinds of synergies that are being saved when that occurs.

1606 And so, to us, the argument about the skinny basic package or service in particular and those customers benefiting from a price which is, you know, beyond or lower than cost doesn’t, for us, persuade us that the bundling discount in particular shouldn’t apply.

1607 MR. LAWFORD: And one more thing, Commissioner MacDonald. It’s tricky. I mean, the Commission put a price cap on this thing and -- it was sort of a price cap, right, it was just on the service, but it left equipment, and installation and lots of other things where if companies are losing money they can recoup.

1608 And so what SaskTel is really saying is our -- our concern is that we didn’t have a full costing of this and so the price was set too low and so we don’t want to lose other areas where we can take it out of consumers to make up the difference.

1609 Without going through costing numbers, it’s hard to know if they’re right or their wrong, but it’s a risk when you pick a number, and it will continue to be, I believe, pressure from them to recoup through set top box fees, or bundled discount loss, or, you know, HD charges, or whatever, to try to make up this difference.

1610 So I don’t know if you need to review this at some point, the $25 amount, but if that happens then I would expect there will be calls for a full costing. So I can’t answer because I don’t know what SaskTel’s input costs are.

1611 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. And I was mistaken, I have one more question, and it was just with respect to the survey that you prepared, some BDUs yesterday questioned the small size of the survey in their cases just because there were fewer complaints lodged against them are you able to reach out to fewer of their customers. And I was just wondering, are you planning on a go forward basis to do any monitoring of the situation, any focus groups, any additional research on a go forward basis to continue to analyze the situation?

1612 MR. LAWFORD: I’ll start. Maybe Alysia will have something to add.

1613 The survey you saw, it was actually 4,000 people that got called with IVR, which is as cheap as we can go, to get 300 people who had actually tried, right, to change to skinny basic. We would have had to do obviously 10 times that amount to get 3,000 people and it would have been far too expensive for PIAC or CAC to do that. We can only go so far in the context of a hearing with surveys that may or may not come back in costs and we didn’t think it was reasonable to go to a $10,000 -- or I mean to a $50,000 survey or a $60,000 survey, which is what it would have cost. So that naturally limits what’s going on here.

1614 And it’s also after the hearing is over it will be very difficult for us to continue to commission surveys without continuing cost towards. We might be able to get it out of the broadcasting participation fund. I’d have to see.

1615 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Would you monitor in your social media or your own interactions in any way?

1616 MS. LAU: Yeah, I think we intend to endeavour to continue to monitor this and to continue our consultations with CAC to hear about the complaints they might be receiving or what they may be hearing.

1617 In terms of the survey itself, I think, like John said, it would be difficult for us to determine at this point how regularly or if at all we can repeat it. We were glad because we wanted to give the Commission kind of a helpful snapshot of the real experiences and challenges which Canadians were facing over the last few months. And we think that we achieved that and no other party has provided their own numbers or their own surveys to refute that. But we do intend to continue to monitor the rollout of the flexible packaging rules and skinny basic to extent possible for us.

1618 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. Thank you very much.

1619 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Simpson.

1620 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Good morning. I want to pick up where Commission MacDonald left off on the survey you did.

1621 In your orals today on paragraph 5 you refer to 62 percent. Is that the infamous 300 that we’re talking about?

1622 MR. LAWFORD: Yes, and I just want to expand upon that. So individual BDUs have said, well, we only have 50 or we only have 90 of our customers.


1624 MR. LAWFORD: But I think it’s fair to say there are 300 and that they may in particular have different issues. But we would have had to run the survey at, you know, one or two orders of magnitude to get the certainty that they would like statistically.

1625 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Now you get that.

1626 MR. LAWFORD: But that’s where we are.

1627 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yeah, I get that.

1628 But if your sample size that this was drawn from was over 4,000, that 300 represents, by my math, about 1 percent; is that correct?

1629 MR. LAWFORD: Yeah, or you could look -- or alternatively you could look at it as 300 people out of the 177,000 that have subscribed to skinny basic.

1630 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay. So even if you were to reduce the sample size to, you know -- again, I’m not trying to manipulate the numbers here, but I think the awareness factor was somewhere between 50 and 60 percent. So let’s say for sake of argument it was 50/50. That sample size, again, might grow to two percent. But do you not think that that might be representative of the actual number of people that are actually interested in pursuing small basic?

1631 MS. LAU: So just to clarify, you’re saying that only 300 actually were interested in the small basic service --

1632 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Enough to go to the next step.

1633 MS. LAU: -- to begin with out of the 4,000?

1634 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Enough to go to the next step and then get dissatisfied.

1635 MR. LAWFORD: I’m sorry. Did you want to -- I’m not sure we asked people whether they had tried to do it. I don’t believe the survey was structured that way so I’m not sure we could actually say that.

1636 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay. In testimony we heard yesterday, I believe it was from Shaw -- I could be wrong -- or Rogers. My bad if I’ve got it wrong. But with respect to services like VOD, we had heard from the cable providers that they had technical issues providing VOD and that they’re working to change that so VOD would be available. Does that change or alter your view as to some of the critical arguments you have that made it look like services were being taken off the table out of spite rather than technical?

1637 MS. LAU: If the issue is technical then we are, of course, understanding of that and would like to continue to monitor the situation to see whether the BDUs are addressing those technical challenges. From what we saw in the responses which the BDUs had filed with the Commission in response to requests for information, some BDUs were specifically stating that they wanted to require their customers to subscribe to a television subscription of a minimum amount because -- in order to access VOD and other types of services. So it seemed in those cases that it was a choice, their business choice.


1639 MR. LAWFORD: I’m actually -- it’s a good thing we have smart articling students at PIAC.

1640 Our survey says, question 5, 7 percent of people tried -- called about skinny basic, excuse me.

1641 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Your internship is being extended. That’s terrific. Thank you very much.

1642 Moving over to another point that you had made. And in generality, you were taking the position that it would be a heck of a lot easier for consumers if there was greater standardization of the offering. And part of that standardization seems to be to bring the unknown costs or the trailing cost of equipment and other issues more directly -- either directly into the bundle or better promoted. But where I’m going with this is this is a practice that we’ve seen in past. And I’m not sure whether you took issue with it, for example, in the wireless industry where they would make -- go to great lengths to make sure that they couldn’t be compared apples to apples, particularly on the hardware side.

1643 So what has PIAC’s position been on that type of practice and were you vocal about it then as you are now on this issue of basic?

1644 MR. LAWFORD: Yeah, we had in the wireless code a position that there should be a standard way for consumers to compare costs and especially of equipment because it was the phone that was causing the most problems, but other things too, you know, other services. And I believe that ended up being solved through the wireless.

1645 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: The wireless ---

1646 MR. LAWFORD: It’s a consistent position. It just -- it reduces consumer’s bandwidth, if you will, search bandwidth. You don’t have to think so hard if it’s presented in an easy to digest manner. You can just go to the market and decide.

1647 MS. LAU: Yeah, I think PIAC in particular has quite consistently stated that there is a problem when consumers are trying to compare offerings in the marketplace. We had -- we published a report a few years ago on broadband speeds and broadband speeds measuring up to consumer’s expectations and the real speeds. And so we do think that getting the information they are looking for and actually being able to compare offerings -- even the skinny basic offerings, in this case we noted in our intervention that different BDUs were giving -- were presenting the packages as including different numbers of channels even in the same region. So it is confusing for consumers when they’re trying to figure out, you know, what they want to do, how they might want to trim their bill and so forth.

1648 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: M’hm. A couple of tangents from that question. We -- as your reference to wireless code, also we did unlocking of phones so that the consumer had more ability to exercise their options on the hardware side and perhaps the phone challenge for them was a little more familiar than the cable set top box satellite configurations they have to get into but.

1649 The question I have is, if you try and standardize these packages to the extent that you’re perhaps subscribing, do you not take away competitive ability of the companies to differentiate themselves? Because that’s really what -- if you pursue a sameness, then there isn’t -- and I’m not even trying to get into the market forces issue. I’m trying to ask a basic question of competitive offerings. And what you want, does that run against that and therefore against the consumers best interest?

1650 MR. LAWFORD: I think what we’re initially saying is the standard information is key. When you get into standard offer it’s difficult with the basic package because it varies, and you’ve given the providers flexibility to add extra things into their small basic package, right, so, you know, at first some people didn’t put four-plus-one in and now they do, or they don’t, whatever, that makes it hard to -- like we’re not asking for that to be standardized. We agree with the Commission’s decision to leave them flexibility, to create the small basic package that works for the BDU and then they can market it.

1651 What we’re concerned about I think, for the most part, is that it’s hard to compare across BDUs or even between packages because the extra charges and the content of the small package are not either told to people or not completely spelled out in one place in any consistent manner.

1652 MS. LAU: Yeah, and in addition to that kind of the practices that we’ve identified which we think do kind of unfairly target skinny basic subscribers.

1653 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: The second part of this line of questioning has to do with your suggestion that the Commission should dig deeper into the whole set top box issue with respect to our policies.

1654 And in referencing what’s going on in the United States, the FCC is kind of going down a path of un-attaching the set top box from the provision of the television supplier and putting it more squarely into the hands of the consumer.

1655 Now, given that there’s as much confusion as you say there is in this marketplace and my suggestion that perhaps people are not as familiar with buying all the gear necessary to get television as they are with buying a phone, is what the FCC is doing, in your mind, aiding the consumer because it allows them to practice choice in that arena, or does it make -- does it put the onus onto the consumer and perhaps the confusion that goes with it?

1656 MR. LAWFORD: I think overall -- I’ll let Alysia finish. But overall the FCC Commission is at least looking at is the right way to go, because it’s a big expense and it’s rental forever of something that if there were a market where you could go buy it you would save a lot of money. We had the same problem with cellphones, right, amortized over -- forever, and then eventually over three years and now two, that’s a better way to approach perhaps equipment rentals but we’re not there yet. We’re not there yet.

1657 And there’s also a complication with, you know, are you getting a PVR or just a receiver box, HD, SD, whatever. I understand that. But the companies can still make it simple for people. They can say “Oh” -- even if we do go down this route, they can say “Well, you could go to market and buy one but look we’ve made it simple for you. We’ve made it simple for you, it’s just a rental, it’s this much and it only goes for the two years of your contract” -- that would be our ideal -- and then people could say “Sure, I’ll take that because it’s easy, or I’ll go to market and save $20.” But we’re not there yet. We’re not even close. That’s our concern.

1658 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: And perhaps a little editorializing, I do find it very interesting that throughout the evolution of an industry that’s 40 or 50 years old now that there’s such a small universe of manufacturers of set top boxes and how tied they are to particular providers, which I suppose is not surprising.

1659 And so with that statement, my last question is when we first came out with the TVSP -- you know, the Television Service Providers Code -- in looking at it and looking at the problem that’s before us with respect to providers interpretation of provision of small basic, are there any deficiencies in the code that if better prescribed might have eliminated the problems we have here?

1660 MS. LAU: I think it’s kind of hard for us to say on -- to respond to that question on the spot. If you wish, we could maybe come back with a response in our final comments.

1661 MR. LAWFORD: Well, I will add just for the TV Service Provider Code it is fairly minimal. It’s nothing like the wireless code in the sense that we’re not putting so many restrictions on how things are offered and how clear they are and going to the extent of asking that equipment rentals be amortized for example.

1662 I mean, if we had our druthers it would have been more prescriptive, but it was a first step for this industry which just hadn’t had a lot of regulation to be absolutely honest, which is part of the reason why we’re here right now, and it was a good first start. And also I don’t know whether the kinds of things we’re asking for wouldn’t be better placed in the BDU reg’s or a decision.

1663 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: I would personally love it if you could rattle that around a bit, and if you find that it’s a little more challenging than something you can offer up in your closing comments I think it would be swell if you would provide it as an undertaking.

1664 MR. LAWFORD: We’ll do that.

1665 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: --- before the -- within the time period that was prescribed by the Chair.


1667 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you very much. Those are my questions.

1668 THE CHAIRPERSON: So that would be end of day tomorrow, right, 5:00 o’clock Vancouver time?

1669 MS. LAU: We had initially proposed for the final comments, which would be next week.

1670 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. So -- okay, here. So -- and I heard you. So if you want to make an argument obviously you can do it in final comment, but if you want to introduce any new evidence to support that argument I think you really have to do it by -- before the arguments start going through. That’s all I’m saying.

1671 MS. LAU: Okay.

1672 THE CHAIRPERSON: So if you intend just to make an argument your final reply, response -- I can’t remember what we call it -- is probably the place to do it in. So it’s up to you.

1673 MS. LAU: Okay. Understood.

1674 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So the undertaking is there and if you don’t want to take -- when you’re drafting you’ll see whether or not it’s evidence or not, and if it’s merely argument just let the secretariat know that you’ll not do it and it will be dealt with as an argument or an issue, right. Okay?

1675 MS. LAU: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

1676 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.

1677 So I have a few questions for you, and frankly, Mr. Lawson (sic), you opened the door so I think my first line of questions are fair game. You referred to Mr. Cran and all the media -- and much media he had done. Was he unable to attend the hearing today?

1678 MR. LAWFORD: He was.

1679 THE CHAIRPERSON: Was no one from the CAC able to attend?

1680 And I’ll make the point. I mean, I understand ---

1681 MR. LAWFORD: Sure.

1682 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- you are here as PIAC because you’re the Executive Director of PIAC, so you’re the client, you’re also the advocate for it, and that’s no problem, but would you not agree with me that within the CAC you may be the advocate for the association but you’re not the client and there is no CAC member at the table?

1683 MR. LAWFORD: That’s correct.

1684 THE CHAIRPERSON: And it would have been nice for either Mr. Cran or somebody to be here to answer questions about this issue and to respond to and be challenged by other parties in the proceeding. Would you not agree?

1685 MR. LAWFORD: I would. And I can assure you that we did raise this with CAC and they were unable to provide anyone for us today. And I apologize for that.

1686 THE CHAIRPERSON: That’s indeed unfortunate, because certainly -- you know, I was reading in the Toronto Star -- and since Mr. Cran is not here I can’t verify if he did say that, but let’s take it at face value, it’s in quotes, “The Regulator heard all of these complaints a long time ago and could have issued a clarification of the rules back then.”

1687 So would you not agree with me that we still have a duty to act fairly and respond to procedural fairness and the Commission can’t just one day to the next create new rules like Mr. Cran seems to suggest?

1688 MR. LAWFORD: Yes, and Mr. Cran is aware of the way that the regulatory process works and the -- you know, it’s unfortunate if his remarks implied that you could wave your magic wand and make it all better. Perhaps out of a long interview he was offering that as a one-off and it was unfortunate. So I’m sure that he will temper his remarks. And he has -- I know that he does have respect for everything you do.

1689 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. It’s just that I’ve seen and observed a growing number of stakeholders who do media campaigns, don’t show up at the hearing room. You know, that’s not really our system. Our colleagues in the media of course love that. It helps sell what they’re doing. But we’re an evidence based regulator and we act in a transparent and open manner. We have records of the transcripts so everybody knows what’s said, everybody has a chance, those adverse in interests, to make comments, and if they don’t like the outcome again a media campaign is not particularly helpful. There are procedures both under the Telecom Act and the Broadcasting Act to seek readdress of various nature.

1690 So I get that Mr. Cran may not have been available here today but, you know, for the system to work you’ve got to come to the party.

1691 MR. LAWFORD: And I believe that normally that would have happened. It’s an unfortunate situation today, and we totally hear you and we will make sure that that is always the case for future.

1692 THE CHAIRPERSON: Now, I noticed that you said earlier when you were explaining, you thought that -- you were making comments that there is an undue preference and you said -- and I took it down when you said it so we’ll be able to check in the transcript if this is indeed what you said, but you said when there are different prices it equates to being undue.

1693 There I’m paraphrasing but you basically were saying almost immediately when prices were different for different groups of consumers not only was it a discrimination or a preference, but it was, on top of that, automatically undue. And can you help me understand your perspective on that?

1694 MR. LAWFORD: Sure. I’m not saying that because they may pay -- other customers may pay more for a different kind of service that pricing is unfair. I’m saying when something like a bundling discount is for two services -- and the companies in the hearing yesterday, in particular Bell and, I believe, Rogers as well, kept talking about eligible services. Now, come on. Eligible services? They are then deciding who’s good enough to get their discounts. That’s unjust discrimination right there. Right there. They’re saying, “You’re only taking our entry level package. You’re not good enough to get a bundling discount.” When everybody that -- I think the common understanding is you take two services; services, internet, television, wireless, you get a bundle discount. That’s the common understanding. And they’re putting these brackets around them and saying there’s eligible services, which implies discrimination. And then the consequence is a difference in price which some consumers have said in this hearing cause them to either not take skinny basic or cut the cord altogether, or, you know, they can’t switch. And that’s material adverse impact, and that’s the test under that section.

1695 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. And so I take it that as long as the -- are you attacking the fact that they’re keeping a discretion on a fact-by-fact situation with individual subscribers, that that’s the issue? Whereas if they had said, a bit like Videotron does, if you’ve got two of these or three of these, it’s $5, $10 and there is no negotiation.

1696 MR. LAWFORD: It’s not individual discrimination, although I don’t know if, you know, certain offers are not made to certain individuals based on profiles. Let’s leave that aside. It’s more the Videotron situation. We’re saying there’s a group of subscribers for some BDUs who take limited TV or whatever it’s called for that subscriber who don’t get bundling discounts because of the fact that they’re a limited TV subscriber, where in the larger sense they are a TV subscriber from that BDU, and they’re also an internet subscriber and their neighbour next door is on a different package and they get the bundle and the neighbour next door doesn’t. So it’s that level. It’s not at an individual Mr. Smith level.

1697 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. I understand, however, you know, Commissioner MacDonald was talking about there are volume discounts and practices of that nature in various industries from, you know, subway to hotels to airlines.

1698 MR. LAWFORD: M’hm.

1699 THE CHAIRPERSON: Your point being, however, this is a special case because there -- we have a common carrier and therefore over a number of years common carriers are under -- are of a different regime. But even common carriers charge different prices for different types of customers because, you know, it’s certainly the case in the airline industry and the train.

1700 I mean, I’m struggling understanding why a common carrier cannot do discrimination -- and I will agree with you there is discrimination -- but why is it suddenly become undue?

1701 MR. LAWFORD: What are they delivering? The ability to price differentially is not per se unjust discrimination, I agree with you. But when it gets to be discrimination on price for essentially the same service with essentially the same facilities, it is undue discrimination. What have you got? You’ve got somebody with basic intro TV who’s using the same wires from the same BDU with a similar set-top box and the services -- the channels that are coming in are the same ones that are available to the higher packages, just fewer of them. So the only ground on which I could stand if I were a BDU to say that somehow it’s different from my good, better, best folks, for example, for Bell, is just that they buy more. And I don’t think that that -- that we’re in the TV services talking about volume discounts. Volume discounts are like normally when you’re buying, you know, 50,000 minutes for a business or something like that, you might get a volume discount. But it’s essentially the same service for a different price.

1702 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. I understand a little bit more your position, so thanks.

1703 It’s my question that at one point you were about to -- or you had actually launched an online tool to help consumers make better choices in the marketplace, and it suddenly disappeared. Were you put under pressure by the industry, the BDUs in particular, to take down; were there threats of litigation? What happened?

1704 MR. LAWFORD: Well, no. Let me -- we didn’t put it in our written stuff but since you’ve asked me, yes, we were threatened.

1705 THE CHAIRPERSON: I opened the door for you.

1706 MR. LAWFORD: Thank you.

1707 We were threatened with -- not a lawsuit, it didn’t get that far. Where discretion is the better part of valour, and we know when the next step is a legal letter. But it was just prior to that, two major BDUs contacted us saying there were inaccuracies in their entries. And we addressed at some length, with emails back and forth, one BDU’s concerns, and with another simply was a letter that said, “Would you please take our stuff off?” And it was our understanding and our judgment that if we didn’t take stuff off, the next step would likely be litigation. I presume on some intentional interference with economic relations or misrepresentation or something like that.

1708 The trouble is that we don’t have public interest privilege; it doesn’t exist. So our concern was that if we were going to have to go into litigation it would be a problem.

1709 Our other difficulty in doing our chart was that it really was hard, you know. We went to the Web sites and we had this problem which we’ve described to you. We pretended to be a consumer, we called the CSRs, somethings were explained clearly, some not. Lots of calls. Some things on the Web site appeared to be one way, and in particular I remember one BDU saying, “Well, no, our PVR box is $5 less than you said, across the board.” And it was not clear from the Web site, it just simply was not, and so it was an honest mistake. But the reaction was very concerned and very strident that we were interfering with their business, they had wonderful offers, and our efforts were harming consumers, and harming their business in particular, and we had to back off.

1710 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Well, I’m not entirely surprised by your account because as you know, the Commission itself put up a, “You have choices” tool on our platforms, and we do it in various areas, including television services, wireless and wire-line services, and we too received letters. And we welcome letters that seek to clarify or correct things we would make. I mean, we’re basing -- we’ve got a lot of suppliers in this country and we think it’s important for us to provide them with -- those consumers with information to make informed choices in a dynamic marketplace. But I’m not surprised of your account because we received similar letters, or contacts.

1711 They want to sue us, well, make my day.

1712 Thank you for that.

1713 Last area, and it’s more a philosophical question for you. And, you know, I’ve said on a number of occasion regulation is a poor substitute for a properly working competitive marketplace. And as you know, in the television supplier -- television distribution business we’re a long way from being in a monopoly situation, right? Open entry, and there are few places in this country that you can’t access two, three, or even more suppliers. And it’s a long preamble but you’ll see where I’m going.

1714 It seems to me -- and this is what I’d like to have your reaction on, is that the success of the marketplace, a competitive marketplace like this one, is a shared responsibility in the following sense: The regulator, CRTC, creates a framework within which the players in that marketplace must operate. The BDU has to operate within that regulatory framework, but also within the dynamic of the economics and competitors and all that.

1715 And thirdly, but perhaps more importantly, the consumers themselves also have a role to play. It’s not a monopoly like in the old days where we would do rate cases and set the terms and it would be all very prescribed. As I said, it’s -- that sort of regulation is a poor substitute for a properly functioning marketplace.

1716 You mentioned earlier that, you know, some consumers may be overcharged for set top boxes or installation, but my philosophical question to you is isn't then part of the responsibility for that consumer, either individually or as a group, to say, “Company X, that’s not good enough for me and I'm going to go to Company Y.”

1717 And I think it’s fair to say the Commission over the past few years has removed a lot of barriers for people to move around from one supplier to the next, the 30-day rule being one.

1718 So what is the role of the consumer? Shouldn’t they playing around? I mean, why are we -- why -- you're making the argument, I believe, that we need to intervene, that is regulated, some aspects additionally by creating new obligations or clarifying or what may be, but shouldn’t we first make sure that the consumers are occupying their responsibility as part of this shared responsibility ecosystem to themselves demand better, to change, to switch, to go elsewhere? Your response to that.

1719 MR. LAWFORD: Let me start and I know Alysia will have something to add. The consumers are doing that, they're starting to -- you see people picking up skinny basic and it’s slow. And let’s face it, there were roadblocks that were put in front of them by the BDUs. That is a fact.

1720 So all we’re here today to say is if you can make things a little more clear so that consumers know what their choices are, they will make those choices. But when they went to market on this one, unfortunately some of the BDUs either weren’t ready or were hostile to it, and they did not get a true choice, they didn’t really get the ability to compare, is this BDU better than that BDU?

1721 We are extremely pleased with how far the Commission has gone to make things easier for consumers, in particular the cancellation rules as you mentioned, but also with the pick and pay coming, will greatly aid, you know, with what's going on here. That will completely change the face of the market and I think you’ll see people going to skinny basic -- whether you make changes today or not -- in higher numbers once pick and pay is fully implemented. So we’re very pleased about that.

1722 Yes, they have a responsibility to go shopping, and yes, the market looks a lot better than it used to. We’re just here to say, “Can we make it as level a playing field and honest offers as possible?”

1723 THE CHAIRPERSON: Oh, I thought you were being -- looking down, but I thought Mr. Lawson had passed the mic to you, no?

1724 MS. LAU: No, I think John had covered everything and so I told him ---

1725 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, sorry.

1726 MS. LAU: --- that was a good response.

1727 THE CHAIRPERSON: Your hand signals between you. So, sorry about that. I believe those are our questions. Thank you. It’s a good answer and I understand what you're -- where you're coming from on this. And Legal doesn’t have any issues, so thank you very much. Thank you for your appearance.

1728 MR. LAWFORD: Thank you.
THE CHAIRPERSON: Madam Secretary.

1729 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Merci, monsieur le président.

1730 Nous entendrons maintenant la présentation de l’Union des consommateurs qui comparait par vidéoconférence du Bureau régional de Montréal.

1731 Bonjour, est-ce que vous nous entendez?

1732 LE PRÉSIDENT: On vous voit, mais on vous -- oui, bon, recommencez, là on vous entend. Allez-y et bienvenue à l’audience et puis on vous écoute.

1733 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Parfait, merci.


1734 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Bonjour à tous, je suis Sophy Lambert -- j’entends mon écho, excusez-moi, je vais recommencer.

1735 Bonjour à tous, je suis Sophy Lambert-Racine, analyste de politiques et réglementation en matière de télécommunications et radiodiffusion pour Union des consommateurs. Je suis accompagnée de Me Marcel Boucher, responsable des affaires juridiques pour UC.

1736 Nous souhaitons tout d’abord remercier le Conseil de vérifier l’implantation des obligations relatives au service de base et les nouvelles obligations de souplesse pour les services de télévision payante. Ces nouvelles obligations constituent des remèdes intéressants pour certains consommateurs, à condition bien sûr qu’elles soient appliquées de manière adéquate. Hélas, ce n’est malheureusement pas le cas. Selon nous, aucun des fournisseurs dont nous avons examiné les services ne respecte l’ensemble des obligations relatives au nouveau service de base. Nous détaillerons dans les prochaines minutes les principaux problèmes que nous avons constatés.

1737 Nous souhaitons en premier lieu aborder le problème fondamental de la visibilité. Très rares sont les consommateurs qui auront été informés de manière proactive par leur fournisseur de l’existence du service de base. Ceux qui trouvent des renseignements à ce sujet auront dû chercher attentivement, ou avoir entendu parler -- ou en avoir entendu parler par une autre source. Les services à la clientèle parlent rarement du petit service, à moins de se faire poser des questions expressément par les consommateurs.

1738 De plus, malgré ce qu’en dit la politique réglementaire de radiodiffusion 2015-96, aucun fournisseur qu’il nous a été donné d’étudier ne présente le petit service de base dans sa documentation promotionnelle avec une visibilité équivalente à celle de son offre de premier volet ou de l’ensemble de ses services.

1739 Évidemment, les affirmations de Vidéotron à l’effet que l’entreprise n’est pas soumise à cette obligation, parce qu’elle n’offrirait pas d’offre de premier volet, devraient être rejetées d’emblée. Peu importe comment une entreprise définit l’offre la plus économique après le service de base, et peu importe de quelles chaînes cette offre est composée, il s’agit d’une offre de premier volet et tous les fournisseurs doivent à notre avis se conformer à leurs obligations de promotion.

1740 Outre la question de visibilité, il y a celle de la clarté. Aucun fournisseur ne semble faire d’effort pour fournir au sujet du service de base ou de leurs autres forfaits une information claire, exhaustive et exacte. Bell, par exemple, nous reproche d’avoir fourni des renseignements inexacts au sujet des prix de ses forfaits, alors que nous avons énuméré les prix qui apparaissent dans la documentation promotionnelle, saisie d’écran à l’appui. Nous avons donc rapporté ce que peut voir le consommateur. C’est pourquoi nous suggérons au fournisseur de corriger le problème à la source.

1741 Dans certains cas, le boîtier décodeur le plus économique offert par le fournisseur n’est pas adéquatement mis en évidence dans la documentation promotionnelle. Par exemple, un consommateur qui cherchera des renseignements sur le petit service de base sur le site de Bell aura de bonnes chances de tomber en premier sur les renseignements relatifs à la télévision IP, qui détaillent un prix de location de l’appareil à 15 $ par mois, alors que l’information au sujet de la télévision par satellite, moins en évidence, affiche des frais de location de boîtier décodeur plus proches de ceux qui sont exigés par les autres membres de l’industrie.

1742 De plus, au vu de la documentation promotionnelle, le service de base, chez Bell et chez d’autres fournisseurs, est dans plusieurs situations, moins avantageux que d’autres forfaits. Par exemple, il semble régulièrement exclu des promotions offertes pour les autres forfaits.

1743 Lorsque les consommateurs posent des questions au service à la clientèle au sujet du petit service de base, la manière dont l’information est présentée est parfois confondante, ou présente le service désavantageusement par rapport aux autres forfaits.

1744 Il s’agit pourtant de problèmes qui peuvent être réglés rapidement. En cessant de reléguer l’information à son sujet en bas de page, ou en pâle, ou dans un encadré plus petit et plus discret que ceux réservés aux autres forfaits; en cessant de présenter des renseignements qui ne sont pas exhaustifs sur l’ensemble des forfaits; en assurant que le personnel de première ligne informe le consommateur au sujet de l’existence du service de base en temps opportun de manière neutre et complète.

1745 On pourra dire qu’il est difficile de présenter le service de base de manière avantageuse, vu les conditions de services qui y sont souvent associés. Hélas, des efforts semblent être faits pour rendre le petit service de base le moins économique possible. Avec, par exemple, des frais de location de boîtier décodeur exorbitants, ou avec des barrières à la mobilité des clients, en offrant des appareils qui ne pourront être utilisés chez d’autres fournisseurs, ou des discriminations économiques. Le plus souvent, on ne propose pas de soustraire en partie ou en totalité les frais liés à la location du boîtier décodeur à la facture mensuelle, contrairement à ce qui se fait pour la majorité des autres offres.

1746 Bien sûr, nous sommes conscients que la réglementation du Conseil permet explicitement aux fournisseurs de facturer en sus des frais de location du boîtier décodeur. Cependant, il nous semble difficile de justifier que des fournisseurs qui incluent le prix du décodeur ou qui le réduisent dans leurs forfaits, refusent de le faire pour un service qui n’est souvent, que légèrement moins cher que leur offre de premier volet.

1747 Autre problème, plusieurs promotions sur les rabais promotionnels temporaires ou sur les services groupés par exemple ne semblent pas être offertes pour le petit service de base par certains fournisseurs. Les consommateurs qui compareront le prix du forfait de base au tarif réduit de l’offre de premier volet seront évidemment tentés de choisir l’avenue qui est clairement la plus attrayante, parce que potentiellement moins coûteuse, du moins pendant la durée de la promotion.

1748 Ces pratiques ne neutralisent-elles pas les effets recherchés par le CRTC pour l’instauration du petit service de base? Le dossier public des certains témoignages qui nous ont été transmis semblent l’indiquer. Plusieurs consommateurs qui se renseignent sur le service de base décident de ne pas s’y abonner parce qu’il ne leur permet pas de faire des économies sur leur facture mensuelle pour leurs services de communication.

1749 Nous ne doutons pas de la capacité et du désir de l’industrie d’offrir des rabais alléchants aux consommateurs pour les attirer. Raréfier à ce point les rabais pour l’offre de base nuit évidemment à l’atteinte de l’objectif, qui était d’offrir un service économique aux consommateurs. Cela les empêche de contrôler plus efficacement leurs dépenses, en plus de défavoriser les consommateurs qui n’ont pas les moyens de s’abonner à plusieurs services de communication.

1750 Pour atteindre les objectifs de la politique réglementaire de radiodiffusion 2015-96, le petit service de base devrait jouir d’une promotion équivalente à celle des autres services, notamment l’offre de premier volet, comme nous l’avons déjà dit. Elle devrait aussi pouvoir être sujette à des rabais et privilèges comparables, qu’il s’agisse de rabais temporaires, de rabais pour des services groupés ou de soustraction des frais liés au boîtier décodeur.

1751 Nous avons entendu quelques questions et doléances des consommateurs sur la composition des petits forfaits de chaînes et l’offre de chaînes individuelles. Mais il est sans doute prématuré d’en arriver à des conclusions, alors que l’entrée en vigueur simultanée de ces règles n’est qu’en décembre.

1752 Cependant, nous avons remarqué avec inquiétude que certaines chaînes populaires, notamment les chaînes sportives, semblent être offertes à des tarifs exorbitants qui ne permettent pas le principe énoncé par le Conseil, d’offrir à un tarif abordable tous les services facultatifs.

1753 Nous espérons que le Conseil surveillera attentivement la situation après l’entrée en vigueur de cette obligation, afin d’agir promptement si les obligations relatives à la télé à la carte font l’objet de doléances systématiques, ou révèlent des problèmes de conformité qui nécessiteraient une intervention de sa part.

1754 Comme d’autres, nous avons certaines préoccupations au sujet des services de télévision IP, et notamment de la pratique de certains fournisseurs qui consiste à imposer l’abonnement aux services d’accès internet pour y avoir accès. La télé IP constitue une voie d’avenir, vu le développement graduel des réseaux de télécommunication et du fait qu’ils ne font pas subir aux consommateurs les inconvénients liés à la télévision par satellite. Les conditions pour accéder aux services de télévision devraient, dans la mesure du possible, être technologiquement neutres. Nous invitons le Conseil à examiner cette pratique avec intérêt.

1755 Évidemment, nous avons pris connaissance du communiqué de Bell au sujet des changements qui vont être apportés à son offre pour la télévision IP, mais à notre avis, il n’est pas nécessaire d’attendre encore plusieurs mois avant l’entrée en vigueur des changements annoncés.

1756 Nous espérons que le Conseil défendra bec et ongles les principes qu’il a adoptés dans la politique réglementaire de radiodiffusion 2015-96. Les consultations massives de Parlons Télé ont tenu compte des intérêts d’une variété remarquable d’intervenants, incluant les fournisseurs et les consommateurs, et le Conseil a clairement fait un effort en vue de tenter de concilier ces intérêts.

1757 L’industrie a disposé de beaucoup de temps pour se conformer aux nouvelles obligations issues des consultations Parlons télé et profitera encore de beaucoup de temps pour se conformer à d’autres, notamment l’adhésion au CPRST et au Code des fournisseurs des services de télévision.

1758 À l’heure des vérifications de conformité, la souplesse ne devrait pas être de mise. Nous suivrons avec grand intérêt le dénouement de la présente consultation et espérons des résultats concrets et positifs pour les consommateurs qui ont encore de la difficulté à se renseigner sur les nouvelles avenues qui leur sont offertes et à s’en prévaloir.

1759 Nous sommes maintenant à votre disposition pour répondre à vos questions.

1760 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci, merci bien. Donc j’ai quelques questions pour vous. Et merci pour votre participation et votre présentation ce matin.

1761 Juste pour clarifier, si je comprends bien, votre position reflète une position par rapport à la situation au Québec uniquement?


1763 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et par rapport à ---

1764 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: En fait ---

1765 LE PRÉSIDENT: Oui, pardon?

1766 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Oui, ben je souhaitais simplement -- en fait, pour suivre ce qui se passe c'est que nous avons reçu quelques commentaires par exemple de nos membres ou de consommateurs, donc notre but était du moins de partager nos constations sur le territoire du Québec, donc on a pas nécessairement étudier l’ensemble de la situation au Canada.

1767 LE PRÉSIDENT: D’accord, je comprends bien. Et donc pour les faits de cette audience orale, vous faites partie de l'audience qui est cette phase orale, évidemment les trois fournisseurs qui opèrent -- qui ont comparus aujourd'hui et qui opèrent au Québec seraient Vidéotron, Bell et Shaw, et Rogers évidemment ne font pas partie -- n’opère pas directement au Québec; n’est-ce pas?

1768 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: En effet.

1769 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et donc vos commentaires portent sur ces trois autres titulaires?

1770 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Oui. En fait, on a reçu d’avantage de commentaires et fait plus d’observations au sujet de Bell et Vidéotron par rapport à Shaw. Il semble y avoir d’avantage de gens qui sont abonnées à ces deux principaux fournisseurs, mais on a fait quelques observations aussi au sujet de Shaw, et nos constats généraux semblaient être similaires pour les principaux fournisseurs.

1771 LE PRÉSIDENT: D'accord. Et vous avez sans doute suivi l’audience de hier et bon, il semble qui a eu -- peut-être pas seulement hier mais depuis quelques semaines --des évolutions, et je tiens pour acquis que les commentaires vous faites ce matin reflètent ces -- cette évolution par rapport aux positions des parties et des titulaires d’ailleurs qui ont changé, vous avez fait référence au communiqué de presse de Bell, donc c'est vraiment votre position sur le dossier public tel qu’il existe aujourd'hui, et non pas tel qu’il existait peut-être y a quelques semaines; est-ce exact?

1772 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Tout à fait, les changements et les précisions que nous avions à faire, nous les avons ajoutées ce matin dans notre présentation. Pour le reste, évidemment ce qu’on a présenté ce matin ce sont nos observations à l’heure actuelle.

1773 LE PRÉSIDENT: D’accord. Vous avez fait un commentaire d’ailleurs par rapport à l’interdiction de jumeler des services de télévision par IP avec les services internet. Et évidemment on sait que les nouveaux joueurs dans l’industrie, des compagnies comme V Media, utilisent des plateformes IP, et c'est d'ailleurs -- c'est pour ça qu’on peut avoir plus de concurrence au pays même à l’extérieur des grands centres dans la mesure que y a des plateformes IP pour desservir ces fournisseurs-là. N’avez-vous pas peur que si on limite le jumelage des services de télévision par IP avec les services internet et si vous visiez je crois surtout les grands joueurs, que par ricochet ça va faire en sorte que les nouveaux entrants, les nouveaux joueurs pourront pas effectivement lancer leurs services parce que peut-être leur modèle d’affaires dépend un peu plus de ce jumelage-là, et ultimement l’action n’est pas avantageuse pour les consommateurs parce qu’on limiterait en fait leur capacité d’aller magasiner de l’autre côté de la rue pour un autre fournisseur?

1774 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Évidemment, quand on a formulé des commentaires à ce sujet-là ça visait principalement les principaux fournisseurs. Mais malgré tout, à notre avis les services devraient être comparables d’un fournisseur à l’autre, peu importe -- peu importe leur taille. Donc si un fournisseur indépendant décide d’offrir la télévision par IP, il devrait être en mesure d’offrir le service sans nécessairement forcer le consommateur à s’abonner aux services d’accès internet.

1775 LE PRÉSIDENT: C'est intéressant puis ça revient un peu à la question philosophique que je posais à vos collègues de PIAC-CAC il y a un moment, vous semblez indiquer que le rôle du Conseil c'est de s’assurer que tout le monde a des offres comparables. Est-ce que c'est vraiment le rôle du Conseil ou de s’assurer que on a un cadre réglementaire, que les compagnies opèrent dans ce réglementaire-là compétitif, et qu’ils se démarquent un de l'autre par rapport à leur offre? Et de dire que tout le monde doit avoir des offres comparables, en fait me semble à prime abord un peu contraire à la notion de la concurrence, parce que effectivement un marché plus ou moins avec une certaine maturité, on se compare par rapport aux offres; n'est-ce pas?

1776 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Ben en fait, on est d’accord avec vous sur un point, c'est que notre but n'est pas nécessairement que les offres à travers tous les fournisseurs soient la même. Notre position sur la télévision IP ne s’applique pas à l’ensemble des services. En fait, là où l’intervention du CRTC va être particulièrement importante dans ce dossier-ci, c'est sur la réglementation d’information, s’assurer que la promotion soit équivalente pour les services de télévision à celle de l'ensemble des services.

1777 Maintenant, pour la question de la télévision IP, il nous semble que c'est une pratique qui devrait être interdite d’imposer l’abonnement aux services d’accès internet, donc c'est une situation spécifique qui ne s’applique pas à l’ensemble du marché.

1778 Nous on n’est pas là pour dire que les services de tous les fournisseurs devraient être les mêmes

1779 On est là plutôt pour dire que essentiellement ce qu’on a remarqué le plus au cours des derniers mois, c'est des grands problèmes d’information. Information qui semble inciter les consommateurs à rester avec leur service actuel, ne pas tenter d’économiser malgré ce que -- ce qui était l’objectif des différentes décisions relatives à Parlons Télé. C'est pour ça qu’on est là aujourd'hui.

1780 LE PRÉSIDENT: Même si l’action que vous proposez aurait comme conséquence de ralentir l’arrivée dans certains marchés de nouveaux fournisseurs, qui dans leurs cas, économiquement ils doivent offrir les deux justement pour concurrencer contre les gros joueurs comme Vidéotron, Bell et Shaw? Ou est-ce que votre point de vue est que on devrait peut-être traiter les fournisseurs de grande taille différemment des nouveaux joueurs?

1781 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Ben en fait, nous le cœur de nos préoccupations c'est que ce service de base là devrait être facilement accessible. Il devrait pas y avoir un ensemble de conditions applicables, des frais additionnels ou des abonnements additionnels.

1782 L’objectif c'était d’offrir aux consommateurs les services de télévision plus importants dans un contexte où ces services-là étaient en augmentation, leurs prix augmentaient plus rapidement que l’IPC depuis à peu près une décennie, donc là on commence à voir des changements. C'est peut-être -- ça sera notamment à cause du petit service de base, faudrait surtout pas imposer toutes sortes de conditions ou tolérer des conditions qui permettraient d’amoindrir l’effet du petit service de base.

1783 LE PRÉSIDENT: Vous avez raison qu’en partie les objectifs du Conseil étaient formulés en terme d’abordabilité, mais on voulait aussi créer un marché dynamique en donnant des choix aux consommateurs et plutôt que d’être prescriptif sur tous les éléments.

1784 Et ce que j’essaie de mieux comprendre de votre part, c'est en étant prescriptif à certains égards, on pourrait agir à contrecourant d’avoir plus de joueurs qui se -- qui font de la véritable concurrence et qui auront des pressions globalement sur l’écosystème par rapport aux prix, mais aussi à la qualité des services et la diversité des services fournis pour tailler des services qui sont par mesure -- tailler à mesure pour les divers foyers. Donc si y a pas -- c'est pas un « one size fits all » pour -- comme disent les Chinois.

1785 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Ben en fait, écoutez, on comprend vos préoccupations, mais on continue à penser que l’abordabilité -- l’accès à des services de télévision abordable devrait être la priorité dans le cadre de la présente consultation. Et le fait d’ajouter des abonnements additionnels est problématique.

1786 En même temps, c'est certain que plusieurs fournisseurs indépendants pourraient être tentés -- auraient pu être tentés d’offrir des services similaires à ceux de Bell. Mais il reste ultimement les services de télévision pour l’instant chez les fournisseurs indépendants sont encore rares. Ceux qui seront prêts à offrir ces services-là et à être concurrentiels avec les grands joueurs, à notre avis il est normal qu’ils aient à répondre aux mêmes règles, que les droits des consommateurs soient respectés peu importe les services auxquels ils décident de s’abonner.

1787 Si il commence à avoir des obligations qui sont différentes d’un fournisseur à l’autre, ça peut devenir confrontant et désavantageux pour le consommateur qui sera pas capable de suivre pourquoi avec quel fournisseur il faut respecter telles consignes, pourquoi avec tel autre fournisseur y a tel autre privilège qu’il a.

1788 LE PRÉSIDENT: D'accord. J’aimerais vous entendre par rapport aux rabais multiplateformes. Premièrement, est-ce que je comprends bien votre position que vous n’êtes pas contre des rabais multiplateformes en principe?

1789 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Évidemment que non, ces rabais-là peuvent être avantageux pour les consommateurs dans une optique où une grande proportion des ménages s’abonnent à des services groupés, si il peut y avoir des rabais qui leur permettre d’économiser sur leur facture mensuelle, c'est tout à fait à leur avantage d’en profiter.

1790 Là où on avait un problème, c'est avec le fait que plusieurs rabais qui pouvaient être offerts aussi avec le service de base ne semblent pas être offerts chez plusieurs fournisseurs.

1791 LE PRÉSIDENT: Notamment qui -- quels fournisseurs dont vous mentionnez là qui sont -- puis y font partie de la phase? Parce que si j’ai bien compris les réponses de Vidéotron et de Shaw, dans leur cas c'est clairement disponible dès qu’on est un abonné au service de base minimal.

1792 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Écoutez, en fait j’ai entendu les réponses des fournisseurs. Moi ce que j’ai entendu de certains cas de consommateurs qui incluent à la fois des clients de Bell et de Vidéotron, c'est que pour certains clients qui étaient déjà abonnés à des services groupés avec l’offre de premier volet autre le fait de passer à le service de base, ça leur permettait soit de ne pas du tout économiser ou l’économie était nulle en soi ou y avait une augmentation de prix.

1793 Donc -- écoutez, nous on a pas fait un portrait de tous, tous les rabais qui peuvent être offerts avec les services groupés. Mais il semble qu’il y ait plusieurs situations, notamment chez Bell et Vidéotron où le service de base n'est pas avantageux dans un contexte où le client était déjà abonné à des services groupés.

1794 LE PRÉSIDENT: Je comprends. Ma dernière question porte sur des commentaires que vous avez faits à la page -- pardon, au paragraphe 15 de votre présentation aujourd'hui. Bon, je vous entends bien là, vous dites que dans cette instance ci vous avez mis vos efforts surtout pour le déploiement de la phase 1 puis que c'est un peu prématuré par rapport à la phase 2. Mais vous parlez que les tarifs pour les services à la carte devraient être abordables, et que le Conseil devrait examiner et suivre de près cette situation-là qui se déroulera entre aujourd'hui et le mois de décembre.

1795 À votre avis, quel serait le bon -- la bonne lentille ou peut-être le bon test pour que le Conseil arrive à la conclusion que l’offre de tel et tel service spécialisé à la carte a été offert par l’entreprise d’une façon abordable?

1796 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Évidement c'est une question complexe. Quand on a regardé les tarifs ---

1797 LE PRÉSIDENT: C'est pour ça qu’on a besoin de votre aide. Je le sais qu’elle est -- donc allez-y.


1799 LE PRÉSIDENT: C'est votre chance de nous aider.

1800 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Donc on peut essayer de vous offrir quelques directives, mais ce sera peut-être pas aussi précis qu’on le voudrait. Il va de soi que les consommateurs attendent depuis longtemps l’accès aux chaînes à la carte, et c'est une des craintes que certaines chaînes soient offertes à des tarifs très, très élevés. Il nous semble -- en tout cas, du moins que les tarifs de 17 $ par mois pour une et même deux chaînes, ça nous semble être exagéré.

1801 Le fait évidemment d’utiliser des critères -- certains fournisseurs semblaient vous dire hier dans l’élaboration de leurs tarifs, y a plusieurs critères qui sont pris en compte, notamment l’état de la demande, l’état de la concurrence, tous ces critères-là ça rien à voir avec l'abordabilité. C'est pourtant -- tant les réglementations qui ont été adoptées que pour les services facultatifs, ils doivent être offerts à des tarifs abordables. Ça doit faire partie des priorités également des fournisseurs.

1802 Maintenant, de savoir à quel prix exactement on peut dire que c'est abordable ou pas abordable, honnêtement on a pas -- on a pas eu les moyens ou le temps de faire des recherches auprès des consommateurs, de savoir qu’est-ce qui constitue un tarif abordable. Ce tarif-là évidemment peut varier d’un ménage à l’autre selon leurs moyens.

1803 Mais il va de soi que il va falloir, à notre avis, certainement voir au moment de l’entrée en vigueur quels sont les tarifs qui sont offerts. Est-ce que ces tarifs-là permettent aux consommateurs de ne pas avoir à payer d’avantage pour se prévaloir de la souplesse qui leur est offerte? Parce qu’évidemment, c'était une des préoccupations des consultations, mais si pour se prévaloir de cette offre-là ils doivent nécessairement payer plus cher par mois, évidemment ce n’était pas l’objectif.

1804 Certains consommateurs semblaient dire que de payer la même facture mais de n’avoir que des chaînes qui les intéressent serait satisfaisant, certains visaient vraiment une baisse des tarifs. Mais il va de soi que l’effet qui nous préoccupe, soit celui que on paye encore d’avantage pour l’accès mensuel, ça c'est -- selon nous ça devrait être absolument à éviter.

1805 Donc peut-être qu’un facteur qu’on pourrait regarder, ce sont les dépenses actuelles qui sont liées à la télévision payante, et voir si suite à l’entrée en vigueur de la télévision à la carte, ces dépenses-là ont baissé ou ont augmenté ou sont restées stables. On peut essayer de tirer des conclusions de ça. Tirer des conclusions aussi des plaintes des consommateurs, de leurs préoccupations provenant de l’entrée en vigueur, donc on va suivre avec attention ce que les consommateurs tirent là-dessus.

1806 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci. Et d’emblée je reconnais que c'est une question difficile, et peut-être que lors de la prochaine phase écrite vous pourriez nous aider à mieux saisir comment on devrait amorcer l’analyse de l’abordabilité des services à la carte dans la deuxième phase du lancement, si c'est possible de votre part.

1807 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Oui, tout à fait.

1808 LE PRÉSIDENT: O.k., d’accord. Merci.

1809 Donc c'était mes questions. Je ne crois pas que mes collègues ont des questions, ni le contentieux.

1810 Donc encore une fois, je vous remercie beaucoup pour votre participation à l’audience. Et on vous lira là dans les prochaines phases de soumissions. Alors merci encore.

1811 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Merci.

1812 LE PRÉSIDENT: Madame la secrétaire.

1813 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Merci, Monsieur le président.

1814 For the record, the intervenor Mohammed Vepari indicated on the agenda, requested to appear but did not confirm his attendance and is not present in the hearing room. Therefore, this completes Phase 2 of the agenda.

1815 Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

1816 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Madam Secretary.

1817 Now we’re going to move to the next phase where we’re going to hear the replies from the four applicants, if they so wish.

1818 But I think what we’ll do is take a break till about let's say 11:10, just in fairness so in case you need to do final corrections to your replies. And we’ll just keep going, hear them one at a time. If there are questions there’ll be questions, but we’re going to try to do all this before breaking for lunch, so that the hearing could conclude. So we’re adjourned till 11:10.

1819 Thank you very much.

--- Upon recessing at 10:36 a.m.

--- Upon resuming at 11:11 a.m.

1820 LE PRÉSIDENT: À l’ordre, s’il vous plaît.

1821 Madame la secrétaire.

1822 THE SECRETARY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

1823 We will now proceed with Phase 3, in which licensees can reply to all interventions submitted on their applications. Licensees appear in the same order as in Phase 1.

1824 Nous allons débuter avec Vidéotron Limitée et 9227-2590 Québec Inc., associé dans une société en nom collectif faisant affaire sous le nom de Vidéotron SENC. S'il vous plaît, veuillez vous présenter à nouveau aux fins de la transcription, vous avez 10 minutes pour votre présentation.

1825 Merci.


1826 Mme TABET: Monsieur le président, Messieurs les conseillers, bonjour. Je m’appelle Peggy Tabet et je suis vice-présidente, Affaires réglementaires, Radiodiffusion de Québecor Média. Permettez-moi de vous présenter les collègues qui m’accompagnent aujourd’hui. Immédiatement à ma gauche, il s’agit de Marie Ginette Lepage, vice-présidente Marketing, télédistribution et exploitation des contenus de Vidéotron; et Caroline Paquet, directrice principale, gestion et exploitation des plateformes de contenu de Vidéotron. À ma droite, Valérie Héroux, directrice principale, Programmation télédistribution multiplateforme de Vidéotron.

1827 Mme LEPAGE: Nous remercions le Conseil de nous donner l’occasion, dans le cadre de cette instance, de répondre à certaines préoccupations soulevées quant aux exigences relatives à l’offre d’un petit service de base et d’options d’assemblage souples.

1828 Dans un premier temps, nous aimerions revenir sur certains points soulevés par l’Union des consommateurs et CAC-PIAC, particulièrement ceux relatifs aux boîtiers décodeurs et à la promotion.

1829 L’Union des consommateurs et CAC-PIAC reprochent à toutes les EDR d’imposer des frais additionnels pour la location d’un boîtier décodeur aux clients qui s’abonnent au petit service de base. À cet effet, nous tenons à rappeler que le Conseil a clairement indiqué dans sa politique réglementaire qu’il exige que toutes les entreprises de distribution offrent à leurs abonnés, au plus tard en mars, un service d’entrée de gamme qui ne coûte pas plus de 25 $ par mois, équipement non compris.

1830 Ainsi, nous respectons entièrement les exigences du Conseil quant à l’offre du petit service de base. Rappelons, encore une fois, que seulement la location ou l’achat d’un terminal est nécessaire lorsqu’un client s’abonne à ce service chez Vidéotron. Il est important de noter que les promotions à l’achat s’appliquent à tous nos forfaits, incluant le service de base. De plus, l’installation est incluse avec un abonnement à deux produits et plus.

1831 Vidéotron n’offrant pas de premier volet facultatif, le commentaire de l’Union des consommateurs quant à la promotion équivalente du petit service de base et du premier volet facultatif ne s’applique pas à Vidéotron. De plus, tel que nous l’avons démontré très clairement hier, nous estimons que nous faisons une promotion adéquate du service de base afin de nous assurer que les consommateurs soient bien informés de sa disponibilité, de son prix et de son contenu, que ce soit par le biais de notre site internet, de dépliants ou de notre service à la clientèle.

1832 D’ailleurs, tel que rapporté par Radio-Canada lors d’une enquête rendue publique le 6 septembre, Vidéotron a été le seul parmi tous les distributeurs à avoir mentionné d’entrée de jeu le forfait de base.

1833 Dans un deuxième temps, nous souhaitons réitérer certaines informations relatives à l’offre de Vidéotron. Comme nous l’avons clairement exprimé au Conseil lors de notre comparution hier, Vidéotron propose des forfaits « Sur Mesure » depuis plus de 15 ans. Ainsi, l’approche retenue depuis longtemps par notre entreprise vise à offrir aux Canadiens le plus de souplesse possible en leur permettant de choisir, à leur gré, des forfaits « Sur Mesure » de 5, 10, 20 et 30 services ou à la carte, conformément aux exigences du Conseil.

1834 De plus, Vidéotron s’assure dans sa commercialisation de proposer une offre flexible à ses clients, tout en favorisant leur maintien dans l’écosystème canadien. Vidéotron se fait un point d’honneur d’être le précurseur en la matière sans qu’aucune réglementation ne lui ait été imposée.

1835 À la demande du Conseil, et tel que nous l’avons signalé hier, nous avons introduit le 24 février dernier un service de base au coût de 25 $ par mois. Il est important de noter que ce service inclut l’accès au portail de la vidéo sur demande, de la télévision à la carte, ainsi que l’accès à l’offre multiplateforme, comprenant les applications internet, mobiles et tablettes. Nous sommes d’avis que nous exploitons nos services dans l’esprit de la Politique « Parlons Télé » et respectons entièrement les exigences du Conseil quant à sa composition.

1836 Nous rappelons qu’à compter du 1er décembre 2016, tous les services facultatifs disponibles chez Vidéotron seront offerts à la carte, et ce, toujours en conformité avec la réglementation.

1837 Mme TABET: Pour terminer, l’innovation et l’amélioration continue de nos services et la simplicité de l’offre proposée aux consommateurs, afin qu’ils puissent bénéficier de plus de souplesse, de choix et de clarté, sont au cœur de la culture de notre entreprise. Les abonnés de Vidéotron personnalisent depuis plus de 15 ans leur offre télévisuelle.

1838 L’accès à un service de base à 25 $, à des forfaits « Sur Mesure » et à des chaînes à la carte, démontre une ouverture encore plus grande vers un monde de choix pour les Canadiens, où ces derniers sont libres de sélectionner et d’assembler leurs services de télévision à leur gré.

1839 Comme nous l’avons démontré dans le cadre de ce processus, Vidéotron respecte et continuera de respecter entièrement les exigences de la politique « Parlons Télé » et du Règlement sur la distribution relatives à l’offre d’un petit service de base et d’options d’assemblage souples.

1840 Par conséquent, nous nous permettons de demander au Conseil de bien vouloir renouveler nos licences qui expirent le 30 novembre 2016.

1841 Nous vous remercions de votre attention et sommes prêtes à répondre à vos questions.

1842 LE PRÉSIDENT: C'est -- très bien, merci, mesdames. C'est très bien de nous rappeler que effectivement c'est une audience à propos d’un renouvellement de licence même si on n’y a pas -- on s’est pas attardé beaucoup sur le sujet.

1843 Écoutez, je crois que le Panel n’a qu’une seule question, puis vous avez le désavantage d’être les premiers à vous la faire poser, mais les autres vont avoir un petit peu plus de temps de préparation.

1844 En relisant les interventions des Canadiens et des groupes de consommateurs, on ne peut pas manquer de conclure que y a peut-être un manque de clarté ou qui a eu un manque de clarté, parce que quand même ça bougé assez vite, par rapport aux offres et conditions. Ça c'est un commentaire en général, pas nécessairement par rapport à vous.

1845 Et donc ma première question -- donc deux volets. Première question, êtes-vous d'accord que vous pourriez faire mieux? Et deuxièmement, est-ce -- qu’allez vous faire, le cas échéant?

1846 Mme LEPAGE: Écoutez, je pense qu’hier on a quand même démontré la clarté de l’offre de Vidéotron, le fait que le service de base est promu sur l’ensemble des supports promotionnels, l’accès pour notre clientèle que ce soit à travers notre site web, à travers le collatéral qu’on utilise en magasin, la disponibilité et la clarté de l’offre qui est mis exactement au même niveau que nos autres forfaits. Donc nous considérons déjà que notre offre est très claire, mais évidemment on est toujours à regarder de quelle façon est-ce qu’on est en mesure de toujours pouvoir simplifier l’accès à cette information-là et également la compréhension de l’information. Donc on va toujours poursuivre dans ce sens-là.

1847 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et on aura l’occasion, j’imagine, après le lancement de la deuxième phase, de s’entretenir encore, le cas échéant, si nécessaire.

1848 Mme LEPAGE: Ça sera avec plaisir.

1849 LE PRÉSIDENT: D’accord.

1850 Alors ce sont nos questions. Merci beaucoup.

1851 Mme LEPAGE: Merci.

1852 Mme BROUILLETTE: Merci.

1853 Mme TABET: Merci.

1854 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

1855 THE SECRETARY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

1856 I would now invite Rogers Communications Canada Inc. to come forward.

1857 Please reintroduce yourselves for the record, and then you will have 10 minutes for your presentation.

1858 Thank you.


1859 MR. WATT: Good Morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. We are pleased to have this opportunity to respond to the comments made by interveners earlier today.

1860 For the record, my name is David Watt. I am Senior Vice-President Regulatory at Rogers. To my left is Pam Dinsmore, Vice-President of Regulatory, Cable; to my right is Melani Griffith, Senior Vice-President Content, and to Melani’s right is John Medline, Director of Video Programming. In the back row is Peter Kovacs, Director of Regulatory, Content and Distribution Policy, and to Peter’s right is Dilhan Kamalendaran, Senior Manager, Video Product.

1861 Pam?

1862 MS. DINSMORE: While we do not have too much to add to the submissions we have made in this proceeding to date, both in-person yesterday and in our various written filings, we will address a few issues.

1863 First, we want to assure the Commission that we will continue to expand the choices available to our customers. For us, the launch of Starter and theme packs in March was only the beginning of our efforts to enhance the flexibility we provide to consumers.

1864 With the offering of full pick and pay by December 1st and the rollout of our new IPTV platform, we will be making a range of TV services and packaging options available that will meet the needs of almost every household we serve.

1865 Second, with respect to the methods a customer can use to buy Starter, theme packs and our new Value packages, we want to reiterate that there are currently three options available. The first is to contact a CSR online using live chat. The second is to call a 1-800 number to speak to a live CSR and the third is to visit one of our retail stores. In all cases, our CSRs have been specifically trained to conduct a needs assessment as a means to ensure that each consumer has the information they need to decide which TV package is appropriate for them.

1866 Finally, we have learned a lot over the past six months from our customers, the marketplace and from the comments in this proceeding. In fact, we reviewed all of the submissions that have been filed in respect of our licence renewal application. This includes the comments that have been made by members of the public in the Commission's Facebook forum and the oral interventions that were made today.

1867 We will take all of this information and use it to improve how we market, promote and deliver our products and services to consumers. At Rogers, the choices we provide will continue to evolve as we strive to meet the needs of our customers and respond to the challenges inherent in the marketplace.

1868 Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. If you have any further questions for us, we of course would be pleased to respond to them.

1869 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you for that.

1870 And as I telegraphed earlier, and everybody gets a little bit more time now to actually prepare their answers so you don’t have as much surprise, the panel up here, while reading the interventions, were struck by the fact that many Canadians and groups of consumers were somewhat frustrated about the lack of clarity. Now, you can agree or disagree with that.

1871 So my first question is are you in agreement or not that there may have been in this first phase of launch a little bit lack of clarity? And if so, what are you going to do about it?

1872 MR. WATT: I’ll start really with an overall comment. I think in terms of the lack of clarity, I think this was an ambitious undertaking. This was a change to the paradigm under which cable TV services have been offered in this country, and I think some of the lack of clarity, which is simply that the change in the paradigm was so great, many people expected -- they weren’t clear as to what really the change was. They thought -- some people truly did think, based on the complaints, that pick and pay was coming March 1st, not December 1st. These types of things, how you could improve that, I think as an overall -- I think you’re always going to have some confusion, some misunderstanding given the complexity of the issue and just the number of people there.

1873 That being said, we do want to try and be as clear as possible going forward.

1874 And I’m going to pass you over to Melani now to discuss how we plan to do that.

1875 MS. GRIFFITH: Thank you, David.

1876 So as we spoke about yesterday, I think our efforts are really around simplifying, which I think helps with clarity. And as David said, I also believe that there was some confusion about what they were getting in March and what they were getting in December. And frankly, that was probably further complicated by the fact that some BDUs did it one way and other BDUs did it different. So I think it’s understandable that people felt, “Wait, which am I getting and why is somebody getting that and not me and my neighbour has a different offer than I do because of the BDU that is servicing them?”

1877 So for us, I think after December I think there will be clarity because everyone will be the same in terms of what’s made available to the consumers, and for us, staying very focused on our simple message, our simplifying message and making sure that we are consistent about what the customers can get and the different ways that we can communicate that to them, both with the theme packages and the à la carte on top of our starter package I think will help a lot.

1878 I think lastly I would add just that with the interweaving of our theme packages and à la carte into our value packages, as well as the bundle we’ll be offering with starter at the beginning of next year, I think we’ll have the opportunity to re-explain and communicate again to our customers, as we do regularly, what’s available to them.

1879 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.

1880 And to be clear, I wasn’t suggesting that the solution is all at the foot of the BDUs. I must admit I was kicking myself in March, saying to myself, “The Commission itself could have done a better job.” And of course the complexity of our framework with two dates probably did not help communicating it.

1881 But as I said earlier, it is an area of shared responsibility and, yes, the BDUs have a role to play. The Commission has a role to play. Consumers have a role to play and, frankly, even the media has a role to play because they’re part of the ecosystem in one way or another.

1882 So thank you for your answer. It was very helpful. Thank you.

1883 I take it you also want your licence renewed, so I’ll take that as a given, right?

1884 MS. GRIFFITH: Yes, yes, indeed we do.

1885 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.

1886 So thank you. Those are our questions.

1887 Madame la secrétaire.

1888 THE SECRETARY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

1889 I would now invite Shaw Cablesystems Limited, Shaw Cablesystems VCI Limited and Star Choice Television Network Incorporated to come forward.

1890 Please reintroduce yourselves for the record and then you have 10 minutes for your presentation.

1891 Thank you.


1892 MR. JOHNSON: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. My name is Peter Johnson, Executive Vice-President and Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer. I am joined by Sanae Takahashi, Vice-President Product and Analytics and Dean Shaikh, Vice-President Regulatory Affairs.

1893 We appreciate this opportunity to provide a brief reply to this morning’s interventions.

1894 In both their written and oral submissions, consumer groups have presented their candid assessment of the efforts of BDUs to make small, basic and flexible packages available to customers. As we said yesterday, we greatly appreciate and take seriously all customer feedback. We rely on our daily relationship with our customers to understand and respond to their needs. This is reflected by our best value, best experience approach to customer care. We will also take into consideration the submissions of PIAC, especially requests to increase transparency, and the Commission’s guidance this morning to take additional steps to provide clarity.

1895 The evidence of Shaw’s commitment to our customers and the choice policy is clear. Eighty-five thousand (85,000) Shaw customers, both existing and new, now enjoy limited TV. The Commission has provided a roadmap. Further significant steps to maximize customer choice will result from the creativity and diligence of individual BDUs operating in today’s dynamically competitive distribution environment.

1896 Indeed, Shaw operates in one of the most intensely competitive markets in North America, particularly in Western Canada. Our success depends on our continued commitment to putting first the needs of consumers.

1897 Shaw appreciates the opportunity to provide these reply comments and we would be happy to take any questions.

1898 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Well, as I telegraphed earlier --

1899 MR. JOHNSON: Yes.

1900 THE CHAIRPERSON: -- same question to you guys. But the answer has to get better every time because you’ve got more time to prepare; right?

1901 So what would you say to our comment to our -- of the Panel’s view that perhaps while reading the various interventions of the -- and the groups that may have been a lack of clarity. I’m not sure if it’s individual or collectively for us all. And so the questions are in two parts, you know, are you in agreement with that assessment? And if indeed you are, what’s your part of the solution?

1902 MR. JOHNSON: Helps to press the button. We certainly appreciate the comments and understand that there is and has been some confusion in the marketplace. We looked for some elegant solutions and aimed for simplicity in terms of our offering and our communications around the same. And we certainly see that there is a need to improve the communications going forward and this is an evolving process, as we know. It’s -- has been relatively early days through the development of the offerings that we got. And we’re looking forward to revisiting.

1903 So we first -- to answer your first question, yes, we’d agree that there’s, you know, we can continue to improve, as always, our offerings and the communications around them and we look forward to doing that. Secondly, in terms of the steps to move forward, we’d want, of course, to consult with our individual teams on the customer care and also on the marketing side, but we would commit to reviewing our website, in particular, to ensure that we’ve got clarity in terms of all of the pieces of that offering.

1904 THE CHAIRPERSON: And of course, the second phase isn’t quite launched yet. And would you agree that it would be fair for the Commission to keep an eye on that and maybe have another chat sooner rather than later through a public process about how that second phase went?

1905 MR. JOHNSON: We certainly agree that transparency is important here, particularly for the phase two. And so we would be, you know, engaged in the process going forward and happy to have the dialogue.

1906 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Well, thank you very much. Those are our questions.

1907 MR. JOHNSON: Thank you.

1908 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.

1909 Madame la secretaire.

1910 THE SECRETARY: Thank you. I would now invite Bell Canada and Bell ExpressVu Inc. (the general partner) and Bell Canada (the limited partner) carrying on business as Bell ExpressVu Limited Partnership to come forward.

1911 Please reintroduce yourselves for the record and you have 10 minutes for your presentation. Thank you.

1912 MR. MALCOLMSON: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners and commission staff. For the record, my name is Robert Malcolmson, Senior Vice-President of Regulatory Affairs for BCE. I am here today with my colleague, Payal Gabrani-Bahl, VP Content for Bell, and my regulatory colleague, Kevin Goldstein, VP Content -- sorry, VP Content and Distribution.

1913 We’d like to thank the intervenors and the other hearing participants for their contributions to the hearing and their efforts to ensure that consumers continue to enjoy affordable small basic packages and greater programming flexibility. We’ve heard the concerns of the intervenors, both individuals and consumer groups, and we will continue to take those concerns into account to ensure that our communications are clear and effective and transparent. And we’d also like to thank the Commission for providing us with this opportunity to explain how we implemented the choice policy.

1914 In terms of reply, we’ve filed a full written reply to the interventions on the record. And we don’t have anything to add today in our oral comments. And in closing, we’re happy to answer any questions you may have.

1915 THE CHAIRPERSON: And well, as I said earlier, we only have one question and now that Mr. Goldstein has a pencil to take notes we’ll ask the questions -- I’ll be able to ask them. But it’s a bit of a telegraphed question. The Panel was struck by how various intervenors in this process and the consumer groups were making the point that there may have been a collective lack of clarity and maybe some confusion in the marketplace. And so part A is, would you agree with that conclusion, and if yes, to what extent -- what role are you going to play to find solutions?

1916 MR. MALCOLMSON: So I’ll address the first part of your question and Payal will address the second.

1917 Was there a lack of clarity? I think, given the magnitude of the change, certainly it was difficult for all stakeholders to perfectly communicate the change that -- to the way that television was being offered to consumers. So there -- I think naturally and expectedly there was some lack of clarity. Part of it was attributable to different implementation deadlines; part of it was attributable to different BDUs rolling out their services in different ways. But I -- and then part of it was attributable I think to consumer expectations around just what the choice policy meant and their expectations around what was in the skinny basic package, what was out of it, expectations around pricing. So there was a lack of clarity through I think no stakeholder’s fault. It’s just reflective of the nature of the change.

1918 Certainly, we understand our role and responsibility in communicating changes of this nature and will continue to do so. And Payal can take you through how we’ll continue to do that.

1919 MS. GABRANI-BAHL: Sure. So, you know, we endeavour to be as clear as possible with our consumers. I think as mentioned yesterday, starter is promoted on our website where we indicate not just the price of the package, but as well, all of the additional costs around set top boxes and installs. There’s also an online chat assistant there to assist customers if they do have any questions about the online materials.

1920 In terms of improvements, I think yesterday we did mention that we would -- that we have actually taken steps to improve our training practices by centralizing it under one team nationally to ensure that there is that consistency.

1921 THE CHAIRPERSON: And that’s one example but not the only example, I take it, of how you’re going to improve going forward; is that correct?

1922 MS. GABRANI-BAHL: Yes, that’s one example.

1923 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yeah. I take it you two want your license renewed, but that may be implicit in the process.

1924 MR. MALCOLMSON: Oddly enough, Mr. Chairman, I think we’re the only BDU whose license isn’t up for renewal in this proceeding.

1925 THE CHAIRPERSON: Isn’t -- yes, you’re right. You’re absolutely right.

1926 MR. MALCOLMSON: So we’d be happy to take a --

1927 THE CHAIRPERSON: Good to remind you --

1928 MR. MALCOLMSON: -- renewal.

1929 THE CHAIRPERSON: -- me of that. Yeah, you’re absolutely correct.

1930 And but would you also agree with me though as the second phase approaches that there may be an opportunity for us, depending on how it goes for us, to have a further discussion at some point after that phase as to how things went?

1931 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well, we’ve launched phase --


1933 MR. MALCOLMSON: -- the second phase already.


1935 MR. MALCOLMSON: But certainly, always good to monitor.

1936 THE CHAIRPERSON: But my question is about the ecosystem as a whole.


1938 THE CHAIRPERSON: And you’re an important player in that ecosystem.

1939 MR. MALCOLMSON: Absolutely fair to ---

1940 THE CHAIRPERSON: And we may learn from your best practices as well.

1941 MR. MALCOLMSON: Yes, that would be wonderful if ---

1942 THE CHAIRPERSON: If we could.

1943 MR. MALCOLMSON: Yes, Mr. Chairman.


1945 MR. MALCOLMSON: Certainly worth a second look as we proceed.

1946 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Great. Well, thank you very much for that. Those are our questions. I’m now going to turn it over to the secretary for some final issues.

1947 Madame la secretaire.

1948 THE SECRETARY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

1949 So this concludes phase 3 in consideration of items 1 to 4 on the agenda.

1950 Finally, for the record, there are 19 non-appearing applications on the agenda of this public hearing. Interventions were received for some of these applications. The Panel will consider these interventions along with the applications and decisions will be rendered at a later date. This concludes the agenda of this public hearing.

1951 Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

1952 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.

1953 And just before I adjourn formally, I’d like to say a few things.

1954 Avant de conclure cette audience, permettez-moi de remercier diverses personnes qui ont mis la main à la patte dans les coulisses.

1955 First, I would like to thank the interpreters and the stenographers. Thanks to them nothing that is said here is lost.

1956 Je veux remercier également l’équipe de CPAC qui a diffusé la présente audience sur leur site web et surtout aux opérateurs des caméras.

1957 I would also like to thank all the reporters, bloggers and social media users who bring these hearings beyond these walls and into the digital world.

1958 Les usagers des médias sociaux qui suivent nos audiences de près permettent à ceux qui ne peuvent pas y assister de la suivre aussi.

1959 I would also like to thank my fellow panel members who, as always, put in a lot of work in preparation for these hearings.

1960 Je voudrais aussi reconnaitre le travail du personnel du CRTC, que ce soit ici à l’audience ou encore à partir de nos quartiers généraux ou des bureaux régionaux. Vos conseils judicieux sont une grande aide pour le panel dans sa prise de décision. Merci à vous tous.

1961 J’aimerais vous rappeler que vous pouvez continuer à partager vos opinions sur les sujets traités lors de cette audience sur notre forum de discussion sur Facebook.

1962 So I just want to remind everyone that you can continue to share your opinions on the matters before us in this hearing through our Facebook forum.

1963 Ce dernier sera ouvert jusqu’à 20h00, heure avancée de l’Est aujourd’hui, donc 15h00, heure normale du Pacific.

1964 So you have until 8 o’clock eastern, local time here in Ottawa, and 5 o’clock in Vancouver.

1965 J’en profite également pour rappeler à toutes les parties que les engagements pris au cours du présent processus doivent nous être parvenus d’ici 20h00, heure avancée de l’Est, le vendredi, 9 septembre.

1966 Je vous remercie encore une fois tous et toutes pour votre participation.

1967 Et donc la présente séance est maintenant suspendue.

1968 Merci.

--- Upon adjourning at 11:41 a.m.


Sean Prouse

Dale Waterman

Mathieu Philippe

Nadia Rainville

Lyne Charbonneau

Marie Rainville

Patricia Cantle

Lise Baril

Jacqueline Clark

Janice Gingras

Suzanne Jobb

Karen Pare

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