Transcript, Hearing February 9, 2017
Location: Gatineau, Quebec
Date: February 9, 2017
© Copyright Reserved
Providing Content in Canada's Official Languages
Please note that the Official Languages Act requires that government publications be available in both official languages.
In order to meet some of the requirements under this Act, the Commission's transcripts will therefore be bilingual as to their covers, the listing of CRTC members and staff attending the hearings, and the table of contents.
However, the aforementioned publication is the recorded verbatim transcript and, as such, is transcribed in either of the official languages, depending on the language spoken by the participant at the hearing.
Attendees and Location
Terrasses de la Chaudière
- Chairman: Jean-Pierre Blais
- Vice-Chairperson, Telecommunications: Peter Menzies
- Commissioner: Christopher MacDonald
- Legal Advisors: Adam Balkovec, Megan Maloney
- Secretary: Lynda Roy
- Hearing Manager: Meghan Wawryk
--- Upon commencing on Thuresday, February 9, 2017 at 9:01 a.m.
4544 THE SECRETARY: Order, please. À l'ordre, s'il vous plaît.
4545 THE CHAIRPERSON: À l'ordre. Merci. Madam la secrétaire.
4546 THE SECRETARY: Merci, monsieur le président. Good morning, everyone.
4547 We will start this morning with the presentation by the Deaf Wireless Canada Consultative Committee, so I would ask that you first introduce yourselves for the record, and you may proceed with your presentation.
4548 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): Good morning, Commissioners, Chair and staff and participants in the hearing. We're pleased to be here today.
4549 My name is Lisa Anderson-Kellett. I'm the Chairperson and consultant for the Deaf Wireless Canada Consultative Committee. I'm from British Columbia.
4550 And to my left is Nichole from Newfoundland. She's the secretary and consultant. And to my right is Jeff Beatty, the technical consultant from Ontario.
4551 The Deaf Wireless Canada Consultative Committee is an ad hoc committee of the Canadian Association of the Deaf and is a group of deaf and hard-of-hearing and deaf-blind consultants, analysts and committee volunteers across Canada from east to west.
4552 We have a few business matters to cover before the presentation. I have to start with the disclaimer with my role.
4553 I, Lisa, am participating in this hearing as her role as Chair of the Deaf Wireless Canada Consultative Committee, DWCC, and not as a Director of the Canadian Administrator of VRS. All information contained in this submission in my role as Chair-Analyst of the DWCC and not in the capacity as a Director of the CAV.
4554 No confidential or proprietary information of CAV was used in the preparation of this proceeding or subsequent submissions.
4555 Any VRS-related comments or queries, if any, will be deferred to other committee members.
4556 We would like to request permission to have Deaf Wireless Survey Analysis report placed on the public record for this proceeding.
4557 This is a report we completed for the TNC 2015-134 in April of 2016, and applies today. Would you accept this to be placed on the public record of this proceeding?
4558 THE CHAIRPERSON: We'll take that request under advisement, but could you explain why you weren't able to put that document on the record of this proceeding before now?
4559 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): We realized just recently that this report relates to this hearing, and we'll be using the stats that we share with you today and has a direct impact. And it specifically relates to the Wireless Code, and everyone would benefit from this report.
4560 MS. NICOLE MARSH (by interpretation): Also, if I could just add, Lisa, the public forum this week and in the past September was not accessible for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind Canadians. We want to make sure that their perspective is shared with you today.
4561 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, thank you.
4562 As I said earlier, we will rule on your request a little later on, but please go ahead.
4563 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): Before we proceed, I want to thank you for your decision last December. It had a great impact on the deaf community, and we're thrilled with that decision and we look forward to the next six months working with the WSPs on various specific issues that impact the deaf community and disabled groups.
4564 We look forward to meeting with the WSPs and consulting with these wireless packages in the coming months, and easy-to-find and fair data plans for our visual communications.
4565 We are here because we wanted to ensure DHHDB, the deaf and hard-of-hearing, dead-blind people, are represented in the Wireless Code, and our group didn’t exist three years ago.
4566 Phase 1 public comment period from September 13 to the 26th of 2016 was not accessible and ASL or LSQ videos to the deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind members.
4567 ASL and LSQ videos were not made available for Phase 2 this week, after several requests in previous submissions. DWCC created videos and released them on February the 8th, 2017.
4568 Our statistics come from the Deaf Wireless Survey completed in April of 2016.
4569 So Jeff.
4570 MR. BEATTY (by interpretation): Culturally deaf people who have a strong identity with sign language, either in ASL or LSQ, do not consider themselves disabled; instead, we face systematic barriers.
4571 The term “Hearing disability” is currently used in the Wireless Code. That should be adjusted in favour of using “Deaf and Hard of Hearing”.
4572 I quote:
4573 "I feel like I’m not disabled, but the system makes me feel disabled..."
4574 And this is a quote from Nyle DiMarco, the winner of the "America's Next Top Model" and "Dancing with the Stars".
4575 On your way to work today or to this hearing this morning, how were you made aware of what was happening the world? Were you listening to the radio while driving or by overhearing conversations in the halls or on public transportation?
4576 As deaf individuals, we don't have access to that information. We don’t learn from other individuals in their sharing. Without someone explaining what the terms of the Wireless Code is and what the contracts that the WSPS provide, most deaf people will not understand that information that is given to them.
4577 As much as 90 percent of what a hearing individual learns from overhearing conversations, only 10 percent of that comes from direct instruction.
4578 From our survey, we found that 77 percent respondents use Rogers, Bell or TELUS as their WSPs. Sixty-eight (68) of the respondents are currently in one or two-year contracts
4579 Twenty (20) percent of our respondents have unlocked phones. Fifty-three (53) percent of the survey respondents went over the data plan limit. This breaks down to 36 percent said they would go over and pay for more data, 17 percent said they would go over and wait until the beginning of the month.
4580 Fifty-four (54) of our respondents have data plans between two and six gigabytes.
4581 We recommend a 30-day trial period, and a minimum of four gigabytes of data for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind to test if this is enough usage without going over data. And the reason for this minimum is we use video to communicate.
4582 The Wireless Code item 55 alternative format, we are requesting that all WSPs provide access in ASL and LSQ videos for every wireless contract. We -- sorry, we are not requesting that the WSPs provide full ASL and LSQ videos for each and every wireless contract. What we are suggesting is that there are common terminologies that the deaf community -- that should be made accessible to the deaf community. We recommend that most frequently used terms be translated into ASL and LSQ as a form -- alternative format.
4583 Examples of this -- these terminologies would be prepaid, post-paid, a data plan, data overages, unlocking devices, CCTS, CRTC. These are a few examples of terminology that should be translated.
4584 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): We made a video to give you an example of what this might -- the terminology would look like. We’ve started filming ourselves already and we’re -- it’s still in the editing phase and we wanted to give you an example of a video that’s fully accessible. And in this example, the explanation is of wireless contract. Can we play the video?
4585 (VIDEO PRESENTATION)
4586 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): On our website we have a list of about 32 words, vocabulary translated into ASL and LSQ. So as we move along and as time permits, we will continue to translate this terminology for our community.
4587 MS. MARSH (by interpretation): Promoting the Wireless Code needs work. Wireless Code E. For the promotion of the Wireless Code we ask that the Wireless Code and simplified -- to be simplified and for the Critical Information Summary to be recreated in ASL and LSQ.
4588 The promotion of the Wireless Code needs to have additional focus from other groups this week. They seem to be unaware of the Wireless Code.
4589 Our committee has 260 members on our distribution list. We feel that having these videos translated into ASL and LSQ will enable our community to have access to this information. We have several examples of appropriate translated videos in ASL and LSQ that include visual aids, ASL/LSQ translation, captioning and voiceover, as well as providing a dark background so that it’s deaf/blind friendly, and a play list organized by section of the Wireless Code.
4590 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): ASL and LSQ videos. We work together to -- in terms of who should provide access to the CRTC Wireless Code and we feel that you should be empowered to translate your Wireless Code because it’s yours.
4591 And then in terms of CCTS and making it accessible, we need to make sure that that is clear and available to the deaf and hard of hearing community, how they can make complaints step-by-step. There is nothing currently on the website. We, with the wireless service providers, are happy to consult with them and work with them collaboratively to ensure that the terminology and contracts are accessible to our community.
4592 MR. BEATTY (by interpretation): Our challenge is that we need WSP input for appropriate wireless contract vocabulary before we can make the -- and create ASL/LSQ videos. A budget for such a project would be approximately $20,000 with upkeep starting as low as $5,000 a year for updates and announcements. And this is peanuts for a multi-million dollar wireless service company.
4593 MS. MARSH (by interpretation): CWTA is a great idea to provide a centralized place for wireless videos for contracts and vocabulary. However, the CWTA is inactive. The Wireless Accessibility Committee, according to various accessibility groups, has not met for three years.
4594 Generally, we have not been contacted or invited to discuss issues with the CWTA. It’s not without trying and we are back to square one feeling uncertain of the next steps.
4595 With regards to CCTS, many deaf, hard of hearing deaf/blind individuals are unaware of CCTS and working through that system for resolution. We contacted the website consultation to ensure inclusivity for the deaf and hard of hearing, deaf/blind consumers and customers in this CCTS process.
4596 The last contact we had with them was in November of 2016 with a request to join the accessibility consultation meeting but we have not heard for them and our contact person no longer works with CCTS.
4597 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): So these are challenges we face. And so we have some ideas and recommendations. We suggest that the WSPs pool their money in some kind of fund like BAF, the same model as BAF, or the TAF, to provide support groups like ours to take on projects like this. That’s just an idea and hopefully we can figure out some kind of resolution and partnership so that we can work together to make sure that this is accessible.
4598 We’re here. We want to work. We want to help. We want this to be accessible for the deaf and hard of hearing, deaf-blind community. We’re available and willing.
4599 We would like to work collaboratively with everyone, but without resources we are limited in what we can do. Funding is an issue.
4600 This is 2017. The CRTC’s website shows that there hasn’t been any working group -- accessibility issues working group meeting since 2006.
4601 The first deaf school in Canada was established in the year 1870 and now Canada is 150 years old and we are still struggling with the age-old inaccessibility issue.
4602 So we’re happy to receive questions from the Panel. Thank you for the opportunity for being here.
4603 THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much for your presentation. Vice-Chair Menzies will start us off.
4604 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Good morning, thank you. Thank you for the presentation.
4605 Before I forget, I should thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts on the December 21st decision.
4606 That clarifies a few things from your initial submission and words of thanks are always appreciated particularly for the staff who work so hard on those things. We don’t expect it, but it’s nice when it happens.
4607 So I want to talk first of all about your videos ideas and you’ve provided some example terminology and I’m going to ask -- you say -- you note there as well that other suggested terms can be found on your website.
4608 Would it be possible for you please to just file those terms for the record as an undertaking with us, so that we have the complete list and then others have access on the record to it as well?
4609 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT(by interpretation): Certainly. We have 32.
4611 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thanks. And maybe just talk -- I need -- I have another point of clarity, in terms of terminology too and then we’ll talk more about terminology issue -- challenges.
4612 You use at various times in your submissions three different terminologies and we are not certain whether they are three different ways of describing the same thing or if they are three different things.
4613 So maybe you can explain the difference to us if there is any, between one, video remote interpreting; two, a dedicated support line and three, direct video calling.
4614 MR. BEATTY(by interpretation): I don’t think I can remember all three. Your first was again ---?
4615 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Sorry.
4616 MR. BEATTY(by interpretation): V-R ---
4617 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Video Remote Interpreting.
4618 MR. BEATTY(by interpretation): It’s not like VRS. VRS is telephone equivalency and VRI is not necessarily using the telephone.
4619 For example, if I wanted to call you through Video Relay Service and we were meeting in the same room that wouldn’t be appropriate use of using VRS, Video Relay Service.
4620 If we were going to have a meeting in this room, I could access a video remote interpreter remotely and that interpreter could translate for us as we are meeting in the same room.
4621 And I understand that it hasn’t -- it’s not clear yet for the deaf community, because it’s very new here in Canada, but it has been available in the States for a long time, but it usually is used when two people are meeting in the same room, accessing VRI.
4622 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT(by interpretation: If I could just clarify, I have been in contact with VRI companies and they have shared with me.
4623 Here in this room for example we have interpreters physically in the room translating for us, but if we didn’t have access to interpreters right now and we needed to meet and chat, we could access a Video Remote Interpreter, book them online, by company, and use them, for instance on my iPad.
4624 And your second ---? You wanted to know -- what was your second terminology that you wanted clarification on again?
4625 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Well you made reference to a dedicated support line.
4626 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT(by interpretation: Yes.
4627 We would like to see a customer service line, a provider, be provided by video. So there’s a person on the other side signing, that I don’t have to call, I don’t have to go through VRS or -- I would like to access a WSP provider.
4628 For example, maybe there’s a deaf individual that works for WSP provider and they have a direct line for deaf customers for customer service and if I have an issue or wireless issue I can resolve it directly in my own native language with that individual.
4629 We also advocate to have VRI available in the store. So if I was to walk in the store, there would be an iPad available and the company would have an account with a sign language interpreting company, VRI company, and if I came in as a customer and had some questions I could just link in to that VRI interpreter and ask my questions and I can be serviced right on the spot as I am trying to purchase a mobile phone.
4630 But if I’m at home and I can’t get to the store and I want to call my provider, the wireless company directly, and resolve my issues and I want to use my native language, sign language, I should be able to do that.
4631 In the States they already have that. Direct Video Service. They can link in. I believe the FCC has their own dedicated line so I could stop -- I could call directly in video -- by video and clarify and ask my questions at the FCC or to a wireless company.
4632 MR. BEATTY(by interpretation): If I could just clarify, I’ve had some experience with direct video calls. Like I’ve chatted directly with FCC about their policies.
4633 For example, they may have an issue -- I may have an issue about something and I’ve been able to access them directly and it was fabulous. It’s a great benefit.
4634 It’s time to have direct video calls so that we can communicate directly. That’s a wonderful example.
4635 Federal agencies, for example, equal employment, if I had some issues with employment or in terms of the equivalent of EI, I could clarify. It just removes the third-party issue.
4636 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, so just so that I understand, when it -- when you’re doing the direct line you would for instance go to a mall, you would go to the wireless service provider store, you’d then connect with a person speaking your language who would service you and at what point would they be -- would translation be taking place to the hearing person at the store who would be obviously wanting to take the phone out of the box, show you various items, et cetera, et cetera.
4637 What takes place there for that exchange?
4638 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT(by interpretation: We’re mixing two very different issues. So VRI has an app and equipment involved and it has -- on -- like an iPad and you would access the interpreter there. So for example, I would be signing to the interpreter, and the interpreter would then translate what I'm signing into spoken English to the person behind the counter, to the service rep, in the store. That is VRI, Video Remote Interpreting with an iPad.
4639 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay.
4640 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): I'm in person, so live.
4641 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And you did it live, so that's okay.
4642 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): That's the difference.
4643 But direct communication is, for example, I want to talk to you directly and I link in by video by webcam directly to you in sign language. So there's a dedicated phone number, and you would have deaf staff, and I would talk to that deaf person.
4644 It doesn't have to be a hearing person. You can hire deaf individuals working in your organization. There are many individuals like that, and -- or just as long as you know sign language and I could communicate with you directly.
4645 MR. BEATTY (by interpretation): Direct video is -- there are opportunities for employment for deaf individuals at WSPs instead of having to go through an interpreter, either through VRS or VRI. So this also will provide opportunity for the deaf community to have employment, and they could be working for you and we could access them directly.
4646 So it's a win‑win situation. It benefits yourselves as an organization and us, the deaf community. Does that clarify your -- the two terminologies for you?
4647 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Sort of. The challenge -- my challenge in this is we try to -- I understand what you're describing. What I'm struggling a little bit with is how -- let me put it this way. Why VRS is not sufficient to meet those needs?
4648 I understand the more direct relationship that you're seeking, but I'm also conscious of the fact that at least at the time being one of the challenges VRS and others are facing is access to a good talent pool of interpreters. And my concern is that the ask you are making now would make that even more challenging so that instead of being very, very good at one thing, we would be not really good at a lot of things.
4649 So maybe you can help me with that general concern, rather than the specific definitions.
4650 MS. MARSH (by interpretation): With video relay service, there -- it's available during certain times of the day, but for video remote interpreting you book them. You book them only when you need them and you schedule them in, and you can have your meeting.
4651 Video relay service is different. It's a telephone equivalency and we know the hours it's open and it's for us to make a phone call.
4652 So you have interpreters working at VRS full time, and we could use interpreters -- just looking for clarification. So you could have full time employment with VRS, but with VRI, it's by appointment and by occasion. So it complements the interpreter's work and in addition to the interpreter's work.
4653 MR. BEATTY (by interpretation): VRS is valuable to us and it's great to be able to make phone calls through video relay service.
4654 To clarify, is VRI is job-related, employment-related issues would be one example. If I want to chat with my boss, then I would access VRI because we're having an internal meeting, in‑house, with the both of us in the same room. We couldn't use video relay service for that.
4655 Video relay service is for making appointments, using the telephone as anyone would use the telephone. If anyone needs to reach me, they can reach me through video relay service, which is fabulous.
4656 So that's what VRS is for, and VRS will continue to grow in Canada. I can watch -- I can share from my own experience in the United States when VRS was first launched, it was slow to grow, and it will become stronger, it just takes time. So it's been very positive for the deaf community.
4657 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): If I could also add, we would like to see more employment for a deaf community. So direct customer service would be fabulous with the WSPs. If they would hire more deaf individuals, it would give them an opportunity for employment and that would be fabulous.
4658 MS. MARSH (by interpretation): There is a perceived interpreter shortage out there, but if I, as -- if you hire deaf staff then you wouldn't need VRI or VRS. We could communicate in our own native language directly with the WSPs.
4659 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, touché on that one.
4660 The -- I'll move on to a couple other items. You suggest -- and this is -- comes down to the if you have the videos done and regarding contract terminology.
4661 You've -- we've talked about the words, but it strikes me that because when you're dealing with contracts and other items, you're dealing with legal items, we at times have to make interpretations on what certain phrases really mean legally with the hearing community in terms of Wireless Code.
4662 So once we're dealing with further interpretation it would be very important, I would think, to have consistency, whether it's on your platform, our platform, wireless service providers' platforms in terms of that sort of stuff. So that there was sign off by everyone, sort to speak, in terms of what the -- what was being said, or what was being -- the information that was being disseminated.
4663 So obviously we would all have to work together to achieve something like that, and I would take it you would agree to that. But I'm going to ask maybe, first of all, clarify when you mentioned that I'm not sure what committee what working group you were talking about when you said it hadn't met until 2006. Because I know conversations are sort of ongoing between our staff and various members of what we call the accessibility communities, and often with wireless service providers as well, because I've actually been at a couple of them.
4664 So which one are you talking about?
4665 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): Well, first of all, we were doing a search for accessibility on your website and we found that group by accident. And it was stated on your website that they hadn't met since 2006. The W -- the CWTA, from our research with other disabled groups, there is no wireless accessibility committee. Is that clear?
4666 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I understand that that's where you got your information from. We have had a closed captioning working group for instance and others. So probably what's best is -- when you're finished here is to have a conversation with staff and make the connections that need to be made because there is something going on and your group is fairly new in that sense.
4667 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): Right.
4668 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So we probably just need to make a couple of connections there because those would be necessary to go forward. And you can at least find the contact point.
4669 But I will take it then that we all agree that should we wish to have ASL LSQ videos regarding Wireless Code setup that there would need to be coordination between all the parties to ensure legal agreement in terms of the accuracy of the terms being presented.
4670 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): Yes, that's right. We would like to have that standard and agreement, and an agreement on that terminology and the translation of that terminology.
4671 It feels strange. There is no, you know, check and balance currently. You'll see what words we've come up with on our website that are translated and these are good examples but we had no consultation with the WSPs. There's no group to go to. We would appreciate that collaborative work and would like to be in contact with them and work together.
4672 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Good. I'm confident that that will occur at some point.
4673 I have a question regarding your survey where you point out that 53 percent of the respondents went over their data plan limit.
4674 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): Yes. This is the reason why we undertook the survey.
4675 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right. Do you have any idea what the typical data -- what that limit might be that people were using or was it a gigabyte, two gigabits?
4676 MS. MARSH (by interpretation): We say 50 -- further below, we have 54 percent of the respondents have two -- between two and six gigabytes in their plan.
4677 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
4678 In terms of the early cancellation, you are asking for 30 days for people within your community, that they be allowed 30 days before they -- within which they can test and decide that they have changed their mind.
4679 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): Yes, that's right.
4680 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Evidence presented this week indicates that that is what is being offered to people. So if that -- if what you're asking is what is happening, is there any need to encode that or is everything good?
4681 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): What's your response? Well, the bottom line is that we need to give deaf and hard of hearing people the time to test and we want to make sure that they have enough gigabytes to be able to use video communication. That's our priority.
4682 So basically, we're asking as our minimum during that trial period would be four gigabytes. We think that that would be enough. That seems to be the average that an individual will use in 30 days.
4683 Do you have something to add to that?
4684 MS. MARSH (by interpretation): For example, my previous phone plan was prepaid and it was one gigabyte every month and I learned to manage that and be very careful with that. I couldn't use video chat with friends unless I was in an area where I could access Wi-Fi.
4685 And then later, I signed up with another wireless service provider that offered me 12 gigabytes stretched over three months and it so happened that I used 10 gigabytes the first month.
4686 MR. BEATTY (by interpretation): The reason that the trial is important for the deaf community is that we recently just launched VRS and they need to be able to access that from their work area or their home area. And I always check to make sure that I can have -- my provider has range in the area that I am. So if I only have one bar, then I'm not going to go with that WSP.
4687 So I'll check out Rogers or Bell or other various service providers and test it in the areas that I plan to travel, to and from work for example. So I want to make sure that there's enough coverage provided by WSPs, that I can make 9-1-1 calls in the event of an emergency. So once I'm confident that I have coverage everywhere that I need it, then I'll go with that wireless service provider.
4688 So that's why we need the 30 days but more important we need a minimum of 4 gigabytes.
4689 Does that answer your question?
4690 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: It answered my next question. My question on this one was whether, if companies are already giving the 30 days, it's necessary for us to insist that 30 days be in the Code? So yes or no?
4691 MS. MARSH (by interpretation): Yes, it would need to be encoded. If it's not, then the WSPs have the freedom to decide on the end date of their own trial period. When we require asking at least a minimum of 30 days, it would be helpful if you put it in the Wireless Code.
4692 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Thank you. I understand.
4693 But you also made the point that what seems to be of primary concern was the volume of data required; correct?
4694 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): Yes, that's a huge concern for our community.
4695 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. And you mentioned some numbers. So I just want to sort of narrow that down into what might be a fixed number for the trial period. So you've mentioned 4 gigs.
4696 MS. MARSH (by interpretation): At a minimum.
4697 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: At a minimum, right? And so we looked at the VRS website and it says the data package that you subscribe to from your internet service provider should include about 1,079 megabytes or 1.05 gigabytes per month for every two hours that you use the service, whether you are using it with an interpreter or making a point-to-point call with other sign language users.
4698 So that would mean that your request is for roughly eight hours of VRS time in a trial period. So why do you need eight hours? Wouldn't three or four hours be sufficient? Wouldn't two hours be sufficient?
4699 MS. MARSH (by interpretation): Well, it depends on your mobile device and it depends on what area you're in. You may use more or less data depending on where you are and what's going on with those various variables.
4700 There is -- no one seems to be agreeing -- no one can agree on one number. One person may say one gigabytes for that amount of time, another one will say it will take three gigabytes for that amount of time. Skype, FaceTime, are examples of point-to-point calls, and then VRS, and they seem to use varying amounts of data depending on their provider. So it’s not clear.
4701 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I understand. Thank you.
4702 It’s been noted that in the past your community has spoken of the need to have plans available without voice.
4703 MS. MARSH(by interpretation): Yes.
4704 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And we heard this week that plans are available now without voice. So is that issue taken care of?
4705 MS. MARSH(by interpretation): We’re still in the process of working on that. We have several meetings set up in the near future with wireless service providers and what that might look like for our community in terms of a plan. It’s not fully resolved yet but it’s in process, and we look forward to that completing once the hearing is over.
4706 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT(by interpretation): If I could just add, one big concern with the deaf community is video communication, and it uses a lot of data. We are trying to come to an agreement on that. The deaf community would like unlimited no cap. They don’t want to worry. They want the freedom to be able to communicate and use their phone anywhere anytime we need. But it seems that a cap is wanted by the WSPs. So if there is going to be a cap our recommendation is 12 if you have to have a cap.
4707 We don’t want to be penalized for data overages because that’s our only mode of communication. So that is one thing that we really want to emphasize, unlimited data is our preference.
4708 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I understand
4709 In terms of that, the -- your survey indicated that -- obviously as we’ve been talking about data, is that it’s a concern, like you said, unlimited. When it comes to notification of data usage, most of the companies -- all of the companies this week I think have spoken of considerable efforts having been made to ensure people are notified when they’re going towards their cap.
4710 Your survey indicates that people within your community are obviously very conscious of that. Are you satisfied that people are able to access appropriate notifications when you’re approaching a data limit and that you’re able to access more data when needed or manage -- avoid bill shock I guess is the way I’m trying to put it?
4711 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT(by interpretation): We all are very conscious, but that becomes exhausting for our community because we want to take full advantage of that video without worrying that we’re going to receive bill shock.
4712 We -- everyone uses their phone differently, but we use video communication. It’s essential in order to communicate in our native language. I’ve used Rogers and other apps to look and manage my overage, but when I speak with the deaf community a lot of them are unaware of how to check their data.
4713 MS. MARSH(by interpretation): We didn’t mention this in our presentation, but one other concern we have is when we asked in our survey report if the data overage is enough a lot of individuals didn’t know what their data limit was, and that’s why we said 54 percent of our respondents had between two and six gigabytes, but many also didn’t know what their limit was or they’ve misunderstood and thought that gigabytes meant -- they didn’t know if it was for their data or if it was related to their phone memory and capacity. They didn’t know the difference.
4714 MR. BEATTY(by interpretation): It’s also challenging for our senior citizens, and they are thrilled to have -- be able to communicate by video with their mobile, but they’re still unaware of what is entailed in their contract, how to manage their data, and we have -- you know, and that they have to budget data.
4715 And so lots of people do, they use it sparingly, little by little because they want to be very careful in terms of their usage, so that means they don’t have the freedom to make the calls like the general public, the hearing public. They can make phone calls and chat all day long without penalty but we have to budget our conversations.
4716 And so that’s how I share or explain that with the deaf community. And it’s a lot of work to educate the community and to make them aware of their data limits.
4717 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT(by interpretation): Through the survey, we found that we need to do workshops and educational training and teach our community about data management. Right now we’ve been busy responding to CRTC’s papers, and when we’re done with that that will be our next focus and create a project to create awareness for our community, for new immigrants, seniors, and share what the vocabulary means within the contracts and how to manage their data. So we need more awareness and more understanding within our community.
4718 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you. That was actually -- you’ve done a good job of answering my next question again as well, because I was going to ask what role you saw yourselves playing in being a vehicle to inform your community about their rights and responsibilities in terms of managing these items.
4719 And it’s clear that you do see a role for you, and we will do our best to keep you less busy with CRTC matters in the months and year ahead, as we can, so that you may address those issues.
4720 In terms of locking -- unlocking of phones, your survey indicates 20 percent have unlocked phones, which I expect is much, much higher than the national average -- I don’t know, but I’m just guessing in terms of that -- which means that you have a fairly savvy knowledgeable community or very engaged with their mobile devices in terms of that.
4721 What recommendations do you have for us regarding unlocking of phones and the current fees that are being charged and the current 90-day limit or 90-day period prior to unlocking?
4722 MR. BEATTY(by interpretation): We prefer unlocked phones because we tend to work with prepaid programs. We’re always looking for a better plan. And that’s one of the reasons why we prefer unlocked phones, because we do depend on the mobile phone and we like the freedom to have options. And so if there is a better deal somewhere else then we would like to take full advantage of that deal from that wireless service provider.
4723 So it’s viewed as a large benefit for the deaf community and that’s what we’ve seen within our community.
4724 MS. MARSH (by interpretation): When we unlock our phones, then we take advantage of a great plan. If we have a prepaid plan we move from wireless service providers to other wireless service providers. And I can’t remember how much a SIM card is because for the last two years I changed so many times. One offers 1 gigabyte for $30 and another one -- and the one I’m with offers 1 gigabyte for $45. Why would I stay with that WSP? I don’t have a contract with them and so I can’t go over so it’s easy for me to switch.
4725 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So you would prefer that the Code said no fees for unlocking?
4726 MS. MARSH (by interpretation): Yes.
4727 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: No time limit for unlocking?
4728 MS. MARSH (by interpretation): That’s right.
4729 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay.
4730 MS. MARSH (by interpretation): We also were following the discussions earlier this week and we understand, you know, like for example, like Freedom and WSP -- other WSPs were concerned about unlocking phones and that would reduce their supply of handsets. If necessary and if you have to put one in, it should be a maximum of $10. It shouldn’t be as it is today currently $25 or more.
4731 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Thank you.
4732 I just wanted to clarify one other item in that when we were talking -- going back to our conversation about data in the trial period, I believe the Code already says that people -- persons who self identify within your community have to get double -- I mean, we already know they get double the timeframe to 30 days, but they get double the data as well. And that -- is that sufficient or insufficient for you currently?
4733 MS. MARSH (by interpretation): We were recently given a trial of a SIM card from one of the WSPs and they had less than one gigabyte of data available. So, if it was double, it would still only be up to one gigabyte, and that might not be enough to test how this functions in the areas that we live or travel.
4734 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So are you asking -- just to clarify again your request, your request is that the Code be changed from saying double to be stating a minimum four gig ---
4735 MS. MARSH (by interpretation): Yes, a minimum of four gigabytes.
4736 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Thank you.
4737 Do you think -- I just want to talk about alerting again. Do you think there would be a change in consumer behaviour if the limit for data overage in the Code was changed to $0 instead of $50?
4738 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): I know that for our community we would prefer it had to have $0, no charge for data overages because that -- we need this for our accessibility. We need video communication on a daily basis. That’s how we communicate.
4739 MS. MARSH (by interpretation): For some other hearing people who may use voice minutes, they have options to pay $100 or $150 for voice plan and they get -- so if they have a data plan, they get unlimited minutes. But if we’re deaf we can’t take advantage of that plan. We need more data in order to communicate and that’s why we need unlimited signing minutes. Our phone bill would cost thousands of dollars, you know, in comparison to that $100.
4740 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): We don’t want to pay for overages. We should not be penalized to communicate in our own language and have accessibility.
4741 MR. BEATTY (by interpretation): We depend fully on video communication. I have four hearing members of my family and they all call me and want to talk to me and I need to be able to sign and chat with them, and that depletes my data. I often face that experience but I want to be able to communicate with them. It’s a huge issue. I’m a teacher and parents often will call in and want to chat with me, and that depletes my data. But they’re fine. They have unlimited voice minutes and they can call and chat with me as long as they like but I’m limited in communicating with them.
4742 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): There’s one app that’s quite popular with the deaf community. It’s called Glide. This is the sign for it. We can send messages. Just like you can send a text message we send video messages. You have up to five minutes to talk and sign and that depletes a lot of data.
4743 MR. BEATTY (by interpretation): It’s similar to voicemail if you want to draw a comparison. It’s video mail for us and that takes up more data.
4744 You know, we are in the 21st century and we’re looking for that functional equivalency. And our functional equivalency is internet-based. And you can have plans and voice data plans on IPs as well. And so we have to look to the future and this is something for you to consider.
4745 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
4746 So I understand your unique dependence on video in terms of that. What I want to more fully understand in terms of data consumption is how different place of communication might be for people within your community.
4747 I mean, all of us with mobile devices are managing -- well, almost all of us anyway are managing our data. So we use public Wi-Fi, right, when we have to make calls or when we’re in our home we’re using our home Wi-Fi where it’s obviously generally much easier to have an unlimited plan or more cost efficient where we can connect like that.
4748 So where is the -- so in the current environment, everyone in all communities is managing data, notwithstanding the fact that it is obviously a bigger issue for you folks. But is there anything that I’m missing here about the ability to, you know, be able to make those phone calls that you were talking about other than the inconvenience of being able to access public Wi-Fi areas or, you know, home unlimited plans, where is the big difference?
4749 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): Well, I’ll explain the difference is that -- is video quality. Often I find myself in a situation. I'll be in Starbucks, for example, and I would like to use the Wi‑Fi that's available to make a call, but the call is blurry, it's not clear, and then I have to hang up, and then switch to LT, and then it's clear, and that -- which means I'm using my data.
4750 It happens often. That's why it affects our data plan.
4751 MR. BEATTY (by interpretation): I'll never forget the year of 2012, when we had LTE. I had an iPhone 5 and built in LTE, and we had previously been dependent on Wi‑Fi, and we felt we were tied to our home or tied to areas that had provided Wi‑Fi, and when you walked around you couldn't do anything.
4752 And when we got the new iPhone 5, and it had LTE, it was a positive experience for me. And I could make a video call, and I finally felt free, I felt like I could leave the house and I didn't have to be dependent on Wi‑Fi and testing Wi‑Fi in various locations.
4753 And so that day, I called my friend and said, hello, and my friend couldn't believe it. My friend asked, where are you, because you could see the mountains right behind. And they didn't want to look at me; they wanted to look at my surrounding area. They were shocked. They were surprised that it was available now and that we could make calls while we were out and about, and so that is in our access, anytime, anywhere.
4754 MS. MARSH (by interpretation): Yes, we can manage our data plans, and we can continue with that struggle in terms of trying -- dealing Wi‑Fi connections, but please understand, then we're limited. We're on a leash, and we don't have the same freedom, and we can't go very far.
4755 You know, sometimes I feel like we're under house arrest or Starbucks arrest, depending on where you are. And we can't go very far to make a call that otherwise a hearing person could make.
4756 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you. I understand that.
4757 I have just one last request. You're aware of Exhibit 1, are you? There are some questions specific to your group there, and I just need, for the record, your undertaking that you will respond to those questions.
4758 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): Yes, we will respond, but we have a question about the date, when you want it by, that undertaking. When would you like that by?
4759 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: February 16th.
4760 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): That date doesn't work for our group. We have another CRTC deadline that we need to meet. So we need an extension. So can I respectfully request an extension, please?
4761 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Go ahead.
4762 THE CHAIRPERSON: So when are you proposing?
4763 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): February 22nd?
4764 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes, but we really have to receive it and it has to be on the public record for the 22nd.
4765 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): That's fine.
4766 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
4767 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): Thank you.
4769 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thank you.
4770 Those are our -- my questions, at least. I'll turn you back over to the Chairman.
4771 THE CHAIRPERSON: And the other Panel members, and legal do not have any further questions for you either. Thank you very much.
4772 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT (by interpretation): Thank you very much. Thank you for having us.
4773 THE CHAIRPERSON: We will adjourn until 10:30 to continue with the other intervenors. Thank you.
--- Upon recessing at 10:15 a.m.
--- Upon resuming at 10:30 a.m.
4774 THE CHAIRPERSON: Order, please. A l’odre s’il vous plaît.
4775 Madame la secrétaire.
4776 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.
4777 We'll now hear Item 18 on the agenda, which is a presentation by Media Access Canada on behalf of the Access 2020 Coalition Accessibility Stakeholders.
4778 So please introduce yourselves first for the record, and you have 20 minutes. Go ahead.
4780 MR. TIBBS: For the record, my name is Anthony Tibbs. I'm Chair of the Board and Acting CEO of Media Access Canada. To my left is Dr. Reza Rajabiun, MAC consultant; and to my right is Kim Kilpatrick from Canadian Council of the Blind. Good morning.
4781 Media Access Canada, or MAC, and the Access 2020 Coalition represent a variety of national disability organizations, including, among others, the Disabled Women's Network of Canada, Canadian Hearing Society, the Canadian Hard-of‑Hearing Association, and national organizations, including March of Dimes, Easter Seals, the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, and the Canadian Council of the Blind. Our objective is to ensure full accessibility of media and communications by 2020.
4782 We are a small panel today. As you may know, the Federal Government has launched an initiative to draft what is expected to be comprehensive federal disability legislation. That process includes consultations and theme-specific focus groups, one of which is happening today in Toronto.
4783 A number of our constituents, including Glenn Martin from the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association and Gary Birch from Neil Squire, are in attendance and therefore not able to be with us today here.
4784 Mobile applications and services innovations present new opportunities for our stakeholders to live independently and participate in social and economic activities in ways that were hard to imagine a few years ago. Examples include video communications for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, and way‑finding and geolocation applications used by people with visual disabilities.
4785 The ability of Canadians with disabilities to take advantage of advanced mobile technologies and applications depends on access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet connectivity, both at home and via mobile devices. Much of the processing in these apps is now done in the Cloud and not on the end user's device itself, hence the need for connectivity.
4786 Consequently, MAC would like to thank the Commission in recognizing calls by the disabilities community, in the course of the CRTC 2015-134 proceeding, to define both fixed and mobile high-speed connectivity as basic services under the Telecommunications Act.
4787 The review of the Wireless Code offers an opportunity to enhance effectiveness in the context of the recognition of mobile connectivity as a basic service, stated commitments to accessibility, and consumer empowerment. MAC submits the Commission must go beyond specific accommodations in the Wireless Code and incorporate a broader reasonable accommodation provision. Such a provision would be consistent with the strategic direction to the Commission to improve accessibility by empowering consumers with a disability to address their specific needs with WSPs.
4788 We recognize that a general reasonable accommodation mandate is less precise for WSPs and may create some confusion about the scope of their obligations to accommodate consumers with a disability. However, that is exactly the point. Accommodation must be flexible and ought not to be constrained to the few initiatives we might think up today and include in the Code itself.
4789 With a broader accommodation mandate, we hope to empower consumers with a disability to more effectively communicate their concerns to WSPs, highlight reasonable ways in which WSPs can provide accommodation and improve accessibility, and when WSPs fail to be reasonable, escalate the conflict to the CCTS.
4790 No party to this proceeding has objected to MAC's proposal for strengthening the Wireless Code by incorporating a general reasonable accommodation provision in it. We ask the Commission to interpret this as tacit agreement and adapt the recommendation to the Code accordingly.
4791 We recognize that the Wireless Code has had some positive effects by informing WSPs about their duties to disclose terms of service in contracts and not to change them without notice. The adoption of the Wireless Code also appears to have informed WSPs about their responsibilities to provide consumers with a disability with marketing information and contracts in accessible formats. But even the WSPs admit they aren’t necessarily doing that, just that they are aware of it.
4792 WSPs participating in this proceeding point to the fact that the number of cases that make it to CCTS have fallen as evidence that the Wireless Code has been effective in achieving its objectives.
4793 Given that accessing CCTS requires aggrieved consumers to resolve their disputes with WSPs, limits liability for violations of the rules to less that $5,000 and doesn't allow for class formation as in normal courts, the Commission should not be surprised to find that WSPs -- that WSPs find the enforcement to the Wireless Code to be effective.
4794 Evidence from other parties, such as the Mystery Shopper exercise by University of Ottawa researchers. illustrate that WSPs also broadly ignore limited and flexible provision of the Wireless Code with respect to clarity in pre-sales information disclosure before locking potential consumers in to retail contracts.
4795 More specifically, the reality for Wireless Code is less picturesque for Canadians with disabilities.
4796 In our fist submissions, MAC documented substantive non-compliance even with these relatively narrow, low cost and flexible guidelines.
4797 That's why here and in the past, we have called for the Commission to enhance its internal monitoring and enforcement by establishing a disability rights office or DRO at the CRTC and to start to use administrative monetary penalties to ensure compliance with guidelines and directives it establishes to improve accessibility, affordability, and reliability of services available to our community.
4798 The CCTS experience with the implementation of the Wireless Code clearly substantiates MAC's claims about limited compliance incentives of WSPs with the Code and that WSPs conceptualize the Code as a set of relatively voluntary guidelines which they may follow or ignore as they please.
4799 And I quote from the CCTS:
4800 "We have seen many cases where the WSP failed to demonstrate that it provided its customers with a permanent copy of the contract and related documents [...] we often find that these WSPs have not fully disclosed to their customers all of the terms in their contract and related documents. In other words: WSPs often cannot demonstrate that they have disclosed all of the required information to their customers.
4801 Some consumers may require a paper copy, while Canadians with disabilities may need a copy in an alternative format. While providing these format options may impose some costs on WSPs, the Commission considers that this burden is not undue given the central importance to Canadians of understanding their wireless service contracts. It is important that Canadians have equal access to their contract documents and it would therefore be inappropriate for them to face any additional charges to obtain the documents in these formats."
4802 By generalizing the accommodation mandate on WSPs in the Wireless Code, MAC hopes to encourage WSPs to become more sensitive to consumers with a disability and to start incorporating accessibility considerations in the design of their business strategies, processes, product development and marketing material, and customer service, rather than as an after-the-fact adaptation.
4803 MAC strongly objects to the proposal introduced by WSPs to this proceeding for the Commission to declare the Wireless Code to be the only regulation that applies to the governance of retail wireless contracts in Canada. We do not believe the Commission has the power to do so, constitutionally or otherwise.
4804 This industry proposal would effectively protect WSPs from civil liability for violations of specific consumer rights and other general legal obligations in the regulation of retail contracts under provincial jurisdiction.
4805 The fact that some consumer advocacy groups are supporting a proposal that would reduce access to justice available to aggrieved consumers, including those with a disability, remains puzzling.
4806 MAC therefore urges the Commission to view the Wireless Code for what regulated entities consider it to be, a set of minimum national guidelines. It is not a viable substitute for civil jurisdiction that rightfully lies with the provinces.
4807 We note that even section 3 of the Telecom Act recognizes the duties and responsibilities of the provinces with respect to pursuing the objectives Parliament has specified in section 7.
4808 Incidentally, some of the same parties now arguing for exclusive federal jurisdiction for the Wireless Code have, in the basic services proceeding, argued that affordability of basic communication services is a provincial matter and the Commission should therefore not do anything about concerns raised by low-income Canadians.
4809 This argument appears to have worked as the Commission did not address any of the proposals for addressing affordability as a barrier to access and use of basic services, including the subsidy mechanisms for targeting the needs of Canadians with severe and very severe disabilities.
4810 We urge the Commission not to allow flawed and inconsistent legal and economic arguments to stand in the way of evidence-based policymaking in this proceeding.
4811 MR. RAJABIUN: In the 2013-271 decision establishing the Wireless Code, the Commission acknowledged that the parties generally agreed that the Wireless Code should provide for specific accommodations for people with disabilities and included a number of specific provisions in the Code.
4812 However, the Commission did not adopt MAC's recommendations relating to unbundling and pricing transparency so that our stakeholders can obtain information they need before they enter into a contract, the need to adopt a reasonable accommodation mandate, or the importance of having a credible enforcement mechanism in order to give practical effect to the Code.
4813 We recognize the notice for this consultation stated that institutional and enforcement issues relating to the Wireless Code and CCTS to be beyond the scope of this proceeding. But the fact that the WSPs have introduced the federal-provincial jurisdictional issue and made baseless claims about the effectiveness of the Wireless Code open up these institutional considerations.
4814 MAC has already detailed our concerns about CCTS as a compliance inducement mechanism in our previous submissions to the review of the structure and mandate of the CCTS nearly two years ago and do not repeat them here.
4815 In that proceeding and since then, we have developed and costed a detailed plan for establishing a DRO at the CRTC that enhances your institutional capacity to monitor progress, advises the Commission on policy development, enforces directives you think are appropriate, and acts as an honest broker in consultations between the disabilities communities and industry you have mandated before and you have recently mandated again in the basic service proceeding.
4816 This is relevant in this review of the Wireless Code because there is clear evidence that its implementation has faced challenges. With some exceptions, WSPs have not been keen to adapt their practices to comply with the Code.
4817 When the Wireless Code was first adopted, a number of WSPs and their industry association CWTA committed to consulting with the disabilities community and outlined grand plans of action for improving accessibility.
4818 The Commission noted this in its decision, and this is quotation:
4819 "Rogers submitted that it has plans to establish a 'centre of excellence' for accessibility services, while the CWTA announced its plans to create an accessibility advisory group that will hold discussions on wireless service accessibility."
4820 To our knowledge, these commitments have not materialized. The only action taken by CWTA in this regard is setting up a very simple and static website for wireless accessibility, which contains little relevant information beside some links to vendor marketing and other third-party material.
4821 WSPs do not even link their embryonic accessibility pages to the CWTA's very basic website which makes the limited information that's available highly fragmented and hard to find.
4822 The WSPs and CWTA have not disputed MAC's claims about their failure to deliver on their stated promises, nor have they explained why they have failed to effectively implement specific accessibility provisions of the Code we have documented.
4823 As such, the credibility of any future commitments by WSPs is constrained by their lack of performance in delivering on their promises in the past.
4824 WSPs have started to provide more accessibility-related information and data-only service packages to deaf and hard of hearing consumers they consider qualified. Finding these packages in the marketing material of the WSPs is not very easy and access to them is restricted through a non-transparent qualification process.
4825 Furthermore, voice discounts on data and text-only packages available are very small relative to standard service packages, approaching zero for higher data usage.
4826 We acknowledge that WIND, or Freedom Mobile as it's called now, appears to be the exception. We are pleased that WIND doubles its data -- its full speed data allotment to 10 gigabytes per month on data and text-only packages.
4827 The price for double the data on this plan is about the same as their standard package with 5 gigabytes of data. This appears to be a reasonable approach to unbundling data and text prices for consumers who do not require dedicated voice services.
4828 WIND's leadership in this matter might be a good example for the "Big Three" to emulate.
4829 With respect to comments by WIND that our proposal for making the validity of retail contracts contingent on minimum quality of service standards is not practical, we draw the Commission's attention to the record of the recent basic service and differential pricing proceedings.
4830 Network control technologies are available that enable WSPs to deliver minimum quality of service guarantees, and larger operators already deploy these technologies to manage and monetize their network investments.
4831 As such, our proposal is technically feasible. More importantly in its basic service decision, the Commission has recognized the importance of quality of service to the ability of Canadians with a disability to deploy advanced mobile applications designed for their needs. It has further asked a working group within the CRTC Interconnection Steering Committee to collect technical input and report on appropriate QOS standards to monitor and apply in the future.
4832 Under the new basic service regime, the Commission now “directs” all WSPs to offer mobile wireless service packages that meet the needs of Canadians with disabilities.
4833 To enable safe and reliable use of the wide range of applications designed for the needs of persons with diverse disabilities, such a basic service package will require some minimum warranty of service reliability.
4834 MS. KILPATRICK: As to compliance by the dominant operators with accessibility provisions of the Wireless Code, we thank the Commission for following up on some of the concerns MAC documented in its first intervention. Unfortunately, responses beyond the “big three” to Commission interrogatories confirm our findings about the limited effectiveness of the Wireless Code in inducing compliance.
4835 For example, Bell and TELUS readily admit that they haven’t been informing consumers that a disability about -- about the -- with a disability about the extended trial period, and propose ways they might comply in the future.
4836 Bell says that “in order to maximize consumer awareness of these benefits, we could include information on the extended trial period in our marketing materials targeting consumers with disabilities”.
4837 TELUS acknowledges that “the extended trial period for customers with self -- that self-identify as a person with a disability should be included as part of its accessibility website”.
4838 Moreover, Rogers argues that it should be up to organizations such as MAC to inform consumers about wireless services, as the -- not the service providers themselves. Since only the providers know what they are offering their customers, this is obviously not a practical suggestion. However, it does show that a company that promised to develop a “centre of excellence” -- that's in quotes -- has demonstrated little incentive to follow through.
4839 This also validates our position regarding the need for improving institutional capacity of the CRTC through a DRO to address industry malaise on such matters.
4840 Without direct monitoring and enforcement capacities, accessibility provisions in the Code or in the new basic service framework are likely to exist ethereally without much practical real-world impact or improvement.
4841 Waiting for the next round of policy reviews in five years to reiterate the same problems is not a viable option for our stakeholders.
4842 MR. TIBBS: We acknowledge that since the start of the proceeding, TELUS appears to have expanded and upgraded accessibility pages on its web site but, respectfully, the fact that it has taken a policy review process years later and MAC’s complaints about this in our submissions for some WSPs to start proposing ways they might in future comply with the Code raises serious concerns about its effectiveness.
4843 Although disappointed the Commission has not yet seen fit to establish a DRO in order to enforce its own institutional -- enhance its own institutional capacity to meet the needs of Canadians with disabilities, we note the Commission’s new commitment to
“undertake an active monitoring program to verify that the products/services offered by WSPs, and the ways in which the WSPs make customers aware of their availability, are accessible to all Canadians.”
4844 Now that the Commission has specified broadly similar accommodation requirements in the basic service framework, whether they should remain in the Wireless Code is a question to consider. Developing a systematic approach to improving accessibility, reliability and affordability of the basic fixed and mobile broadband services available to our stakeholders within the new basic service framework offers may prove to be more effective.
4845 Our call in this proceeding to adopt a broad “reasonable accommodation” provision should be viewed in this broader context.
4846 MAC’s proposals in this matter are designed to promote the interests of Canadians with disabilities we represent and achieve the broader objective of the Wireless Code by contributing to a more dynamic marketplace in which WSPs compete with each other in responding to demand from consumers with a disability for reliable and affordable mobile internet connectivity.
4847 In other words, our recommendations would leverage market forces to promote the interests of Access 2020 stakeholders and are fully consistent with relevant provisions under section 7 of the Telecom Act and the 2006 policy directive.
4848 Thank you, and we would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
4849 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. You may be a small group, but you're not less powerful, I hope, so I'll put you in the hands of Commissioner MacDonald.
4850 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Good morning, and welcome.
4851 Several points that you raised in your initial intervention from September are issues that we also touched on in our recent decision with the basic service decision in December, so I won't spend time on that. But to begin this morning, you had discussed the idea of your general reasonable accommodation mandate on page 4 of your oral comments.
4852 And I'm wondering if you can unpack that for me a little bit as to what your thoughts are on how that could or should be structured. Because you also note on the following page that WSP -- at least in your view, "WSPs broadly ignore limited and flexible provisions of the Wireless Code".
4853 So how do we have a general mandate that also have enough specifics in it to ensure that WSPs don't have too much wiggle room, for want of a better term?
4854 MR. TIBBS: Part of that will come to how disputes over whether accommodation has been provided end up getting resolved. Where there's a question of whether a requested or a provided accommodation is or is not within that realm of reasonableness, that may be a question that then goes to, at the moment, CCTS to consider.
4855 Some of that could be done proactively. I note yesterday the question was posed to, I believe, SaskTel as to whether, when they're developing new initiatives, they consult with CCTS in a proactive manner to see what their views on what problems might come up or what they -- what they view -- or how they view a proposed initiative.
4856 And in terms of accessibility and general reasonable accommodation, it may be that that is how that would end up being addressed as well.
4857 It will -- the issue at the moment is that, in the Wireless Code, there are certain specific initiatives that were submitted and included as initiatives, but we don't know what the future is going to hold.
4858 Things have changed a great deal in the last -- even since the Wireless Code was introduced. For example, data usage is significantly more important to a lot of people now than it was at the time. And so this is attempting to be a little more future proof and hoping that we don't necessarily have to keep coming back to review processes to make adjustments to what reasonable accommodation might be.
4859 I don't know if...
4860 MR. RAJABIUN: Just a quick note. We have had the experience with the very specific accommodations in the Wireless Code which you have basically replicated in the basic service decision.
4861 What we are trying to do with the general reasonable accommodation is to -- we realize that it is -- the Wireless Code is considered somewhat voluntary by the WSPs, but we hope that having that accommodation sends a signal and motivates one or two of them initially to start becoming more proactive and start incorporating these considerations in their business processes even before issues become a concern.
4862 And so it’s a very flexible approach to dealing with it. We realize it’s going to create some confusion on the part of the WSPs who do not want to improve accessibility but for those that will do it will give them credibility and legal guidance.
4863 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Thank you for that.
4864 A two part question; I guess part one, in your view, are the WSPs, as federally regulated companies, are they subject to the Canadian Human Rights Act, and, depending on your answer to that, I would ask whether you would see this general provision replicating some of the protections under the Human Rights Act?
4865 MR. TIBBS: I’m not sure that even the WSPs are entirely clear on the answer to that question.
4866 It came up in the course of discussions about the new -- the proposed federal disability legislation, in that there was going to be a need for some harmonization with what already exists, and the difficulty for WSPs is that they are federally regulated on the telecom side but of course if they have a store in a mall in Ontario then they’re all -- the services they deliver there are also caught by the accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Ontario Human Rights Code.
4867 And so the question of if there is a dispute over a contract issue where do you go for that recourse seems to be a question that even they aren’t entirely sure of what the right answer is.
4868 I think, from our perspective, yes, they would be subject to the Human Rights Act at the federal level in terms of the telecom services they provide, and this would, in effect, be duplicating what is available there. However, resolving issues through the CCTS is going to be, we assume, far quicker and more effective than trying to take every issue to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which, for better or worse, may take years to resolve.
4869 And so in that sense, yes, it is similar, and we would submit that the learning, and the jurisprudence, and the understanding of what reasonable accommodation is can be taken from those other contexts but it would be specific for the wireless service providers.
4870 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. Thank you for that.
4871 I’m curious; we know that some wireless providers are offering interpretation services within their stores for the use of clients, have you or any of your members had any experience with this service?
4872 MS. KILPATRICK: I can’t speak for interpretation, but I do know it’s very variable about -- in the kiosks and in the stores what they know about other forms of accessibility of wireless devices. It’s really hit and miss.
4873 Because I help -- my day job is I help -- I train blind and low vision people on their technologies, and they will tell me, you know, people don’t know anything about where the accessibility is, and how to set it up, and why their phones are accessible. They have never heard about the extended plans for people with disabilities.
4874 So I feel -- I think, because there’s a lot of turnover in the stores -- I don’t know, maybe Anthony knows about interpreters in the stores. I actually hadn’t heard of that until this morning when the organization before our group presented. So I don’t know about that, but I do know about some other accessibility situations.
4875 MR. TIBBS: Off the top of my head, I don’t have any specific information on what that experience has been like or what people have had one way or the other. We could inquire about that and see if we can gather any information, but I don’t know off the top of my head.
4876 MR. RAJABIUN: In terms of those questions, shouldn’t they be posted to the WSPs to better understand what degree of capacity they have developed over the last three years, because even if we try to do a survey it’s still going to be anecdotal.
4877 And I think your -- the basic service proceeding has asked the WSPs to file reports within six months about their accessibility practices and services, so maybe that would be something interesting to include in that report that you expect from them.
4878 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Yes, and, I mean, valid point. Just with the opportunity of having you here today, I was curious to see whether you had had personal experience with some of those services and if you would have been able to comment on their relative effectiveness.
4879 And I take a point that you mentioned with respect to often times WSPs have high turnover in their stores and in their kiosks and people may not be aware of certain provisions that are out there for your benefit, such as the extended trial period. Do you think that that is just a simple lack of training issue?
4880 MR. RAJABIUN: No, because when you look at the fact that the WSPs are at a centralized level, they are not advertising the specific accommodations that you require them to advertise in their websites. They’re just beginning to update their websites because of this proceeding. They don’t inform the customers of 30 days -- of the extended trial period, for example, or the right to have their documentation in accessible formats. So if the central management of the companies is not doing this we can’t really be blaming the people working on the ground who are just getting paid on a commission to be able to sell that service.
4881 MS. KILPATRICK: I also wanted to mention that I don’t mind -- I mean, I would rather all the kiosk staff know about the accessibility features. I know there are a lot of phones and devices and it’s hard to know which has which thing. But the thing that concerns me sometimes is that they flat out say “No, there’s no such thing, you couldn’t use this.” So it’s one thing to -- for them not to know, especially with the ever changing technology, but they should know where to go to find out and they shouldn’t ever say “I don’t think you could use this device.”
4882 A lot of blind, low vision people use iPhones. They are still the most accessible for us. And I constantly urge people to go to the Apple store and not the carriers because I feel the Apple store staff know more about accessibility than the carriers do. And that’s too bad, because I would like to hope that everybody knows that or at least knows where to call. There is a number that Apple has for accessibility support for people with disabilities. All the frontline people should know they could call that and ask.
4883 So my big concern is that the door is being banged in peoples’ faces and they’re told they cannot use something that then they’ll call me and I’ll say yes, you can use that actually, all you have to do are these things. So that’s my concern. Not that they don’t know everything but that they say no, you can’t. And also that I didn’t know until I started helping here about the extended warranties and I haven’t ever been told of it.
4884 So that’s my concern.
4885 MR. TIBBS: I think the answer to the question of is it solely a training issue, well, it may be a training issue but it goes back to the fact that information about these benefits, for example, the extended trial period, is not publicized in the marketing materials, or even necessarily in the contracts, or anywhere that somebody working or considering buying a phone or a plan might even discover it as they’re going. Some of the providers have suggested that they should include information about the trial periods in marketing materials quote “targeted at consumers with disabilities”, unquote.
4886 Well all right, but there are -- I don’t know what marketing materials there are that are targeted specifically at consumers with disabilities, but there isn’t likely to be a pamphlet on the rack at the store that says if you’re disabled read this one.
4887 And so hiding it in things that are targeted specifically at that population is as we’re seeing resulting in people not finding out about it at all.
4888 MS. KILPATRICK: And I also think that I know that they also have mentioned we should be marketing it to our groups and consumers.
4889 I would be happy to do that, to post to my blog and Twitter feed and whatever, but we aren’t given the information either. So it’s a two-way street of that; you know?
4890 They need to give it to us so that we can help and market it, but they should also market it.
4891 But to just say we should do it is fine, but they have to also make it easy for us to do it and make sure that the link that I post to the blog goes to a website which is easy to read and manoeuver around.
4892 So I think that’s really important that it’s a -- we’d be happy to spread the word, but we need to know it before we can spread it too.
4893 MR. RAJABIUN: And if I may build just on Kim’s example, because I think it shows why we are asking for this reasonable accommodation mandate.
4894 When the -- or provision -- okay, we say “mandate” but we know it’s sort of a voluntary Code, so it’s not really a mandate.
4895 But a consumer with a disability goes to the store and a representative says no we can’t help you, the knowledge that there is a legal obligation or recommendation guideline from the CRTC, that they need to make a reasonable effort to accommodate will be -- will enable communication between the service providers’ representatives and that consumer.
4896 So the point of the reasonable accommodation is not just an ex-post punishment. It is a form of -- trying to create discussion and dialog at a low level.
4897 And this connects to the one issue that I think has gotten very missing in the debates this week, is the -- whether the Wireless Code should be focused on informing consumers or informing WSPs about their obligations to consumers.
4898 And this is a very challenging issue in this review, I think. And in order to be able to update the Wireless Code, the focus needs to probably change from consumer awareness to WSP obligations.
4899 And we realize that the Wireless Code won’t be able to do that given its flexibility, but just the knowledge -- next time Kim goes to the store and is asking for something and is getting blown off, the knowledge that she -- you have given, the directive to the entities that you regulate that they are required to consider making a reasonable accommodation for that specific person is very important and can be very powerful in changing this incentive structure.
4900 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So on that topic of awareness and ensuring that the people that need the information about what’s available to them, Canadians with disabilities as an example, clearly the WSPs have a key role to play in that.
4901 What is your -- what are your thoughts on perhaps your role or associations like yours in promoting in an unbiased way of course, promoting packages and information coming out from the service providers, assuming those lines of communication between them and yourselves can be established?
4902 MS. KILPATRICK: Well one of the things I do in my -- in my role of coordinating the program I run, is when there are groups of people who are blind or have low vision or are deaf-blind in a room, we do bring people in to present and an unbiased way.
4903 So say you brought three carriers in and they could talk about plans and they could talk about accessibility and -- but the group will ask the hard questions to them about their plans, about the accessibility of their website, about ---
4904 So I think yes, I think we could -- we’re happy to show, you know, to give people information, but we also want to lead people to places that are accessible and easy to use.
4905 So, for example, a lot of people that I assist are new to blindness, often seniors, sometimes -- new to blindness means their facility with web browsing, their facility with doing some of the things has changed because their level of vision has changed.
4906 So I do want to send them to places that -- where they would have positive experience, easy to navigate. And a lot of the WSPs I’ve found their sites and I’ve been blind since birth and I’ve navigated websites for a long time, not the most easy too.
4907 So I think it’s a mixed answer. It’s yes, yes we could, but we also want to make sure that we give our stakeholders an experience which is not frustrating or -- to them and also that they can easily understand -- understand the plans, which I think all of us agree that they’re not always easy to understand anyway, but that we are presenting them with good information and that they are able to go and be informed in an accessible way.
4908 MR. RAJIBIUN: May I -- I’m sorry, add to that?
4909 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Yes, go ahead.
4910 MR. RAJIBIUN: I’d like to connect that to what Commissioner Menzies asked the last panel about the challenges in actually communicate -- the third party communicating this information, because legal term what different WSPs interpret different contract terms to be can vary, across the many changes.
4911 As you heard from Rogers, I think it was yesterday or the day before, they really couldn’t tell you how they actually price plans and how these pricing evolves.
4912 So how -- and they are asking us to communicate this, but how could we communicate it if their price plans are evolving dynamically and changing very fast.
4913 So we might be able to do a national campaign if you adopt a reasonable accommodation provision and say ‘everyone you have -- CRTC has -- is obliging the service providers to provide you with reasonable accommodation, have this in hand next time to go to the store. If you’re not being treated right push it on the -- tell the store that you have the legal right to be accommodated and make them think about it’.
4914 But you cannot have that this information. It’s legal information that’s changing and is proprietary to the operators.
4915 We don’t know what they’re offering their customers. They can’t -- it’s very hard to parse these contracts and this is -- like we’re not even talking about the pre-sales information that’s getting -- and the CISs before somebody’s locked into a contract.
4916 So the expectation that consumer organizations can -- act as intermediaries here is not well founded and it’s not really practical in a very -- at a very basic legal level.
4917 MR. TIBBS: I think the answer is that to promote specific plans for a particular provider gets tricky because A: they will always change; B: it puts organisations in -- possibly in the position of having to choose one and be seen a promoting it, what have you.
4918 That, I think, goes too far. What consumer organizations can promote to a degree is the more general provisions of what you should be able to get from a wireless provider.
4919 Things like the extended trial period, certainly organizations representing these groups can tell them by the way this is available when you go to the store ask about it and if they don’t know anything about it keep asking. We can do that.
4920 But there still needs to be a way to catch people who aren’t connected to this, to these groups, because taking, just as an example, the population of people who are losing their vision, a great number of them are lucky to get a referral to any kind of rehab organization that may tell them about consumer groups and a great number of them don’t -- aren’t necessarily at the point where they want to be affiliated with or associated with any kind of consumer group representing to people with disabilities, you know, they don't necessarily want that label, but they may be entitled to services that they could otherwise get.
4921 And so it is one channel, but our view is that it shouldn't take the onus off the service provider itself from making sure that it has done everything it can to make people aware of it and to provide the services that people are otherwise entitled to.
4922 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And -- fair enough on that point, and I can see why you wouldn't want to, perhaps promote one plan over another.
4923 On something that you could promote, the Wireless Code isn't overly long, but it's not overly short either, and other intervenors have suggested that perhaps a simplified version of the Code should be provided to all customers.
4924 And I'm wondering what your thoughts are on that proposal? Perhaps it's slightly adapted in its content to speak more closely to the individuals within your communities, but would that be something that would provide value and something you'd be interested in promoting?
4925 MR. TIBBS: Yes, if people were receiving a copy of this, whether it be the full Wireless Code or a shorter version of it, or a brief description and information on where you can learn more about that, whatever form that might take, that would certainly bring attention to the fact that there is a Wireless Code in the first place, which despite all the marketing, a great number of people have no clue about in the first place. And it isn't necessarily actively promoted by service providers when you're signing up that it exists, and so I think we would support anything that could provide that information.
4926 MR. RAJABIUN: I think one type of package that we could try to promote, it depends on your implementation of the basic service decision in which you have mandated or directed now basic service, packages that meet the needs of Canadians with disabilities.
4927 So if there is some degree of standardization, so there is a high -- there is some data on text only package with sufficient data, 10 Gig of data, and minimum service quality guarantees, that would be sufficient to meet the needs of the video calling for the deaf or the blind, as we have asked for, and it appears in the basic service decision that you have agree with, something like that can be promoted in a active way that is not -- you are not favouring particular operators against each other.
4928 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So with respect to the trial period. Today, and we heard from the providers that they're generally offering 30 days for people with disabilities. I think the actual language is double the amount of time that they would offer to other Canadians.
4929 Is that a -- well, we'll get to what you can do in that 30 days in a second, but is that time period reasonable in your mind, and as a follow-up, if the 30 days is reasonable, should we be setting that out as a requirement under the Code?
4930 MS. KILPATRICK: I think it's reasonable. You know, it's a good amount of time, you know, when you get a new device there is always the first couple of days you -- no one seems to know how to use it sometimes and want to get rid of it. But I think so, I think so, and I, yeah, I think that's a good amount of time.
4931 And I also think perhaps they should also know where to go to give someone resources to learn even just websites or groups that help people, you know. Maybe there would be a package that came with the phone or just a website list or something so that they could also have something to get them started.
4932 Because as Anthony said, sometimes people new to disability run for the hills rather than approach groups that contain people with disabilities. So we want to make sure they get something. But I would say 30 days is a reasonable time.
4933 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And with respect to what you can do within that 30 days, do you think it should mimic the full month's usage for whatever plan you have purchased?
4934 MR. TIBBS: The -- in our written submissions for this, we had taken the position that essentially it should be prorated for what you would have available. Assuming that we're talking about a trial period of 30 days, then -- and that is your monthly period, then it may be that your first month is essentially a full trial period.
4935 The reason for that is because with smaller plans in particular if you say you're going to -- you can use the first 50 percent of your usage, you may have 30 days but only 100 Megs of data to work with in that 30 days. And so that becomes difficult to work with on a standardized basis.
4936 And as for the 30 days being reasonable, yes, although an argument could be made if the standard trial period were defined and decreed to be some longer period than the 14 or 15 days that seems to be standard now, if that expanded, then it may be that an extended trial period would need to be adapted accordingly.
4937 MS. KILPATRICK: I think also to think about, it should be the full amount that your plan would be for those 30 days, because the first month you would try out all of the things. For example, for me, I would try out my special GPS apps, turn by turn directions, colour identification, scanning, OCR, reading documents, a lot of things that I would use to be able to be more independent in life.
4938 So I would want to know that that plan -- the data in that plan is feasible for me, and maybe I would change plans if I needed a little more or less. Maybe I realize that these apps don't use nearly as much data as I thought, or maybe they use more.
4939 So I do agree with that. It should be the full amount you would normally have in that time period.
4940 MR. RAJABIUN: There is also a bit of proviso I would like to add to this, is that, and as you heard in the last panel, the quality of service is very important. And the 30 year might be enough if you are static in one place and you're living in one place and you're working in another, so you're travelling between the two, so the user can test whether their services are working and whether there is enough coverage and capacity to return it. But those conditions, network conditions, they change over time.
4941 So we don't think a customer should be stuck in a contract if they move to a rural area and the coverage and capacity is not good in that area. There should be some -- that 30 day provision for cancelling is a good, bright line rule to start with, but that should not be the only condition for breaking the contract.
4942 So CCTS needs to be open to when customer is not getting the services that they were expecting or they had been promised, they should be able to break those contracts. The validity of contracts should depend on the performance of the service provider.
4943 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay, thank you.
4944 I think Ms. Kilpatrick was on -- starting to go down the road of answering my next question.
4945 But I know if I were evaluating a wireless device, I would, in that 15 day period, I would probably make my sole decision based on how many bars I was receiving and the quality of the service at my home, my place of work, and you know, a few different places I was going. But my decision would probably be based on the level of connectivity I was receiving.
4946 Could you maybe walk me through how or what additional decision points people in your community may evaluate while they're deciding whether to keep a device or return it?
4947 MS. KILPATRICK: Well, I think critical. The first thing I would look at -- now, I've used iPhone's for quite a while so I know them and I know their accessibility, but if I was trying something new, I would test the accessibility.
4948 So how easy is it for me to use, say if I have a blindness. So using the screen range part of it, if I have Lake of the Woods vision, so the magnification of the screen, the brightness of the screen, the contrast. If I have mobility, disability. So does it mesh with switch control, does it mesh with other is easy for me to hold? Am I able to manipulate my fingers well enough on the screen or can I pair it with something that helps me to do that? I think for those of us in this community, that is our first -- can I hear the device if I have a little bit of hearing difficulties.
4949 To me, that’s what I do first. It’s interesting you said about the bars because I do care about the bars but I go first to accessibility and make sure -- for me, if a device doesn’t do well with Braille, Braille displays like I have here, that’s a deal breaker for me. I’m a major Braille user so if something wasn’t working well with that I would want to give it back.
4950 But sometimes it takes a while to set up your accessibility and to understand all of the features and try them in different say lighting conditions if you had low vision or different hearing conditions. Does it pair with your hearing aid? You know, there’s all kinds of situations.
4951 So that would be the first thing I think that I would evaluate. And then I would try with all my various absent services to make sure the things I use every day to tell when the next bus is coming, to book a ride, to -- you know, to read documents, to identify the colour of my shirt, to identify food labels, all of the things I do with my mobile device I can do. So that’s what I would say are -- they are.
4952 And then, of course, you know, do you stay connected well? What about the battery life? Are you able to have a good battery life? Those things as well, but I think the accessibility things are the things that I, for certain, first try to test.
4953 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. Thank you.
4954 With our recent decision we’ve instructed the service providers to offer packages that meet the needs of Canadians with disabilities and publicize that and you’ve mentioned that today. That’s supposed to happen no later than June of this year but we’re not in June yet so we don’t know exactly what the WSPs are going to come back with.
4955 Out of curiosity, has your group or any other groups that you have -- that you coordinate with been engaged by any service providers to determine what that should look like?
4956 MR. TIBBS: Yes, I don’t have a whole lot of details on where that is at but I know that at least some of the stakeholder groups that we work with have been contacted by Bell for sure to set up some consultation sessions and to gather some feedback on what people would like to see and what they need in those plans.
4957 I don’t know that -- I don’t think any of that has happened yet. But it seems that the first steps have at least started from some of the providers and we’ll have to see over the next couple months what that results in and where that goes, but it does seem to be started.
4958 MR. RAJABIUN: If I may ask you a question, does the Commission plan to take any part in these consultations and development of the basic service plans? As act as an honest broker between the disabilities community and the industry as we had asked about -- which was our point of developing a DRO that we keep on pushing.
4959 THE CHAIRPERSON: What is your view of that issue?
4960 MR. RAJABIUN: I think you should.
4961 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Thank you for that.
4962 With respect to notifications that go out, we’ve talked a lot about it over the course of the week and I’d like to get your thoughts on it as well. Do you believe that, you know, especially given the fact that members of your, you know, some members of your community may be very, very reliant on -- totally reliant on data services, are the notifications that go out from the service providers adequate in your eyes to let you know when you are approaching your max data allotment for the month?
4963 MR. TIBBS: I don’t know that we have developed any really formal position on that. Anecdotally from talking with people, there doesn’t seem to be any standardization to this. Each service provider has different ways of approaching it. Some notify you at 25 percent, 50 percent, 75 up to 100. Others, and I know from my own experience, send out a warning at about the 90 percent level but not before. And, of course, if you’ve somehow got to 90 percent in the first 7 days of the month, there’s not much you can do about it then for the rest of the month.
4964 So this also seems to be something that really depends on the individual as to how much information they want before it just becomes background noise that they don’t pay attention to.
4965 And so I have to assume that all of the service providers could provide these notifications and that it wouldn’t take a reengineering of the world for them to do it in pretty much any way that people wanted, whether they could choose to receive notifications only at that critical 90 percent level or whether they wanted to get notifications either as the month progressed or when they reached certain thresholds. I think ideally that would be left up to the individual consumer to choose what kind of feedback they want.
4966 For some it may not matter. I mean, for many people if they have their four or six gigs of data for the month, they may know from past experience that they only use three of that and it’s not an ongoing issue. But for many of the people who are heavily reliant on data, particularly in the deaf and hard of hearing community, it may depend very much on what they’re doing that month and maybe they need more feedback and forewarning that things aren’t going as planned.
4967 That would also address the surprise bill issues that have gotten so much attention this week where in some cases somebody buys a new phone, takes it home, doesn’t have Wi-Fi set up or realize that they need to do it. The phone proceeds to go through and download all its initial updates and there’s their data usage gone for the month without them having any warning that that was going to happen.
4968 So aside from accessibility considerations I think as a policy perspective, it would be very good if people had ongoing notifications about their usage, partly for day-to-day things and partly in case something has gone wrong and your phone is eating through it without your being aware that that is happening.
4969 MS. KILPATRICK: Yeah, I have a local, small internet service provider, partly for that reason that I was really having trouble with the big ones in terms of being able to read clearly their tables of usage didn’t make a lot of sense to me sometimes. And the way they did it was there were checkboxes, the little one, and you could say let me know at 50 percent, let me know at -- and you could check them all or you could check, you know, 80 percent, 75 percent. Let me know by email or by text or something like that.
4970 Also, the table where the usage is on the website is very easy to use and so I think it can be a problem. I also think it can be a problem for people who have some intellectual disabilities. It needs to be simply and you need to know.
4971 Some people with memory loss, they might have turned things on their phone and gotten their phone to have Wi-Fi assist or something when the Wi-Fi goes out it automatically changes to data or something like that what they didn’t know they did it. So I think it could be simpler. There could be a lot -- it should be choices, as Anthony said, to be made for that.
4972 But I know at times it’s very difficult for me to figure out data usage on the internet and on my device too. So it’s always appreciated when it’s easy for me to know.
4973 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Thank you. Just a couple more before I will hand you back over to the Chairman.
4974 What are your thoughts on the current data overage caps that are in place set at $50? Does that still seem reasonable to you? We’ve heard both opposing opinions on this over the course of the week.
4975 MR. TIBBS: I don’t know that there’s a right and a wrong answer to that. Probably most -- I have to assume that most people would be happy if that cap was zero dollars before they had to do something to continue using data. You know, an extra $50 may not be a huge deal to some people but it may break the bank for others.
4976 And so is there any reason why we need to allow it to go to that point before some intervention happens to give people the choice to address the issue or not?
4977 And an overage -- a cap at the actual planned capacity would make sense, particularly if notifications are sent before you get to that point so that you can address it if it’s going to be a problem. I don’t -- having a cap above the actual planned capacity just, in my mind, invites extra charges that people may not have been counting on or expected, and is it really necessary when you could be notified at the cap and deal with it then.
4978 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Thank you.
4979 Just my final question; are you aware of Exhibit 1 that’s been placed on the record of this proceeding?
4980 MR. TIBBS: Yes.
4981 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: There are a few questions that we would like to receive additional input from yourselves on. Can you undertake to provide a response by the 16th of this month?
4982 MR. TIBBS: Yes, we will.
4984 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Perfect Thank you. Those are my questions.
4985 MR. RAJABIUN: Can I ask you a question about your questions?
4986 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Yes.
4987 MR. RAJABIUN: On Question 3 you are asking whether more information should be included in the CIS or not. But what we have heard is that the CIS is not being provided before sales anyway. So isn’t it a more important question to be concerned about whether CIS is being provided or not rather than more or less information in it?
4988 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, perhaps we can ask you both questions then. Is it your view that the CIS should be provided in the pre-contractual phase?
4989 MR. RAJABIUN: We have detailed that in our submissions. Yes.
4990 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
4991 MR. RAJABIUN: And that’s, I think, the critical gap in the Wireless Code.
4992 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So, fine, then assuming that the CIS is -- whether or not it’s provided ahead of time, do you actually think the content of the current version of the CIS is sufficient? I think the question is going to that. Is that clear?
4993 MR. RAJABIUN: Yes.
4994 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Around 11:09, 11:10 earlier today you referred to the Code as a “voluntary Code”. I’m referring to that because it will be easier for you to find it in the transcript. I was a bit surprised of you describing it as a voluntary Code. It would have been my understanding that the Code is imposed on carriers as a Section 24 condition, Section 24 of the Telecommunications Act, and on resellers pursuant to Section 24.1 of the Telecommunications Act for non-carriers who are resellers. And as a consequence of that, subject to some procedural formalities, non-compliance could lead to administrative monetary penalties. So why do you describe it as voluntary?
4995 MR. RAJABIUN: Because it hasn’t -- because, as we have detailed, the key provisions for the disabilities community have not been implemented, and what we mean by voluntary is that the WSPs are interpreting it as voluntary.
4996 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
4997 MR. RAJABIUN: And it subject to -- and you do have the right and the responsibility when there is non-compliance to impose administrative monetary penalties but you have not done so with respect to those specific provisions that we have outlined in this or sort of follow through whether -- to see they are complying or not.
4998 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
4999 MR. RAJABIUN: So that is the interpretation of it. In fact, from a -- on the books it is supposed to be mandated and binding, but in practice it’s being interpreted as voluntarily obviously.
5000 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. But a carrier’s interpretation doesn’t decide at the end of the day, it will be the Commission that decides its nature.
5001 And I take it that you want more meat about disability issues in the Code. But let’s assume that there are clear obligations, do you agree with me that the Commission, if it has been breached, that obligation could eventually, subject to process, impose an administrative monetary fine?
5002 MR. RAJABIUN: Yes, and that’s, in fact, what we ask -- we’ve been asking you for the past two years with CCTS and with respect to Wireless Code, yes.
5003 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. But I’m just reacting to you describing it as a voluntary Code. It may not have the content you wish but it’s not a voluntary Code.
5004 MR. TIBBS: No, I think this is just referring to -- the way it seems to have been treated by the WSPs themselves not necessarily how it was intended by the Commission.
5005 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Fair enough. I just don’t want people to think that it is just wishful thinking on the part of the Commission when it puts something in that Code. It’s actually got a lot of legal consequences.
5006 So thank you very much for your participation. I don’t believe -- oh, yeah, legal has one question for you.
5007 MR. BALKOVEC: Good morning. I’d just like to clarify with you, you were referencing in your comments earlier the questions in the exhibit on page 1. There are actually some specific questions for your organization on page 5. So, just to be absolutely clear, we would appreciate answers to those for the 16th of February. Is that all right?
5008 MR. RAJABIUN: Thank you very much.
5009 MR. BALKOVEC: Thanks.
5010 THE CHAIRPERSON: So thank you. Those are our questions.
5011 And I believe we’ll go to our next intervenor.
5012 THE SECRETARY: Yes, Mr. Chairman, which is Mr. Ryan C. Adams.
5013 Mr. Adams, I would invite you to take place.
5014 MR. ADAMS: Ladies and gentlemen of the Commission, members of the public, my name is Ryan Adams. Today the Commission seems to be considering the Wireless Code as it applies to mobile usage. I am asking the Commission to also consider protections within the Wireless Code as they affect the households that lack any form of wireline broadband.
5015 Our household is served by Bell’s central office in Petawawa which is 8.3 kilometres line distance. Said facility supports, at minimum, fibre to the node technology and is likely well equipped and modern, as it has received concurrent grant funding from at least two separate funds for central office upgrades, the Bell deferral accounts and the Eastern Ontario Regional Network.
5016 Curiously, I once qualified with Bell for a DSL plan and it was scheduled for an install by a technician on 07 November 2014 through TekSavvy. Unfortunately, this installation couldn’t be completed for, quote, “technical reasons”. Perhaps with a bit of noted irony, the Bell Corporation was also calculating my multi-year monthly bill of $276 monthly for 30.3 gigabytes of usage as part of their technical assessment. Considering I have no other choice for home broadband, I ask the Commission to consider how Bell is able to offer disadvantageous services through wireless to some within a community.
5017 This Commission is examining if Canadians have been shocked by cellphone bills. Well, my shock for broadband Internet through wireless is monthly. However, said average does not include a bill received on 14 March 2014 for home Internet.
5018 For reasons unknown, my household consumed 50 gigabytes of data on one SIM card and 420 gigabytes of data on another using the same device. Well above my monthly averages I will note. Usage for 50 gigabytes of data was $582, and usage for 420 gigabytes of data was $6,305. I will mention with some humour that Bell rounds up to the nearest gigabyte, ensuring an extra $15 for the corporation on each SIM card.
5019 My presentation is meant to remind the Commission that it was, and still is, heavily invested in Bell’s wireless and landline backbone network under the Bell deferral accounts to the sum of over $300 million. I’m here to remind the Commission of the services and service plans prices that I received from said investment.
5020 As part of CRTC 2011-291, the Commission provided the framework for the provision of voice services through wireless with no disadvantage. CRTC 2016-496 afforded a new broadband basic service objective with 50/10 with the availability of unlimited.
5021 I believe it is time to end disadvantageous service offerings under the guise of technological neutrality. Invoking the term of technological neutrality, without price, rate plan and service parity, is likely contrary to the objectives of the Telecommunications Act.
5022 Firstly, I recommend that an unlimited offering through wireless be mandated, noting that incumbent companies have often praised the superior quality of their wireless networks over offerings such as DSL.
5023 This unlimited offering could be directed towards incumbents that have failed to afford wireline broadband with unlimited usage, and instead elected to offer wireless as an alternative within a community as a disadvantageous service offering.
5024 Secondly, I propose the elimination of network throttling practice for wireless networks as both a matter of contractual clarity, and disadvantageous practice.
5025 Currently, Bell's offerings plans up to 100 gigabytes of usage, yet contractually considers 25 gigabytes to be grounds for throttling to dial-up speeds.
5026 Noting aforementioned rounding-up practices, I recommend that the kilobyte standard for accounting for data be used in terms of billing.
5027 Lastly, I believe that Bell's clarity may be lacking at this hearing. I would like to state the following quote given to you by Bell as a part the company's opening statement during this hearing:
5028 "Today, we send usage-related notifications to device users as they approach their monthly thresholds".
5029 I ask the Commission to consider what Bell is planning to do on 15th April of this year. I will quote from the Bell notification:
5030 "Due to changes in our notification process, as of April 15, you will no longer receive a 90% usage update."
5031 Based on the new practices expected 15 April, I recommend that mandated notices be required before, at assorted percentages of cap such as 90 percent, and not at the moment of or perhaps after reaching max usage.
5032 I recommend that a customer be allowed to opt out of notifications such as this if they become disruptive to their services.
5033 Ladies and gentlemen of the Commission, I thank you for the opportunity to allow me to present before you as a member of the public. Further to this, I welcome any questions you may have.
5034 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you for your presentation.
5035 The Vice-Chair of Telecommunications may have one or two questions for you.
5036 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
5037 Can you tell me what your experience has been with other companies that you might have sought service from?
5038 MR. ADAMS: Overall, Rogers is not available in the sense that it provides adequate connectivity. I've noted I previously had a Robers' cellphone when I first moved to my household in 2011. Eventually, I had to leave them. So it makes sense that they would not provide a turbo hub or rocket hub that they call it that would offer connectivity.
5039 The only other option available for me in broadband would be Xplornet satellite internets, not wireless LTE or whatever they have line that's not wireless. It's only through satellite and that's unusable for our household in the sense of the latency requirements.
5040 My wife works online, connecting to VPN connections and satellite internet has a latency usually of above 1,000 milliseconds. There isn’t any solution to that other than moving the satellite closer to the earth.
5041 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right. That's for -- so there's video work being done.
5042 MR. ADAMS: There's VPN, virtual private network, connecting to another network using an encrypted connection. It's a hospital network. She's a pharmacist who provides service to other remote communities through what's called TelePharmacy.
5043 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Sure. Have you had any experience with the CCTS?
5044 MR. ADAMS: CCTS, I have heard of them bur overall, I have not elected to file a complaint mainly because I don’t believe the regulations at the present time, both the Wireless Code and other aspects such as 2016-4 -- the most recent basic review of the service objective and the 50/10, it doesn’t support that aspect. I have no grounds for any sort of complaint.
5045 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Thank you very much. Those are my questions.
5046 THE CHAIRPERSON: And if I'm not mistaken, you had appeared in that proceeding?
5047 MR. ADAMS: Yes, I did. I described aspects of my household service.
5048 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
5049 MR. ADAMS: What I'd like to ask is that the Wireless Code be shaped a bit to consider that.
5050 THE CHAIRPERSON: Your request is that we have a Code for broadband as well, so expanding significantly the scope of the Code?
5051 MR. ADAMS: I'll note that technological neutrality has often been used. Companies have asked. Well, let's serve with wireless and that doesn't offer the similar protections that are offered under wireline broadband.
5052 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Thank you very much, Mr. Adams. Those are our questions. Thank you for participating in the hearing.
5053 MR. ADAMS: Thanks.
5054 THE CHAIRPERSON: It's appreciated. Thank you.
5055 I think what we will do now is take a break and come back at 1 o'clock.
5056 Donc, en ajournement jusqu'à 13h00, s'il vous plaît.
--- Upon recessing at 11:51 a.m.
--- Upon resuming at 1:00 p.m.
5057 LE PRÉSIDENT: À l'ordre, s'il vous plaît. Order, please.
5058 Alors, Madame la secrétaire?
5059 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Merci, Monsieur le président.
5060 We will hear the last presentation of this hearing with the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services. Please introduce yourselves for the record first. You have 20 minutes.
5061 MR. MAKER: Mr. Chair, Mr. Vice-Chair, Commissioner MacDonald, and Commission staff, bonjour.
5062 I am Howard Maker. I am the Commissioner of CCTS and I am here today with Josée Thibault, Assistant Commissioner, on my right. To her right is Tamar Toufayan, our Manager of Compliance and Complaints Analysis. And to my left is Geoff White, our Director and Regulatory Counsel.
5063 Le CPRST a été créé en 2007 comme organisme indépendant de protection des consommateurs de télécommunications. Notre organisme est constitué de plusieurs participants et administré par un conseil d’administration dont la composition assure la participation de tous.
5064 Notre mission est de fournir un service exceptionnel de résolution des différends aux Canadiens et leurs fournisseurs, dans les deux langues officielles, en tenant compte des besoins des personnes handicapées.
5065 We have been administering the Wireless Code since it came into effect in December 2013. This involves resolving complaints related to the Code, as well as tracking and reporting on compliance. We also identify and report on complaint volumes and trends.
5066 In our presentation today, we will address each of the Commission’s five areas of consultation, as well as some of the other issues that the Commission has raised in this hearing.
5067 Our primary focus is on two issues: changes in the market, and the content and wording of the Code. We will, of course, be happy to delve into the Code’s effectiveness, public awareness, and other important issues in questions if you wish.
5068 But as an independent, multi-stakeholder organization, and in keeping with the need to maintain our impartiality and our neutrality to be credible as an industry ombudsman, we are unable to take positions on many of the substantive proposals put forward by other parties.
5069 We believe that we can add the most value by providing our Code administrator perspective on complaint issues we are seeing or anticipating.
5070 Before we address the consultation issues, we think it would be helpful to briefly explain our complaint handling process and how we actually develop Code-related data.
5071 This context is important because Code-related data, alone, is only a small part of a bigger picture.
5072 When we accept complaints, we identify any potential or alleged breaches of the Code based on the information we obtain from the customer and the provider.
5073 We are able to resolve almost 90 per cent of complaints to the satisfaction of both parties without the need for an investigation, and thus most alleged breaches are never investigated and remain categorized as “alleged”.
5074 Of the remaining 10 percent of complaints, we are required to investigate to determine whether the service provider reasonably met its obligations to the customer.
5075 In doing so, we only review the requirements of the Code that bear on the complaint, if any, in order to determine whether a breach of the Code occurred. If the investigation reveals an unequivocal breach that is not related directly to the facts of the complaint, we will, of course, track and report it.
5076 However, we do not investigate unresolved wireless complaints solely to determine whether the Code requirements have been met unless those requirements are relevant to the facts of the complaint.
5077 From December 2013 to July 31, 2016, the end of our last reporting period, we disposed of a total of 26,210 customer complaints across all lines of telecom business. Concerns about compliance with the Wireless Code were raised 6,935 times in these complaints.
5078 Of these almost 7,000 issues, we were only required to investigate 1,596 of them or 23 percent. In 2015-16 alone, we were required to investigate only 19 percent of alleged breaches.
5079 So it is in only -- it is only in a limited number of complaints in which we can confirm whether the provider has complied with the Code or whether a breach occurred.
5080 It is important to keep this in mind when considering our data. Notwithstanding the limited number of Code investigations however, we do believe the data we report is representative of the types of issues consumers are raising.
5081 Now turning to the Commission’s five consultation issues, au sujet de l’efficacité du Code, nous partageons l’opinion que le Code est un succès.
5082 Nous croyons qu’en établissant des standards minimaux, le Code a aidé à clarifier les droits et responsabilités des consommateurs et des fournisseurs.
5083 Cependant, nous avons défini certains aspects qui pourraient être améliorés pour assurer le succès continu du Code.
5084 Mme THIBAULT: Le Conseil a invité des commentaires sur les changements dans le marché depuis l’entrée en vigueur du Code, qui nécessitent l’apport de modifications, dont la forte présence des forfaits familiaux partagés et l’augmentation de l’utilisation de données par les Canadiens. Nous aborderons certains de ces problèmes aujourd`hui.
5085 Le premier problème concerne les dispositions de la section « E » sur la notification et le consentement, en ce qui concerne les forfaits à utilisateurs multiples et aux forfaits internet mobile.
5086 Les sections E(2) et E(3) exigent que les fournisseurs plafonnent les frais de données et d’itinérance à 50 $ et 100 $ respectivement sauf si le client consente à payer des frais additionnels.
5087 Même s’il est trop tôt pour identifier une tendance soutenue, en 2015-2016, nous avons signalé près de deux fois plus de violations confirmées aux sections E(2) et E(3) que l’an dernier.
5088 Ces sections font référence au défaut des fournisseurs d’obtenir un consentement valide pour le paiement de frais additionnels ou l’application de la limite prévue aux données ou à l’itinérance.
5089 Certains fournisseurs envoient des notifications à l’appareil qui utilise des données afin de permettre à l’utilisateur de cet appareil de consentir aux frais additionnels.
5090 En raison de cette pratique, nous avons reçu un grand nombre de plaintes à qui des frais d’itinérance ou d’utilisation excédentaire avaient été facturés, apparemment sans leur consentement.
5091 Un problème similaire au sujet du consentement pourrait exister au niveau des forfaits internet mobile ou des forfaits de les stations « hub ».
5092 Cependant, les fournisseurs affirment que leur approche est conforme au Code.
5094 Selon nous, lorsque la nature même d’un service suppose qu’il sera utilisé par plusieurs personnes, il est nécessaire que le titulaire du compte, celui qui est responsable du paiement, consente au paiement des frais additionnels, et nous avons interprété les dispositions de la section « E » en ce sens.
5095 We have also seen complaints about at least one large provider not applying the data or roaming cap once the $50 or $100 threshold has been reached.
5096 Instead, it calculates the threshold by multiplying this amount by the number of devices activated on the shared plan.
5097 We believe that Section “E”, if it is to prevent bill shock, requires that the dollar thresholds are to be applied per account, not per device activated on the account.
5098 We know that some providers are taking a different position on that and so we believe the Commission should clarify the requirement.
5099 The second issue relates to whether or not data constitutes a key contract term, for the purposes of Section “D”, changes to contracts and related documents.
5100 Some providers have been excluding data from the main section of the contract and now adding it under a different section, usually called “add-ons”, “optional services”, or “promotions”.
5101 We have even seen an extreme case, which we shared with you in Appendix 3 to our intervention, in which there were no services listed under key contract terms and absolutely everything, including data and voice, was listed as an add-on.
5102 This is important because data is an essential service for many Canadians and because whether or not data is considered a “key term” of a contract has important implications for the rights and obligations of both the customer and the provider, should the provider wish to change the parameters of the data feature, so either the amount of data allotted to the customer or the price of that allotment.
5103 If a service is not a “key contract term” then the provider is permitted by Section D2 to change the terms of the data plan without the customer’s consent on 30 days’ notice.
5104 We bring this approach to your attention because we believe it could lead to a lot of complaint activity and because it is not clear that this is consistent with the Commission’s policy objectives for the Code.
5105 We recognize that providers argue that this approach is necessary for customers to have flexibility to make changes to their data plan within the term of the contract, but in our view, there is no conflict in the Code between including data as a key term and allowing customers to customize their allotment.
5106 Customers are currently able to make changes to other aspects of their services that are key such as voice and text quite easily and we fail to see why such flexibility would not be possible if data were to be considered a key term.
5107 The third issue relates to prepaid service. At paragraphs 77 to 83 of our intervention, we have provided several examples of how the consumer experience, with subscribing to and using prepaid services, has evolved to become substantially similar to postpaid service since the launch of the Code.
5108 And we invite the Commission to consider whether these new market practices necessitate changes to prepaid provisions in the Code.
5109 MR. MAKER: Regarding the content and wording of the Code, we have raised several issues that the Commission may wish to address.
5110 As an overarching comment, we submit that whatever the Commission decides regarding content and wording, the specific requirements should be as clear as possible.
5111 This ensures that customers and providers understand their rights and responsibilities, and helps us resolve disputes more effectively.
5112 Regarding Section “A”, clarity, there is no definition or guidance in the Code on what constitutes “plain language” and we have found that some providers are using language and terms that may be too technical for the average consumer to understand.
5113 We address this at paragraphs 83 through 90 of our intervention and invite the Commission to consider issuing clear guidelines on what constitutes plain language.
5114 Regarding Section “B”, contracts and related documents, we wish to raise a few issues because this section, which is fundamentally about disclosure, is very much at the core of the Code’s objectives of making it easier for Canadians to obtain and understand the information in their contracts and to establish consumer-friendly business practices.
5115 First, the Code requires providers to give the customer a permanent copy of the contract and related documents immediately after the customer agrees to the contract.
5116 We believe that requiring this information to be provided either prior to or contemporaneously with obtaining the customer’s consent to be bound by the contract could help reduce complaints about non-disclosure or misleading information.
5117 In the case of customers subscribing at a distance, allowing providers up to 15 days from the date of the contract to send the contract and related documents to customers could lead to divergence between what the customer thinks they agreed to and what the actual paperwork says.
5118 Second, the potential delay could result in the Code’s 15-day trial period and any associated limits, being exceeded by the time the paperwork arrives.
5119 Third, we have observed a widespread practice of providers building the consent to receive documents electronically into their contracts, without any apparent option for the customer to accept the agreement without also consenting to electronic delivery.
5120 We filed examples of this in Appendix 4 to our intervention. We believe this practice violates the Code’s requirement to provide paper copies unless the customer “expressly and knowingly decides that an electronic copy is acceptable.”
5121 Fourth, we have observed the widespread use of web links to deliver contracts and related documents to customers.
5122 We filed examples of this in Appendix 5 to our intervention. We believe this practice violates the Code requirement to give customers a permanent, inalterable, copy of those documents, because the content can easily be changed.
5123 Fifth, we have observed at least one provider that has been applying spending or credit limits on customers’ accounts without disclosing these limits to the customer.
5124 This can obviously be problematic for customers who reach the limit and are suddenly suspended or disconnected. We raise this practice because we believe that the Code may not currently address it.
5125 Regarding Section “C”, the Critical Information Summary, we have found that some providers are not using the Summary as we believe it was intended, as a source of clear and concise information about important aspects of their wireless services.
5126 Rather, many providers are blending or merging the Summary into the contract or using it as the contract itself.
5127 We filed examples of this in Appendix 6 to our intervention. If the Commission’s intention is to ensure that the CIS constitutes a concise summary of important provisions, we recommend that the Code be amended to match the TVSP Code, to indicate that the Summary is required independent of the written agreement and that it does not replace or fulfill the requirement to provide the same information in the actual written agreement.
5128 Mme THIBAULT: Au sujet de la section « D », modifications aux contrats et documents connexes, nous avons déjà fait état de la nouvelle pratique des fournisseurs qui consiste à considérer les données comme un « ajout » au service et comment cela affecte les droits des consommateurs et des fournisseurs.
5129 À ce stade, nous voulons revenir sur une question soulevée dans notre rapport annuel de 2013-2014.
5130 Selon nous, l’usage par le Conseil des termes « principales modalités » et « autres modalités du contrat » indique qu’ils cherchent à faire une distinction entre les aspects du service qui sont essentiels pour la plupart des clients et les aspects secondaires, comme les politiques sur la vie privée et les frais non récurrents.
5131 En faisant cette distinction, nous croyons que le Conseil cherche clairement à établir un seuil de respect plus élevé des droits et obligations relatifs aux « principales modalités » du service, puisque ces clients veulent obtenir la certitude que ces principales modalités ne seront pas modifiées sans leur consentement durant la période d’engagement.
5132 En raison des opinions divergentes sur le sujet, nous croyons que le Conseil devrait peut-être clarifier le sens des termes « services compris dans le contrat » de la section B(1)(iv)(a) et indiquer si la pratique d’exclusion des données du forfait mensuel est conforme au Code.
5133 Nous croyons aussi que le Conseil devrait peut-être exiger des fournisseurs qu’ils précisent explicitement, idéalement dans le résumé des renseignements essentiels, pas uniquement les aspects du service qui forment les principales modalités du contrat, mais également que ceux-ci ne peuvent être modifiés sans le consentement du client.
5134 De même, ils devraient préciser quels aspects forment les autres aspects du contrat et aussi indiquer que ceux-ci peuvent être modifiés unilatéralement par un avis du fournisseur.
5135 Nous croyons que cela aiderait les clients à mieux comprendre leurs droits et les droits de leur fournisseur.
5136 Regarding Section “E”, the bill management requirements, as we have explained, we are encountering situations and confirming breaches, where providers are allowing device users to consent to additional charges in multi-user plans, rather than seeking the account holder’s consent, and situations where overage limits are not being applied at the account-level, but at the device level.
5137 In the Wireless Code policy, the Commission made it clear that the intent of Section “E” is to help customers avoid bill shock.
5138 In that light, we have interpreted the provision as requiring that the account holder, the person that has contracted for the service and who is responsible for payment, be the one whose consent must be obtained to authorize additional charges. In other words, consent from individual device users is insufficient.
5139 Given that some providers are taking an opposite view, we invite the Commission to clarify which approach is consistent with the Code’s objectives.
5140 We also wish to highlight that many customers complaining about roaming are telling us that they were not aware that data roaming plans did not cover voice roaming and they are surprised to receive a bill for these calls.
5141 We therefore recommend that the Commission consider whether the Code should address voice roaming.
5142 Regarding Section “F”, mobile device issues, many customers tell us they are experiencing difficulty getting their devices unlocked.
5143 In some cases, the provider is saying simply it is unable to unlock the device and in others there are lengthy delays, up to several months.
5144 Given these challenges, we would benefit from clear guidance from the Commission on how far a provider must go to satisfy a customer’s unlocking request in order to comply with the Code.
5145 MR. MAKER: Regarding consumer awareness of the Wireless Code, this is an important issue and one we will be happy to discuss at length.
5146 In short, however, we believe that this awareness is important to ensuring the Code’s effectiveness, which is why we have taken a number of initiatives to enhance awareness and understanding, through our daily contacts with customers, through our website, in our media relations and in our social media activities, and of course by publishing the “Annotated Guide” to the Code.
5147 Au sujet de la prochaine révision du Code, nous croyons qu’une période de trois à cinq ans est appropriée car cela donne suffisamment de temps pour identifier les changements sur le marché qui peuvent justifier des révisions.
5148 Entre-temps, le processus de la partie 1 reste disponible pour obtenir des clarifications ou des directives.
5149 Nous ne croyons pas qu’une fusion de la révision du Code avec celle sur la structure et le mandat du CPRST serait efficace, puisqu’elle diluerait l’importance de l’exercice en plus de constituer une tâche gigantesque pour toutes les parties impliquées.
5150 Finally, regarding implementation of the Code, a subject you’ve raised, Mr. Chair, we believe that ideally all revisions should come into effect for all consumers at the same time, in order to avoid the multiple challenges that all stakeholders would face by the existence of multiple sets of rights in the market at the same time. This would create uncertainty for all parties.
5151 When the Commission implemented the Code on -- it came into force on 2 December 2013. Due to the issues raised by pre-existing contracts in the marketplace, the Commission did not make all of the provisions applicable to all customers immediately.
5152 In the result, when the Code was launched, certain provisions applied to certain customers, while others did not.
5153 This approach added tremendous complexity to the administration of the Code, as we were required to perform an “applicability” analysis in each and every case that raised a wireless issue, in order to determine which set of rules applied to the customer in question.
5154 This analysis was exceedingly complicated to develop, as well as to explain to customers and to providers.
5155 It resulted in us having to review each and every contract that was the subject of a complaint before we could even provide any advice to customers about whether or not the Code applied to them.
5156 This made it virtually impossible to provide accurate information or direction to customers who called us simply to make an inquiry about the Code, let alone those with complaints requiring investigation.
5157 Based on this experience, we believe that ideally all revisions should come into effect for all consumers at the same time.
5158 This concludes our remarks and we look forward to your questions. Thank you.
5159 THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much for that and I’ll put you in the hands of Vice-Chair Telecommunications, Mr. Menzies, to start us off.
5160 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
5161 I thought maybe we could start with going through your recommendations in terms of section “B”, where you had 4-5, and with the idea that you might just to give us -- might help us understand the size of the problem.
5162 I’m aware that there’s a difference between conversations that you might have with consumers and complaints received by, and that these might be areas upon which you have many conversations, but maybe not necessarily that many complaints.
5163 And the other context I’m trying to look at it within, it applies to some but not to all, is I worry sometimes that when -- if we apply a solution to a small problem we create a larger cost for more people, if you know what -- it’s a little bit of the good of the many versus the good of the one discussion.
5164 But maybe we could start with paragraph 28 of your oral presentation there when you talk about the timing of the presentation of the contract, which sounds very -- the recommendation you’ve made is very practical.
5165 How did you come to that recommendation? What were the issues that you encountered that caused you to bring that to our attention?
5166 MR. MAKER: Well speaking broadly, Mr. Vice-Chair, for the last two reporting years the issue of misleading information or unclear disclosure in situations regarding contracts, was the number one issue -- the issue raised most frequently in complaints for the past two years and actually it was second the year prior to that.
5167 So in looking at some of these things we’ve recommended, we focused very strongly on issues of disclosure. We think it’s important to make sure that customers have the information they need at a time when it’s useful for them.
5168 And in our view, the greatest usefulness for this kind of information is at the time they’re entering into the contract and not up to 15 days later.
5169 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And that’s a cause of many phone calls to you? People just getting confused about that?
5170 Because I must say, as a consumer myself, I’d be -- I’m not going to sign anything until I’ve read it; right? So ---
5171 MR. MAKER: And I’m the same.
5172 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I mean how can I accept the terms and conditions unless I’ve had the opportunity to read the terms and conditions; right?
5173 MR. MAKER: Well with respect, Mr. Vice-Chair, I urge you to go to any kiosk, in any mall, in any city in this country and watch people do it. It’s really remarkable.
5174 And that’s one of the challenges we’ve had when we’re thinking about, you know, what might be in the Critical Information Summary, what disclosure should customers get.
5175 Some folks are never going to read it and we accept that, but we need to focus on the folks who are interested and make sure they get the disclosure that will best allow them to understand what they’re getting into, especially when there’s a commitment.
5176 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right. One would hope that you would at least have the opportunity to read it and then if you declined that opportunity that would be your responsibility.
5177 MS. THIBAULT: Right and I think what we’re seeing is a lot of consumers maybe not presented with enough time to review them. Sometimes the transactions they’re provided with the terms on a tablet while the sales agent is waiting there waiting for them to click that little box that say they accept it. And then again, let's not forget the related policies, like the trial period, are usually sent electronically after they have consented to the terms.
5178 I would also point to some of the data in our annual report. You know, we talk about non‑disclosure misleading information and the number of times those issues are raised in complaints. And you know, across the board last year in 2015-'16 there were almost 1,900 of these issues raised with over 1,100 of them pertaining to wireless service specifically.
5179 But I would also caution the Commission to not just rely on that one number because a lot of the complaints we see, the underlying trigger, the underlying reason for the complaint often has to do with misunderstanding of what was agreed to, of perhaps disclosure that wasn't very clear.
5180 So for example, we can get a billing complaint and it is tracked as a billing complaint. Often though the root cause of that complaint is a lack of clarity and understanding between both parties as to the expectations, what is supposed to be provided, and what is expected to be received in return.
5181 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yes, understood.
5182 Regarding the -- when you talk about people contracting from a distance. You're referring to over the telephone, on the Internet, or ---?
5183 MR. MAKER: Yes, anything other than in‑store.
5184 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, and then the contract terms are delivered. What's the issue with delivery times? When you're concerned about the 15 days, I understand that, but wouldn't it normally be just a matter of two or three days before the contract should arrive, or it should be -- if you're doing it online, certainly wouldn't it be emailed, or what are you encountering that raises that concern?
5185 MR. MAKER: Well, different providers have different practices. So I can't speak to you -- I can't tell you what each individual provider does. Many of them conform their practices to the requirements and the requirement is within 15 days. And you know, we think, in our view, that that's a significant timing issue for customers.
5186 I think that, you know, you imagine someone walks into, you know, enters into a transaction on the phone, let's say, or online, and service providers certainly can get the device there in a couple of days. I know I've had that kind of service. It seems appropriate that those documents maybe should come the same time as the device does, and so we can examine them all together.
5187 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right, so that would be the recommendation that we change that because that would be sensible, if you can get the phone there you can get the contract there, right? And it would just be part of the package that arrived?
5188 MR. MAKER: That would certainly be an option open to you. I'm not recommending it. We're highlighting, I think, that ---
5189 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Would it offend you if we did that?
5190 MR. MAKER: I'm not easily offended, Mr. Vice-Chair.
5191 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
5192 The billing consent to receive documents electronically, your third item. What is -- and your example is in Appendix 4, but for the record here, and those observing, what are -- what is the issue that has drawn you to make that recommendation to us?
5193 MR. MAKER: Well, as the Code administrator, it's our role, we believe, to look at the practices in the marketplace and satisfy ourselves that they conform to the Code as it's written. The Code requires that the default for delivery of documents be a paper copy, but then an electronic copy is acceptable if the customer expressly consents to it.
5194 And service providers have, you know, they want to maintain the individuality of their documentation, and in doing so, we've seen many contracts in which it appears that the customer actually had to tick all the boxes and sign all the -- sign the contract, including a box that says, I consent to receive these documents electronically, without any apparent option in the documentation for a tick box that says, no, I would like a paper copy, please.
5195 And so since that's the default under the Code, we're trying to identify for you, and we've given some examples in our intervention, that we've seen many contracts that don't comply with that.
5196 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So it's almost like they've created a new default option by omission, right? So that would be a matter -- go ahead.
5197 MS. THIBAULT: Well, there does not seem to be an ability to opt out of the default electronic delivery. It's often one signature for the contract with a summary of various terms, and one of those terms is the agreement to receive it electronically.
5198 So we wonder, really, how a customer could expressly and knowingly decide to receive it. If it's a true decision from a customer, there doesn't seem to be another option. And that's just the concern that we're flagging. That we may want to look at that to make sure customers are being given the option.
5199 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: A little bit like an omnibus budget bill, where if you say yes to -- you either say yes to everything or ---?
5200 MS. THIBAULT: M'hm, it's a yes or a no.
5201 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. I understand, thank you.
5202 Your fifth recommendation:
5203 "...one provider that has been applying spending or credit limits on customers' accounts without disclosing these limits to the customer."
5204 I can imagine that would be a problem, non‑disclosure. So where do you suggest we can -- do you have some sort of example for us of the sort of wording we could use to address that or where -- what part of the Code we could specifically address in it in terms of a change or an insertion or an addition of a phrase?
5205 MS. THIBAULT: Sorry, just to make sure I understand the question. Is what section of the Code could be modified in order ---?
5206 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Well, we're talking ---
5207 MS. THIBAULT: M'hm.
5208 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yeah, we're already talking about section B.
5209 MS. THIBAULT: Right.
5210 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right? I'm just saying, is there any specific ---
5211 MS. THIBAULT: Yeah.
5212 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- wording change that you think would address that?
5213 MS. THIBAULT: Well, without suggesting the specific wording, we do think that section, you know, B in which the contract terms and conditions are being laid out is probably the appropriate section to mention whether there are spending credit limits and potentially what the consequences of those are.
5214 And then the other option would be to decide whether that is something that's a key term and condition; and therefore, should also transfer over to the CIS.
5215 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, and you also said in terms of just checking your wording. You say, at least one provider. Okay, can you help me more fully understand the size of that problem? Is -- we don't need -- which provider? Why don't I ask it that way? Is it a small provider, a large provider? Does it start with ---?
5216 MR. MAKER: Well, they were here.
5217 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay.
5218 MR. MAKER: And their regulatory person was very helpful to the Chair. This was some situations we saw involving Wind Mobile, as they were known at the time.
5219 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Oh, okay. That was the issue. So okay, it's big enough, yes.
5220 Now -- and regarding data as a key contract term. Again, help me understand the size of that problem. And I'm pretty sure it was Rogers who gave a fairly vigorous presentation on how that would not be in the consumers' best interests, because it would not allow people to chase a Pokémon for, I think it was their example, for two or three weeks and then scale back down, or it would -- they would lose the elasticity -- this is their argument -- in their contract.
5221 So to advocate for the devil in terms of this question to you, wouldn't this risk being overly prescriptive to take -- if we were to insist that it be a key contract term, don't we risk being overly prescriptive in locking people into data plans that are in excess of their needs? Because I could see there being a reaction within the industry where it would get more.
5222 MR. MAKER: We sat here this week, as you noted, and we heard service providers talk about the need to maintain flexibility for their customers and their data plans. And I must confess to you, I didn’t understand their arguments when I heard it and I’ve thought about it since I heard them and I still don’t get it.
5223 The question is whether data is a service included in the contact. Whether it therefore is a key contract term and the application of section D -- this is the key point is if it’s a key contract term, they cannot -- the service provide cannot unilaterally change it during the course of the fixed term commitment. If it’s not a key term it can be unilaterally changed on 30 days’ notice.
5224 So that’s the question and I don’t understand why, if you decide that data is a key term and should be disclosed that way, I don’t understand the -- how by guaranteeing that the customer can maintain that allotment of data and that price for their term, how does that prevent a customer from picking up the phone and calling its provider and saying, “Look, you know, I don’t have enough data. I need more or I need less.” There’s nothing in the Code that would prevent the customer from doing that.
5225 Now, it may be that certain providers have structured their contracts in a way that somehow that acts as a cancellation, an early cancellation or a termination. I don’t know. But this is about, you know, whether the providers are prepared to live with the deal that they made on data to their customers on fixed term contracts or whether they will eventually be entitled to make changes unilaterally.
5226 MS. THIBAULT: And if I may add, Mr. Vice-Chair, the reality is, you know, we come across customers who say, you know, this change was made but when I signed up I was supposed to get this amount of data for this price point and that is the majority of what they use in their service.
5227 You know, we’ve heard from accessibility groups that almost 100 percent of the usage is data and I’m sure that it’s a smaller proportion among the general population. But among the people we hear from, it’s important to them and they were not expecting to have their service provider make unilateral changes to the data component of their contract without their consent.
5228 We’ve seen some extreme cases where data was the only service. We’ve got Turbo Sticks and yet the data was considered as an option, an add-on that could be changed without consent upon 30 days’ notice. And we really struggle to wrap our heads around this.
5229 So this is what we’re seeing when we take these sorts of complaints.
5230 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Understood. And again, just to give us an idea of the size of the issue, I’m going to create another contrarian argument to -- for you to address.
5231 There would be some who would argue that if this is not that big a problem after all, I mean there’s 28, 30 million subscribers out there. You’re getting, I don’t know, a few thousand phone calls, a couple hundred complaints on some of these issues and that sort of stuff who would say, well, it’s all fine. You know, you think you’re just addressing one little issue here but this is how it works with regulators and bureaucracies is that every couple of years they get together and they fine tune things and they add another layer of bureaucracy and it just keeps piling on costs to the system. And pretty soon, you know, those guys in Gatineau, they’ll be just writing our contracts for us; right?
5232 You may have heard that argument from time-to-time from -- perhaps not from me but from others on whose behalf I might be speaking right now. How would -- how does your side defend itself against that argument?
5233 MR. MAKER: We’re not -- we’ve examined contracts from pretty much every wireless provider and this is a practice unlike the super secret credit limits. This is a practice that I believe every provider in the marketplace has adopted. So this is a big issue. This is not, you know, we’ve all heard the regulatory burden argument, but this is -- when we talked about it, I compared it to the potential avalanche, you know, that it’s snowing at the top of the mountain and one day we might see something happen.
5234 And we’re not advocating, you know, telling you what to do or anything but the point really for us is -- the question is whether this is compliant with the Code; right? And that’s -- we’re looking at this from a Code administration and complaint handling perspective.
5235 You know, we have customers -- and I don’t have to repeat to you all the Wireless Code research report about how important data is to customers. And we see a range of contracts, as Josée explained. We looked at one in which the service was a Turbo Stick and the services under the contract were none. This customer signed up for nothing other than an add-on of data, which seems really strange.
5236 Sometimes we see contracts where there are -- there’s a data -- there was a data component in the plan, don’t see it much anymore, and there’s a data add-on. And then, you know, you have the ones in the market now where typically all the data is in the form of an add-on.
5237 So I would suggest to you this is an issue that would be of interest to every wireless customer currently under a fixed term contract. And the problem really is that I don’t think customers understand this because when they go into the store or step up to the kiosk or get on the phone or online, they get a plan and the plan’s marketed as, you know, X number -- unlimited local minutes, let’s say, and unlimited texts most of them now, usually in X gigs of data. And they’re not informed that this X gigs of data is being sold to you as a promotion that under the Wireless Code we can change. They don’t get that disclosure and maybe they should. I mean, that’s one of the questions you’re going to have to wrestle with I guess.
5238 But this is a concern of broad application and I hope that addresses your question.
5239 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: It does. Thank you very much for expanding on that.
5240 Your -- you raise the concern regarding plain language. And we heard quite a bit this week that plain language had been -- from many who felt that, you know, great strides had been taken. One can understand that plain language could suffer from erosion over the years from where it was at first.
5241 Do you have any sort of specific advice is it in terms of an area of an example or wording? Because it is a very subjective item in terms of what is plain language and sort of at what level it should be comprehensible. Should it be comprehensible like most newspapers used to aim to do for a grade eight, grade nine education? Should it be -- is that too low a bar? Should it be higher? What sort of standard do you ---
5242 MR. MAKER: Well, Vice-Chair Menzies, you used the word that I was going to use. As the Code administrator, our objective or ideal is a situation in which we have to use the limited -- the most -- the greatest -- or the most limited amount of subjectivity possible. We don’t want to have to put our personal views into this and so it’s ideal if the Code, you know, really points us to what we’re looking for. And on something like plain language, that’s really tough.
5243 In our intervention at paragraphs 83 through 90 we discussed a bunch of questions that we ask ourselves when we look at language that we consider might not be plain. So we ask whether the words are simple enough for an average customer to understand. And we know full well there is no average customer; that literacy levels vary widely across Canadians. We ask ourselves is the contract written using overly complex or legalistic terminology. We ask whether definitions or explanations for complex terms are made available. We look at whether contract terms are being used consistently so it’s simpler for people to understand.
5244 But the Code says that the service provider must communicate with customers using plain language. And so I guess we’re just identifying for you that this has been a bit of a challenge for us and if there’s any help you can give us on this that we would appreciate it.
5245 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Thank you. I understand that sense.
5246 Consumer awareness. We get lots of different views banding about on that. Some that show, you know -- nothing shows over 50 percent but in the grand scheme of things, I mean, more than 40 percent of Canadians never vote so their levels of general awareness of specific things, as much as, you know, these matters might absorb all our waking hours are not necessarily of great interest to the average person except when they need it, and it’s much more complicated then remembering to dial 9-1-1, for instance, in terms of that.
5247 What do you think would be a reasonable goal or a reasonable target for a measure of consumer awareness of something like this?
5248 And I -- you know, because I look at 40 percent and personally I think that’s probably when you compare it to other levels of awareness’s or levels of awareness of other issues or programs that that might be pretty good.
5249 So what should we aim for, should we aim for a percentage or should we just aim for more than something, you know, X?
5250 MR. MAKER: Difficult question, sir. I mean, we’ve thought a lot about awareness in the context of CCTS over the past years and we are taking some steps there. I think you might be asking yourself the wrong question if you’re asking yourself what’s the right number for general awareness.
5251 You know, the Wireless Code research reports that you’ve commissioned show anywhere between -- I think the first year was 52 percent were aware or vaguely aware of the Code, down to 50, and then down to 45.
5252 Quite frankly, speaking personally, when I look at those numbers, in terms of a reasonable level -- in terms of a level of general awareness, I think that’s pretty good.
5253 You know, when you had a -- you had a conversation a couple of days ago I think with Professor Pavlović’s group and you were commenting on how it’s never been easier with the Internet, with social media, to get messages out there, so we should be doing better. But we need to remember that everybody’s getting their message out there 24/7, 365, and it’s a very, very crowded information marketplace.
5254 And for something like the Code, I think I would -- I might consider counselling you to consider the approach that we take for CCTS awareness, which is sure we want to do the best we can on increasing awareness generally but focussing awareness on the people who need it when they need it may turn out to be a more effective strategy.
5255 And that’s the approach we’ve taken with CCTS awareness, and we know we have a bit of a road to go there still there. But looking to take the dartboard and find the number that you think is good as opposed to the trend, and right now you’ve got a bit of a downward trend after three years. I think finding that right number is searching for something that you’re never going to be satisfied with.
5256 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thanks for your perspective on that. It’s helpful.
5257 If -- overall, if we make some of these adjustments, say, the areas that you’ve suggested, without having to comment on everyone else’s, do you think those changes to the Code would reduce the number of complaints that you get or would it just open the door to the reception of more?
5258 MR. MAKER: This is a two-sided coin, as you’ve identified. When you approach Code making I think you want to put together the Code that you think will best accommodate the objectives, the policy objectives that you have for the business.
5259 And the fact is that when you make people aware of it and they have a better awareness of their rights the possibility is that they will exercise those rights. Some of those folks who hear the debates will go out and vote and maybe more so once they’ve heard the debate.
5260 So, you know, I would recommend to you that you fine tune this Code to achieve the objectives you’re trying to achieve, and over time when consumers -- when providers come to have a shared and common understanding of what it requires of them, I think you will see complaints go down. And we’ve seen many wireless complaint issues go down in recent years. But you may get that bump near the frontend while people are either testing what this provision really means or just because they’re aware of it now are coming forward and saying “Look, you can’t do that. I’m going to complain.”
5261 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
5262 And forgive me if you mentioned this -- dealt with this in your oral presentation, because it’s been a while since I heard it and I might have forgotten about it, but I had a pre-prepared question regarding. Because I know in your written presentation you did not want to take a position on the matter of the prepaid versus post-paid in terms of that. And my question was if there was anything that you heard this week have you been following things that changed your mind on the matter?
5263 MR. MAKER: I’m not sure I’d say that our minds were changed. What I would say ---
5264 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Enriched your position or your ---
5265 MR. MAKER: Right.
5266 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- predisposition.
5267 MR. MAKER: What I heard -- you know, we identified an issue related to changes in the prepaid market from the time you issued the Code, I guess in June 2013. And so the method in which prepaid services or the methods, I should say, plural, in which prepaid services are being delivered to Canadians have changed somewhat dramatically.
5268 And in many respects -- and I can’t speak generally because there are dozens of different kinds of prepaid services and models in the marketplace right now. But there are plans -- there are wireless service plans that are offered on a prepaid basis that are remarkably similar in nature to the post-paid plans and in price too.
5269 And so the question for the Commission, I think, is -- our role is as Code administrator and as complaint handler is to make sure you’re aware of that. Having sat here for the bulk of the week, we know you’re aware of it now and, you know, the question for you is whether for those kinds of plans that look, and feel, and smell very much like post-paid plans whether you think additional protections are required for consumers and whether -- the answer to that is something I wouldn’t take a position on.
5270 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. The Critical Information Summary -- actually, I mean, a number of service providers mentioned that they already do offer one with the prepaid, a Critical Information Summary. That didn’t actually seem that contentious if we were to move in that direction.
5271 But I wanted to use that to segue a little bit into your thoughts that you’ve expressed here regarding the Critical Information Summaries, as your experience appears to be -- and please correct me if I’m wrong -- they are merging with contracts to an extent sufficient enough that you have raised it as something that we should pay attention to. Is this snowballing in terms of your awareness on this or is it -- has it recently come up or is it -- do you get where I’m going with this?
5272 MR. MAKER: No, this is not late breaking news in any sense. You know, we -- nor is it snowballing. I mean, we -- and you’ve used our word exactly, “merging”. We see service providers rounding the corners and in fact we often ask them, we say, you know, we’re looking at a contract in a complaint which part of this contract is the Critical Information Summary because we can’t tell. We want to know how they view their contract and we want to determine whether the requirements of the Code for the summary have actually been met in the case of this contract that’s in front of us, and we’ve had many providers come back and say “Well, it’s -- we’re not really quite sure” here it is, and there’s the contract, and they can’t separate it.
5273 And our understanding from reviewing the Code, from reviewing the regulatory policy, was that it was the Commission’s intention that there be a clear concise summary apart from the contract.
5274 And maybe -- and I’m not attributing mala fides to the providers here. Maybe they’re trying to simplify this for customers by this blending. But, in our view, it’s not consistent with what you’ve said you expect for the CIS and that’s why we’re bringing it to your attention.
5275 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
5276 I’d also like to explore for a moment this issue that you’ve raised regarding the overage charging in terms of it being charged per line as opposed to per customer, the $50. There was -- not a lot of question was presented to most providers this week, and there was very little confessional behaviour surrounding this, so I was curious to know again like how big is the problem is -- because sometimes, you know, regulation happens because one -- because of the behaviours of or practices of one provider and that sort of stuff. So where is it coming from?
5277 MR. MAKER: Well, I can tell you, Mr. Vice-Chair, that there's at least one major provider that's doing this, and they've told us as much. I think there may be others, but I can't confirm right now. But you know, it's very clear to us what the objective of the bill management provisions of the Code are.
5278 Their objective is to eliminate bill shock. And it may be that capping data overages at $50 would meet the average customer's, you know, criteria of, all right, $50, I'm not shocked yet. That's reasonable.
5279 But when you have multiple devices on a shared plan, be it a family, be it a small business, a model that really wasn't very active in the marketplace when the Code first came out, you've got four or five devices, now you're looking at, you know, $200, $250.
5280 We think that's problematic and that it offends the requirement to eliminate bill shock and that it offends Section E of the Code. And so that's why we're bringing it to your attention.
5281 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Which provider was that?
5282 MR. MAKER: With your permission, Mr. Vice-Chair, I'd like to respond to that by way of an undertaking in a confidential way.
5283 The information about what they're doing and why they're doing it was provided to us in confidence, and I'm not sure that disclosing it in a public forum would be the appropriate way to respect that.
5284 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, you can certainly file it through an undertaking for the 16th of February providing arguments why it should be confidential, but we'll decide whether it should be or not at the time.
5285 But do remember to put an abridged version.
5286 MR. MAKER: Understood. Thank you.
5288 THE CHAIRPERSON: I find it a bit surprising that maybe the details are confidential, but I'd be surprised why the behaviour of a regulated telecom service provider would be confidential.
5289 MR. MAKER: Actually ---
5290 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you for -- sorry. You were going to say?
5291 MR. MAKER: Yeah. I -- the confidential disclosure of the reasoning behind this was not disclosed to me personally, so I want to make sure I understand the terms under which we got that information before I convey it.
5292 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I understand. I understand.
5293 MR. MAKER: Thank you.
5294 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: The -- very quickly, do you think there's clarity around who can consent for these overage charges in the contracts, in your experience? Because I can see that being a matter of confusion, particularly for those who don't read the contracts, and if you have multiple users or a houseful of people on a similar plan that not everybody's sure who's authorizing.
5295 Is there sufficient clarity in most of those?
5296 MR. MAKER: There's clarity for us. You know, at CCTS as Code administrator, we think we understand what the expectation is, and so we're very clear on that and we've conveyed our view to the wireless industry.
5297 I would say that, based on what we've observed from the service providers in terms of what they do and how they get consent and what customers understand, I'm not sure there's clarity.
5298 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. You think there's -- do you think it would be useful to have, I'll say, a provision that there be a verbal conversation or, you know, a sign-off specifically on that sort of matter in the course of completing a commercial transaction?
5299 MR. MAKER: Again, Mr. Vice-Chair, we're not looking to limit customer flexibility in any sense, and certainly there will be account holders who we interpret -- or we determine to be the customer in our administration of the Code.
5300 There will be account holders who want to allow someone else to authorize excess data or roaming charges.
5301 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Absolutely, yes.
5302 MR. MAKER: Right. And so we're not opposed to that in any sense, but what we see not infrequently is we will receive a complaint from a customer who says, "I got X number of dollars of data overage charges and I didn't consent".
5303 The service provider's response will be, "Well, we got consent from the device of a user who was authorized on the account".
5304 And we'll ask them to show us how that was authorized, demonstrate it to us. So sometimes they'll give us a contract in which there's a clause by which the customer either ticked a box or agreed to somehow delegate their authority to the end user of the device, and I'm not sure how the Commission feels about that, but typically what we get back from the service provider is a note, a call note from their system that says something like "Customer called in, asked us to add", you know, her son, Joe, to the account. We added Joe to the account, okay.
5305 And that's all well and good except there's no evidence that the customer received any information about what adding her son, Joe, to the account means, what are the consequences of doing that.
5306 And if you ask the providers, they all have different levels of authorization internally, so there's certain levels at which a non-account holder can call in and get information. There are other levels at which the authorized user can make certain kinds of changes on the account, but not others.
5307 I mean, the levels at the providers vary, and they're different from provider to provider. But what's lacking is the disclosure to the customer of what the consequences of authorizing son Joe on the account really are.
5308 So this means that he can make changes to the service if that's what it is. He can change the plan. He can change the billing address on the account. He can cancel the account and incur an early termination fee. He can buy new devices. He can consent to excess data charges.
5309 That's really the missing piece for us, and maybe that's how you accommodate the desire to let those customers who want to delegate this obligation do so, but you have to ensure that they really are fully informed and are providing an informed consent when they're giving this authorization to someone else.
5310 That would be our view.
5311 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
5312 Has there been anything in any of these matters that you've seen that suggested to you that the Code would be enhanced by having different rules for small businesses?
5313 Is that an issue that comes across here?
5314 MS. THIBAULT: We've not developed a position on that. What we have said in our intervention in our filings is that I believe about eight percent of what we see relate to small business.
5315 And the issues that come up for small businesses are generally different than the ones that come up for consumers.
5316 We get a preponderance of issues with regard to contract disputes with regard to small businesses, in particular, the charging of early cancellation fees. I'm talking generally, right, not just with regard to small business wireless.
5317 But generally speaking, that's what we see on the business side, small business side, as compared to the consumer side.
5318 Other than that, I don't believe we have any specific recommendations to make.
5319 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
5320 In terms of unlocking, in your annual reports we understand the number of breaches of Section -- we're talking Section F(1) of the Code. But it's not clear to us what the number of complaints is -- may be that you receive.
5321 So I don't expect you to have that on the tip of your tongue, but would you mind taking an undertaking to provide complaints data on mobile device unlocking for the past three years or as we've termed it to other people, the -- on an annual basis since the implementation of the ---
5322 MR. MAKER: I'm not sure if we'll be able to parse our data that finely, but I'm happy to undertake to see what we can get for you and provide it.
5323 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Okay. the CCTS will undertake to give it a go so to speak.
5325 MR. MAKER: Thank you.
5326 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
5327 Do you have any thoughts on what an appropriate level of -- or appropriate point of notification might be for people in terms of reaching their data limits or their voice limits for that matter? Well, we don’t happen to address voice but so let's keep the question to data.
5328 Should it be 90 percent? Should it be 95 percent? Should be 100? I mean we've seen a variety and also scaled this week which has been presented to us as that which is, you know, works best in the marketplace in terms of that.
5329 So any thoughts to share on that issue?
5330 MR. MAKER: Nothing formally, Vice-Chair Menzies. We -- I was a bit surprised actually to hear as much discussion about notifications this week as I did, given that the Code doesn't address notifications at all. But nonetheless, you're right. Providers in their own way, each of them is trying to balance providing necessary information to their customers against not annoying them with multiple messages that don’t really help.
5331 And if I may share a personal anecdote, we have a family share plan in our house and we've got a 90 percent notification and I can tell you that the person who pays that bill acted on that real quick because we still had a week left in our bill cycle.
5332 So those notifications are helpful. We have no position on whether they should be mandated or if so, at what level. Period.
5333 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: In terms of the $50 level that is within the Code regarding the need for authorization beyond that, the point was made -- the argument was made this week that it should 100 and others have suggested that it should be much less.
5334 Is the $50 level something that you hear about from consumers in terms of that and do you have any sense that you would get more complaints or fewer if there was any adjustment made in that area?
5335 MR. MAKER: We hear about it a lot from consumers when they go over and you're right, $50 is not much to some people and it's the difference, you know, between eating or paying your rent to other people.
5336 So it's a sum and, you know, we don’t have a formal position on what the right number or if there is a right number. It's obviously an attempt to balance the needs of, you know, multiple different constituencies. So we don’t have a formal position on that.
5337 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And we talked about your unlocking data but we should take the opportunity to talk a little bit about the issue itself in terms of unlocking.
5338 Is it a point -- again, this sort of falls into the area of conversations as opposed to complaints that people might get because you can only -- obviously, if people are following the rules as they are written, that creates a different scenario.
5339 But do you get a lot of consumer concern or issues raised with your reps on the unlocking issue?
5340 MR. MAKER: Well, anecdotally, I wouldn't say we get tonnes but it is an irritant, you know, and you've heard from panels this week telling you that people pay for their devices and they've repaid any subsidy if there was one and yet they're still somehow locked to the service provider and they don’t understand why that is or why they would have to pay a fee to get unlocked.
5341 Again, you know, we don’t have a position on that. We can administer the Code just fine if there's a fee or if there's no fee or if the fee is different from provider to provider. So -- but we do hear about it because it's something that people find an annoyance.
5342 Mme THIBAULT: And other than not, the principle level of finding it annoying to have a purchased device that's locked to a network or to have to pay a fee, what we're also hearing is the process to get it unlocked is cumbersome. So it takes a long time. There's multiple calls that need to be made. Customers are being sent to retail locations just to be sent to another location just to be told to call.
5343 So they're quite apart from the philosophical discussion about whether the devices should be locked and the annoyance there. There's a bit of an issue with regard to how long it takes.
5344 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So in other words, sometimes the compliances lacks enthusiasm in terms of that regard?
5345 Mme THIBAULT: Perhaps. We do understand from service providers that some of them have difficulty themselves. This is what we're advised by them in obtaining the information. I don’t think -- and I don’t mean to leave the impression that what we're saying is that service providers are purposely making this a cumbersome problem but what we're hearing from customers is that it takes long.
5346 MR. MAKER: And if I may belabour this just a bit more, it was interesting to hear some of the comments this week about -- from service providers about the incentive for locking coming from them rather than manufacturers.
5347 And from a Code administrator perspective, I guess where we could use some help is, you know, just how far it is -- just how much does a provider have to do to try to unlock someone's phone.
5348 And I heard the panel from Freedom Mobile say well, you know, it's two calls and the first call we tell the customer to call back with their IMEI, and on the second call, our CSR enters it into a database, gives them an unlock code, boom, done, finished, six minutes.
5349 And we're hearing something very different from customers. We're hearing about, you know, people who can't get or providers who can't get unlock codes. We're hearing about customers being sent to manufacturers, either on the phone or in person or in some other form, to try and get the codes directly from the manufacturers. And sometimes the service providers have actually said to us we don’t know what to do. We can't seem to get this thing unlocked. We can't get the code.
5350 So I guess, you know, when we've seen that, we've said well, you know, if you can't get it, you can't get it. But some guidance maybe on just what's expected of a service provider in the context of a difficult unlocking situation like that might be helpful.
5351 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you. That is helpful.
5352 The matter of the trial period, you -- in your written response, you indicated that you weren't taking any position but you've let us know that you've received many complaints. So I'd like to talk about that a little bit and also to take the opportunity to again address what we're thinking about when we're talking about many complaints to it.
5353 You -- the data you provided I think showed 397 alleged breaches over the past three years, 41 of which required investigation. And of those investigations, only three breaches were confirmed, with the other 38 investigations concluding there had been no breach.
5354 Now, again going back to what I had said earlier, you know, there's 28-30 million subscribers. Those sorts of numbers on their own don’t indicate -- you know, Robert Barron (phonetic) has gone wild in terms of behaviour on that, but at the same time, I don’t wish to diminish it because you did wish to bring it to our attention.
5355 So what can you tell me beyond those facts or those numbers that would more fully inform us as we examine the matter?
5356 MR. MAKER: Well, just for the record, so we -- what we tried to convey is that, you know, we're not taking a position on the various submissions that, on one hand, said, you know, the trial period should be longer, and on the other hand said we should be able to charge restocking fees and recover gifts and all of those things.
5357 So we have no position on that, but we do have, in particular, a concern about disclosure of the trial period. And we've identified this 15 day period for contracts agreed to at a distance, so phone, online, et cetera, in which the service provider -- the Code gives the service provider 15 days within which to, you know, provide the contracts and related documents to the customer.
5358 And of course, the trial period is set out in the related documents. So –- and we heard the evidence from Professor Pavlović's group that maybe, you know, at the retail level disclosure of the trial periods is not as common as it might be.
5359 So we have a concern about that internal kind of inconsistency in the Code where by the time you get the paperwork that actually discloses to you that there's a 15-day trial period, the period may be over and you've probably already exceeded your limits anyway. So that's really the main concern about the trial period for us.
5360 As regards to the numbers, you know, the number of alleged breaches or the number of breaches, I mean, the Code is pretty clear and there's not a rigorous requirement. Disclose the trial period in the related documents. So -- and service providers are at liberty to select what trial period they think is appropriate for their business, and so there are no onerous requirements in the Code for us to breach.
5361 But you've made the point, Mr. Vice-Chair, that maybe there's 30 million wireless subscribers out there, and we were playing with some arithmetic. So if I may, if you'll indulge me for a minute.
5362 Let's say, and I don't have any evidence about this, but let's say every customer, every wireless subscriber has one problem a year, one issue that makes them pick up the phone and call their service provider or go on the chat or send a note, or whatever. That's 30 million communications.
5363 And let's say again, for the sake of discussion only, let's say the providers resolve 90 percent of them. I think that would be a pretty good record. So there's 27 million issues that we don't have a window into, we don't know anything about them. I don't think you have any data about them either, I could be wrong. But it leaves 3 million contacts with people who have an issue about their wireless service. And last year, we recorded, I think 16,000 or 17,000 issues across all our lines of business, roughly half of which about wireless.
5364 So when you look at our numbers, we urge you to consider the fact that all of that stuff that happens before it gets to our shop, we don't have a window into that. We don't know what the numbers are. We don't know how fussed people are, other than what the people who do come to us tell us. And in the case of trial periods, the requirements on the service providers are not substantial or onerous, and so it doesn't surprise me at all that the number of breaches is quite low.
5365 MS. THIBAULT: If I could just add as well, to provide some additional context. You know, everything that Howard said is correct, but we can't also forget that once those, you know, maximum 3 million customers are unsatisfied at their service provider, let's say, they need to escalate. Right? Then they still need to remain unsatisfied, and then the service provider needs to inform them about CCTS, and then they come to us.
5366 Once they're here with us, we also resolve 90 percent of them. And so we only ever investigate 10 percent of the ones that come to us. So 10 percent of the 10 percent of the other percentage.
5367 So it's really important, whether we're talking about trial periods or any other data point that we do report to really keep in mind this is very much just the tip of the iceberg that we get to see. And so all we get to report is the small proportion of the tip of the iceberg that we actually were able to investigate.
5368 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you. I understood that. I thought it was -- it will be useful to us to have that context on the record. Thank you.
5369 What did you think -- well, let me put it this way. This morning, Media Access Coalition suggested a general reasonable accommodation clause. How comfortable would you feel administering that sort of thing?
5370 MR. MAKER: That's a very good question, and it's one I was immediately beginning to think about when I heard them suggest that.
5371 The answer is, I'm not sure. The reason I'm not sure is because I consider myself not expert in the law and practice in that area. Other than as a average guy, I don't know what that really means, and we're certainly not, our staff is certainly not equipped to -- we're not trained to understand human rights law. So it would provide a new area if inquiry for us.
5372 To the -- I can't answer the question right now whether that's going to be problematic or not, because I don't have a sense of what the requirements are, what the obligations might -- that you might impose might be, and I don't know where that will take us. So I'm probably not being very helpful, but there it is.
5373 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Well, you didn't have that long to reflect upon it. I mean, there are further stages. If you have a more fully -- we won't ask for an undertaking, but if you have a -- you the opportunity to have a more fully formed view at some point, if you wish.
5374 You've pointed out, or it's been pointed out that service providers might not always be fulfilling their participation requirements about -- to inform customers about recourse offered through your offices as part of their internal complaint handling process, and that's the requirement to report the number of customers -- or sorry, let me go back. To once you reach the second level of escalation, that they have to inform people about you.
5375 Do you think it would be useful to make that part of the Code as well?
5376 MR. MAKER: I'm familiar with the evidence that you're referring to, and I wonder if I may respectfully correct the record.
5377 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Sure.
5378 MR. MAKER: I think the evidence was not quite captured accurately.
5379 So in our participation agreement, there are a number of public awareness type activities that our participating service providers must do, and in the spring/summer of 2015, we surveyed our participating service providers to get a sense of where they're at on these measures. And we filed a high-level overview of the results in the last review of CCTS, the proceeding that led up to the 2016-102 Decision.
5380 And what we reported broadly speaking was that about 35 percent, and correct me if -- forgive me if I'm off by a couple of points, but about 35 percent of our participating service providers responded at all. And of those, we determined that roughly 32 percent were compliant with that requirement.
5381 So as to your question about whether we have a concern about that kind of requirement going into the Code, I would say generally no, I don't have any objection to that. Although I note that it would be inconsistent with the TVSP Code that you've recently come out with, which doesn't contain that provision. So that's something you may wish to consider.
5382 The other issue we have around that is as part of our efforts to look at our own CCTS public awareness activities, our board of directors is currently looking at our existing plan, examining it with a view to make improvements and changes in the near future. And without, you know, speaking out of school, the notification -- the requirement that -- for service providers to notify customers at the second level of escalation, that language might not continue. That requirement and where it's seated might change.
5383 So I would recommend to you that if you wish to insert something of that sort into the Code, that instead of copying and pasting the language into the Code, that you might wish to incorporate it by reference to the existing plan that CCTS has, rather than by copying the language.
5384 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you for that. Very helpful voice data, voice roaming charges rather, in an issue that sort of brought to our attention, do you think the Code should require more clarity around voice roaming charges? And what’s your experience with consumers on that issue?
5385 MR. MAKER: Well, frankly, when we were developing our intervention we looked at the data. And again, without it right in front of me, I believe it was 70 or 71 percent of the 250 roaming issues that we identified last year were about voice roaming. And I said that can’t possibly be. Can you please take another look at this data? Because I was taken by surprise and, you know, our staff confirmed that that is correct.
5386 So we don’t have a position about whether voice roaming should be covered or not. We’re bringing to your attention that we’re seeing issues related to voice roaming in numbers that we didn’t anticipate. So there is concern from Canadian customers about it, it would appear. But we don’t have a formal position about whether voice roaming specifically should be covered in the Code.
5387 We heard there may be some technological restrictions in terms of getting foreign call data in a timely way and that would be something that would have to be dealt with but we don’t have a formal position.
5388 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thanks.
5389 Just one last area here that you could just help us clarify our understanding, that’s under advice software updates and security patches.
5390 So in your responses to a request for further information you made the point to us that device software updates and security patches aren’t within your mandate and you seemed pretty clear that you didn’t want to change that. Can you just elaborate on that position though a little bit? We weren’t completely clear on why you considered those areas to be out of scope. And it’s not like we’re trying to talk you into changing your position, we just need to more fully understand your position.
5391 MR. MAKER: Yes, I understand your concern and I note that this is item 3 in Exhibit 1 in which you’ve -- if you haven’t asked yet we’ll happily provide the undertaking to respond to those questions.
5392 And so that’s one of the questions. I think speaking sort of generally without -- before responding to this, device software security is really something very different from what we normally deal with. It’s not something that we have expertise on, whether the right patch was applied, what the latest software version of operating systems is. So I think that informed our position but we’ll be happy to elaborate on that in our undertaking.
5394 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you very much. And you have completed the answer yes to the undertaking as well in your double-header answer there.
5395 Those are all my questions. If -- my colleagues may have some more. Thank you.
5396 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes, just a few more. Well, first of all, congratulations for -- to you, Mr. Maker, and your colleagues for actually having diligently been in the room if not all during the public hearing at least most of the public hearing, so well done. Thank you. I think it shows how important you take this issue.
5397 A little earlier you were talking about the notification at the second level incorporating the obligations in the membership agreement into the Code and you said you’re currently reviewing that and that perhaps we should incorporate it into the Code by reference. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to refer something into a Code by reference if we don’t know what it is. What is your current timelines to review the participation agreement?
5398 MR. MAKER: Well, the participation agreement, as well as all of our constating documents, our by-law and our procedural code are currently under review because we have to adapt them for TV service providers that are coming on board in a few months. We’re also contemplating a number of other changes to make some of the other activities we undertake more effective, and particularly in the participation agreement.
5399 As far as the public awareness plan is concerned, our board has had an initial conversation about setting some parameters around what the changes might be. They have asked me to come back to them --their next meeting is in April -- with a draft on what the changes might look like. I believe there is a desire on the part of the board to take that draft away and consult with stakeholders to get input on these changes because they are binding on service providers and we will, going forward, be measuring compliance with this.
5400 So we may have a draft in April. The next board meeting is in -- you know, they meet quarterly so it would be in June. There may be a desire on the board to move this forward more quickly. I’d certainly support that and there may be other meetings available to the board to move it forward more quickly than that. But we’re probably looking at late spring would be my guess.
5401 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. Would you undertake to keep us apprised -- this will be an ongoing obligation beyond the 16th of February -- of how that is going along?
5402 MR. MAKER: So you’re looking for semi-regular updates on status?
5403 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes, when there’s a significant change or advancement.
5404 MR. MAKER: Sorry, just so I’m clear.
5405 THE CHAIRPERSON: In the process to change your ---
5406 MR. MAKER: In the process.
5407 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- of changing your constituting documents.
5408 MR. MAKER: We can -- we can certainly keep you up to date on where the process is at. And, of course, you know, if a new plan is adopted by the board you’ll be the first to see it.
5409 THE CHAIRPERSON: Seeing that your own internal rules are influx, would it not be wiser to incorporate and accord what we do know, which is the current state of things, and modify them subsequently if required? Such a change only actually has an impact on the service providers and not to the general population.
5410 MR. MAKER: Well, it’s really interesting because this customer notification provision is, in my respectful view, probably the key awareness provision that we’ve got in our plan. Unfortunately, it’s also the one into which we have no window, you know. So it’s really important.
5411 And one of the things that we learned when we did our survey is that there’s actually confusion in the industry about what “second level of escalation” means. Now, I know that sounds pretty simply but when we did our survey, we asked providers to tell us how many stages there are in their internal complaint handling process and who mans them and we asked them to tell us where in those stages they provide the notification. And it was clear that some of them didn’t seem to understand what second level of escalation was. And, of course, some of them don’t even have two levels so obviously that -- in those cases the obligation is at the front line.
5412 So I just -- I’m urging caution to you in terms of incorporating those words.
5413 THE CHAIRPERSON: Then do you have other words to incorporate? Because you’re saying that it’s important, it’s key to awareness, and what you’re saying is maybe the practices in the industry currently are not as effective as they should be. And I’m assuming I’m taking you at your word that the best time -- and many companies have said that the best time to inform unhappy subscribers is when they’re having a difficulty. So what is your proposal? Because if it is that important I’m not sure the Commission can wait.
5414 MR. MAKER: Well, we think it is the provision that’s most likely to give consumers information about CCTS and get them to us when they need us. That’s what I mean when I say it’s an important provision.
5415 THE CHAIRPERSON: So pending your decision, because we do have no window into the participation agreement, what ought to be, in your view, the notification provisions?
5416 MR. MAKER: Well, that’s a decision that our board will make in the fullness of time after considering the options and consulting with their stakeholders, Mr. Chair.
5417 THE CHAIRPERSON: And as the independent administrator who actually makes the decisions on an ongoing basis, you’re not ready to offer a proposal?
5418 MR. MAKER: No, I’m not, not at this time.
5419 THE CHAIRPERSON: And you’re not willing to help the Commission in its role either in this respect?
5420 MR. MAKER: No, I wouldn’t say that. I mean, I’m happy to see if we can -- I’m happy to give you an undertaking to see if we can develop some approach for -- to assist you, to give you some guidance, if you decide that you want to put that notification provision into the Code, by all means.
5421 THE CHAIRMAN: Okay and you could do that for the 16th of February?
5422 MR. MAKER: Yes, sir.
5424 THE CHAIRMAN: Okay, thank you. I appreciate that.
5425 Earlier this week SaskTel took some of its presentation time, which I assume if they’re doing that it’s because it’s an important issue for them, about getting surprised about, you know, potential interpretation you’ve made of the Code, and this is occurring after they may have launched a new marketing offering.
5426 Now I don’t want to revisit your interpretation, far be it from me, I’m just -- from a systemic perspective is there a more practical way for them to avoid being surprised?
5427 MR. MAKER: Mr. Chair, I thought we had -- we had already litigated this issue, if you will, in 2016-102.
5428 I think the Commission was pretty clear that it was comfortable with the current process, which involved us applying when necessary, and with the guidance of the policy and the Code, applying interpretations to facts and specific complaints, and knowing that the part 1 process was available to service providers if they had a problem with those interpretations.
5429 Having said that, I am somewhat sympathetic to their position. You know, what we’ve done to date is to update our annotated guide. We’ve got -- we’re on our second version now.
5430 And we do that from time to time when there’s sufficient information, sufficient change, to warrant the work that’s involved with that.
5431 You know, I’m not sure how we’re supposed to know what they may be developing in terms of marketing plans or in terms of technological changes. That’s not something they share with me or with each other, or with you I don’t think.
5432 So, you know, we have been giving some thought to whether there’s a way to identify what we might call key changes. I don’t want to use that word. Let me find another word. You know, critical things, important interpretations that might have major impact and of course that would be for us to sort of speculate a little bit, but if there is a way we can do that in a -- in a simple way, mindful of what our resourcing is and mindful of the fact that SaskTel and other TSPs are -- make their views about the costs of operating CCTS well known.
5433 If there’s a way that we can, you know, balance those objectives we will try to do so and we’re giving some thought to the best way to go about that.
5434 THE CHAIRMAN: Would your door be closed if a company was about to -- was in the process of considering something specific and detailed, not general, and proposed new marketing and they were wondering whether you would see it as consistent in the way they’re trying to do it with the Code? Would you be open to having conversations with those providers?
5435 MR. MAKER: We have regular conversations with service providers on all sorts of issues, so our -- and I hope they realize our doors are not closed to them. We’re happy to engage in conversations about these kinds of things with them when it’s appropriate, but we don’t like to do it at an abstract or theoretical level.
5436 THE CHAIRMAN: Right.
5437 MR. MAKER: We like to see what they’re actually ---
5438 THE CHAIRMAN: Presumably in the case of SaskTel if they had a very detailed marketing offering that they were thinking of launching, they would be well advised with that detail specific offering maybe to test it out with you before they spend too much money on it?
5439 MR. MAKER: Well I mean we’d be happy to discuss it with them. Depending on the details and the specifics, I’m not sure we’d be in a position to guarantee that we wouldn’t find any breaches of the Code, because of the underlying facts of any particular complaint, but by all means.
5440 THE CHAIRMAN: Okay.
5441 Companies often argue that creating more duties, and more obligations, and more process, will raise the costs for consumers and therefore by definition that’s not going to be good for consumers.
5442 Based on your experience with subscribers that come to you seeking redress, thousands of them that come and seek redress, have any of them ever complained that the Code, its operations, or even your operations, is having a negative impact on them as subscribers and consumers and that they’d rather the Code and the CCTS not exist?
5443 MR. MAKER: With the caveat that I don’t speak to all customers that come through our doors, but I do speak to some of them and I find out what others are saying, typically the only ones who despair of the Code and despair of CCTS are the ones who -- some of the ones who didn’t get what they want out of the process.
5444 But generally, our surveys of customers that we do on a regular basis show customer support for the process and, you know, it’s very rare that we get somebody who says, you know, this Code it’s a waste of time.
5445 THE CHAIRMAN: And nobody’s saying I’d like to pay a cent less per month because of all this?
5446 MR. MAKER: I don’t think that the customers sort of necessarily know how to unpack who’s paying for what and how much it costs, so I don’t think we hear much of that, no.
5447 THE CHAIRMAN: You may have heard my conversation with l’Union des consommateurs about adding a preamble to the Code which might cover the purpose and outcome of the Code, perhaps imbed in the Code itself the rule about, you know, in case of doubt it is to be interpreted in favour of the consumer.
5448 Would that make it easier or harder for you to do your job?
5449 MR. MAKER: So I’m looking at the version of the Code that was Appendix 1 to the policy, Mr. Chair, and it says that. It says that, you know:
5450 “Interpretation in favour of the customer is required with -- in the event of ambiguity or unclarity if the contract or the Code”.
5451 So I think you’ve got that covered and, you know, I look at this Appendix 1 and it talks about the objectives for the Code, it talks about the application of the -- various sections of the Code to various services, it provides a bit of guidance on interpretation and it provides information about where to resolve disputes. So I think that’s pretty thorough.
5452 I don’t have -- I don’t see any reason why we would object to adding more information that you think would make things easier for customers to understand, that would clarify the landscape in terms of the Code processes.
5453 Those kinds of things would be probably welcome by most intervenors in this proceeding, I would think.
5454 THE CHAIRMAN: Building on your earlier conversation with Vice-Chair about informed consent, is that a principal that perhaps needs to be imbedded, that when consent is to be obtained it has to be an informed consent?
5455 MR. MAKER: Well there are various individual provisions that talk about -- I don’t know if they use the word “informed consent”, but I know the word “expressed consent” is in there for time to time.
5456 THE CHAIRMAN: Yes.
5457 MR. MAKER: Ummm ---
5458 THE CHAIRMAN: I’m quoting “informed consent” because that’s the phrase you used.
5459 MR. MAKER: Fair enough.
5460 I guess the answer is, is any consent really consent if it’s not informed and I’m not trying to be lawyerly here, but if somebody signs a document that says “I consent”, that wasn’t explained to them or they didn’t read is that really consent?
5461 THE CHAIRMAN: And that’s why I’m asking you --
5462 MR. MAKER: Right.
5463 THE CHAIRMAN: -- whether it wouldn’t be easier for us all if that was spelt out?
5464 MR. MAKER: I don’t -- I don’t see any reason why we would object to a change like that.
5465 THE CHAIRMAN: There are a variety of places in the Code where the Telcos have to provide notifications of one sort or another.
5466 In your administration of the Code you referred earlier to some notes that sometimes were made on file, has it become an issue for you in some cases that the evidence to support that a given notice was given on X, Y, Z, is that making it harder for you to administer the Code?
5467 MR. MAKER: Well, Mr. Chair, this has been an issue since day 1. I joined CCTS in 2008 and, you know, my direction to the staff was that when a service provider tells you something your response to them should be don’t tell me, show me.
5468 So we expect them to provide evidence to back up their positions, just as we do for customers too. We say oh well, you know, what was the date that happened or, you know, whatever, whatever it is we’re looking for and we think that’s entirely reasonable.
5469 And I think certainly back in the day, as the kids say, service providers had significant challenges. It was not necessarily part of their regular business processes to maintain the kind of evidence that we thought we would need to allow them to support their case.
5470 I think that's changed somewhat, but you know, when you're talking about some of these big providers, they have tens of thousands of customer services reps, and these folks, you know, some of them are part-timers and the training challenges are substantial, I get that. We have maybe a dozen in our contact centre and we have lots of training challenges too, even though they do generally a great job.
5471 So that's -- you know ---
5472 THE CHAIRPERSON: So perhaps I can ask you ---
5473 MR. MAKER: -- so we expect ---
5474 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- perhaps a more concrete question, then.
5475 Would it be helpful for you in the administration of the Code, perhaps as a corollary to the principle that in case of doubt and interpretation do you favour the customer or the subscriber. That as a general rule the burden for proving, for instance, that a notification has been given, and belongs to the carrier, and if they fail to do that you would presume that it has not been given.
5476 MS. THIBAULT: As Mr. Maker was saying earlier, in 2008, 2009, for a few years after that whenever we'd be presented, let's say, with a dispute from a customer that they did not consent to agree to you and obtain serve. And we'd go to them and say, can you provide me with a copy of the contract. Often they would say, we do not have a copy of the contract.
5477 THE CHAIRPERSON: This is the carriers?
5478 MS. THIBAULT: The carriers.
5479 That practice has become a little bit better. We are getting more copies of contracts.
5480 I repeat what Howard was saying, because I do think that just by virtue of the existence of the Code in our role as administrators that it has provided a bit of discipline on service providers to start retaining evidence and documentation that they otherwise had no appetite to retain.
5481 That's been a very slow process. So we're almost 10 years in.
5482 THE CHAIRPERSON: Perhaps the Code modification ---
5483 MS. THIBAULT: M'hm.
5484 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- would focus the mind.
5485 MS. THIBAULT: And so I provide you that comment with that in mind. That it's been 10 years. The problem is getting better. It does still exist.
5486 MR. MAKER: And I can tell you, Mr. Chair, on a day‑to‑day basis, in terms of applying our procedural Code, the onus is on the service provider to demonstrate that they reasonably performed their obligations to the customers; that's our standard of review. And so if the service provider can't demonstrate what it says happened, then we proceed on the basis it didn't happen.
5487 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right, and therefore, it shouldn't be a huge additional burden on the carriers to actually codify that principle in the Code?
5488 MR. MAKER: That would be your decision, sir.
5489 THE CHAIRPERSON: Just to build on the conversation you had with my colleague about reasonable accommodation, and I appreciate you only got notice of that issue quite late.
5490 And unlike my colleague, I think I will ask you to undertake to do a little bit more reflection as to how, if -- how you could implement a clause like that, which would give you between now and the 16th of February some time to reflect. But more particularly, what would you have to do were that change to be added to the Code? What it would mean for the costs of the operations of your organization? How long it would take you to ramp up? Just the practicalities if that obligation, hypothetically, were added to the Code. Could you do that?
5491 MR. MAKER: Yes, Mr. Chair. We'll take an undertaking to give that some consideration and try and provide you what we can by the 16th.
5492 THE CHAIRPERSON: You're later in the week. Is time a bit of an issue for you?
5493 MS. THIBAULT: Yes, I would say ---
5494 THE CHAIRPERSON: I've seen you were consulting.
5495 MS. THIBAULT: --- it is a bit of an issue.
5496 THE CHAIRPERSON: We've created an exception to the 22nd for another group. Would that be helpful, if instead of the 16th it was the 22nd?
5497 MR. MAKER: Yes.
5498 THE CHAIRPERSON: So why don't you undertake to do that for the 22nd?
5499 MR. MAKER: Thank you.
5501 THE CHAIRPERSON: I believe those are all my questions. I'm looking over to legal. No, there are no questions over there.
5502 That's it. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, for your participation.
5503 Alors, Madame la secrétaire, y a-t-il d'autres intervenants à entendre?
5504 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Non. J'ai seulement une note rapide pour le dossier public à la fin de l'audience.
5505 I would like to indicate for the record that the intervenors who did not appear, and were listed on the agenda as appearing intervenors, will remain on the public file as non‑appearing interventions.
5506 That is it. Thank you.
5507 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
5508 Avant de conclure cette audience, permettez-moi de remercier diverses personnes qui ont mis la main à la pâte dans les coulisses.
5509 First, I would like to thank the interpreters and the stenographers. Thanks to them, nothing that is said here is lost.
5510 Merci également à l'équipe de CPAC qui a diffusé la présente audience sur leur site web et surtout aux opérateurs des caméras.
5511 I would also like to thank all the reporters, the bloggers, and most, but not all social media users who bring the hearing beyond these walls and into the digital world.
5512 I would also like to thank my fellow Panel Members, Mr. Menzies, Vice-Chair of Telecommunications, and Mr. MacDonald, Commissioner for the Atlantic Region and Nunavut, who as always put a lot of work and preparation into these hearings.
5513 Je voudrais aussi reconnaître 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 d'une grande aide pour le panel dans sa prise de décision. Merci à vous tous.
5514 J'aimerais aussi vous rappeler que vous pouvez continuer à partager, vous les Canadiens, vos opinions sur les sujets traités lors de cette audience sur notre forum de discussion en ligne sur le site web du CRTC. Ce dernier sera ouvert jusqu'au 14 février à 20h00, heure avancée de l'Est, donc à 17h00 heure normale du Pacifique.
5515 J'en profite également pour rappeler à toutes les parties que leurs engagements pris au cours de l'audience doivent être -- doivent nous parvenir d'ici 20h00, heure avancée de l'Est, le jeudi, 16 février, sauf pour les deux exceptions que nous avons discutées aujourd'hui.
5516 I'd also like to remind you that final submissions are due on the 24th of February. Again, no later than 5 o'clock Pacific time.
5517 Et je vous remercie encore une fois, tous et toutes, pour votre participation. La présente audience orale est maintenant terminée.
5518 We are now adjourned. Thank you very much.
--- Upon adjourning at 2:51 p.m.
- Date modified: