The potent combination of customer complaints and advocacy by CARP and other groups, is bringing much needed attention to an issue that telecommunication companies would prefer to just go away. Earlier this fall, CARP wrote to Bell , Rogers, TELUS, and TD Bank asking for a reversal of the surcharge policy. We did so on the strength of CARP members, the vast majority (75%) of whom opposed the charge, both on personal grounds and in concern for all low income seniors not online. Responses from the companies is best characterized as “thanks for your input but we’re sticking with our policy.”
In the latest action to get the companies to reverse the policies, the CRTC, the federal agency that regulates telecommunications, has entered the fray. Earlier this month, the Executive Director of the Telecommunications Directorate of the CRTC wrote an open letter to Bell Canada expressing concern over the surcharge, highlighting many of the same issues brought forward by CARP:
- Some seniors lack computer literacy skills and/or do not have access to a computer and internet, making it difficult or impossible to switch to paperless billing.
- Low income and fixed income seniors already face financial hardship and are most likely to be without computer access, placing a greater burden on them.
- The $2 per bill can add up for low income seniors who already face financial challenges. Several bills per month can add up to $10 dollar or more, on top of the bill itself.
- Fees may be temporarily waived under “hardship” circumstances when a complaint is made, but not all seniors will know to complain of hardship and many may not be able make a formal complaint due to language barriers.
CARP wrote to the CRTC last week welcoming their response. In our letter, we reiterated the overwhelming number of complaints we received from CARP members and our reasons for opposing the change.
The CRTC has asked that Bell respond to the concerns by December 19, 2012. CARP will continue to monitor the situation and report back to our readers. In the meantime, CARP will continue to pressure the companies who practice paper billing charges for a reversal in policy.
Read the CRTC Letter to Bell Canada
Read CARP’s Letter to Bell Canada
Read CARP’s Press Release on Paper Bill Surcharges
Read CARP’s Poll on Paper Bill Surcharges
Read Media Coverage of Paper Bill Surcharges
Read CARP’s Letters to Bell, Rogers, Telus, and TD Bank
CARP’s Earlier Advocacy on Paper Bill Surcharges
December 20th, 2012