Consumers charged for premium text messages that they were led to believe were free have finally had their grievances addressed. Telus agrees to offer $7.34 million in rebates to its current or former consumers for unwanted premium text messages, following a Competition Bureau’s probe that targeted three telecom giants.
These text message services used misleading advertisements to lure consumers into subscriptions for a variety of mobile premium text services, from ring-tones and fortune tellers to IQ trivia questions. As a result, consumers were charged for the premium text services that they neither intended to purchase nor agreed to pay. The investigation found that consumers were billed for the services despite the fact that they had not completed the double opt in process required.
The practice has affected thousands of telecom consumers, including many Chinese Canadians.
But consumers seemed vulnerable and powerless in the face of unjustified billing practices by the telecom giants. Many of the complaints to service providers were often met with stone walls. Their requests for refund were either squarely turned down or redirected to the third party providers.
“I’ve tried everything and nothing worked,” said a Chinese News reader in 2013, referring to her fruitless complaint against Rogers. “It seems that I’ve exhausted all my options and I had no choice but to suck it up, despite how unjustified it is.”
“I could only believe that this type of practices happen in China, where consumers’ rights were unprotected and ignored… Isn’t Canada one of the fairest countries in the world?!”
The widespread complaints have prompted calls for regulatory protections from consumer advocacy groups. In response to the public outcry, the Competition Bureau has beefed up its consumer protection actions by conducting a five month investigation into the practices of the telecom companies. In a lawsuit filed with the Ontario Superior Court, it alleged that the Big Three carriers -- Rogers, BCE and Telus-- violated the Competition Act through misleading advertisings, and has pocketed a share of the revenues collected. It sought consumer refunds and penalties of $10 million from each of the carriers.
As a result of the lawsuit Rogers reached a settlement with the Competition Bureau in March after agreeing to pay up to $5.42-million in refunds and credits. Telus recently has reached a settlement with the bureau that it will offer $7.43 million to its customers – both of its main Telus Mobility brand and its discount brand Koodo. Telus’s offer is the most any company has agreed to pay.
The settlement announcement has showcased the Crown agencies’ consumer friendly stance and its efforts in protecting consumers’ rights. It means a lot to victims, particularly newcomer victims who had limited confidence in the marketplace integrity in their home country and lacked trust on its authority.
“It is not about money,” says a Chinese News reader. “It’s about our voices being heard.”
我们鼓励所有读者在我们的文章和博客上分享意见。We are committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion, so we ask you to avoid personal attacks, and please keep your comments relevant and respectful. Visit the FAQ page for more information.