September 18 2012 by Ellen Roseman
Melanie Aitken took on Canada’s powerful real estate agents during her time as competition commissioner. Last week, she unveiled a few more surprises.
The Competition Bureau filed charges against three of the countryâ€™s largest cellphone providers, alleging they allowed third-parties to trick cellphone subscribers into signing up for expensive text services and then took up to 60 per cent of the profits.
It also ordered Rogers, Bell, Telus and the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association to pay $31 million in penalties and refunds to customers.
And in today’s Globe and Mail, Aitken expressed concerns about the anti-competitive aspects of Bell’s $3.4 billion acquisiton of Astral Media.
“This is a complex transaction. It troubles a lot of people,” she said, adding that her departure this week shouldn’t have any effect on the bureau’s current work.
I was thrilled to see the lawsuit against Big Telecom for enabling the transmission of third-party premium text messages. Not only do I get a steady stream of complaints, but I called on the bureau to investigate this practice a year ago.
Bernard Lord, head of the wireless lobby, seemed upset to find that the bureau wouldn’t agree to chase a few rogue text providers. Instead, it put the blame squarely on the companies trasnsmitting the messages to unwitting consumers.
Adieu, Ms. Aitken. Consumers are sorry to see you leave. Let’s hope that your willingness to tackle Canada’s business elite continues to enliven the bureau’s work.
I’m posting comments below, including advice from wireless carriers on how to avoid data roaming shocks. I wish they were more forthcoming in their everyday communication with customers.