CRTC orders TELUS to rebate customers

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) determined that TELUS Telecommunications Company (TELUS) was improperly charging certain customers a network-access fee. The Commission has ordered TELUS to rebate residential customers who paid this monthly fee, but did not make any telephone calls on the company’s long-distance network during the month. However, TELUS is not required to rebate customers who made long-distance telephone calls during the same month.

"When applied to customers who did not make any long-distance calls, the monthly fee was equivalent to an unauthorized increase to the residential local service rate," said Konrad von Finckenstein, Q.C., Chairman of the CRTC. "We will use our powers whenever necessary to uphold the interests of consumers of telecommunications services, particularly in instances when companies impose unauthorized charges."

In November 2007, TELUS began charging close to half a million customers in Alberta and British Columbia a monthly network-access fee of $2.95. These customers had not signed up for a long-distance plan, either with TELUS or another company, and the charge applied even if they did not make long-distance calls or if they made long-distance calls using only dial-around long-distance services.

Customers could have avoided paying the network-access fee by subscribing to TELUS’ toll-restriction service, also known as Call Guardian in certain areas, which permits only local or toll-free calls. While there is no initial charge associated with this service for residential customers, there is a $10.00 cancellation fee. The Commission has directed TELUS to waive this cancellation fee during the next three months if a residential customer subscribed to the toll-restriction service after October 2007 and now wishes to cancel it.

The CRTC no longer regulates long-distance rates. While local telephone companies can set their long-distance plans and rates according to market conditions, TELUS is required to provide its customers with access to the long-distance network as part of its local service rates.

Telecom Decision CRTC 2008-33

 [April 21, 2008]

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