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‘Mismatch’ between what telco customers expect and what they actually get, CRTC told

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Government-ordered hearings into complaints about Canada’s largest telecommunications providers got underway Monday with an industry-funded ombudsman saying his group has limited insight into problem sales practices.

The Commission for Complaints for Telecom-Television Services — a private-sector body — has found the biggest problem is a “mismatch” between what customers expect and what they actually get, CCTS commissioner Howard Maker said.

But the data collected by the CCTS reveals just the “tip of the iceberg without revealing what may be happening more broadly,” Maker told a federal regulatory inquiry into allegations of misleading and aggressive sales practices.

“We know there’s a lot that’s under the water line that we don’t have access to — to see and to comment on.”

Maker’s comments were to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, the industry’s regulator, which has been ordered by the federal government to look into allegations of misbehaviour by sales representatives.

“If, at the end of this proceeding, the record were to show that the misleading and aggressive practices are common, it would be a serious concern for us,” CRTC chairman Ian Scott said in opening the first of five days of public hearings.

Several individuals also presented to the CRTC, outlining experiences they had with sales people who promise a good price when they buy a package, while the actual bill bears no resemblance. There were complaints about cancellations fees, disadvantageous pricing for customers in some locations and a ruined credit rating after a customer complained to the CCTS about telco practices.

Disabled users at a disadvantage

A group representing blind-deaf people said telco sales people were unaware of accessibility pricing that should be available to disabled users and disabled people often ended up paying inflated prices for the data and text services they need.

The CRTC has been ordered to provide a report to cabinet by the end of February.

Maker said that it’s often difficult for the CCTS to deal with complaints — particularly with door-to-door sales and transactions at some retail stores — because of a lack of documentation about what was promised or agreed upon.

“We’re left to put the pieces back together when the customer says this is not what (was) bargained for,” Maker said.

He suggested the providers be required to determine if a product or service is “suitable” — as financial services companies are required to check and document by “know your client” legislation and regulations.

In telecommunications, suitability could be determined by asking what a customer wants to do with the product or service as part of the sale process and providing documentation, he said.

Need a ‘suitability analysis’ for customers

“I think the exchange of information like that is absolutely critical to making sure people get what they want at the price point they’re looking for. So, certainly, that would be an exercise that would be required as part of a suitability analysis.”

The minister responsible for telecommunications, Navdeep Bains, ordered the hearings in June after a series of investigative reports by the CBC, complaints by consumers and calls for an inquiry by consumer advocacy groups.

In the run-up to the hearings, the CRTC collected more than 1,000 comments from individual Canadians through a variety of methods and received scores of documents from companies that defended their policies and overall record.

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Ontario’s new automated speed enforcement explained

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(NC) To wage the war against speeding, many municipalities across Ontario have turned to automated speed enforcement. Most recently introduced in Toronto, speed cameras are a high-tech solution to reduce speeding and are considered one of the most effective ways to create safer roads and save lives.  

Recognizing police officers cannot catch all speeders, these cameras fill the gap, providing monitoring in specific locations around the clock. When a car’s speed is even one kilometre over the posted amount, it will take a picture of the offending vehicle’s license plate, using the captured photo as indisputable evidence. A ticket is then served to the vehicle’s owner, regardless of who was driving. 

With a focus on high-risk areas, Ontario’s automated speed enforcement cameras are located in two specific municipal areas: school and community safety zones. School zones are designated streets close to a school, featuring reduced speed limits as dictated by local bylaws. Community safety zones are high-risk corridors and intersections, subject to increased fines and penalties.  

While the Ontario Highway Traffic Act outlines the use of automated speed enforcement, municipalities can decide when and where to use cameras to curb speeding. The act does dictate financial penalties for speed violations captured with cameras, which vary depending on the number of kilometres caught over the speed limit.  

Speed enforcement is not new, but part of a broader, integrated road safety strategy that includes infrastructure improvements, awareness campaigns and new uses of technology. City officials hope for a halo effect, inspiring better driving behaviour across entire communities, not only in areas with cameras. A controversial topic, some critics take exception to speed cameras, labelling them as sneaky cash grabs for municipalities. Governments think the opposite. 

Safety advocate and auto insurance provider Onlia is hopeful that the cameras will provide drivers with a reminder to slow down, especially in high-risk areas like school and community safety zones.  

For those who obey the speed limit, automated speed enforcement shouldn’t change anything about your driving style, says Alex Kelly, Safety Ambassador at OnliaDrivers have fair warning as they approach areas with speed cameras, as mandatory signs provide reasonable notice of upcoming automated speed enforcement. Regardless of warnings, the best speed is the posted speed. 

You can start to understand your speeding style by downloading the insurance provider’s new safe driving app that coaches and rewards for you for safe driving habits.

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Online banking: How to protect yourself from fraud

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(NC) Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, a growing number of consumers are regularly using mobile and online banking to paybill payments, transfer money and make purchases.

Although these tools can give you easy access to your personal finances on demand, there are also some risks involved. For instance, your banking information—such as your debit or credit card number, user name, or personal identification number (PIN)—could be stolen. If criminals have access to your online banking information, they can steal your money, which is why it’s so important to be  vigilant when you bank online.

Follow these tips to help protect your personal and banking information:

  • For your online bank accounts, use a strong password that can’t be easily guessed, and never share your user name or password with anyone.
  • Check your accounts regularly to make sure there are no transactions you didn’t make or authorize.
  • When making online purchases, never authorize a website to save your credit card information, password or other personal information. Giving websites this permission will save you some time the next time you access the site, but it poses a real threat if a hacker manages to access your information.

Most financial institutions have policies to protect you from transactions that you didn’t make.

However, you are responsible for protecting your online and mobile banking information. If you give your details to anyone—including your spouse or partner, a family member or a friend—your financial institution may hold you responsible for any unauthorized transactions in your account, and even strip you of protection from unauthorized transactions in the future.

If you suspect your information may have been compromised, change your passwords immediately, and check your account and credit card statements for anomalies and report any suspicious transactions to your financial institution.

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has created resources to help you protect your online banking information.

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Payday loans: Not the best way to borrow money

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(NC) Payday loans are a very expensive way to borrow money. Even if you’re struggling financially, think twice—and crunch the numbers—before getting this type of loan.

Depending on the rules in your province, payday lenders can charge fees of $15 to $25 per $100 that you borrow.

As an example, let’s say you borrow $300 for home repairs. The payday lender charges you $51 in fees, or $17 for every $100 borrowed. Your loan balance is therefore $351, which amounts to an interest rate of 442 per cent.

There can be serious consequences if you don’t repay your loan by the due date. These may include the following:

  • The payday lender may charge you a fee if there isn’t enough money in your account.
  • Your financial institution may also charge you a fee if there isn’t enough money in your account.
  • The total amount that you owe, including the fees, continues to increase.

There are better options out there

Payday loans should be your last resort to borrow money. Consider cheaper ways of borrowing money, such as:

  • Cashing in vacation days or asking for a pay advance from your employer.
  • Getting a line of credit, a cash advance on a credit card or a personal loan from your financial institution.
  • Getting a loan from family or friends.

Before getting a payday loan and to avoid getting stuck in a debt trap, consider other, less expensive ways to borrow money.

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