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Misleading sales practices not a ‘systemic’ problem, telecom firms tell CRTC





Canada’s cable and internet companies are defending themselves against claims they have been misleading their customers and using aggressive sales tactics to sell services they may not want or need.

Four companies — Videotron, SaskTel, Cogeco Communications and Telus — appeared before the CRTC on Thursday. The commission is holding five days of hearings, investigating the sales practices of Canada’s telecommunications firms and looking at whether new rules are needed to protect consumers.

Tony Geheren, executive vice-president and chief customer officer at Telus, told commissioners there may be problems with the way some companies operate, but he assured them it’s not a widespread issue.

“I think our view is that there is not a systemic problem,” Geheren said. “There are circumstances in certain markets with certain providers where the incidences of misleading or aggressive sales are a significant factor. And we feel they should be addressed.”

The CRTC is looking at whether a new code of conduct may be required for cable and internet companies to lay out clear rules for how they deal with customers.

During their appearance Thursday, Telus representatives said the company would support a new code if it was national in scope and made it easier for consumers to file complaints. But their overarching message was that, right now, there is no shortage of rules.

“We actually believe self-regulation is OK. We believe we would self-regulate responsibly and reliably,” Geheren said. “But in the instances where a provider is not doing that, then we believe the powers already exist to take them to task. It’s just not being enforced. So, will a new code do anything different? That would be our concern.”

Going after the root cause

That message — that problems with aggressive of misleading marketing stems from a lack of enforcement and not a lack of regulations — was echoed by other companies that appeared before the CRTC on Thursday.

“Cogeco believes that there is no systemic telecom industry issue to be addressed by the commission,” said Leonard Eichel, that company’s senior director of regulatory affairs.

“Cogeco believes that sufficient tools are in place to ensure that consumers are well protected.”

In its presentation to the commission, Saskatchewan’s SaskTel said the CRTC should target companies that are violating existing rules rather than cracking down on the entire industry.

“If there are some specific issues with specific carriers, there are lots of remedies available to deal with that,” said executive vice-president John Meldrum.

“You’ve got to get at the root cause. And if the root cause is one of the carriers or two of the carriers, you’ve got to go after the root cause and the number of issues and complaints will go down.”

Quebec-based Videotron, the first company to appear before the CRTC on Thursday, was just as forceful.

“There’s a telecommunications code, a wireless code, provincial laws, we have the Competition Bureau. The problem isn’t with codes. The problem is a compliance issue,” said Peggy Tabet, the firm’s vice-president of regulatory affairs.

Tabet told commissioners Videotron takes customer service seriously, and pointed a finger at larger firms like Rogers and especially Bell, Videotron’s main rival in Quebec. She accused them of being responsible for the bulk of consumer complaints and, like others executives, argued for targeted measures by the CRTC and not sweeping changes.

Representatives of Rogers, Bell and Shaw Communications will get a chance to have their say on Friday as the CRTC wraps up its hearings.

Commissioners will report their findings to the federal government by the end of February 2019.


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Real Estate

Montreal real-estate prices climbing much faster than Toronto or Vancouver: study





MONTREAL — The cost of housing per square foot has skyrocketed in Montreal while other cities saw little change over the last year, according to a new national survey.

The study found that condominium prices in downtown Montreal are up 13.5 per cent from last year to, on average, $805 per square foot.

That’s not as high as other cities, but it’s catching up — and Montreal’s rate of growth is outpacing other major Canadian cities.

Toronto’s condo prices grew to $1083 per square foot, an increase of just under 10 per cent, according to the study. In Vancouver, where you can find some of Canada’s most expensive condo prices, rates are down 4 per cent to $1192 per square foot.

To make the comparisons, Canadian real estate giant Century 21 collected data from real estate boards across the country to calculate the home costs per square foot.

“It’s important to compare apple to apples,” said Todd Shyiak, the company’s vice president of operations.

Montreal’s rise was even more explosive for detached homes and townhouses.

Detached houses in Montreal’s downtown and southwest rose to $958 per square foot, 40 per cent up from last year.

“It’s wild,” said Century 21 broker Angela Langtry. She says the pandemic raised demand.

“People had a lot of time to figure out they don’t like the home they’re in,” she said. “They all want pools.”

There was a big spike in sales, she noted, following a pause in brokerage during the spring, at the peak of the pandemic.

Experts say the pandemic will push people into the suburbs as they search for affordable housing and home office space.

“A huge portion of our society’s housing needs changed overnight,” said Shyiak. People “no longer need to be 10 minutes from the office.”

He says that could mean less demand for condos in the future. “People want their own front door,” he said.

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Real Estate

Carttera buys prime downtown Montreal development site





Carttera has acquired a prime downtown Montreal site at 1455 De La Montagne St. which will mark its third development on the thoroughfare.

“We think it’s probably one of the best, if not the best, locations in the whole city,” Carttera founding partner Jim Tadeson told RENX. “We’ve had great success on De La Montagne.”

The two earlier projects are: L’Avenue, a building with 393 residential units, 84,000 square feet of office space and 34,000 square feet of retail that was developed with Broccolini and occupied in 2017; and Arbora Residences, a two-phase development with 434 rental and condominium units in three buildings being built in partnership with Oxford Properties.

Thursday’s latest acquisition, for $48.5 million from 630745 Ontario, is a 31,750-square-foot surface parking lot with flexible mixed-use zoning on the corner of De La Montagne and De Maisonneuve Boulevard West.

The site is near the Vogue Hotel Montreal Downtown, the new Four Seasons Hotel Montreal and high-end retail.

“It’s zoned for up to 203,000 square feet of density, which we’re going to take advantage of,” said Tadeson. “Our vision for the site is a condominium project with some retail.”

Since there is no demolition required and no heritage issues to contend with, Toronto-based Carttera plans to move ahead quickly with the luxury project.

It’s in the concept design phase and Tadeson said it could take six months or more before it’s prepared to make a submission to the city.

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Real Estate

Montreal Has the Hottest Real Estate Market in Canada Right Now





If you thought Toronto’s real estate market was on fire, it’s time for a second take, because the market in Montreal is the hottest in all of Canada right now.

A newly-released annual report from CENTURY 21 Canada reveals that, following an early-spring decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sales numbers are bouncing back and house prices across the country are maintaining their strength. The study compared the price per square foot of properties sold between January 1 and June 30 of this year, compared to the same period last year.

In Toronto and Vancouver, unsurprisingly, prices remain high. But while regions across the country are seeing varied stories when it comes to their housing market fluctuations, Montreal stands out — there, prices have increased dramatically since 2019. While the numbers remain lower than Toronto and Vancouver, that housing market is proving to be the country’s strongest right now.

In Quebec’s largest city, prices have increased significantly since last year, particularly in the downtown detached house and townhouse markets. For example, the price of a detached house in Montreal’s downtown and southwest rose 42.14% to $958 per square foot, while townhouses went up 44% to $768, and condos, 13.55% to $805. Comparatively, in Toronto and Vancouver, prices saw more modest increases or, in some cases, even declines.

“Even though real estate in Quebec was not considered an essential service, we have seen strong demand and a jump in prices in 2020,” said Mohamad Al-Hajj, owner of CENTURY 21 Immo-Plus in Montreal.

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