Some years ago, we witnessed something of a trend whereby it was possible to subscribe to a premium text service very easily, and on the promise of free goodies. However, after an initial sampling, these premium products started costing money; in some cases, a lot of money on a regular basis. One of the issues of the early premium text message services was that it was difficult to unsubscribe from the service, and another issue was that it was not clear how much the service would cost and when customers would start to be charged for receiving the product. We’ve news today that, following an investigation that started in 2012 by the Canadian Competition Bureau, Telus customers are set to receive a total of $7.34 million back a rebates. The Competition Bureau has also stated that Telus are required to donate $250,000 for research into consumer issues. The investigation followed the Canadian carriers allowing third parties to charge customers for premium services, which included trivia questions and ringtones, which customers had not agreed to buy. For Telus customers entitled to the rebate, they will receive this automatically and for former customers, they will be notified by Telus and will have 120 days to make a claim.
Although Telus have stopped the practice with third parties, the Competition Bureau has asked the carrier to set up a consumer awareness programme designed to teach customers in avoiding excess and unwanted wireless charges. Telus’ mandatory $250,000 donation to research will be invested into consumer education into how carriers can use personal information and data collected from customers, and how best to make the collection of this information transparent to customers. Matthew Boswell, the Senior Deputy Commissioner of Competition, said this on the issue: “Consumers expect and deserve truth in advertising. Allowing a third party to take advantage of consumers through misleading advertising is a violation of the Competition Act. We are pleased that Telus has taken steps to prevent this from happening again, as we continue our work to ensure that consumers benefit from accurate information in the digital economy.”
The 2012 investigation was into Rogers, Bell, Telus and the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, or CWTA. Rogers reached a similar agreement with the Competition Bureau earlier in the year and agreed to repay $5.42 million in rebates, whereas both Bell and the CWTA are still under investigation.