#ThingsBigTelecomSays: Video From OpenMedia Highlights Gap Between Consumers, Telcos

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Rick Mercer took to the airwaves last week to declare a Telus executive’s assertion that consumers don’t want a cap on their monthly cellphone bill “the stupidest thing ever said.”

Now consumer advocacy group OpenMedia wants the public to know that that wasn’t the only “stupid” thing recently said by telecom execs on the issue of Canada’s arguably high wireless costs.

The group has compiled a video called “Things Big Telecom Says,” featuring execs testifying at the CRTC hearings last month into the creation of a wireless code of conduct.

As part of its draft code of conduct, the CRTC has proposed setting a $50 overage cap on wireless bills, meaning a wireless customer could not be charged more than $50 above the expected cost of their monthly bill.

A monthly cap “creates so many technical and practical problems that it is, with respect, impossible,” said Raj Doshi, head of products for Rogers, in one of the clips featured in the OpenMedia video.

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Also featured is Wade Oosterman, the chief brand officer at Telus, who surprised more than a few observers when he declared, “Consumers have voted with their wallets. They want three-year contracts.”

(The elimination of three-year wireless contracts was the number-one desire of HuffPost readers when we surveyed them informally on wireless billing last fall.)

The CRTC announced last fall it wants to develop a code of conduct for wireless companies, after years of complaints by consumers about price gouging, unpredictable billing and a lack of competition in the market.

OpenMedia’s Lindsey Pinto wrote that the telecom regulator’s new push for consumer-oriented policies “left industry lobbyists a little perplexed. They're used to getting what they want when they want it, with little push-back. They had grown accustomed to telling policymakers that Canadians are unqualified to participate--that we're not stakeholders in our own digital future--and getting away with it.”

She continued: “Listening to them at the hearing this week made one thing clear: they still don't know how to speak to the public interest, and they resent it.”

But the telecom industry says creating a $50 cap on wireless bills would be unpopular because wireless providers would have to cut off whatever part of a customer’s service is causing the overage, such as texting or roaming. Some execs suggested a $150 or $200 cap would be more reasonable.

A story reported Monday by CBC illustrates the potential problems with the current unlimited billing system. A British Columbia dad reportedly suffered “shock” when he discovered his son had run up a $22,000 cellphone bill by streaming several hours of video while on vacation in Mexico.

“When I heard $22,000 and my son happened to hear $22,000, he went into a fetal position and was crying. It was just mind boggling for him,” Matt Buie, the father, told CBC.

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