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CRTC pitches new rules to resolve customer complaints with cable firms

03/26/2015 11:46 EDT | Updated 05/26/2015 05:59 EDT
Canada's broadcast regulator unveiled a draft of a code of conduct for television service providers Thursday, one pitched as a better way for consumers to resolve disputes they have with those companies.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission says the new rules it's proposing will require cable and satellite companies to provide easy to understand agreements to customers and notify them of changes to their services. The code would also clarify the terms surrounding the addition or cancellation of channels, early cancellation fees and installation appointments, among other things.

The proposed rules can be found here. The regulator had previously announced a ban on the practice of requiring 30-days' notice to cancel cable service, but Thursday's rules expand on that, by adding new requirements and making it easier to switch companies and know what you're signing up for.

The code comes about as a result of the regulator's "Let's Talk TV" hearings, in which hundreds of companies and citizens gave the CRTC suggestions on how regulations covering the way Canadians consume television should be changed.

Among the proposed changes would be a better dispute resolution process, which would force cable providers to do a better and quicker job of dealing with customer complaints about things like complex contracts and hidden fees

The code proposes to ensure that Canadians receive easy to understand agreements and are notified of changes to their services. It also proposes to clarify terms surrounding the addition or cancellation of channels, early cancellation fees and installation appointments.

"Many Canadians said that cable and satellite companies do not always provide enough information about their packaging and pricing," the regulator said in a statement Thursday. "Canadians also said that, in their view, the companies sometimes provide misleading or inaccurate information, as well as poor or inconsistent customer service. The CRTC's code reflects what it heard from Canadians."

The code of conduct outlined on Thursday is only a draft, and the regulator invites public comments and suggestions for improvements before it becomes final in two months' time. 

The CRTC asks anyone with suggestions to:

- Fill out the online form.

- Write a letter to the secretary general at CRTC, Ottawa, Ont., K1A 0N2.

- Send a fax to 819-994-0218.

The rules also include new provisions specifically aimed at Canadians with disabilities, for whom things like closed captioning and other technologies are necessary.

"Canadians with disabilities will have access to more content that has been adapted to their needs and which will provide them with a seamless viewing experience," the regulator said. "The CRTC expects that when television programs with closed captioning are made available online and on mobile devices, the closed captioning will be included."

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