Canadian TV providers accused of giving cheap bundles cold shoulder

Tue Mar 1, 2016 12:51pm EST
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By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO, March 1 (Reuters) - Consumer advocates accused Canadian telecom and cable companies of failing to adequately promote the launch on Tuesday of cheaper basic packages of television channels under sweeping new rules imposed by the country's broadcast regulator.

Rogers Communications Inc and BCE Inc's Bell, two of Canada's biggest distributors, listed the C$25 ($18.57) basic service on their websites by the March 1 deadline, but placed the "skinny" packages and smaller groups of add-on channels below more expensive and expansive offerings.

A Rogers comparison page showed the basic bundle was costlier than more comprehensive options once C$58 for "something for everyone" was added. Bell's Starter pack does not qualify for rental fee waivers and bundle discounts.

"The big telecom companies are trying to strangle the C$25 package at birth," said Josh Tabish, campaigns director at consumer advocacy group OpenMedia.

University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist noted the Rogers package includes major U.S. networks, while Bell's does not.

Bell's basic offering "is not designed for anyone to buy," he said.

CBC News reported last week that both companies planned to downplay the cheaper products, citing an internal Bell document and interviews with unnamed employees.

Bell declined to comment on the anonymous claims but said its packages and marketing comply with the rules adopted by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in March 2015.   Continued...