Competition Bureau sues Canada’s 3 wireless giants over texting advertising

The Competition Bureau is suing Canada’s three biggest wireless carriers and an industry association for allegedly misleading consumers about the cost of premium texting services. The watchdog accuses Bell, Rogers and Telus, along with the industry group that represents them, of enabling third parties to sell trivia questions, ringtones and other services without adequately disclosing […]

The Competition Bureau is suing Canada’s three biggest wireless carriers and an industry association for allegedly misleading consumers about the cost of premium texting services.

The watchdog accuses Bell, Rogers and Telus, along with the industry group that represents them, of enabling third parties to sell trivia questions, ringtones and other services without adequately disclosing the cost.

Those can cost up to $10 per transaction and up to $40 for a monthly subscription over and above standard texting plans, the bureau said in a release Friday.

“Our investigation revealed that consumers were under the false impression that certain texts and apps were free,” said bureau commissioner Melanie Aitken.

“Unfortunately, in far too many cases, consumers only became aware of unexpected and unauthorized charges on their mobile phone bills.”

The bureau is seeking $10 million in penalties from each of the companies, and $1 million from the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.

It also wants full refunds for customers, a stop to advertisements that don’t clearly disclose the price of the premium-rate digital content and a “corrective notice” informing the public about any order issued against them.

The suit, which follows a investigation, is before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. The allegations have yet to be tested by a court or tribunal.

The wireless carriers don’t make or control the text messaging services in question, but manage the billing on behalf of third-party creators and operators, the CWTA said in a release.

The group said it had approached the Competition Bureau a year ago to seek guidance on how to make sure third-party advertisers are being honest with consumers.

“We were therefore extremely disappointed to receive an ultimatum to either enter into a specific settlement agreement or face immediate litigation,” the release said.

“The Competition Bureau is choosing to pursue a costly adversarial path that will ultimately yield no net benefit to consumers, while at the same time is refusing to pursue those advertisers who make the statements at issue and who are legally responsible for them.”

The CWTA says some of the premium text services that are valuable to consumers, such as weather alerts and sports scores, and charitable donations are at risk of being disrupted.

Brands Articles

Your Marketing newsletters are changing

The Marketing Morning Filter is ending, but other newsletters are set to return

The List: North Strategic’s very big year

Prior to being picked up by MSLGroup, the PR shop brought in 15 new client wins

The biggest stories in Canadian marketing: 2016

A look back at the most read and shared news items from MarketingMag.ca

Media Profile teams with global PR group

PRGN welcomes Toronto agency as first Canadian partner

Stereo+ unveils brand overhaul from Lg2boutique

How to to introduce a 35-year-old chain to younger shoppers

The List: Wattpad’s evolving influence

The first of our selections for the biggest newsmakers of 2016

Sears Canada takes a gamble on groceries

Losses more than double in Q3 report, but food markets set to arrive

Big opportunities await in the new age of CSR (column)

Overwhelmed consumers want to outsource their consciences, but it requires deep trust

Mintel predicts packaging trends for 2017

Research firm says intelligent, experiential packaging will lead consumer experiences