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You can help write rules for TV providers: Roseman

On April 3, Rogers removed the Independent Film Channel (IFC) from its VIP and Digital Plus cable TV packages. Customers had to pay an extra $ 2.79 a month to keep receiving it.

The sudden loss of channel 84 ignited many complaints. People said they weren’t notified and asked if it was fair to take away a popular channel without lowering the monthly price.

“IFC was one of the reasons why I took the VIP bundle in the first place,” said Star reader Ted Tuszynski. “I have a two-year contract because I was looking for cost certainty in my cable bills over a set period of time. Rogers expects us to honour our contracts, but doesn’t seem to honour its contracts.”

The Crime + Investigation channel (formerly called Mystery) replaced IFC, which was on a one-year free preview, said Asif, a Rogers discussion forum moderator.

“Messages informing customers of the change were placed on invoices in February and March of 2104. A reminder was recently sent in the same manner on March of 2015. If you did not receive notification, we apologize for any inconvenience caused.”

Why was the channel taken away? Asif replied: “We sometimes review and make changes to what we offer in order to give customers the best entertainment experience.”

This is a non-answer, one customer said. Did Rogers survey its customers first? Another said, “IFC had genuinely good movies and you move it away from our VIP package to ‘improve’ our viewing experience?”

I don’t blame people for griping when a TV channel they loved is snatched away. Rogers isn’t the only offender. Bell does it too.

Now you can do more than complain. You can tell the CRTC, Canada’s broadcast regulator, how to write the rules in the customer’s favour.

On March 26, the CRTC released a draft code of conduct for television service providers, asking for public input. Now it has opened an online discussion forum until May 25.

TV providers must give you at least 45 days’ notice when making changes to the price of individual channels or packages of channels, according to the new code (part IX). They must also explain clearly your options should you no longer wish to subscribe to the changed service.

Here’s what the CRTC wants to know: Is 45 days the right length of time? How far in advance should you be told about changes to channels, packages and equipment prices?

The new code also talks about how long you have to wait for a service call to your home to install TV equipment or make repairs (part XI).

What is an acceptable timeframe for TV providers to respond to a service problem? Is it 48 hours? Is it 72 hours?

Should there be a limit – say four hours – on when a service call begins? Suppose your TV provider promises to come in the morning, but keeps you waiting until 3 p.m., after you booked off only a half day of work?

What do you really get when you sign up for a special offer or promotion? The CRTC wants TV providers to ensure that all offers are explained clearly and explain when they start and end, what is the price after a time-limited discount ends and what are your obligations if you accept an offer. Is there anything else you need to know?

The TV code of conduct will be mandatory, as is the wireless code adopted in December 2013. Almost 2,000 people posted comments in the previous online consultations, leading to the CRTC’s decision to restrict wireless contracts to two years (from a previous three years).

“It’s not that difficult to write something, even just one sentence,” says CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais. “Just use ordinary language. Tell us what you think. I’ve found there’s a lot of wisdom in the crowd.”

Don’t wait. Join the discussion online, follow it on Twitter (@CRTCeng #Talktv) or like the CRTC’s Facebook page.

This is your chance to tilt the TV rules in your favour.

Free seminar: My financial basics workshop will be held Tuesday, May 19, at Ryerson University’s Chang School, 5.30 to 9.30 p.m., at 297 Victoria St., Toronto, if you want to brush up your money management skills.

Highlights of the draft code for TV service providers:

Ellen Roseman writes about personal finance and consumer issues. You can reach her at eroseman@thestar.ca or www.ellenroseman.com


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