Innovation Minister orders CRTC with new directive to promote competition

Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Minister Navdeep Bains’ proposed policy directive, which directs the CRTC to make decisions that will foster affordability for consumers, has been signed off by the Governor General.

The order is binding and will begin the day in which it comes into force “and applies in respect of matters pending before the Commission on that day,” according to the Privy Council document obtained by MobileSyrup dated to June 16th.

“The order comes into force on the day on which it is registered,” it says.

According to the document, the order is titled “Order Issuing a Direction to the CRTC on Implementing the Canadian Telecommunications Policy Objectives to Promote Competition, Affordability, Consumer Interests and Innovation.”

Bains was not readily available to comment as he is travelling abroad.

Based on the document, the new order will ask that the Commission “consider how its decisions can promote competition, affordability, consumer interests and innovation,” particularly with respect to all forms of competition and investment.

Decisions should foster affordability and lower prices, “particularly when telecommunications service providers exercise market power,” the document states.

The Commission should make sure that there are affordable high-quality telecom services, including in rural areas, and that decisions should “enhance and protect the rights of consumers.”

The document also notes that the Commission should “reduce barriers to entry into the market and to competition for telecommunications service providers that are new, regional or smaller than the incumbent national service provider.”

Any decision by the CRTC should “enable innovation in the telecommunications services, including new technologies and differentiated service offerings.”

The document also states that “the Commission, in its decisions, should demonstrate its compliance with this Order and should specify how those decisions can, as applicable, promote competition, affordability, consumer interests and innovation.”

The proposed directive was introduced in February, a week after the CRTC released its report on unsavoury and misleading telecom sales practices. In the report, the Commission said, “it is apparent that misleading or aggressive retail sales practices are present in the telecommunications service provider market in Canada.”

This is also the second time that the federal government has issued a directive to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in 13 years. Then-Conservative Member of Parliament and Industry Minister Maxime Bernier enforced the first directive.

At the time, Bains said to MobileSyrup that the proposed directive “complements [Bernier’s] in many ways, and where there is a conflict this will overtake that. Particularly our focus is on affordability and affordable services and providing more competition.”

Shortly after the proposed directive was announced, the CRTC launched its review of the state of the wireless industry to determine whether or not there are enough affordable choices in the industry. The hearing for the review will commence in January 2020.