Discounts at What Cost? Communication Services and Promotional Pricing: A Closer Look


Anaïs Beaulieu-Laporte


Union des consommateurs




Canadian consumers are paying an increasingly large percentage of their income in fees to communication services. Unfortunately, the fees paid by consumers do not always reflect the fees consumers agreed to upon signing their contracts. Some communication services engage in deceptive practices that hinder a consumer’s ability to learn accurate information about the services they are purchasing. In this study, Union des consommateurs first explored the experiences of Canadian consumers by reviewing complaints obtained from various consumer agencies. Next, Union des consommateurs examined the regulatory framework governing the disclosure of information in the communications service industry. Finally, they evaluated the clarity, exhaustiveness, and accuracy of online offers from service providers.
According to the findings of this study, communications service providers regularly use price or discount disclosure methods that contain subtle nuances that consumers may not grasp. When searching for information online it was discovered that important facts were scattered across multiple tabs, or hidden at the bottom of the page, thus limiting the consumer’s ability to obtain the true prices needed to make informed purchasing decisions. While at first glance the current legal framework appeared to be quite robust, there is a great deal of uncertainty about how this framework should be applied. To ameliorate this situation, Union des consommateurs has identified a couple recommendations. Firstly, government should penalize industries who fail to disclose accurate pricing information by improving the clarity of existing regulations. The lack of standardization in the current legal framework could be corrected by providing authorities with interpretation guidelines that provide clarity on key issues, such as what constitutes non-misleading information or adequate disclosure. It is also recommended that communication service providers always ensure that they are providing customers with accurate information on the prices they offer.

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OCA Funded Research
This research received funding support through the Office of Consumer Affairs' Contributions Program.

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Union des consommateurs
7000 Parc Ave, Suite 201
Montreal, QC  H3N 1X1
(514) 521-6820
(514) 521-0736

Source: Consumer Policy Research Database

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