Canada: Misuse of Information and \"Win-Back\" Behaviour

In 2002, the Independent Members of the Canadian Association of Internet Providers (IMCAIP) brought a series of complaints against Bell Canada. The complaints related to the Bell Canada’s wholesaling of high-speed DSL internet services through its affiliate, Bell Nexxia.1

Among other things, IMCAIP alleged that there were many instances of inappropriate disclosure of confidential ISP customer information by Bell Nexxia to Bell Canada’s retail operations or technical staff. IMCAIP claimed that this information was used to either promote Bell Canada’s retail DSL internet services or win back customers attempting to switch to other retail DSL internet providers. IMCAIP asked the Commission to:

  • Direct Bell Canada and/or Bell Nexxia to establish procedures for the confidential treatment of all information provided to them by ISPs, and
  • Establish a set of “win-back” rules for the DSL internet services market.

The Commission already had rules and procedures in place to prevent Bell Nexxia from disclosing confidential customer information to Bell Canada. The Commission found no breach of these rules, and so concluded that additional procedures were not needed at that time.

However, the Commission recognized that Bell Canada’s position as both a dominant supplier of telecommunications facilities and services required by independent ISPs and a competitor of these ISPs created the potential for abuse of confidential information. In particular, where DSL customers switched from Bell Canada to other ISPs, the potential existed for Bell Canada to use confidential information to target those customers in order to win them back. The Commission considered the potential for such abuses sufficient to warrant the introduction of “win-back” rules.

Accordingly the Commission directed Bell Canada not to:

  • Directly market to customers who, through a competing ISP, have given notice of their intention to cancel Bell Canada's DSL internet service in order to receive service from an ISP that uses Bell Canada's (or an affiliate's) wholesale DSL internet service, or
  • Offer discounts or other inducements not generally offered to the public, to customers who personally contact Bell Canada to give notice of their intention to cancel Bell Canada's DSL internet service, in order to receive service from an ISP that uses Bell Canada's (or an affiliate's) wholesale DSL internet service.

Both of these restrictions are effective from the date on which Bell Canada receives notice of a customer’s wish to cancel its DSL internet service, to 90 days after the date of disconnection.

In January 2003 the CRTC extended the “win back” constraints to Aliant Telecom, MTS, TCI and SaskTel to prevent antic-competitive behaviour even though none had been found (nor for Bell Canada).2

Endnotes:

1 This note is based on CRTC Decision 2002-37, 27 June 2002, available on the World Wide Web at http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2002/dt2002-37.htm.

2 http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2003/dt2003-1.htm

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