On June 28, 2011, Bell Canada entered into a Consent Agreement with
the Commissioner of Competition that will require Bell to pay a
$10-million administrative monetary penalty for making false or
misleading representations in its advertising regarding the prices
consumers are required to pay for its Home Phone, Internet,
Television, and Wireless services.
Upon completion of its investigation, the Competition Bureau
concluded that Bell has, since December 2007, advertised monthly
prices which were lower than the actual price it charges consumers
for its services. Section 74.01 of the Competition
Act prohibits any representation to the
public, for the purposes of promoting a product, that is false or
misleading in a material respect, and takes into account both the
general impression conveyed by a representation as well as its
The Competition Bureau argued that, in order to identify any
additional fees (e.g., TouchTone, modem rental and digital
television services) applicable to an advertised price, consumers
were redirected to other sources, including disclaimers on
Bell's website. The Commissioner found that the representations
in Bell's fine-print disclaimers included additional mandatory
fees that were omitted from the advertised prices, and, as such,
created a false general impression to consumers regarding the price
at which they were able to purchase services.
In the Consent Agreement, Bell Canada has agreed to:
Pay a $10-million administrative monetary penalty, as well as
cost and disbursements to the Competition Bureau related to their
Take immediate steps to cease any false or misleading
representations regarding its services which are currently being
published, disseminated or communicated to the public;
Not make false or misleading representations in the future in
respect of the prices of its services;
Not make any new representations that convey a general
impression which is contradicted by an accompanying
"Bell has agreed to resolve the issue with a consent
agreement and move forward rather than going through a lengthy and
costly legal challenge," said Bell spokesperson Jacqueline
Michelis, as quoted in the June 30, 2011 issue of the The Wire
Report. As Bell agreed to a Consent Agreement, limited information
will be made publicly available regarding the Bureau's
investigation. However, the fact that the Bureau sought the maximum
AMP under the civil reviewable matter provisions for misleading
advertising, $10 million for a company's first offence, is a
clear indication that the Bureau wants to send a message to
advertisers at large. Going forward, to avoid running into similar
problems with the Bureau, companies may wish to consider moving to
"all-in" pricing in their advertisements that include all
applicable fees and charges in the advertised price, and should
also be cautious in relying on fine-print disclaimers to clarify
material limitations in the offers they make to consumers.
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