Monthly Archives April 2018

Toronto man wins important court case against Bell Canada

Canadians are growing increasingly unhappy with the way their telecoms provide service. Sometimes we feel powerless to do anything about it, but recently, a Toronto man proved that we can. According to CBC, “in a judgment issued last month in a Toronto small claims court, Deputy Judge William C. De Lucia said that Bell’s attempt to impose new terms after a verbal contract guaranteeing a monthly price for 24 months had been struck was “‘high-handed, arbitrary and unacceptable.’”

The plaintiff, David Ramsay, began his journey of discontent with Bell in November of 2016, when he called the company to sign up for TV and internet services. He ended up subscribing to Bell’s Fibe TV and internet services for $112.90 a month for 24 months. However, when he received an email confirmation of his contract, it said the prices were “subject to change” and “Bell was planning to increase its price for internet service by $5 two months later.”

Ramsay was understandably unhappy. “”I was stunned and appalled to find these buried terms in an email,” he told CBC. “I had a contract, and this ain’t that contract.”

Ramsay called Bell Canada to complain that the emailed contract was different from the verbal contract. On this call, he made an important request; a transcript of the original call where the service rep promised him a fixed price for two years. Bell was unrelenting, so Ramsay filed a complaint with the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services (the CCTS), which insisted that Bell “had the right to increase prices and since the telecom had notified Ramsay of this fact — as well as an upcoming price increase —  it ruled that the telecom provider met its obligations and no further investigation was warranted.”

Left behind by the federal agency meant to help him, Ramsay consulted lawyers who agreed that a verbal agreement should be considered a binding contract. So Ramsay decided to take the matter to small claims court.

Several times, Bell offered to settle with Ramsay in return for a confidentiality agreement, but Ramsay declined. He told CBC, “I wanted a judge to rule on the merits of this case. And if I happened to win, I thought it’d be a useful case for others to know about.”

Ramsay’s biggest weapon in court was that sales transcript, where the sales rep states “Your total cost for the 24 months will be $112.90 per month” and “You’re going to get an email confirmation of everything that was just discussed.”

Deputy Judge De Lucia sided with Ramsay, and in his reasons for judgement, said “I find that Bell cannot unilaterally insert or impose new terms. Any imposition of new terms … is unenforceable.”

De Lucia ordered Bell to pay Ramsay $1,110 in damages for his time, inconveniences, and miscellaneous costs.

This case is important to Canadians for many reasons. Firstly, it could act as the trial case for a larger class action suit against telecoms who continue to use these unsavory sales tactics. It is also an example of telecoms being held accountable for their actions, and a rare case of the consumer coming out on top.

Source: CBC.ca – Customer takes Bell to court and wins, as judge agrees telecom giant can’t promise a price, then change it
Published: April 29, 2018

Developments in T-Mobile and Sprint’s Will They-Won’t-They Merger

Like the Ross and Rachel of the telecom world – there has been talk for months about a potential merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, but it always seems to flounder just as the two companies are getting somewhere. Issues between them include, according to Reuters, egos clashing and “voting rights and control of the board room.” According to Telecoms.Com, people are claiming the deal could move through in the coming days.

Telecoms.com explained that “The latest attempt to merge stalled in November, with neither party being able to agree who would have the dominant position in the board room of the combined entity. While T-Mobile has a larger market share as it stands, and all the momentum, Masayoshi Son, CEO of Softbank which owns 84.7% of Sprint, is certainly not a man used to taking the backseat.”

Together, T-Mobile and Sprint would have about 120 million subscriptions. That is compared to 144 million AT&T subscriptions, and 160 million Verizon subscriptions. In other words, the potential merger would give AT&T and Verizon a significant competitor – and likely a headache.

Source: telecoms.com – T-Mobile and Sprint fling starts to get serious again
Published: April 27, 2018

What exactly do advertisers know about you? Facebook reveals the truth.

Ever since the Cambridge Analytica story broke, the world has been frenzied over a fact that we already knew before this scandal arose: Facebook makes money from advertisers, and part of that is selling our data so that they can target ads directly to us.

As TechSpot explains, “In the early days of the Internet, advertisers were essentially fishing with a blindfold on – they’d cast a wide net in the form of a static banner ad and hope the product or service they were pitching would be of interest to a site’s visitors. These days… advertisers utilize all sorts of metrics to hone in on a very specific demographic … This targeted advertising is – at least, in theory – beneficial to both advertisers and consumers.”

Of course, the fear has become that advertisers will know too much about us, and that we have a right to privacy which is perhaps being violated. To help ease our minds, and its own problems, Facebook has shared with us just what advertisers actually know.

In a piece for Facebook’s Hard Questions series, VP of Ads, Rob Goldman outlined how advertisers use Facebook to reach consumers. The piece discusses three main ways your data is used.

TechSpot explains that the first way “involves information you choose to share about yourself when using the social network such as your age, gender or hometown. Other data such as posts you like or articles you read can also be used to build a profile about you. For example, if a bike shop aims to target female cyclists in Houston, Facebook can show the company’s ad to women in the Houston area that visited or liked a page about bicycles. In this instance, Facebook provides the advertiser with reports about the types of people seeing their ad and how the ad is performing but not personally identifiable information about you.”

The second method works by “the advertiser bringing information about a customer to them.” The example TechSpot gives is if you made a purchase somewhere online, thus giving an advertiser your email address in the process. “Facebook can find accounts that match that data although it says it doesn’t tell the advertiser who matched,” TechSpot explains.

The third method involves using Facebook tools to reach out to users. TechSpot says “if a retailer uses Facebook Pixel, they can have the social network show ads to people that looked at a certain style of shoe or those that may have placed a pair of shoes in their shopping cart.”

And what if you don’t want to be the recipient of this kind of attention? Goldman reminds users that they can visit the ‘ad preferences’ section of their Facebook settings. Here, “you’ll be able to see the “interests” assigned to your account and remove them if you choose, view which advertisers have your contact information and are currently running campaigns, hide ads from certain businesses and even disable some shared data used in targeted ads.”

Source: techspot.com – Facebook shares what advertisers know about you
Published: April 23, 2018

U.S Department of Justice investigating Verizon and AT&T

It was announced this week that the U.S Justice Department is investigating carriers Verizon and AT&T, as well as “mobile industry standards-setting group” GSMA for allegations that they colluded to create eSIM standards that would make it harder for customers to switch their wireless carriers. These investigations have reportedly been happening for five months, after Apple, among other companies, filed complaints with the DoJ.

According to Android Authority, “eSIM stands for Embedded SIM and it replaces the need for physical SIM cards. The technology is especially important in wearables and smaller devices where space is at a premium.”

One of the cool things about eSIM tech is that it allows users to switch wireless networks without having to get a new SIM card, and instead the process is done using an app. The possibilities of widespread acceptance of this tech include ease in using wireless services abroad, and taking advantages of deals from different domestic carriers unencumbered.

You can see why this would worry carriers, who have tried and been prevented for years from making it very difficult for a consumer to switch networks with ease. This technology takes a lot of power out of the hands of the providers and gives it to the consumers.

GSMA has confirmed that it “developed an eSIM standard that would allow carriers to lock devices to its network.” Thus destroying the potential benefits to the consumer. This technology is suspended pending investigation.

Source: AT&T, Verizon under investigation over alleged anti-consumer eSIM plans
Published: April 23, 2018

Major tech companies sign Cybersecurity Tech Accord

On April 17th, 34 of the world’s biggest names in tech, including Microsoft, Oracle, and Facebook, signed the ‘Cybersecurity Tech Accord,’ which TechNewsWorld describes as “an agreement aimed at defending against cyberattacks, whether coming from rogue hackers or nation-states.”

Part of the promise that these companies made when signing the Accord was committing themselves to “stronger defenses, no offensive attacks, capacity building, and collective action.” The Accord aims to protect the trillion connected devices that are anticipated to impact the globe for the next 20 years.

These 34 companies will be holding a first round of meetings in San Francisco, focusing on capacity building and collective action.

Perhaps one of the most important pledges to come out of this accord, was the promise not to help governments launch cyberattacks against “innocent citizens or enterprises.” Part of that pledge was to protect their products and services from “any tampering or exploitation that could enable their use in such attacks.”

Other promises include doing “more to empower developers, as well as the people who use technology products, to improve their capacity to defend against attacks,” and taking “collective action to establish formal and informal partnerships with industry, civil society and security researchers, to improve collaboration that will ensure the disclosure of vulnerabilities and other threats.”

This Accord is not a legally binding agreement enforced by any jurisdiction. As TechNewsWorld describes, the companies “have the option to adhere to some or all of the principles” and “still could do what is in their best interests.”

Jim Purtilo, associate professor of computer science at the University of Maryland, told the publication that “It will be very interesting to see how this plays out, since many devils lurk in the details. Some companies signing this accord actively collaborate with governments in development or manipulation of technologies that are commonly part of cyberattacks.”

Some view this timely Accord as a public relations move, in the light of many tech companies falling under scrutiny during the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Source: technewsworld.com – Microsoft, Facebook, Oracle Among 34 Firms to Join Cybersecurity Tech Accord
Published: April 18, 2018

Apple might be releasing a news subscription service

Last month, Apple acquired Texture, a magazine subscription service comparable to a Netflix payment model. Now, according to The Verge, Apple might be working on its own “premium news service.”

The Verge says that “a new Apple News app will reportedly launch within the next year, and offer a subscription with a percentage of revenue shared to publishers.”

Apple’s previous attempts at breaking into the news market have not been successful. For example, it created The Daily, an iPad exclusive publication that was shut down after only two years due to lack of an audience. But perhaps creating something more tailored that allows users to choose material of interest to them will prove a better business model; especially when considering the success of Apple Music.

As of publication, Apple has not disclosed how much publishers are set to receive from Apple News’ potential revenue.

Source: theverge.com – Apple reportedly launching subscription news service
Published: April 17, 2018

More staff needed to handle Canadian telecom complaints

A few days ago, we posted about the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-Television Services being hit with an increase of complaints about consumer’s telecom services – mainly their wireless contracts. As it turns out, the CCTS is hiring more staff to handle this growing volume of dissatisfaction.

CCTS commissioner Howard Maker spoke of the 73 percent increase with the CBC, saying, “It’s disappointing. Obviously there are challenges – miscommunication, misunderstandings, poorly written documents. It’s a bit frustrating.”

Maker thinks that part of the reason for the complaint surplus is heavier telecom coverage in the media, which has directed Canadians towards the CCTS. CBC interviewed Toronto resident James Hong, who said he would have liked to file a complaint in 2017, but he did not know that the CCTS existed until he read a CBC Go Public story that mentioned it. Hong is a Bell Canada customer. In March of 2018, Hong was able to file a complaint with the CCTS about Bell’s door-to-door sales tactics.

Source: cbc.ca – Telecom mediator adds staff to deal with soaring complaints about Bell, Rogers, Telus and others
Published: April 10, 2018

Firefox blocks website tracking for Apple users

firefox for iosAs of April 13th, Firefox users on iOS can update their app to a version that includes tracking protection by default. This will prevent websites from tracking user data while on their iPhone, iPad, or other iOS device.

The option to block tracking has been around for a while, but it’s activated through settings – meaning those not so tech savvy might have trouble using it. This is the first time that the feature will be available by default, protecting every user as soon as the app is updated. If you don’t use iOS, the block user tracking feature is also available for Android users, just not on by default.

Apart from user privacy, Firefox might have a competitive advantage, says Mobile Syrup. “By blocking user tracking, there’s a chance that websites will be able to load a bit faster which could give Firefox another leg up over other browsers.”

The update released April 13th also includes new iPad features such as drag and drop links, reordering tabs, and new keyboard shortcuts.

Source: mobilesyrup.com – Firefox blocks website tracking by default in latest iOS update
Published: April 13, 2018

Was your Facebook data accessed by Cambridge Analytica?

If you’re one of the 87 million Facebook users who might have been involved in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, you’ll soon find out. Facebook will be sending all the implicated users – including 622,161 Canadians – a detailed message in their newsfeed. Over 70 million of these individuals are based in the United States.

If you don’t receive a specific message saying your data was accessed by Cambridge Analytica, Facebook still will be reaching out. According to CBC, “all 2.2 billion Facebook users will receive a notice titled ‘Protecting Your Information’ with a link to see what apps they use and what information they have shared with those apps. If they want, they can shut off apps individually or turn off third-party access to their apps completely.”

This week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has testified before US Congress, answering some ever-present questions about what is considered to be the “worst privacy crisis in history.” Although the number currently stands at 87 million people implicated, whistleblower Christopher Wylie told NBC’s Meet the Press that the number could be even larger.

Source: cbc.ca – Facebook users can find out if they were part of privacy scandal
Published: April 9, 2018

Canadians are fed up with wireless contracts

Canada’s Commission for Complaints for Telecom-Television Services says wireless service contracts are one of the biggest irritations for consumers today, who complain that the wording of these agreements are “misleading or lacking critical information about the terms.”

The agency says it received 1,023 complaints about these contracts from August 2017 to January 2018. The next largest irritant was unacceptable land-line internet service, with 602 complaints over the same time period. Over those six months, the agency received a total of 6,849 complaints against 139 service providers. This suggests that many Canadians are unhappy with their telecom services.

The CCTS revealed that the leading recipient for these complains was Bell Canada, with 2,275 complaints filed against it during those six months. Rogers Communications received 707 and Telus Corp. received 511.

Source: news1130.com – Telecom complaints commission says wireless contracts are the biggest irritation
Published: April 10, 2018