Bell Canada pays $10M over misleading ads

Bell Canada has agreed to pay a penalty of $10 million for making misleading advertising claims, the federal Competition Bureau has announced.

Bell Canada has agreed to pay a penalty of $10 million for making misleading advertising claims, the federal Competition Bureau announced Tuesday.

Bell has also agreed to stop making the claims.

The penalty is the maximum amount allowed under the Competition Act.

The Bureau found that Bell had, since December 2007, charged more than advertised for many of its services, including home phone, internet, satellite TV and wireless.

Additional fees, such as those related to TouchTone, modem rental and digital television services, were hidden from consumers in fine-print disclaimers and were mandatory, on top of the advertised prices.

"I am pleased that Bell co-operated with the Bureau's investigation and is taking steps to correct the misleading advertisements," Melanie Aitken, Commissioner of Competition, said in a statement.

Bell 'disagrees' with findings

"When a price is offered to consumers, it must be accurate. Including a fine-print disclaimer is no licence to advertise prices that are not available."

In a release, Bell said it "fundamentally disagrees" with the Bureau's findings.

"Bell's advertising has always complied with all applicable laws and been comparable with common advertising practice past and present in the communications marketplace and other industries in Canada," it said.

"However, Bell has decided to immediately resolve the issue and move forward by paying an administrative amount of $10 million."

In one example provided by the Bureau, Bell's website advertised a bundle for home phone, internet and TV services starting as low as $69.90 per month. The lowest possible price, after the mandatory fees, was $80.27, or 15 per cent higher.

Customers purchasing any of the services individually were also faced with the same misleading information, as additional fees were excluded from those advertised prices as well, the bureau said.