Plan for cable, satellite TV ombudsman praised by Manitoba customer

A plan for a national ombudsman to help resolve complaints with satellite and cable TV companies is drawing praise from a Manitoban who recently went public about his Bell satellite bill.

Jeremy Bender spoke out about his difficulty with Bell Canada over monthly TV bill

Jeremy Bender of Birds Hill, Man., said Bell Canada told him it was his fault he didn't notice he was overcharged and initially refused to refund him $350. After the CBC News I-Team looked into his case, the company agreed to pay him back. (CBC)

A plan for a national ombudsman to help resolve complaints with satellite and cable TV companies is drawing praise from a Manitoban who recently went public about his Bell satellite bill.

"I think this is great," said Jeremy Bender, who recently told the CBC News I-Team about his difficulty with Bell Canada over his monthly television bill.

The broadcast regulator, CRTC, is proposing the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) be given a mandate to help consumers who have problems with television service providers.

When Bender first raised his billing complaint, he learned the CCTS dealt with phone, wireless, and internet billing issues but not those for television service.

Bender discovered Bell had been billing him $15 a month for a personal video recorder (PVR) that he was told was included free of charge when he signed up for Bell TV service in 2013.

By the time Bender discovered the billing error nearly two years later, Bell told him it wouldn't refund the full amount, which Bender calculated to be about $350.

After CBC News investigated the case, Bell said it would refund Bender's money but noted it was up to him to catch the error within the first three months it happened.

Bender acknowledged he should have caught Bell's error sooner but said the bill didn't make it obvious he was paying for a PVR rental.

"I'm glad the CCTS is going forward with this and there's going to be regulation on that because. they're going to start tightening down on these big companies," he said.

The CRTC proposal also calls for a code of conduct for satellite and cable companies aimed at improving customer service and handling of complaints.

The plan is open to comment from the public and industry until May 25.

Bell spokesperson Marie-Eve Francoeur said, "We're studying today CRTC's decision and look forward to being part of the process as it develops."

Commissioner welcomes plan

CCTS Commissioner and CEO Howard Maker welcomed the plan.

"The CRTC's proposal that we apply our expertise to this new role is an expression of its continued confidence in our organization," Maker said in a release.

Last year, Canadians like Bender raised nearly 3,500 issues related to television service with CCTS that the agency could not address because TV complaints were outside of its mandate.

The CCTS is a not-for-profit agency created in 2007 by the CRTC to resolve consumer complaints about problems such as billing errors, service delivery, and contracts terms with telecommunications companies.


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