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Submission by AEBC and CNIB - CRTC Broadcasting Notice of Consultation 2015-105-2: Proposed Trial Period

Date: 
Thursday, August 13, 2015

Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians
PO Box 20262, RPO Town Centre
Kelowna BC V1Y 9H2
Tel: 1-800-561-4774
Email: info@blindcanadians.ca
http://www.blindcanadians.ca

Contact:
Leo Bissonnette
AEBC National Director and CRTC Liaison

CNIB Lui Greco, National Manager of Advocacy for Diane Bergeron Executive Director, Strategic Relations and Engagement
101-1355 Bank Street, Ottawa, Ontario, K1H 8K7

August 13, 2015

Mr. John Traversy
Secretary General
Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0N2

Dear Mr. Traversy:

SUBJECT: Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2015-105-2: Proposed Trial Period

SUBMITTED ON: August 13, 2015

Background:

About The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians

1. The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) is a national, not-for-profit charitable organization that works with and for blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted Canadians across the country. We work to encourage the full participation of our constituents in all aspects of society: at work, in play, with the family, in business and commerce, in politics, in the arts, and in entertainment.

Our work consists of:

  • Public education, to better inform the public and other stakeholders of the rights, responsibilities, and capabilities of blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted Canadians.
  • Peer support and training, providing opportunities for individuals to share their knowledge and to teach one another skills and technology that help them to fully participate in everyday life.
  • Advocacy support, assisting individuals and groups in achieving equitable access to programs and services.

About CNIB

2. One of Canada’s oldest charities, CNIB passionately provides community-based support and knowledge to ensure Canadians who are blind or partially sighted have the confidence, skills and opportunities to fully participate in life.

3. To do that, our dedicated specialists work with people of all ages in their own homes, communities or local CNIB offices – providing the personalized rehabilitation support they need to see beyond vision loss, build their independence and lead the lives they want.

4. In addition to our community-based services, we also work alongside Canadians who are blind or partially sighted to advocate for a barrier-free society, and we strive to eliminate avoidable sight loss with world-class research and by promoting the importance of vision health through public education.

5. The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) has previously provided comments on the Commission’s proposed Television Service Provider Code of Conduct, which we consider a welcomed development in Canada, and are please to once again file some brief comments in response to the Commission’s questions regarding a possible “Cooling Off” or “Trial” Period.

Trial Period

6. We support the introduction of a mandatory “Cooling Off” or “Trial” Period after the purchase of any new product or service for a period of 30 days as is proposed in this Public Notice, This trial period must be in addition to a standard cooling off period offered to all customers. When purchasing products/services Canadians with disabilities, and particularly those living with vision loss, cannot assess the value of the service until barriers around accessibility have been assessed. Thus, in order to assess the value of the product/service, customers with vision loss must first be able to ascertain if the offering is accessible. Once this determination is made, then Canadians who are blind or visually impaired will be able to assess value based on personal/individual preference in isolation of their vision loss.

7. Thus, we recommend an extended cooling off period in addition to the standard offered to all customers. However, this additional cooling off period should only be provided to customers who self-identify as having a disability. This self-identification should be required when the offering is agreed to and acceptance by the service provider should be delivered to customers with disabilities in a form accessible to them.

8. Such a provision should allow a customer to terminate their purchase during the trial period without penalty, including early cancellation fees and installation fees.

Under what conditions should a customer with a disability be allowed to terminate their service during the trial period without penalty, including early cancellation fees and installation fees.

9. Provided that customers have self-identified as having a disability, then cancellation without penalty should be honoured if the product or service is not usable by the customer.

10. A distinction between not accessible and not usable is critical. For instance, service providers are offering products which offer accessibility features but if these require an individual who is blind to access a menu system in order to enable the accessibility features then the product is unusable. It is outside the scope of our submission to comment on similar barriers facing the other disability sub-populations however, experience tells us that similar situations do exist.

11. We would encourage service providers to capture reasons for cancelation in order that a statistical body of knowledge can be developed. This data, in aggregate form, should categorize individual cancelations into the four sub-populations identified by the commission:

  • Persons with vision loss or those who are blind;
  • persons who are deaf or have significant hearing loss;
  • persons with physical disabilities which prevent them from normal operation of standard equipment and
  • persons with cognitive disabilities.

Rationale for Trial Period

12. Sometimes a customer is convinced to purchase a product or service that, upon a bit more reflection, the customer neither needs or wants. In addition, in the case of customers who have a disability, the customer may determine after the new product or service is installed that it is not as accessible or usable as expected, or does not fit their needs. A trial period for evaluation and training on a new device or product needs to be long enough so the potential user can ensure they can use any new equipment effectively. Thus, While a trial Period may be of greatest significance to customers who self-identify as having a disability, who may purchase a product or service and only later determine it fails to meet the customer’s needs, this mandatory requirement should apply to all customers. An aging population of users, keen to be part of the digital age, would benefit from the same terms as persons with disabilities….

13. Assessing the value of any product or service is rarely something which can be completed on the spot. Unfortunately, marketing campaigns or in scented outbound sales representatives may create unrealistic or even unfounded expectations as to content, features or additional benefits. Thus, when this disparity, between what a customer expects and what they receive differs, then early cancellation, within a predetermined cooling off period should be honoured. A “try before you buy” philosophy would better serve all Canadians and particularly those with vision loss or other disabilities.

Scope

14. The provision of a Trial Period should apply to all TVSPs including cable, Internet Protocol television (IPTV), and national satellite direct-to-home (DTH) service providers.

Communicating in Plain Language

15. The proposed Customer Code of Conduct would be greatly enhanced by a provision requiring communications in plain language. This is important for all customers, but particularly, for some members of the disabled community. And it would be useful to include specifics on areas that must be included.

Should the Commission Receive Objections From Any Provider

16. To any provider who may object to the introduction of a mandatory trial period, we believe the use of any Trial Period would be mitigated if all TVSPs are required to provide customers with a copy of any agreement or contract in an alternative format upon request, at no charge, in a timely manner. “An alternative format” means and should include the customer’s preferred alternative format, including electronic, large print and Braille, and in either English or French. This agreement, must be concise and avoid unnecessary mitigating clauses.

Conclusion

17. AEBC and CNIB urges the Commission to introduce a mandatory requirement for a trial period as outlined in Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2015-105-2. Along with the recommendations set forth in this document, we believe that this will enable Canadians with vision loss and other disabilities to be better empowered when dealing with broadcasting service providers.

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