WINNIPEG – The Manitoba government is proposing a law that would ban misleading advertising about Internet, telephone, cable TV and other services.
The Consumer Protection Amendment Act, introduced in the legislature Thursday, would require companies to prominently display the full cost of each service — not just a discount introductory rate.
Companies would also have to be upfront about any extra fees for equipment rentals, installation and other items.
There will also be limits on cancellation fees, similar to an existing law on cellphone contracts.
Consumer Protection Minister Ron Lemieux says the province has heard complaints from people who felt confused about the full price of cable TV, Internet bills and telephone services.
“We’re just saying to the companies out there that are offering these services — be upfront, let the customer know what (they’re) going to be paying for.”
The law would also cover satellite TV and radio services and monitored alarm systems. Fines would range from $1,000 to $5,000 dollars and, in more serious cases, the government could apply to the courts for higher penalties.
The government announced the plan last fall and asked for public input, and some 360 people responded. Many people said they had been enticed by low, introductory prices and were not clear on what the price would be once the discount period ended, Lemieux said.
The move was welcomed by the Consumers Association of Canada.
“Companies … have a responsibility to provide that information, to make it accessible to us in a format that is easy to understand,” said spokeswoman Gloria Desorcy.
Lemieux hopes to have the law take effect by the end of the year, but there are still many details to be worked out, such as the limit on cancellation fees. An existing law on cellphone contracts caps the fee at $50 plus a pro-rated cost of the cellphone if it was not paid upfront.
The province must also determine exactly how “prominent” the full cost of each service must be displayed in any advertising. Gail Anderson, the director of the province’s consumer protection office, said the aim is to have the price easily visible and not hidden away in fine print.