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Archived — Competition Bureau reaches agreement with Bell Canada requiring Bell to pay $10 million for misleading advertising

OTTAWA, June 28, 2011 — The Competition Bureau announced today that Bell Canada has agreed to stop making what the Bureau had concluded were misleading representations about the prices offered for its services. Under the terms of a consent agreement filed with the Competition Tribunal, Bell is also required to pay an administrative monetary penalty of $10 million, the maximum amount allowed under the Competition Act.

The Bureau determined that, since December 2007, Bell has charged higher prices than advertised for many of its services, including home phone, Internet, satellite TV and wireless. The advertised prices were not in fact available, as additional mandatory fees, such as those related to TouchTone, modem rental and digital television services, were hidden from consumers in fine-print disclaimers.

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

As an example, Bell's Web site had been advertising a bundle for home phone, Internet and television services starting as low as $69.90 per month. However, it was impossible for customers to buy the bundle for the advertised price. In fact, the lowest possible price, including the mandatory fees, was $80.27—approximately 15% higher than advertised. 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.

Under the terms of a consent agreement filed with the Tribunal today, Bell has agreed to:

  • modify all of its non-compliant advertisements within 60 days; and
  • pay an administrative monetary penalty of $10 million.

The Competition Bureau, as an independent law enforcement agency, ensures that Canadian businesses and consumers prosper in a competitive and innovative marketplace.

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