Putting customers on hold for an hour tends to drive them away. As does dragging out a simple request for more than two weeks. Or calling back three times to confirm the answer to a simple "yes or no" question.
But cable giant Shaw Communications Inc., at least according to its Western Canadian rival Telus Corp., is employing these "bully tactics" to keep subscribers within the fold, frustrating Telus's effort to win new customers.
In a complaint filed with the telecom regulator, Telus has alleged that Shaw is throwing up roadblocks to customers who want to switch to Telus's relatively new Internet-based TV (IPTV) product, Optik, which the company is rolling out through Western Canada - the heartland of Shaw's formidable cable footprint.
When customers switch phone service, the regulator forces the providers to contact each other to transfer the subscribers' telephone number. In contrast, when switching TV service, customers often call to cancel service themselves - throwing the door open to counter offers, discounting and stalling tactics.
If the customer prefers, the provider will contact a rival company to alert it of the change in service. On the occasions that Telus sends Shaw TV a list of customers who want to switch to Optik, Shaw stalls and tries to win them back, according to Telus.
"When we send Shaw a list of customers to terminate, that have switched to Telus, we're effectively now just providing Shaw with a telemarketing list," said Michael Hennessy, Telus's senior vice president for government and regulatory affairs. "We are a new entrant when it comes to the broadcast distribution business. And we're seeing lots of pressure from Shaw."
Calgary-based Shaw says the complaint is "totally bogus." Jean Brazeau, Shaw's senior vice-president of regulatory affairs, said by the time the company gets a list of customers to switch over, they already have Telus's TV service installed.
"What they're trying to do is make sure there's no win backs," Mr. Brazeau said, admitting they will call customers to try and get them back.
"There's a lot of reasons it takes this long," he added. "Sometimes we don't even have the customer. It's not because we're mean, bad guys."
The current regulations irk Telus and other telcos such as BCE Inc. that are attempting to win TV subscribers away from cable companies. The system worked well for the cable companies as they stole huge market share in the home phone market several years ago. They could offer deals to phone customers with no fear of having them exposed to a counter-offer.
The ongoing dispute between Telus and Shaw arose out of a complaint from Telus to the CRTC and blossomed into a complicated proceeding once Bell stepped in to file a similar complaint with the regulator. Since offering multiple services, from TV to phone to wireless to Internet, is becoming the norm in the industry, telcos have been under pressure to win customers to their IPTV offerings. And with Telus gaining steam in the West, and Bell launching in Toronto and Montreal this summer, the regulatory "asymmetry," as Bell calls it, has become a much more important issue.
It is currently the process of a paper-only regulatory tussle, which has been extended when the commission chose to include wireless cellphone service in the proceeding. Telus, arguing they need "immediate interim relief" from its rival's tactics, has become increasingly irate. A new deadline has been set for Aug. 23rd, with a decision likely to be released early next year.
|BCE-T BCE Inc.||45.51||
|Add to watchlist|
|T-T TELUS Corp.||36.24||
|Add to watchlist|
|SJR.B-T Shaw Communications||25.33||
|Add to watchlist|