Telus Corp. has pulled out of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, the industry's main lobby group.
The surprise move deals yet another blow to the CWTA, which has suffered other high-profile defections over the past year. Bernard Lord, a former premier of New Brunswick, heads the group.
"Telus's decision to withdraw from the CWTA reflects our desire to continue progressing our highly differentiated strategy and our unique 'customers first' approach," said Josh Blair, Telus's chief corporate officer.
BCE Inc. intends to stay in the CWTA, Mark Langton, a spokesman for the company, said in a statement. "Bell is a long-time CWTA member active in developing important association projects such as the stolen phone registry, Amber Alert program and the Mobile Giving Foundation," he said. "No plans for any change."
BCE owns 15 per cent of The Globe and Mail.
Rogers Communications Inc., another large CWTA member, is unsure of how it will respond to Telus's decision. "We've been reviewing our options and we'll make a decision that's right for our customers," Rogers spokeswoman Patricia Trott said in a statement.
Telus's decision to leave the CWTA is effective immediately. The Vancouver-based carrier, however, will continue to collaborate with the CWTA on signature industry projects such as the national stolen smartphone registry.
The departure comes after the carrier joined forces with Rogers and BCE in last summer's Fair for Canada campaign – a public relations blitz that was designed to protest the potential entry of U.S. giant Verizon Communications Inc. into the Canadian market, on what incumbents' deemed unduly privileged terms.
The overall success of that campaign was questionable. Although the effort was supported by the business community and telecommunications unions, the ads were mocked by some consumers and had the effect of straining the industry's relationship with the federal government.
Moreover, the coalition effort caused consumers to regard all incumbents as a homogeneous group. Since that time, Telus has been trying to distinguish itself from its incumbent peers on the public relations and customer service fronts. Telus has the lowest wireless churn rate of the Big Three – which means customers leave the carrier less often.
And overall customer complaints about Telus are also tumbling, even though the industry as a whole recorded a double-digit increase last year, according to the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services.
"CWTA is understandably disappointed with this decision, but respects the position of Telus to undertake a more distinctive advocacy approach outside of CWTA. As a long-serving member of the association, Telus has contributed strongly over the years to advancing wireless industry growth, innovation and consumer services," CWTA spokesman Marc Choma said in a statement.
"CWTA notes the decision by Telus communicated to CWTA includes Telus's interest in participating on a collaborative basis with some of the Association's numerous and valuable consumer and corporate social responsibility initiatives such as the Mobile Giving Foundation Canada, Recycle My Cell, Wireless AMBER Alerts, Text with 9-1-1, Wireless Number Portability, Canada's new stolen handset database and Common Short Codes, to name just a few. CWTA would be pleased to welcome Telus back as a full-time member in the future should its plans change."
Mr. Lord was unable to comment because he is out of the country, Mr. Choma said.
In April, 2013, Wind Mobile, Mobilicity and Public Mobile withdrew from the CWTA after accusing the organization of serving as a front for incumbent interests. Public Mobile has since been acquired by Telus.