WHAT we know as British Columbia's negative-billing legislation - contained within a confusing array of laws - arose when Rogers Cable expanded its communications services.
The company sent its existing customers a notice that services and charges would be increased unless said customers notified the company the services were not wanted.
Good try. Customers fumed, the company backed down, and the legislation that covered "unsolicited services" was amended.
So how are we doing in 2012?
Well, if we're discussing negative billing 2004-style, everything is OK.
But after reviewing the charges for the services I receive in the light of recently advertised promotions, I began to wonder if some companies had found a new way to winkle us out of our dollars.
About a year ago, annoyed that Telus seemed unable to resolve problems I'd been having with my landline telephone, I decided to add phone service to the television-Internet bundle provided by Shaw Communications.
My cellphone plan is so basic I left that with Telus Mobility.
I had barely caught my breath on the switch, when competition between Telus, Shaw, Rogers, Bell and others swung into high gear.
Attempts to stay ahead of the curve on the content and costs of differing bundles became virtually impossible, and switching back and forth an exercise in futility.
Last week, however, the numbers became more persuasive.
Without delving into the nitty-gritty, by a few simple changes to both suppliers and bundles, I found I could save $53.76/month including HST; not shabby considering my uncomplicated requirements.
Like many of you, I have long given up trying to persuade the Canadian Radio-Television Commission (CRTC) that I should not have to pay for services I never use - the francophone, multi-cultural and sports channels for example - to say nothing of the access fees.
So when I was forced to allow Shaw Communications to install a digital box and accept a remote that allowed me to click into more than 200 channels, my first thought was, "Let's see if my curious click on Channel 237 - or some such - will result in an extra charge on my bill."
Although I have not yet received my first month's bills for post-installation service, online chatter seems quiet on the question; but there's more to it than that.
In pre-switch discussion of the various bundles available, I discovered that with or without switching telephone service providers, I could have been saving approximately $20/month on TV-Internet for some time. Not only that - the speed of my dog-along Internet service would have been "dramatically faster" according to my customer support person.
Knowing my usage habits, why had Shaw never suggested I move to a newer, cheaper bundle when they were calling me daily to have the digital box installed?
To emphasize, I am not picking on a single company.
In fact, one of the reasons I switched phone service to Shaw, was that Telus had not only shown little interest in fixing the technical problems I was having, it had made no mention of a reducedrate option until I told the company I was cancelling my account.
So the pendulum swings; how long before it swings back?
Why do government regulators need us to raise the decibel level to deafening before they take action on our complaints and update their regulations? Isn't being proactive part of the job description for a watchdog?
Still on communications:
An even more sinister development arose last week in the House of Commons in the form of the euphemistically named Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act.
Fresh from the success of the long-promised cancellation of the longgun registry, the Harper government decided to replace one law that punishes the innocent with another.
I'm all for fighting crime, but never did understand why it made sense to expect criminals who have smuggled illegal firearms into the country to be dumb enough to record them with a government-run gun registry.
So it is with the more insidious federal proposal that police be allowed to snoop on the online activity of millions of innocent Canadians, on the pretext of protecting children from pedophiles.
Canadians have learned not to trust; they know this bill is a foot in the door and that the law will strengthen the ability of any government or law enforcement agencyturned voyeur to access Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and to spy on their email/online activities.
Put that together with the paranoia of Harper and his minister Vic Toews on pipelines or legislation. If we were to oppose them, would we become an enemy of the State, fit to be spied on with or without the niceties of a warrant?
I don't like what's happening to this democracy of ours.
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