Consumer protection organization tells Canadians to fend for themselves?

The CRTC is often seen as a force for good. The consumer champion and the advocate for the regular Canadian taking on big corporations and enforcing common sense and fair play. Not this time it seems. Comments from CRTC chairman Jean Pierre Blais are leaving many confused.

While the CRTC did not promise to lower our monthly bills with its channel unbundling regulation, it did promise to make life easier for us.

The whole premise of the channel unbundling was to force companies to offer a skinny bundle of basic channels for $25. We could then add any extra channels or packs we wanted so we can configure our contract the way we want to. That’s not how things panned out.

The TV companies added so many caveats and conditions that it is almost impossible to get a really skinny bundle. And what does CRTC and Blais have to say about it? Haggle.

Seriously. He said that. Haggle.

With the exception of foreign trade specialists and captains of industry, Canadians and North Americans in general don’t haggle. We don’t like it. We will never like it and we do anything we can to avoid it.

A 2014 survey of American car buyers found 83 percent of respondents would rather avoid dickering if they could, and 90 percent would be more excited about shopping for a vehicle if it meant they didn’t have to haggle. Twenty percent even said they’d rather give up sex for a month than argue over prices. Canadians are much the same.

That’s why our society is built around fixed prices. The price we see is the price we pay and with some exceptions like property or cars in some cases, we pay that price. So asking us to haggle with an organization with no interest in haggling or the systems to support it seems a little disingenuous.

Why can’t the CRTC not just admit that they got it wrong? That they worded the regulation poorly and left enough room for companies to wriggle out of the original intent. That intent was to allow lower income Canadians to access basic TV channels without spending over $200 a month for the privilege.

While we can lower our bills a bit, asking us to haggle with suppliers just because the CRTC couldn’t do their job properly seems a bit rich.