Mark Goldberg


www.mhgoldberg.com





#CTS20

Choices and compromises

My wife and I are in the market for a new car. We’re looking for something with a lot of features, but I am having trouble finding all of the features I want on the same car.

My wife wants leather seats (but not black leather), built in navigation and Bluetooth. She doesn’t like a sun-roof. She wants a remote starter. I’d like to have parallel park-assist, back-up camera and a radar warning that there is a car in my blind spot. I would like the driver’s power seat to have a memory linked to the key fob of the driver, so that I don’t bang my knees getting in.

Why don’t all the car companies offer all these options in all of their cars? For that matter, why do I have to pay an extra $1000 or more to get built-in navigation when big box stores sell external GPS units for a little over $100?

I know that we are going to have to make some decisions about priorities and compromise when it comes down to the final decision. Different features and capabilities get bundled differently by each of the car companies. Some higher end options, like park assist, seem to be available in lower end models, while other car companies don’t offer it at all. Should Transport Canada regulate this?

Although it would be convenient, I don’t think regulation of vehicle options is on the government’s agenda.

I was thinking of my car shopping experience as I read an article calling for CRTC regulation of roaming prices. Over the weekend, Michael Geist wrote:

regulated roaming pricing is overdue and an important step in meeting the government’s goal of “more choice, lower prices, better service.”

Actually, I think that regulating roaming rates would reduce choice and may not lead to lower overall prices.

Why would the government intervene in consumer roaming prices? There are lots of choices available for consumers today. I visit the US frequently. I have SIM cards for pay-as-you-go services in the US as well as a couple of other international destinations. As I have written previously, services like Rogers One Number allow me to receive calls to my cell phone at no charge, and enable me to call anywhere in Canada for free.

Entrepreneurial companies such as Roam Mobility and Roam Simple have built businesses to help people find options for mobile services when they are on the road.

I have written a number of times in the past about alternatives that are available for consumers who roam, casually or frequently [for example, see here, here and here].

WIND Mobile has made international calling and roaming one of its competitive differentiators.

Prior to developing its code of conduct for the wireless industry – the Wireless Code – the CRTC conducted a review of wireless pricing, specifically to determine “whether the conditions in the mobile wireless market have changed sufficiently to warrant Commission intervention with respect to mobile wireless services”. In its determination at that time, Telecom Decision CRTC 2012-556, the CRTC said:

the Commission determines that the conditions for forbearance have not changed sufficiently to require the Commission to regulate rates or interfere in the competitiveness of the retail mobile wireless voice and data services market.

That was less than a year ago. Roaming was considered at that time.

While parties did point to a number of studies that address the rates and competitiveness of the mobile wireless market, the Commission notes that market indicators demonstrate that consumers have a choice of competitive service providers and a range of rates and payment options for mobile wireless services.

Are there fewer choices for roaming today than we had at the time? I suspect that consumers have more options today than ever before, including a wider range of options from their own carriers. Further, the Wireless Code introduced some significant consumer safeguards related specifically to roaming.

To paraphrase the issue as it was considered last year by the CRTC, have the conditions for forbearance have changed sufficiently to warrant the regulation of consumer roaming rates?

What would be the impact on the market if government regulation took away the price advantage offered by smaller service providers? What is the impact on the development of innovative services and technologies?

Wholesale rates – the fees charged by carriers to other carriers – are a completely different matter.

It would be a lot easier on me if every option was available in every colour on every car. It would save me from having to make some of the tough choices in buying my next car, but it would cost the after-market specialty shops the chance to install a remote starter.

It must have been a lot easier deciding which car to choose when Henry Ford made them all black. Still, I think most will agree that we are better off today.

I have choices and decisions to make.

3 comments to Choices and compromises

  • Mydaisydew

    What you say is true for today but Mobilicity is going down and I daresay Wind probably will too. The govt is the only man left standing to stand up for Canadians and lower pricing. The Big Three do not operate in a competitive environment. A big foreign fourth carrier would do that trick and open up the market to competitive pricing but I don’t see that on the horizon. So what choice do Canadians have? We simply pay too much and I think that is the real issue plus innovation by the Big Three isn’t happening too quickly either. Oh I just bought a new car and the upholstery choice between all models was black, black, black.

  • Mydaisydew

    I should add the upholstery choice for all new basic models was black, black, black.

  • visitor 546732567

    As an example of the attention to detail on this file (and others), the footnote used in the staff letter to support the statement “the Commission has been made aware of concerns with respect to the rates, terms, and conditions associated with wireless roaming” includes a significant error. It cites to a report by PIAC that doesn’t have anything to do with roaming (it discussed premium text services).