Approval of the Rogers-Shaw buyout shows Canada’s Competition Act must change
Existing law fails to protect Canadians, paves way for higher prices
DECEMBER 29, 2022 — Today the Competition Bureau’s case to block Rogers Communications buyout of Shaw Communications was dismissed. The Competition Tribunal’s dismissal removes the last major barrier to the deal moving forward, following the CRTC’s approval in March 2022, and ISED Minister François-Phillipe Champagne’s October 2022 decision to refuse the transfer of wireless spectrum to Rogers, but permit a side deal to transfer it to Vidéotron. Today’s approval comes despite strong opposition from many thousands of Canadians who have called on the Bureau and Cabinet to block the deal since it was first announced on March 21, 2021.
“Today was the last nail in the coffin of telecom affordability in a dismal 2022,” said OpenMedia Campaigns Director Matt Hatfield. “Experts, MPs and ordinary Canadians all know it: this buyout means higher prices and fewer choices, in a telecom market that’s already far too concentrated. Canadians pay some of the highest prices in the world for Internet and wireless services, and the fruits of the government’s half hearted attempts to provide competition are rapidly disappearing. In the last year alone, Distributel, EBOX and VMedia have all been bought out by the Big 3. Allowing Rogers to become the single largest Internet provider in the country is just the cherry on top. If 2023 is going to turn things around, Minister Champagne and new CRTC chair Vicky Eatrides will need to take immediate action, starting with opening our telecom market to broader service-based competition at fair prices.”
“Canada has a big problem: we live under laws that favour the formation of monopolies, and our atrocious Competition Act will keep greenlighting new ones until we fix it,” continued Hatfield. “The Competition Bureau deserves credit for trying to stop the Rogers-Shaw deal, but monopoly friendly clauses in the Act stacked the deck against them from the start. Preventing future deals as large and destructive as Rogers-Shaw will require deep changes to the Act. We’ll be watching the results of the government’s open consultation on competition policy closely to see if those changes are made, and judge how serious they are about stopping the next Rogers-Shaw.”
Today’s Competition Tribunal decision and Minister Champagne’s approval of the deal with conditions stands in stark contrast to the verdict of MPs from all parties on both the Heritage and Industry committees, who concluded in separate reports that the deal was against the interest of Canadians and should not move forward.
Since March 2021, OpenMedia and other advocacy groups have delivered over 83,000 community member messages to the federal government calling on policymakers to block the Rogers-Shaw deal. A further 10,000 members of OpenMedia’s community have signed a petition calling on Minister Champagne to take concrete action to curb the dominance of telecom giants like Rogers, Bell, Telus, and Quebecor. OpenMedia has just launched its Anti-Monopoly Charter, which calls for deep reforms to Canada’s Competition Act to prevent the formation of monopoly power in Canada’s economy.