Sunday, June 23, 2024

Québecor says Loblaw deal with telecom is anti-competitive, calls on Ottawa to step in | RCI

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In a letter Pierre Karl Péladeau sent to Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne on May 9, the Québecor CEO says Loblaw decided to prematurely end Québecor’s contract for wireless devices and services at the telecommunications kiosks inside Loblaw grocery stores — a move he calls anti-competitive and contrary to the interests of consumers.

The Loblaw-owned supermarket kiosks are branded as The Mobile Shop and there are 180 of them across the country. Right now, the kiosks sell cell phone plans from seven providers, including Telus and Québecor’s Freedom Mobile. 

On the brand’s about us page, The Mobile Shop says we don’t work for any one carrier, so we’ll never play favourites.

In his letter, obtained by CBC News, Péladeau says The Mobile Shop will soon sell only Glentel products. Glentel is a retailer owned by Bell and Rogers.

Quebecor chief executive Pierre-Karl Peladeau speaks to the media after the company’s annual meeting on Thursday, May 9, 2024 in Montreal.

Photo: The Canadian Press / Ryan Remiorz

(Loblaw) presents this decision as a simple choice of supply for its stores, but in our view, this is an approach aimed at excluding certain other cellular telephone operators to benefit the company Glentel, Péladeau says in the letter, translated from French.

If Glentel obtains such favour from Loblaw, it is because it’s a joint venture made up of the giants Bell and Rogers who once again seek to lock out competition and take Canadians hostage in their consumer choice.

In his letter, Péladeau asks Champagne for direct and firm intervention against Loblaw, Rogers, Bell and Glentel.

In a statement, The Mobile Shop says its business represents “less than five per cent of sales in mobile phones and plans in Canada.

Based on our limited market presence in mobile, our decision of which carrier to sell does absolutely nothing to competition, says the statement. We are constantly reviewing our offering, and will continue to provide a range of choices, including strong, national low-cost options and full service plans.

In his letter, Péladeau also questions the existence of Glentel, a company co-owned by two of Canada’s largest telecommunication companies, Bell and Rogers.

In 2015, Canada’s Competition Bureau allowed the joint acquisition of the company to go through, provided that the two telecom giants put up an administrative firewall to prevent the sharing of competitively sensitive information.

The bureau did express a worry that the acquisition would “substantially lessen competition in the wireless sector.” (new window)

In the letter, Péladeau says that while his company has reached out to Loblaw head office regarding the deal with Glentel, “they persisted, favouring commercial interests over the consumer’s interest.

It is imperative that measures be taken to preserve an environment of fair competition in the telecommunications and grocery sectors in the best interests of the Canadian population.

Increased scrutiny for grocers, telecom companies 

Péladeau’s letter comes as grocers and telecom companies face increased pressure over prices.

A movement to boycott Loblaw is underway (new window) after the grocery giant reported $13.58 billion in revenue in the first quarter of 2024. 

Loblaw agreed last week to sign the government’s grocery code of conduct — but only if competitors do as well. The code is intended to address (new window) long-standing issues such as arbitrary fees, cost increases imposed without notice and late payments.

Enlarge image (new window)

The almost empty produce section of a Toronto Loblaws on Friday, May 3, 2024. A group of shoppers called ‘Loblaws is out of control,’ which has 62,000 members, launched a boycott over the month of May to protest what it calls the company’s high prices.

Photo: The Canadian Press / Chris Young

The federal government says it’s trying to coax international grocers to set up shop in Canada in an effort to lower prices. (new window)

The federal NDP forced debate Tuesday on a motion calling for an excess profit tax. The party has long called for such a tax (new window).

Similarly, the industry minister said earlier this year that Canadians are still paying too much (new window) for telecom services after Rogers said it would hike the cost of some of its wireless plans for non-contract customers.

Let’s be clear. While some progress has been made to lower prices, Canadians still pay too much and see too little competition, said Champagne in January.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate McKenna (new window) · CBC News

Kate McKenna is a senior reporter with CBC News. She is based in the parliamentary bureau. kate.mckenna@cbc.ca.

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