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Telus asks CRTC permission to add 1.5% credit card surcharge to customer bills – CBC News

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Canadians who pay their cellphone bill with a credit card could soon see an extra fee every month, if Canada’s telecom regulator approves a proposal currently before them.

Telecom company Telus is asking the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for permission to add a 1.5 per cent surcharge to the bills of customers who pay their bill using a credit card. If approved, it would be in place starting as soon as October.

For a theoretical customer in Alberta whose cellphone bill is $100, the charge would bring their bill to $106.66 — $100 for their basic bill, plus $5 for GST, a $1.58 surcharge for the new fee on top of that, plus another 8 cents in GST on the surcharge.

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“The company plans to provide advance notices of the fee to its existing customers starting in mid-August,” Telus said in its letter to the regulator.

Fee could be in place by October

The company is asking the regulator to decide on the proposal by Sept. 7 and would like to start levying the new charge as of Oct. 17, and while the CRTC must rule on the matter, in a statement to CBC News the telecom company made the plan sound like a done deal.

“Starting in October, Telus mobility and home services customers choosing to make a bill payment with a credit card will be charged a 1.5 per cent credit card processing fee,” Telus told CBC News in a statement. 

“This fee helps us recover a portion of the processing costs we incur to accept credit card payments, and the average cost will be around $2 for most customers,” the company said, adding that it can easily be avoided by paying through a bank, via a debit transaction, or other means.

WATCH | Why Canadians pay more for telecom services than many other countries do: 

Do Canadians pay too much for internet and cellphone service?

28 days ago

Duration 7:34

Consumer advocate and wireless bill expert Mohammed Halabi helps explain why Canadian internet and cellphone bills are so high — and what consumers can do to negotiate lower prices.

Telus’ rationale for the move stems from a development this summer, when credit card firms including Visa and MasterCard agreed to a settlement that will see them refund millions of dollars worth of credit card processing fees that merchants have paid them over the years. Crucially, that settlement also gives businesses permission to start charging customers those fees directly starting in October, which is what Telus is trying to do.

Previously, many merchants weren’t allowed to charge customers directly for the fees that credit companies charge them for processing sales. Such fees can range from less than one per cent of the sale, to more than three per cent for some premium cards.

Because just about every part of its business is regulated by the CRTC, Telus needs the regulator to start charging fees that consumers can expect to start seeing from a variety of merchants soon.

CBC News reached out to Rogers and Bell to see if they have any similar plans in the works, but representatives of both companies did not reply to that request within one business day.

Some customers aren’t happy

Some wireless customers aren’t enthused by the idea. Kenneth Hart of Windsor, Ont., a Telus customer for 15 years, calls the plan “a money grab.”

Kenneth Hart has been a Telus customer for 15 years and he says the company is making a mistake with this new policy. (Kenneth Hart)

“It’s a bad business move,” he told CBC News in an interview. “They have some accountants telling them this is good. But then you talk about the PR costs, the reputational cost, and it could create … dissatisfaction for those customers who are already … not satisfied.”

“This could be the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Telus only filed the application on Monday, and the CRTC has already heard from more than 200 Canadians via its website, many of which are opposed to the plan.

Steve Struthers is one of them. The resident of London, Ont., is not a Telus customer but he took the time to give his two cents to the regulator because of how opposed he is to the plan.

“Consumers are already extremely stressed with unaffordable housing, increased food prices, expensive gasoline prices and wages that are not keeping up with any of this,” he told CBC News in an interview.

“I’m quite certain they could afford to absorb a 1.5 per cent credit card fee … It bothers me knowing the cellphone companies aren’t happy with the money they’re making and they still want more in an environment where people are reaching their limit as to what they can pay.”

‘The last thing anyone needs is an additional fee’

Rosa Addario, a spokesperson for telecom watchdog OpenMedia, says the plan is just the latest way for the industry to extract more revenue from cash-strapped Canadian consumers.

“All three of our telecom providers … have reported increased profits, increased revenue and increased customers for 2021,” she told CBC News in an interview. “They are doing better than ever. This is just another way to raise our bills through shady practices and extra fees and adding things on top so that we are paying even more than we already are.”

Suze Morrison, a former Ontario MPP, is urging the CRTC to reject the proposal, noting that it will disproportionately impact people who are already financially vulnerable.

“Working class people, low income people are really struggling to make ends meet right now,” she told CBC News in an interview. “The last thing anyone needs is an additional fee just because of how they pay their telephone bill to keep their phone lines connected.”

WATCH | Canada has 3 major telecom providers. Could that change?

Could Canada grow beyond the Big 3 telecoms?

1 month ago

Duration 4:18

After a nationwide Rogers outage, John Lawford of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre talks to The National’s Andrew Chang about how Canada ended up with only three major telecoms and if that can ever change.

While credit card surcharges are creeping into many businesses, she says it’s different for a telecom utility to charge them because it is a necessity. “A consumer has a choice to go to a mom and pop restaurant or to cook dinner at home or to go to a restaurant that’s not charging fees for credit card swipes,” she said.

“But we’ve allowed so much consolidation in our telecom industry and there’s such a monopoly in the sector that it’s not like folks can say, ‘OK, well, if you’re going to charge a fee, I’m going to take my business somewhere else.’ I have nowhere else to go.”

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First Citizens acquires troubled Silicon Valley Bank – CP24

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North Carolina-based First Citizens will buy Silicon Valley Bank, the tech industry-focused financial institution that collapsed earlier this month, rattling the banking industry and sending shockwaves around the world.

The deal could reassure investors at a time of shaken confidence in banks, though the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and other regulators had already taken extraordinary steps to head off a wider banking crisis by guaranteeing that depositors in SVB and another failed U.S. bank would be able to access all of their money.

Customers of SVB will automatically become customers of First Citizens, which is headquartered in Raleigh. The 17 former branches of SVB will open as First Citizens branches Monday, the FDIC said.

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European shares opened higher Monday, with German lender Commerzbank AG up 2.4% and BNP Paribas up 1.2%.

Investors worry that other banks also may crumble under the pressure of higher interest rates. On Friday, much of the focus was on Deutsche Bank, whose stock tumbled 8.5% in Germany, though it was back up about 3.6% in early trading Monday. Earlier this month, shares of and faith in Swiss bank Credit Suisse fell so much that regulators brokered a takeover of by rival UBS.

In the U.S., SVB, based in Santa Clara, California, collapsed March 10 after depositors rushed to withdraw money amid fears about the bank’s health. It was the second-largest bank collapse in U.S. history after the 2008 failure of Washington Mutual. Two days later, New York-based Signature Bank was seized by regulators in the third-largest bank failure in the U.S.

In both cases, the government agreed to cover deposits, even those that exceeded the federally insured limit of $250,000, so depositors were able to access their money.

New York Community Bank agreed to buy a significant chunk of Signature Bank in a $2.7 billion deal a week ago, but the search for a buyer for SVB took longer.

The sale announced late Sunday involves the sale of all deposits and loans of SVB to First-Citizens Bank and Trust Co., the FDIC said.

The acquisition gives the FDIC shares in First Citizens worth $500 million. Both the FDIC and First Citizens will share in losses and the potential recovery on loans included in a loss-share agreement, the FDIC said.

First Citizens Bank was founded in 1898 and says it has more than $100 billion in total assets, with more than 500 branches in 21 states as well as a nationwide bank. It reported net profit of $243 million in the last quarter. It is one of the top 20 U.S. banks and says it is the largest family-controlled bank in the country.

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Shoppers Drug Mart moves away from medical cannabis, will send patients to Avicanna – CTV News

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TORONTO –

Shoppers Drug Mart Inc. is moving away from its medical cannabis distribution business and preparing to transfer patients to a platform run by biopharmaceutical company Avicanna Inc.

The pharmacy chain owned by Loblaw Companies Ltd. announced the shift Tuesday, but did not say what prompted the change or how much money Toronto-based Avicanna is paying for Shoppers to refer patients to its MyMedi.ca platform.

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“We are grateful for the trust placed in us by our medical cannabis patients over the past few years, and are confident we’ve found the right partner in Avicanna to continue to support them,” said Jeff Leger, Shoppers’ president, in a statement.

His company will start to send customers to Avicanna’s platform in early May, with all of the patients set to be off-loaded from Shoppers’ medical pot service by the end of July. Customers will be able to place orders on Shoppers’ website through the transition period.

Avicanna said it will offer a similar range of products including various formats, brands and “competitive pricing.” Like Shoppers, its online medical portal will strive to educate customers around harm reduction and provide specialty services for distinct patient groups like veterans.

Shoppers first launched its medical cannabis business in Ontario in January 2019, months after recreational pot was legalized in Canada (medical pot was legalized in Canada in 2001) at a time when many predicted the weed sector would be booming in the coming years.

The sector has instead struggled with profitability and as high numbers of recreational cannabis shops cluster in several cities, many retailers and licensed producers have had to drop their prices to stay competitive.

However, Shoppers said it racked up tens of thousands of patients in its four years of existence, providing them with access to cannabis from more than 30 brands including Aphria Inc., Hexo Corp.’s Redecan and the Green Organic Dutchman.

Shoppers’ medical cannabis patients were required to obtain a prescription from a licensed health care provider such as a doctor to begin ordering pot from the company, which shipped orders to their homes.

But the company was unhappy with how medical pot regulations limited its model. Shoppers claimed Tuesday that medical cannabis remains the only medication that is not dispensed in pharmacies.

“As we move away from medical cannabis distribution, we remain firm in our belief that this medication should be dispensed in pharmacies like all others and will continue our advocacy to that end,” said Leger.

Avicanna’s statement did not outline its feelings on the matters, but its chief executive said it was “motivated” to “put our full efforts toward advancing medical cannabis and its incorporation into the standard of care.”

“We are thankful to be selected as the partner for this transition and look forward to introducing MyMedi.ca, supporting patients and providing them with continuity of care,” said Avicanna chief executive Aras Azadian in a statement.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 28, 2023

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US charges Sam Bankman-Fried with bribing Chinese officials – The Guardian

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US prosecutors on Tuesday unveiled a new indictment against Sam Bankman-Fried, accusing the founder of now-bankrupt FTX cryptocurrency exchange of conspiring to bribe Chinese government officials with $40m worth of payments.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged Bankman-Fried with directing the payment in order to unfreeze accounts belonging to his hedge fund, Alameda Research, that Chinese authorities had frozen. The accounts held more than $1bn of cryptocurrency, US prosecutors said.

The accounts were unfrozen after the bribe payment was transferred around November 2021 from Alameda’s main trading account to a private cryptocurrency wallet, according to the new indictment.

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After the accounts were unfrozen, Bankman-Fried authorized a transfer of tens of millions of dollars of additional cryptocurrency to complete the bribe, prosecutors said.

The new charge increases the pressure on the 31-year-old former billionaire, who had previously pleaded not guilty to eight counts over the collapse of FTX. Prosecutors say Bankman-Fried stole billions of dollars in customer funds to plug Alameda losses.

Lawyers for Bankman-Fried did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Bankman-Fried has acknowledged inadequate risk management at FTX, but has denied stealing money.

China’s foreign ministry could not immediately be reached after normal business hours in Beijing.

District judge Lewis Kaplan scheduled a court hearing for Thursday after prosecutors asked for Bankman-Fried to be arraigned on the new 13-count indictment.

Prosecutors last month unveiled four new counts against Bankman-Fried, accusing him of orchestrating an illegal campaign donation scheme to buy influence in Washington DC. He has not yet been arraigned on the new charges.

The new count accuses Bankman-Fried of conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which makes it illegal for US citizens to bribe foreign government officials to win business.

Bankman-Fried is currently confined to his parents’ Palo Alto, California, home on $250m bond ahead of his 2 October trial.

On Monday, his lawyers and prosecutors reached a new agreement on revised bail conditions, after Kaplan raised the prospect of sending Bankman-Fried to jail pending trial. That came after prosecutors raised concerns he may have been tampering with witnesses.

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