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Healthy spending

MANITOBA consumers continue to spend at a healthy pace, with May retail sales up 0.7 per cent from April and 3.4 per cent from a year earlier, Statistics Canada said Wednesday.

The agency said the province's retail industry rang up sales of $1.51 billion for the month. That compared to sales of just under $1.5 billion in April and $1.46 billion in May of last year.

The May increase followed a one per cent gain in April.

The increase was part of a broad trend that saw retail sales rise in nine provinces in May. Prince Edward Island had the biggest percentage gain at 4.9 per cent, while British Columbia posted the only decline at 0.1 per cent.

Nationally, Canada's retailers also saw their sales rise by 0.7 per cent from April to May -- $42 billion versus $41.7 billion. May's total was also a four per cent improvement from a year earlier.

Economists had expected a monthly gain of 0.6 per cent for Canada, according to Thomson Reuters.

Statistics Canada says motor vehicle and auto parts sales led the way with a 2.5 per cent gain. Sales of new cars and trucks rose 2.3 per cent in May, with a record 197,740 sold, following a 3.5 per cent jump in April.

Excluding autos, retail sales were up 0.1 per cent for the month. Economists had expected a gain of 0.3 per cent.

Billing an issue: CRTC

OTTAWA -- The CRTC will meet with telecommunication and cable companies on Aug. 28 to discuss extra fees many of them charge customers who receive paper bills.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission says its examination found 36 companies did not charge extra fees, while 27 others charged fees that ranged from 99 cents to $5.95 a month for paper bills.

Certain companies provide exemptions to these fees, such as for customers who do not have Internet access, but there is no consistent practice across the industry, the regulator said.

The federal regulator says it is concerned the approach taken by the industry may not take into account the specific circumstances of some customers.

CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais warned he was prepared to explore regulatory options if the industry failed to find an appropriate approach.

"We are concerned that not all Canadians have a reasonable choice when it comes to paper bill fees for communications services," Blais said in statement.

"We are challenging telecommunications and broadcasting distribution companies to come up with a comprehensive approach that will enable Canadians to make informed decisions."

-- staff / The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 24, 2014 B7

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