Consumer complaints about their telecommunications services are up, according to the 2020-21 annual report issued by the industry arbiter.
The Commission for Complaints for Telecom-Television Services (CCTS) reported a 9% increase in consumer complaints over the 12 months ending July 31, 2021 compared to the previous year. The increase was primarily driven by a 25% increase in complaints about internet services, particularly service quality. CCTS was created in 2007 by the CRTC to resolve complaints from Canadian consumers.
In 2020-21, 17,003 consumer complaints that included 42,254 issues reached the CCTS. (Complaints often include multiple issues.) Wireless services were the largest component of those complaints, followed by internet services. CCTS also deals with television and telephone complaints. For CCTS as a whole, and three of the four products, the most common complaints involve billing, followed by contract disputes. Service delivery was the most common issue for internet providers, and complaints in that area drove most of the overall complaint figures higher.
In a release accompanying the report, CCTS noted that Canadians increasingly relied on communications services for work, social contact, shopping and leisure, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was also the first complete year for CCTS to administer the CRTC Internet Code. CCTS found 18 confirmed breaches of that code, plus 96 breaches of the Wireless Code. For the wireless category, this was a 48% decline over the previous year, largely attributed to Koodo, which had 4 breaches this year compared to 101 in the year prior.
The report indicated that 88% of complaints were resolved “successfully”, down from 89% the year prior and 91% two years ago. The report defines this as including the satisfaction of both the customer and the participating service provider.
CCTS is designed to handle complaints that are not resolved with the provider. Although service providers have made numerous commitments to inform customers about CCTS during any complaint, only 10 per cent of CCTS complainants said the provider did so. Similarly, 17 per cent recalled seeing CCTS information on invoices from providers and 27 per cent saw notices about CCTS on their provider’s web site. Also, 58% of complainants reported going through three or more levels of complaint with the service provider before contacting CCTS.
CCTS is funded by all participating telecom and TV service providers as required by Canada’s telecommunications and broadcasting regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). Complaints accepted by CCTS are forwarded to the service provider with a 30-day response expected. Many complaints are resolved informally when the provider responds, but CCTS will launch investigations and sometimes mediate the disputes. They may recommend service providers make a payment to the customer to compensate for any loss, damage or inconvenience suffered by the customer, up to a maximum of $5,000.
Customers who are unable to resolve an issue directly with their wireless, internet, TV or phone service provider can file their complaint online for free at ccts-cprst.ca.