Consumer complaints about their telecommunications services declined by about 25%, as measured by the number of complaints reaching the industry arbiter, according to its annual report for 2021-22.
The Commission for Complaints for Telecom-Television Services (CCTS) reported a 25% decrease in consumer complaints over the 12 months ending July 31, 2022 compared to the previous year. Billing problems remained the largest source of complaints to the CCTS, primarily related to incorrect charges and vendors not following through on promised credits or refunds.
CCTS was created in 2007 by the CRTC to resolve complaints from Canadian consumers. The number of complaints grew every year from 2015-16 through 2018-19, but has trended downward two of the past three years. The one exception was a growth of complaints in 2020-21 that arose from consumer dissatisfaction with their internet service quality after a large portion of the workforce was asked to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The most recent report flags wireless device financing plans as a problem area, as “consumers are often surprised at the fees they are required to pay when customers want to end a contract early,” noted CCTS Commissioner Howard Maker. “Service providers should simplify these plans and the way they are disclosed to customers.”
In 2021-22, 12,790 consumer complaints that included 29,374 issues reached the CCTS. (Complaints often include multiple issues.) Those figures are down from 17,003 complaints and 42,254 issues from 2020-21. More than half of the issues (14,887) involved wireless services, followed by Internet, television and local telephone, the other areas of CCTS responsibility. For CCTS overall, and two of four product areas, the most common complaints involve billing. Service delivery remains the most common issue for internet and local telephone providers.
CCTS evaluates service provider conduct against four mandatory CRTC codes of conduct. It found 65 violations of the Wireless Code, down from 96 in the year prior. Freedom Mobile committed the most violations of any provider, with 12.
CCTS found 22 violations of the Internet Code, up from 18 in the year prior. TELUS committed 11 of the 22 violations, for failing to provide required information in contracts and lack of clarity in communications with customers. Nine confirmed breaches of the Television Service Provider Code and two violations of the deposit and disconnection code were reported.
The report indicated 88% of complaints were resolved successfully, in that both the customers and the participating service provider expressed satisfaction. This is consistent with previous years.
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 13 per cent of complainants said the provider did so. Similarly, 16 per cent recalled seeing CCTS information on invoices from providers, and 31 per cent saw notices about CCTS on their provider’s web site. All three figures are up slightly from the previous year. Also, 54% of complainants reported going through three or more levels of complaint with the 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