Canadian consumer complaints about their telecommunications services continue to rise, according to the annual report of the industry’s dispute resolution service.
The Commission for Complaints for Telecom-Television Services (CCTS) reported a 35% increase in consumer complaints over the 12 months ending July 31, 2019 compared to the previous year. CCTS was created in 2007 by the CRTC to resolve complaints from Canadian consumers.
Wireless services are the largest component of the more than 19,000 complaints received. Billing-related issues (45%) and contract disputes (43%) are the most common issue of the cases that reached the CCTS. Internet complaints are the next most common, with billing again the most common type of complaint. The CCTS also deals with television and telephone (both long-distance and local) complaints.
The CCTS said it was able to “successfully resolve” 91% of complaints. The report defines this as including the satisfaction of both the customer and the participating service provider.
Results from a survey of British Columbia cellphone customers released earlier this month provide a much different view of consumer satisfaction in disputes. The B.C. results show that consumers who launched a dispute were generally unsatisfied with the resolution. Though consumers who filed a complaint through CCTS had the highest satisfaction rates in the survey, just 36% were satisfied. Moreover, only 3% of complaints reached the CCTS. More frequently, customers contacted the provider or went through an arbitration process but those avenues provided lower satisfaction rates (22% and 11% respectively). Just 12% of consumers in the BC survey were familiar with the CCTS complaint process.
According to a federal government-commissioned study in 2018, Canadians pay some of the highest rates in the world for mobile telephone services.
Television complaint issues showed the highest rate of growth in the CCTS report, but August 2018 to July 2019 was the first full year of dealing with television complaints.
The report also noted CCTS involvement in the CRTC discussions that led to the establishment of the new Internet Code that CCTS will begin to administer in January 2020. It also contributed to CRTC hearings on sales practices of large telecom service providers, which led to a report on misleading and aggressive sales practices.
Figures for 2019-20 will also reflect another significant market change. Ontario’s Wireless Services Agreement Act was repealed, effective October 2019. At the time of that announcement in 2018, Ontario representatives said the provincial act had been superseded by federal regulations which provided nearly identical protections, and directed consumers to the CCTS services.
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 that are 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.
Two of the four ‘independent’ directors and total of seven directors of CCTS are nominated by consumer groups. Three of the seven directors are industry representatives.