Canada’s Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) reports an increase in telecom consumer complaints for the fourth straight year. Highlighted in the annual report is the significant CRTC ruling that now allows for customers of all Canadian telecommunications service providers to go to CCTS. “Our Annual Report – Restoring Connections shows that 8,007 consumer complaints were filed with CCTS in 2010-11, an increase of 114 percent over last year,” said Commissioner Howard Maker. “Canadians have identified that an independent agency like CCTS is essential in a market where competition is growing by the day. Through public awareness and a renewed mandate from the CRTC, our number of contacts with the public is expected to increase in the coming years from the over 70,000 we received in 2010-11.”
With over twenty-five million wireless subscriptions in Canada, complaints about wireless services continue to cause the most frustration and confusion for consumers. Over 62 percent of the complaints filed in 2010-11 were about wireless services, up from 51 percent in the preceding year. Almost 80 percent of all complaints were either about billing errors (45 percent) or contract disputes (34 percent).
“Competition in this sector can bring innovative products, better service and lower costs, but it can also cause confusion in billing, data usage, service, and contracts. This is a trend we have now seen for four years, and it shows no sign of subsiding,” Commissioner Maker added.
The report highlights complaints resulting from charges billed for data usage. CCTS heard from displeased consumers who did not understand how their devices use data, who were not aware of the amount of data available in their monthly plan, or who had no idea how much they had used. Many consumers questioned the accuracy of their service provider’s measurement of their data use. The report notes that it can be challenging for consumers to confirm data usage with precision, even with the use of third party data measurement tools, making suspected errors very difficult to confirm.
“CCTS believes it is not appropriate that customers should have to simply accept a provider’s assertion about the amount of data used,” said Commissioner Maker. “CCTS therefore encourages the industry to increase consumer confidence in the accuracy of its data measurements.As much as customers must be diligent in reviewing the terms of their contract before committing, service provider contracts must be clearly understandable.”
Contract issues presented the second largest source of aggravation and complaint from consumers. As in previous years, many of the contract disputes resulted from early termination fees charged to consumers with fixed term contracts. CCTS investigated these complaints by evaluating the contracts to ensure that customers had indeed agreed to service under a clearly written contract.