Complaints up 73%, but Wireless Code breaches down during latter part of 2017, CCTS finds

The Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services (CCTS) received a record number of complaints last year, but also recorded fewer breaches of its Wireless Code, according to the organization’s 2018-mid-year report.

Released today, the report reveals that CCTS accepted 6,849 complaints between August 1, 2017 and January 31, 2018 – a 73 per cent spike over the same period the year before.

The organization acknowledged that its newly expanded mandate was at least partly to blame, with TV service complaints being accepted as of Sept. 1 and representing 846 complaints.

Meanwhile, there were fewer breaches of the organization’s Wireless Code than during the same period in 2016 – 43 versus 52.

In an April 10 statement, CCTS commissioner Howard Maker said his organization was as surprised as anyone else by the increase in customer complaints, noting that it was experiencing some delays in processing times.

“I wish I had a neat formula that I could use to provide an evidence-based explanation of why the numbers go up or down, but we don’t,” Maker told IT World Canada. “There’s usually a few factors – it’s based on what service providers do in the marketplace to cause friction with consumers, on how problematic those issues are.”

“And the other factor is public awareness of CCTS,” he continued. “And that is something we make ongoing efforts to expand – to let people know that there is someplace they can go for a free and fair review of a complaint about their service provider.”

Service providers who fall under CCTS jurisdiction are obligated to refer to the organization on a customer’s bill, he noted – and the fact that the increased number of complaints is spread across wireless, internet, and landline and television services is a good indication that customer awareness is increasing across the board, he said.

Bell: Still #1

Bell remained the largest source of complaints, representing 2,275 – or 33.2 per cent – of customer complaints recorded, more than three times the number posted by Rogers, which came in second with 707 complaints, and more than four times the number of complaints against Telus, which received 511.

Altogether, the big three wireless providers accounted for 51 per cent of all complaints, according to CCTS.

When contacted by IT World Canada, a Bell spokesperson echoed Maker’s assessment that the increasing number of complaints could be attributed to the public’s “greatly increased awareness of the CCTS and its services.”

“It’s surprising the commissioner highlighted Bell as having the most complaints considering we do have the most customers by far and our proportion of overall complaints continues to decrease more quickly than our competitors,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.

Telus senior vice president of customer experience Arleen King, meanwhile, sent IT World Canada a statement emphasizing the company’s pride in receiving the fewest complaints of any national carrier for the past six years, “a position we earned through a relentless focus on putting our customers first.”

“The CCTS mid-year report shows that we have 511 opportunities for improvement and we will take these customer complaints, along with the feedback we receive from our customers every day, to heart,” she wrote.

A Rogers spokesperson simply told IT World Canada that “We strive to deliver the best possible experience to our customers including a key focus on being clear, simple and fair in every interaction.”

Courtesy CCTS

The most frequently-raised complaint, according to CCTS, continued to be non-disclosure or inaccurate information regarding the terms under which a service was being provided, especially for wireless customers. (For phone and television customers, the largest area of concern was incorrect charges, and for internet customers the number one concern was quality of service.)

Courtesy CCTS (click for a larger version)

The organization also received (but did not accept) more than 5000 complaints falling outside its mandate, regarding issues such as customer service, broadcasting, pricing, and unsolicited marketing.

Wireless compliance improving

As for the CCTS Wireless Code, Maker noted that not only did the number of breaches go down, but the percentage of investigations that turned out to be breaches dropped as well, from 31 per cent to 24 per cent.

“Service providers recognize the Code is here to stay, and they recognize they are required to follow its provisions,” he said. “They’ve been adjusting their systems, their staff training, and their documentation to make sure that they comply with the Code, and we’re seeing the results in these numbers.”

The top three confirmed breaches involved providers failing to give customers reasonable notice that their contracts were being terminated; wording terms and conditions in a way that did not comply with the Code; and breaching data overage standards by failing to suspend charges over $50.

Courtesy CCTS

In its report, CCTS was also quick to note that despite the significant increase in complaints, it quickly resolved the majority of them – of the 5,202 complaints resolved, 4,604 of them – or 88 per cent – were resolved at the pre-investigation stage (within 30 days).

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former IT World Canada associate editor turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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