CRTC denies PIAC request to look into unsavoury telecom sales practices

Canada’s telecom watchdog argued Canadian consumers already have options for redress

CRTC website on phone

Canada’s telecom watchdog has denied a request for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) to look into reports of unsavoury sales practices emerging from Canada’s telecommunications companies.

In a February 14th, 2018 letter addressed to the PIAC’s executive director and general counsel John Lawford, the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission’s chairperson Ian Scott declined the PIAC’s request, arguing that Canadians already have several avenues to seek redress for telecom concerns.

“If Canadians consider that their wireless, internet, home phone or TV service provider has not provided clear and accurate information to them about their [contracts], or is not acting in a manner consistent with the CRTC’s Wireless Code or Television Provider Service Code, they should first try to resolve the issue with their service provider,” said Scott, in the February letter. “If the matter is not resolved to their satisfaction, they are encouraged to escalate the complaint to the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecom-Television Services (CCTS).”

“…they should first try to resolve the issue with their service provider.”

The CCTS acts as the CRTC’s complaints department. Canadians are able to submit complaints to the CCTS, which will serve to remediate those concerns by working as a bridge between consumers and carriers.

“For example, the CCTS can resolve disputes about what is included in the contract, how the contract should be interpreted, and whether the service provider’s conduct meets its obligations,” said Scott, in the same February letter.

Scott further argued that if directly contacting carriers and submitting complaints to the CCTS fails to resolve any issues, Canadians can contact the Competition Bureau.

MobileSyrup reached out to the CRTC for comment, and a spokesperson responded that the Commission’s letter speaks for itself.

In response to the CRTC

The PIAC issued a media statement in response to the CRTC’s letter, stating that the Commission has thrown Canadians consumers “to the telco sales dogs.”

“The CRTC letter refers Canadians to the […] CCTS, but neglects to mention that sales practices generally are not covered by the agency, which has only contractual interpretation powers and in fact explicitly refuses to deal with misleading advertising, which it refers to the Competition Bureau,” reads an excerpt from the PIAC’s February 14th, 2018 media release.

“…there needs to be a public discussion of this phenomenon…”

Lawford spoke with MobileSyrup, further elaborating on the PIAC’s disappointment in the CRTC’s decision.

“The point is that there needs to be a public discussion of this phenomenon and some reckoning at the company-end or the consumers are going to lose public trust in this industry,” said Lawford, in a phone call with MobileSyrup.

“And that’s a bigger deal than any one company’s actions, and I think the CRTC should be interested in that.”

Lawford did emphasize that PIAC will be “pursuing other angles to get this to be publicly dealt with.”

Looking to Canada’s banking industry

The PIAC’s request to the CRTC stemmed from reports that sales staff working for some Canadian telecoms — like Bell and Rogers — were selling products that customers didn’t need or fully understand.

In his initial January 8th, 2018 letter to the CRTC, Lawford argued that there are parallels to be drawn between the sales practices of Canada’s banking industry and the country’s telecom industry.

“PIAC notes that similar allegations, in the banking industry, have triggered inquiry into bank sales practices by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, and a report on those practices is expected shortly,” wrote Lawford, in his January letter.

“…this is a missed opportunity for the CTC.”

Canada’s banks came under fire in 2017 when anonymous source told CBC News that as a TD teller, “I will do anything I can to make my goal.”

“The sectoral regulator in banking is looking after the consumer’s interest,” Lawford told MobileSyrup.

“I think this is a missed opportunity for the CRTC.”

Source: CRTC, PIAC