Public advocacy group calls for CRTC inquiry into Canadian digital service providers

The PIAC has issued a letter urging the CRTC look into ‘aggressive, inappropriate and potentially misleading sales practices”

CRTC website on phone

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) has written to Canada’s telecom watchdog urging for an investigation into “aggressive, inappropriate and potentially misleading sales practices” undertaken by Canada’s digital services industry.

In a letter to the CRTC chairperson Ian Scott, the PIAC’s John Lawford referenced reports that Canadian national service provider Bell specifically tasked sales representatives with pressuring customers into making purchases they might not need.

“Recent media stories in late 2017 have revealed disturbing practices by agents of at least one major Canadian telecommunications and TV service provider, including ‘upselling’ and overselling, as well as allegations of misleading sales practices,” wrote Lawford, in his January 8th, 2018 letter. “Many of these aggressive sales practices appear to have targeted vulnerable customers, including older Canadians, grieving spouses and blind customers.”

Lawford’s letter also addressed the November 2017 Complaints for Telecom-Television Services (CCTS) report that revealed that customer complaints increased by 11 percent in 2017, compared to 2016.

“The nature of these allegations is so serious that a formal inquiry into the entire industry’s sales practices is required,” said Lawford, in the same letter. “Piac would be surprised, given the nature of the markets and market players involved, if these practices were not widespread across the industry, rather than being the property of one provider.”

Lawford clarified why he believes the CRTC should be responsible for delving into the issue, and not an agency like the Competition Bureau.

To begin with, a CRTC inquiry would be open to the public for comment and input.

“There’s a benefit, transparency-wise, to the public the have a public inquiry and that will help improve people’s overall confidence in the telecom and broadcast [sales market],” said Lawford, in a phone call with MobileSyrup.

He also believes that the CRTC would be able to produce a “much wider remedy” by a formal ruling or decision.

“The concern…I have is that it’s not completely clear to me that anyone cares about this and the public needs to be told that people do care,” said Lawford.

MobileSyrup has reached out to the CRTC for comment, and this article will be updated with a response.

Source: PIAC