CRTC releases report on unsavoury, misleading telecom sales practices

The regulatory body has listed several measures


The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has released a series of measures in a report on telecommunications companies practicing unsavoury and misleading telecom sales practices.

The report was released on February 20th, a few months after the CRTC held a hearing in October 2018 that looked at 2,300 interventions from carriers, Canadians, industry leaders, and professionals. The CRTC said it also took information from an Ipsos Public Affairs polling that included 8,000 participating Canadians.

“It is apparent that misleading or aggressive retail sales practices are present in the telecommunications service provider market in Canada,” the CRTC concluded in its report. “These practices exist in all types of sales channels, including in-store, online, over the telephone, and door to door. They occur to an unacceptable degree; they are harming Canadian consumers, in particular, vulnerable Canadians; and they are a serious concern for the CRTC.”

Some of the measures seem like they are follow-up actions that the CRTC proposes could take place in the near future, while other measures could be looked at in the long term.

It considers that a new mandatory Internet Code for internet service providers is necessary and strongly believes that many in the industry want this to be established. But a proceeding is only still underway and no result has come from it.

The CRTC said it also is considering “expanding the mandate” of the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-Television Services (CCTS) to include handling complaints on misleading or aggressive retail sales practices.

The report details that in an ongoing process of testing the idea of monitoring service providers’ retail sales practices, and this could be done through research initiatives or increased data collection by the CCTS.

Other internal measures the CRTC is considering testing is requiring service providers to “publicly report on complaints related to misleading or aggressive retail sales practices.”

But these would be considered multiple processes over time, by seeing which system would work best for consumers.

However, in the report, no specific timeline is exactly determined. Meaning some of these considerations could be implemented quickly, while others could take longer to put in place, such as the implementation of a new Internet Code.

The CRTC noted that one of the biggest issues is that there are “gaps in the awareness and effectiveness of existing consumer protections,” and as such, it is also considering the creation of new sources of information for consumers.

Those could be “checklists for information bulletins,” which would be posted on the CRTC’s website.

It could also mean “consolidating the CRTC’s various codes of conduct for service providers,” the report said.

The CRTC also wants to conduct regular reviews on gaps in the way telecom providers approach their sales practices.

These would all be measured under best practices in order to see how issues from the past can help rectify any future problems.

The multiple processes the CRTC has listed would be done over time, though it is important to note that because this is just a report there are future actionable points that will need to take place.

On a final note, the CRTC said it intends on “strengthening existing consumer protections to ensure that Canadians are not subject to misleading or aggressive sales practices and can obtain redress when necessary.”

The federal government directed the CRTC to launch investigations into these allegations of high-pressure sales practices in June after the CBC released an investigation report into these practices in January 2018.

Source: CRTC