In its annual report released last week, Canada’s Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) is reporting an increase in telecom consumer complaints for the fourth straight year.

The commission handles a wide range of complaints about products and services offered in the telecommunications sector including: home telephone, wired and wireless internet access services, long distance telephone services wireless services, directory and operator services.

CCTS says consumers lodged 8,007 complaints against telecom companies in 2010-11, an increase of 114 percent over the previous year. The large increase is due in large part to a CRTC ruling that now allows for customers of all Canadian telecommunications service providers to go to CCTS.

"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," said Commissioner Howard Maker.

The commission says 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).

The firms with the most complaints were Bell (2,348 complaints), Telus (1,387) and Rogers, (1,355). Rounding out the top ten of worst offenders were Rogers owned Fido (657 complaints), Bell owned Virgin Mobile (637), Bell owned Solo Mobile (226), Primus (207), Videotron (153), Telus owned Koodo (129) and Wind Mobile (86).

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."
Read the complete CCTS Annual report 2010-2011
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.

"As much as customers must be diligent in reviewing the terms of their contract before committing," Commissioner Maker said, "Service provider contracts must be clearly understandable."

The Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) is an independent organization dedicated to working with consumer and small business customers and participating Canadian telecommunication service providers to resolve complaints relating to most deregulated retail telecommunications services. Since July 2007, CCTS has provided consumers with an independent mechanism for resolution of complaints about deregulated local and long distance telephone services, as well as wireless service and internet access. This includes billing errors, compliance with contract terms and commitments, service delivery, credit management and collections issues.

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