1. Carrying out the Public Awareness Plan
For the CCTS to be able to help Canadians, customers must first be aware of their right to escalate their dispute to the CCTS when their attempts to solve the problem directly with their service provider have proven ineffective. Therefore, all PSPs must comply with the CCTS’ Public Awareness Plan, which is summarized below:
- Required information and search functionality on websites: PSPs must have a dedicated, public-facing webpage with specific information about their complaint-handing process, and about the CCTS. Additionally, when using the website search function and entering certain keywords, the results must include a link to the PSP’s complaints page.
- Customer bill messages: PSPs must, at least four times per year, include a written notice about the CCTS on their customers’ bills, or alternatively via text message or website notices to those customers who do not receive bills.
- Customer notification: PSPs must inform a customer about the CCTS immediately upon a failure to resolve the customer’s complaint at the second level of escalation in their complaint-handling process, and again at subsequent levels of escalation in their internal process, should the customer pursue further internal escalations.
- White Pages: PSPs that publish white page directories must include a notice about the CCTS, in a prescribed format.
B. Monitoring Activities and Results
To monitor compliance with the CCTS Public Awareness Plan, we:
- asked all PSPs to certify compliance by each of their brands; and
- reviewed in detail the compliance of over 30 PSP brands, including the ones customers complain about the most.
1. Results of Public Awareness Plan compliance certification
* See Appendix B
We require each PSP to certify their compliance with the Public Awareness Plan in order to confirm that each PSP is informing their customers about the CCTS at the required times. Out of the 254 compliance forms submitted, we reviewed all 103 forms where the PSPs self-identified as not fully compliant and followed up with them in December 2018. Generally, these PSPs identified that they were not fully compliant with all of the website or bill messaging requirements. Some PSPs did not provide customers with the required CCTS bill message on invoices. Others did not have websites that included all of the required information about their own complaint handling process or about the CCTS. In 2019, we are working with these PSPs to ensure they understand the requirements and when necessary, to make certain changes to come into compliance.
2. Our review of PSPs’ compliance results
We reviewed in greater detail the compliance of 30 PSP brands, including the ones customers complain about the most, by reviewing their relevant internal processes and customer-facing material. We generally found that most PSPs are complying, although there are some issues that require attention.
Required information and search functionality on websites
PSPs must have a complaints page on their website and ensure it is clearly-labeled and easy for consumers to find from the home page. If the complaints page is absent or difficult to find, we do not consider the PSP’s website to be compliant with that requirement. Also, if the PSP’s website has a search function, searching with specific keywords must return a link to the complaints page. We observed the following trends:
- On twelve PSP websites, we found that the complaints page — which contains information about the PSP’s internal complaint-handling process and about the CCTS – was not sufficiently easy for customers to find. Information about the CCTS was often challenging to locate or requiring too many clicks to access. A few PSPs included CCTS information in the “legal” or “regulatory” sections of the websites, not on their complaints page as required.
- Additionally, we found that the search function on six PSP websites did not return a link to the complaints page or to information about the CCTS when some of the required keywords were used.
Customer bill messages
PSPs must include a mandatory CCTS bill message at least four times per year on customer bills (whether electronic or paper). This is to ensure that customers receive information about the CCTS when they need it – which in many cases is when they receive their bill. We confirmed that all PSPs that we reviewed included the required bill message at least four times per year.
PSPs are also required to ensure that the CCTS bill message is displayed in a manner that is “reasonably prominent relative to other notices of a similar nature”. We found that amongst the PSPs we reviewed, most of the customer bills we reviewed were compliant with this requirement. Only six PSPs were not compliant because, in our view, the required information about CCTS was not as prominent as required.
To monitor compliance with the customer notification requirement, we reviewed PSPs’ internal process documents. We found that half of the PSPs we reviewed had internal processes that required customer notification of CCTS at the appropriate time. In 2019 we will be working with the other PSPs whose internal processes revealed compliance issues.
2. Compliance with the CCTS Procedural Code
In our initial year of monitoring Procedural Code compliance, we observed that most PSPs generally comply with most of the requirements. There were however some compliance issues.
The CCTS Procedural Code contains specific requirements that PSPs must comply with throughout the CCTS complaint-handling process and also afterwards, including:
- Implementing agreed-upon resolutions, and CCTS-issued Recommendations and Decisions;
- Providing the CCTS all relevant information and documentation at different stages during the complaint-handling process; and
- Refraining from collections activity on disputed charges during the course of a complaint to the CCTS.
There are numerous interactions between PSPs and the CCTS in the course of handling and investigating a complaint which may engage these requirements.
B. Monitoring Activities and Results
In the period covered by this report (January 1 – October 31, 2018) we observed approximately 1,000 issues of Procedural Code non-compliance arising in approximately 13,000 complaints. The major issues, and how we have addressed them or plan to address them, are discussed below.
PSPs failing to implement agreed-upon resolutions and CCTS’ Recommendations and Decisions
The CCTS Procedural Code requires PSPs to implement agreed-upon resolutions, Recommendations and Decisions. Failure to implement these resolutions deprives customers of the remedies to which they are entitled, and undermines the CCTS’ resolution process. When a customer informs the CCTS that their PSP has failed to honour any of these outcomes, it is considered to be a major issue of non-compliance and actions to remedy the situation are taken.
In 2018, this occurred in 21 complaints:
- in 17 complaints, the PSP complied once CCTS intervened;
- in 1 complaint the customer was non-responsive to CCTS;
- in 2 complaints about AllCore Communications Inc. (“AllCore”), AllCore failed to implement a Recommendation, and a resolution, despite numerous contacts over several months. As a result, CCTS expelled AllCore and referred the matter to the CRTC. This resulted in AllCore coming into compliance (including compensating the customers in both cases), and restoring its participation in the CCTS;
- In 1 complaint, B.V Communications Inc. (“BV”) refused to implement a CCTS Decision for 3 months. We imposed a deadline for compliance, following which we would refer BV to the CRTC. This resulted in BV coming into compliance by compensating the customer.
More than half of the Procedural Code non-compliance issues were about PSPs failing to provide the CCTS with all of the required information for complaint-handling
An ongoing issue is that PSPs do not always provide the CCTS with the information requested, or provide it on time. This has an impact on the investigator’s ability to effectively and efficiently resolve customer complaints.
Once a customer has complained to the CCTS, the PSP has 30 days to contact the customer to try and resolve the complaint, and report back to the CCTS with the result. When a complaint remains unresolved, the PSP is required to: (i) inform the CCTS that the complaint remains unresolved; (ii) provide a full and complete written response to all of the customer’s issues in the complaint, and (iii) provide copies of all documents that are relevant to the complaint. For example, when a customer’s unresolved complaint is about a contractual dispute, the PSP is required to submit the relevant contract. If a complaint remains unresolved after 30 days, a Complaint Resolution Officer reviews all of the materials provided to begin assessing whether the PSP met its obligations to the customer. If the PSP has not provided the CCTS with all of the relevant materials, the Officer must spend additional time going back and forth with the PSP to get the material that should have been provided in the initial timeframe. This affects the efficiency of the resolution process.
There are two separate points in the CCTS process that require PSPs to provide information and documents relevant to the complaint. The first is toward the beginning of the process – that’s when the PSP provides its initial response to inform the CCTS that the complaint remains unresolved. The second is during our investigation of an unresolved complaint – that’s when a Complaint Resolution Officer requests additional information and the PSP is required to provide it within certain timelines. We will engage with PSPs that are experiencing challenges in meeting these requirements to ensure that they understand and comply with them.
Almost half of the Procedural Code non-compliance issues were about PSPs continuing collections against a customer for unpaid charges despite the customer complaining to CCTS
PSPs are required during the course of a complaint to the CCTS to refrain from pursuing collections activity regarding any charges in dispute. This acts as a safeguard for cases where the CCTS determines that the amount in dispute is not owed by the customer. Some PSPs — larger ones generally — do not appear to be consistently complying with this requirement and we plan to work with them to ensure that they adjust their collections process to reflect this requirement.
3. Disclosure of financial information and payment of CCTS fees
PSPs fund the CCTS, which allows us to offer our service to customers for free. PSPs pay according to their revenue and the number of complaints they each generate. In order for the CCTS to set fees that adequately cover the cost of operating, PSPs are required to provide certified financial information each year. It is therefore an instance of major non-compliance to fail to provide the required financial information, and to fail to pay invoices.
When PSPs fail to provide this information, or fail to pay their bills to the CCTS, it adds cost, which must be borne by all PSPs. To monitor compliance with financial obligations, the CCTS monitors whether PSPs have complied with the following requirements:
- disclosure of financial information; and
- payment of CCTS fees.
B. Monitoring Activities and Results
- Disclosure of financial information
In 2018, 203 out of 267 PSPs complied with the requirement to provide us with financial information. See Appendix C for the full list of non-compliant PSPs.
- Payment of CCTS fees results
We bill PSPs on a quarterly basis, and PSPs are required to pay their fees promptly. Starting in 2019, PSPs owing more than $1,000 for over 90 days will be referred for collections. At the end of 2018, 10 PSPs owe CCTS fees that qualify for collection activity, as listed in Appendix D.