Topics and Trends

Annual Report

August 1, 2019 – July 31, 2020

Overview

In 2019-20, Canadians filed 15,661 complaints about their service providers, down 19% from last year and the first decrease since 2015-16. It’s good news when fewer customer complaints escalate to the CCTS. It’s also good news that we have successfully resolved almost 90% of these complaints.

These complaints raised almost 43,000 issues that fell within the CCTS mandate, a decrease of 9.5% from last year. Wireless issues continue to be raised the most often, representing 44% of all issues raised. Internet issues continue to be in second place, accounting for 27.5% of issues.

Table 7.1: Number of issues by service type, YoY change

 

Figure 7.1: Five-year view of issues by service type

NOTE: TV complaints were not in the CCTS mandate until September 1, 2017.

 

“Because of the CCTS, my 1.5-year issue was resolved in a day.”

Spotlight on wireless

  • Wireless continues to be the service most complained about
  • Wireless issues account for 44% of all issues, up from 41% last year
  • Wireless customers raise more disclosure issues (15% of all wireless issues) than any other issues
  • Disclosure issues among wireless customers are up by 12% despite an overall reduction in issues this year
  • Incorrect charge is the number two issue, up 3% from last year and accounting for 11% of all wireless issues
Figure 7.2: Five-year view of wireless issues
Table 7.2: Top 10 wireless issues
Issue Number Proportion YoY (%)
Disclosure issues 2,924 15% 12%
Incorrect charge 2,156 11% 3%
Breach of contract 1,278 7% -9%
Intermittent/inadequate quality of service 1,194 6% -3%
Data charges 1,057 6% -22%
Credit/refund not received 1,048 6% 6%
Credit reporting 769 4% 24%
Material contract change without notice 529 3% -21%
Complete loss of service 401 2% -18%
Non-payment/collections 392 2% 3%
Figure 7.3: Five-year view of internet issues

 

Spotlight on internet

  • Internet issues account for 27.5% of all issues raised, up from 25% last year
  • Intermittent/inadequate quality of service is the leading internet issue, accounting for 14% of all internet issues
  • Intermittent/inadequate quality of service issues among internet customers are up by 12% despite an overall reduction in issues this year
  • Incorrect charge and disclosure issues are tied for the second most-complained about issue, each accounting for 13% of all internet issues
  • Although incorrect charge issues are down 23% from last year, disclosure issues are up by 17%
Table 7.3: Top 10 internet issues
Issue Number Proportion YoY (%)
Intermittent/inadequate quality of service 1,707 14% 12%
Incorrect charge 1,506 13% -23%
Disclosure issues 1,504 13% 17%
Credit/refund not received 589 5% -22%
Breach of contract 552 5% 9%
Regular price increase of monthly price plans 505 4% 60%
Legitimacy of early termination fee (ETF) 440 4% -4%
Complete loss of service 417 4% -5%
Customer cancellation due date not kept/delayed 352 3% 48%
Credit reporting 331 3% 6%

Spotlight on TV

  • TV issues account for 14% of all issues, down from 16% last year
  • Incorrect charge issues are down 37% from last year but are still the leading issue, accounting for 16% of all TV issues
  • Disclosure issues are up 4% from last year and also account for 16% of all TV issues
  • Intermittent/inadequate quality of service is in third place, down 19% from last year and accounting for 7% of TV issues
Figure 7.4: TV issues, year-over-year view
Table 7.4: Top 10 TV issues
Issue Number Proportion YoY (%)
Incorrect charge 943 16% -37%
Disclosure issues 914 16% 4%
Intermittent/inadequate quality of service 386 7% -19%
Regular price increase of monthly price plans 333 6% 53%
Credit/refund not received 320 5% -37%
Breach of contract 277 5% -30%
Customer cancellation due date not kept/delayed
205 3% 31%
Final bill charges after cancellation
194 3% -47%
Material contract change without notice
186 3% -24%
Credit reporting 183 3% -11%

 

Figure 7.5: Five-year view of phone issues

Spotlight on phone

  • Local phone service (landlines) accounts for 13% of all issues, down from 15% last year
  • Incorrect charge is the most-complained-about phone issue, accounting for 14% of all phone issues; however this issue is down by 34% from last year
  • Disclosure issues are in second place, accounting for 12% of all phone issues
Table 7.5: Top 10 phone issues
Issue Number Proportion YoY (%)
Incorrect charge 818 14% -34%
Disclosure issues 686 12% -2%
Intermittent/inadequate quality of service 320 6% -15%
Legitimacy of ETF 299 5% -3%
Regular price increase of monthly price plans 271 5% 61%
Breach of contract 254 4% -6%
Credit/refund not received
254 4% -32%
Complete loss of service 238 4% -32%
Unable to port
215 4% -16%
Final bill charges after cancellation 181 3% -53%

 

Breakdown of issues across all service types

Disclosure issues continue to be the top issues raised by all customers, followed by complaints about the incorrect billing of their monthly price plans.

Table 7.6: Top 10 issues across all service types

“I got nowhere battling with my service provider for 5 months. The CCTS resolved 100% of my issue in 15% of that time with 5% of the effort and 1% of the headaches.”

Disclosure issues

Customers often have concerns about information not being fully or clearly provided. Disclosure is the leading issue raised this year (over 6,000 times), up 10% from last year and accounting for 14% of all issues raised across all types of service. Over the last five years, disclosure issues have increased by 221%.

Figure 7.6: Five-year view of disclosure issues

Disclosure is the number one issue raised by wireless customers and is either the number two or number three issue for internet, TV and phone customers.

Figure 7.7: Disclosure issues by type of service

 

Disclosure issues are raised disproportionately by wireless customers. Although wireless customers account for 44% of all issues raised, they account for almost half of the disclosure issues. Many of the disclosure issues could have been avoided by ensuring that clear, concise and accurate information was provided to customers when they agreed to sign up for service.

Bell accounts for 37% of all disclosure issues.  Although this is down from 41% the previous year, it is more than we would expect considering that Bell only accounts for 31% of overall issues.

Both Rogers and Videotron customers report significant increases in disclosure issues from last year: 39% and 54% respectively.

Lucky Mobile, ACN Canada, Distributel and Comwave also experienced increases in the number of times this issue was raised by their customers while Fizz, Acanac, Cogeco, Primus, Xplornet, Public Mobile and Bell Aliant showed improvement, with modest decreases in the number of times this issue was raised by their customers.

Table 7.7: Disclosure issues – Top 10 service providers

 

The top type of disclosure issue concerns a conflict/mismatch between what a customer has agreed to purchase and what their agreement, which is often sent to them after the transaction, indicates. This type of disclosure issue accounts for almost 70% of all disclosure issues. The second most-raised disclosure issue is a lack of full disclosure about promotions, which accounts for 18% of all disclosure issues.

There’s a significant decrease in the number of times customers complained about material contract changes both with and without notice (with notice is down by 66%; without notice is down by 25%). However, this issue was still raised over 1,800 times and remains a source of consumer frustration, especially for wireless customers, which account for 48% of this issue.

Table 7.8: Types of disclosure issues, broken down by service type

 

Contract conflicts with agreement

Of all disclosure issues raised, 69% are the result of a conflict/mismatch between what the customer agreed to purchase (often orally) and what is indicated in their contract, which is sent to them after the transaction occurred. This type of disclosure issue was raised 4,189 times this year. Almost half were raised by wireless customers and 25% by internet customers. Of the 4,189 times this issue was raised, 85% was after a customer had entered into an agreement at a distance.

The top three service providers with this type of disclosure issue are Bell (36%), Rogers (12%) and Videotron (9%).

Table 7.9: Disclosure – Contract conflicts with agreement: Top 3 service providers
Service provider Number of times issue was raised Proportion of issue
Bell 1,492 36%
Rogers 500 12%
Videotron 358 9%

 

Case Summary

Failure to provide contract or critical information summary

A wireless customer told us that he had agreed to keep his business wireless service with his current service provider because the provider had agreed to match a competitor’s offer. The customer renewed his 24-month agreement and was to be billed $263 per month. However, the customer was billed almost double what he claimed was the agreed-upon price. After trying unsuccessfully to resolve the matter with his provider, he contacted the CCTS.

During our investigation, the provider could not demonstrate what price was offered and agreed upon by the customer. It therefore agreed to apply a credit to the customer’s account reflecting the difference between what he was expecting to be billed based on his oral agreement with his provider, and what he had actually been billed. In addition, the provider applied a lump-sum credit of $150 and removed late-payment fees associated with the customer’s account. The provider also applied a further 15% reduction in price for the remaining months of the two-year agreement. The customer was satisfied with this offer and accepted it, resolving the complaint.

Case Summary

Promised discount not provided

A customer told the CCTS she had agreed to receive home phone, internet and TV services from her provider for a total of $177 per month but was instead charged $227 per month: $50 more each month than the agreed-upon price. She was unable to resolve the matter with her provider, and she submitted a complaint to the CCTS.

We asked the provider to submit documentation to help us in our investigation, including a copy of the recorded phone call with the customer. After listening to this call, we determined that the regular price for the customer’s services was indeed $227 per month but that the agent had offered to provide the services for $177 per month, just as the customer had told us. After we spoke with the provider, it applied a credit to the customer’s account for the difference between what the customer should have been billed and what she was actually billed during the four months the issue persisted. In addition, the provider offered to lower her price to $169 per month for the next 12 months. The customer was satisfied, and the complaint was resolved.

Key Message

Service providers must provide clear and accurate information to customers and are expected to honour the commitments made by their employees. The Wireless Code requires that both a contract and a critical information summary be provided to customers so they have a clear understanding of their service agreement. To avoid subsequent disputes we recommend that customers make use of electronic communications such as email and webchat whenever possible and that they keep a record of their communications.

Case Summary

Information missing from contract and critical information summary

A wireless customer contacted his service provider after being charged over $150 for long distance calls to the United States. He later told the CCTS that he was advised when signing up for service that free international long distance calls were included because he had added international calling to his service. When his provider refused to credit the charges, stating that calls to the United States were not included in the add-on, the customer contacted the CCTS.

During our investigation we found that the details about the limits to the customer’s international calling add-on were included on his invoice but had not been included in his contract. Instead, the contract simply listed the name of the international long distance add-on without any mention of limits to this plan that could result in the customer incurring overage charges; this is contrary to the requirements in section B1(iii)(a) of the Wireless Code. We also examined the critical information summary (CIS) provided to the customer and found that the provider also breached section C1(iii)(a) of the Wireless Code because the CIS did not disclose the information required. In light of this, the provider agreed to credit the customer’s account for the long distance charges and provided an additional $20 credit, which satisfied the customer.

This year, the CCTS confirmed 53 breaches of each of the two sections of the Wireless Code in the preceding case summary, a year-over-year increase of 112%. Together, these two sections account for over 57% of all Wireless Code breaches.

Key Message

The Wireless Code requires providers to disclose the services included in the contract, including any limits to those services that may result in additional fees, both in the contract and in the critical information summary. These are fundamental requirements to ensure that customers are aware of what they are getting when they sign up for service. We strongly recommend that providers review their practices, contracts and critical information summaries to ensure that they are compliant with the Wireless Code, so that these types of complaints do not persist.

Lack of disclosure about promotions

Disclosure issues are also being raised as a result of a lack of information related specifically to promotions, which account for 18% of all disclosure issues (1,069 issues).

Bell accounts for a disproportionate percentage of these issues. Although it accounts for 31% of all issues raised, it accounts for 40% of disclosure issues specifically relating to the terms associated with promotions.

Table 7.10: Disclosure – Promotion details: Top 3 service providers
Service provider Number of times issue was raised Proportion of issue
Bell 432 40%
Rogers 151 14%
TELUS 80 7%

Case Summary

Customer unaware of terms of service

A customer had agreed to obtain four wireless lines with his service provider. Two of the lines had initially been activated in 2014, one in 2017 and one in 2019. The customer told the CCTS that for each of these services he was offered a discount of $5 per month and that this formed part of his agreement with his provider. The customer received the discount of $5 per line per month, for a total of $20 per month, until early 2020, when the provider removed this discount. When he could not resolve the matter directly with his provider, he filed a complaint with the CCTS.

During our investigation, we asked the provider to submit documentation to help determine the rates that the customer was offered, the terms associated with the discount and the amounts the customer had been billed. We reviewed each of the customer’s four wireless contracts and did not find any mention of the $5 per-line, per-month discount. We therefore concluded that this did not form part of the customer’s contract with the provider.

We also reviewed the provider’s terms of service and found that these permitted it to change the price of a customer’s service upon thirty days’ notice. In reviewing the customer’s invoices, we found that the provider had informed the customer as required that the $5 per month discount would be discontinued the following month. As a result, we concluded that the provider had the authority to remove the discount because it had given the customer the required notice.

To resolve the complaint, the provider nonetheless offered to apply a $3 per month discount on each of the customer’s four lines for a 12-month period as well as to provide him with additional data free of charge. The customer was satisfied with the outcome, and the complaint was resolved.

Case Summary

Customer unclear about details of promotion

A customer contacted the CCTS after her attempts to resolve a dispute with her provider were unsuccessful. The customer told us that her provider had overcharged her for her TV and internet services. She said that she was supposed to be paying $107 per month and had been remitting this amount but had just discovered that the provider was billing her more.

During our investigation, we found that the customer had been provided with a promotional discount of $31 off her monthly service charges but that this promotion was valid for only the first 12 months of her 24-month service agreement. Her provider submitted documentation to us to demonstrate that it had disclosed the nature of the promotional discount and that the promotion would expire. Nonetheless, the provider offered to credit 50% of the additional charges that had accumulated over the course of the contract, for a total credit of $236. The customer was happy with the outcome, and the matter was resolved.

Key Message

Unless something is stated in the contract, it falls under the general terms of service, which often allow providers to remove or change items with notice. Given that lack of disclosure about promotions is an issue raised over 1,000 times this year, providers should carefully review their practices to ensure that their employees are properly informing customers about the terms of service associated with promotions. Customers should carefully review their contracts to ensure that any promises are captured there and that they fully understand any limits associated with promotions they are offered.

Billing issues

Although billing issues are down 15% year-over-year, they were raised 17,427 times about telecom and TV services, more than any other main category of issue (billing, contract dispute, service delivery, credit management). Over the last five years, billing issues have increased by 169%.

Figure 7.8: Five-year view of billing issues

 

Forty-eight percent of all billing issues are related to wireless services, a somewhat higher proportion than what we could expect considering that wireless accounts for 44% of issues raised overall.

Table 7.11: Billing issues by service type
Service Number Proportion
Wireless 8,365 48%
Internet 4,182 24%
TV 2,614 15%
Phone 2,091 12%
Long distance 174 1%

Bell accounts for 5,717 of the billing issues that were raised, down 25% compared to last year. Rogers customers raised 2,062 of the billing issues, up 11% from last year. TELUS was the third-leading service provider for billing issues, with 1,235, down 17% over last year.

Table 7.12: Billing issues – Top 10 service providers

NOTE: The average resolution rate for all complaints across all service types is 89%.

 

The top billing issues are incorrect charges relating to monthly price plans, followed by credit/refund not received and increases to monthly charges.

It’s notable that the number of times customers complained about being charged for services after having cancelled service is down by 41% from last year (although this issue was still raised over 1,000 times).

Table 7.13: Top 10 billing issues
Issue Number
Incorrect charge 5,543
Credit/refund not received 2,223
Regular price increase of monthly price plans 1,417
Data charges 1,057
Final bill charges after cancellation 1,006
Equipment charges 785
Invoices not received
639
Late-payment fees 492
Activation/reactivation charges
474
Misapplied payments 403

 

Incorrect charge relating to monthly price plan

Thirty-two percent of all billing issues are from customers who complain about being charged incorrectly for their monthly price plans. Although the number of times this issue was raised is down 20% from last year, it was raised 5,500 times in 2019-20, making it the number one issue under the billing category and the second most-complained-about issue overall, accounting for 13% of all issues raised across all types of service.

Although this issue is raised most often by wireless customers, it is the leading issue for both TV customers and phone customers. Both TV and phone customers raise this issue disproportionately given their share of the overall issues raised.

Table 7.14: Incorrect charge to monthly price plan by service type
Service Number Proportion
Wireless 2,156 39%
Internet 1,506 27%
TV 943 17%
Phone 818 15%

 

We are unable to determine why TV and phone customers raise this issue disproportionately while the proportion of this issue raised by internet and wireless customers is as expected or lower than expected given their share of the overall proportion of complaints. We do note that the internet and Wireless Codes of Conduct are more rigid in terms of disclosure requirements and changes to monthly prices when compared to the TVSP Code, which may help explain this result. We urge service providers to review their practices in this regard because there is an opportunity to reduce the number of complaints about incorrect charges relating to their monthly service from TV and phone customers specifically and from all customers generally.

The top three service providers with billing issues related to incorrect charges to monthly price plans are Bell (36%), Rogers (13%) and Videotron (8%).

Fido customers account for only 6% of this issue and therefore do not form part of the top three providers for this issue, but it’s notable that the number of times they raised this issue is up 43% from last year.

Table 7.15: Incorrect charge to monthly price plan by service type – Top 3 service providers
Service provider Number of times issue was raised Proportion of issue
Bell 2,001 36%
Rogers 697 13%
Videotron 434 8%

 

Case Summary

Incorrect charge for services

A customer contacted the CCTS because he claimed he was being billed incorrectly for his local phone service. He was billed almost $37 per month but claimed his monthly service fees should have been $29 per month.

The customer’s provider failed to respond to the CCTS complaint, so it was escalated for investigation. During our investigation, we were able to discuss the matter with the provider, which agreed to credit the customer for the amount it had overbilled him during the months in question. The customer was satisfied with the outcome, and the complaint was resolved.

Case Summary

Failure to fix billing error

The CCTS received a complaint from a wireless customer. She claimed that her service provider was charging her incorrectly for her service and she could not resolve her complaint directly with her provider. The customer told us that she was supposed to be billed $55 per month for her service but was being charged $65 per month. The provider informed her that the difference would be credited to her account the following month and that the correct rate would be applied going forward; however, these things were never done.

After we accepted the complaint, we sent it to the provider and asked the provider to resolve this billing error. The provider immediately issued a credit of $33.90 to the customer, an amount equal to what she had been overbilled, and confirmed that the matter was corrected going forward. This result satisfied the customer, and the complaint was resolved.

Credit/refund not received

This year, customers raised concerns about not receiving a promised credit or refund 2,223 times. Although this represents a decrease of 16% from last year, it is still the second-leading billing-related issue raised by customers.

Table 7.16: Credit/refund not received issues by service type
Service type Number Proportion
Wireless 1,048 47%
Internet 589 26%
TV 320 14%
Phone 254 11%
Long distance 12 1%

The top three providers for this issue are Bell (31%), Rogers (10%) and Videotron (10%).  Although Bell customers raised this issue most often, we note that they raised it 20% less than last year.  Videotron accounts for a disproportionate number of these issues: 10% of credit/refund not received issues compared to 5% of issues overall.  We also note that Videotron customers have raised this issue 51% more often than last year.

Table 7.17: Credit/refund not received – Top 3 service providers
Service provider Number of times issue was raised Proportion of issue
Bell 693 31%
Rogers 231 10%
Videotron 220 10%

 

Case Summary

Provider slow to refund credit balance

The CCTS received a complaint from the mother of a wireless customer. The mother advised us that her son, who suffers from cognitive impairment, had been overpaying his wireless account for approximately the last year, and that the account now had a credit balance of over $14,000. She needed help because the service provider refused to refund the balance to her son.

The provider informed us that it was unable to refund payments made online and the customer would need to contact her son’s financial institution. The mother told us she had already contacted the bank and was informed there was nothing they could do; the provider would need to refund the credit balance. We discussed this matter with the service provider, which eventually agreed to refund the customer the credit balance of over $14,000 by issuing him a cheque; this resolved the complaint.

Case Summary

Failure to provide refund

An internet customer had signed up for service, having pre-paid his monthly service fees for one year, totalling almost $600. However, the next day, the customer changed his mind about obtaining his service from this particular provider and cancelled his service request prior to it being activated. The customer submitted a complaint to CCTS when his provider did not refund him the $600 he had paid.

During the course of our investigation, we were able to confirm that the customer had indeed remitted the payment he claimed. The provider failed to respond to our requests for information and to discuss this matter. We therefore issued a Recommendation requiring the provider to refund the customer his $600 and to provide him with an additional $100 for the inconvenience he suffered. Both the customer and provider accepted the Recommendation, and the complaint was concluded.

Increases to monthly charges

Complaints about increases to monthly charges were the number three billing issue and were raised over 1,400 times this year. Although this is a 3% overall decline year-over-year, the number of times this issue is being raised is up 61% for phone customers, 60% for internet customers and 53% for TV customers.

Internet customers raised this issue the most often, accounting for 36% of this issue, followed by TV customers at 24%.

Table 7.18: Credit/refund not received issues by service type
Service type Number Proportion
Internet 505 36%
TV 333 24%
Wireless 304 21%
Phone 271 19%
Long distance 4 0%

The top three providers for this issue were Bell (49%), Rogers (13%) and Videotron (6%).  Bell accounts for a disproportionate number of these issues–49%–when we consider that it only accounts for 31% of issues overall.  The number of times Rogers’ customers raised this issue is down slightly (-1%) whereas Videotron customers raised this issue 16% more often than last year.

Table 7.19: Increases to monthly charges – Top 3 service providers
Service provider Number of times issue was raised Proportion of issue
Bell 691 49%
Rogers 188 13%
Videotron 86 6%

 

Case Summary

Customer confused about monthly charges

A TV and internet customer claimed that the monthly price of her services increased significantly, from $120 per month to $150, without prior notice and without any enhancements to her services. When she was unable to resolve her dispute with her service provider, she submitted a complaint to the CCTS.

During our investigation, we reviewed the terms of service associated with the customer’s service. We found that those terms gave the provider to right to increase the price of its services provided that at least 30 days’ written notice was given to the customer. The provider informed us that it did not apply a price increase of $30 per month as alleged by the customer but rather that the price had increased by $2.50. The provider submitted invoices to the CCTS on which we found that the customer had been provided with 60 days’ notice that the price of her TV services would be increasing by $2.50 per month. Further review of invoices confirmed that the price increase was applied for the amount and on the date indicated in the notice.

We explained to the customer that the terms of service allowed the provider to increase the monthly price for her TV services, subject to 30 days’ written notice. We further explained that such notice was provided to her 60 days prior to the price increase taking effect. Although the customer was not happy with the price increase, she understood why it had transpired, and the complaint was closed.

Case Summary

Mismatch between customer expectations and monthly charges

A customer informed us that he had left his wireless service provider for a new provider that offered him similar service for less money. The customer said he had asked the new provider whether this was a promotional price and was advised that the price would not increase. However, the provider began charging the customer $5 more per month after the customer agreed to receive the service. When the customer could not resolve the matter with his provider, he submitted a complaint to the CCTS.

During our investigation, we found that the customer’s wireless services were not subject to a fixed-term contract but were instead being provided on a month-to-month basis. In reviewing the provider’s terms of service, we found that it had the right to increase the customer’s price upon 30 days’ notice. We also reviewed the customer’s invoices and saw that the provider informed him of the price increase 60 days before it took effect.

We informed the customer of our finding that the provider had followed its terms of service in increasing his monthly price and that he was not subject to a fixed-term agreement to keep his services. The customer thanked us for the information, and the complaint was concluded.

Key Message

In general, the prices charged by service providers in Canada are not regulated by the CRTC. As a result, service providers are free to set their own prices and also adjust them. Whether a provider can increase its prices depends on the type of service, the nature of the commitment (either a fixed-term contract or an indeterminate month-to-month contract), what the terms of service and contract say about prices and, for wireless, internet and TV services, the rules of the relevant code of conduct.

We urge customers to ask providers—at the time of service signup—if the terms of service allow for price increases to service charges. After signup, customers who have concerns about increases to prices should carefully review their terms of service and contract as well as the Wireless Code, Internet Code or TVSP Code if applicable. When in doubt, they should contact their provider for clarification.

We encourage service providers to strive for clarity during service signup, to also ensure that pricing is clear in contracts and terms of service, and to work with customers to resolve billing disputes.

Service delivery issues

Customers raised concerns about service delivery 10,227 times last year, a 1% decrease over the previous year. These issues make up an increasing proportion of the issues raised, accounting for 24% of all issues raised by customers, up from 22% last year. Over the last five years, service delivery issues have increased 184%.

Figure 7.9: Five-year view of service delivery issues

 

Internet customers raised concerns about service delivery the most often (37%), a disproportionately high percentage considering that, overall, internet customers make up 27.5% of all issues raised.

Table 7.20: Service delivery issues by service type
Service type Number Proportion
Internet 3,784 37%
Wireless 3,477 34%
Phone 1,534 15%
TV 1,330 13%
Long distance 102 1%

Bell accounts for 25% of the service delivery issues raised, a somewhat low proportion considering its proportion of all issues raised (31%). Although Rogers’ share of this issue is only 12%, its customers raised this issue 62% more often than they did last year while Shaw’s customers raised service delivery issues 68% more often. Last year, we reported a significant increase in the number of times Cogeco customers reported service delivery issues. We are pleased to see a 71% reduction in service delivery issues reported by Cogeco customers this year.

Table 7.21: Service delivery issues – Top 10 service providers

 

Within the service delivery category, problems with the quality of the service was the top issue reported, followed by complete loss of service. It is also notable that issues about customer cancelling their service after the provider failed to honour a due date related to installation was up by 50% compared to last year.

Table 7.22: Top 10 service delivery issues
Issue Number
Intermittent/inadequate quality of service 3,626
Complete loss of service 1,218
Customer cancellation due date not kept/delayed 983
Unable to cancel service 808
Non-payment/collections-related 755
Install/activate due date not kept/delayed 719
Service repair/loss due date not kept/delayed 463
Unable to port 427
Installation error 364
Seasonal suspension 150

Intermittent/inadequate quality of service

Customers raised concerns about the quality of their service over 3,600 times across all types of service, which is about the same as last year. However, it’s notable that the number of intermittent/inadequate quality of service issues has not changed while overall issues are down 9% and complaints are down 19%, indicating that this is an area of increasing concern for customers.

Bell (22%), Rogers (11%) and Freedom Mobile (9%) were the top three providers with intermittent/inadequate quality of service issues. We note that Bell’s proportion of this issue is somewhat lower than expected considering it accounts for 31% of issues overall.

Table 7.23: Intermittent/inadequate quality of service issues by service type – Top 3 service providers
Service provider Number of times issue was raised Proportion of issue
Bell 784 22%
Rogers 404 11%
Freedom Mobile 324 9%

For internet customers, this is the leading issue, having been raised over 1,700 times, up 12% from last year and accounting for 47% of all intermittent/inadequate quality of service issues raised. (It was the second-most-raised issue for internet customers in the three preceding years.) Moreover, internet customers are raising this issue disproportionately: internet service accounts for 27% of all issues but 47% of intermittent/inadequate quality of service issues.

Table 7.24: Intermittent/inadequate quality of service issues by service type
Service type Number Proportion
Internet 1,707 47%
Wireless 1,194 33%
TV 386 11%
Phone 320 9%
Other 19 1%

There is also a disproportionate percentage of internet quality of service issues stemming from rural areas in Canada. While only 11% of all issues raised stem from rural customers, 21% of all internet quality of service issues raised are from rural customers. (Our classification of areas as “rural” or “urban” is as designated by Canada Post.)

Bell customers complained about quality of their internet service the most, with 389 issues, down 9% from last year.  Bell accounts for a lower proportion of internet quality of service issues (23%) compared to its share of all internet issues (32%). Xplornet customers raised this issue 14% more often than last year and account for 15% of all internet quality of service issues, a large proportion given that they account for only 5% of all internet issues and only 1% of all issues across all types of service. Rogers is the third-leading service provider in this category, with 174 issues, up 34% from last year.

It’s also notable that although TELUS and Shaw are not among the top three providers in terms of internet service delivery issues, they have each seen significant increases in the number of internet quality issues reported, with increases of 79% and 47% respectively over last year.

Table 7.25: Internet quality of service issues – Top 3 service providers
Service provider 2019-20 YoY % Change
Bell 389 -9%
Xplornet 255 14%
Rogers 174 34%

Case Summary

Slower internet speed than customer expects

An internet customer experienced problems with his internet connection. He called his service provider to report that his internet speed had been reduced to about 100 Mbps. The customer informed the CCTS that his provider told him that it would look into the matter but that the troubleshooting ticket was subsequently closed without follow-up and without resolution of the service issues.

We investigated the matter when the customer filed a complaint with the CCTS. We worked with the provider to try to resolve the concern and found that attempts had been made to troubleshoot the customer’s service. During our investigation, the customer informed us that the provider had since provided a firmware upgrade that resolved the internet service issues. The customer was also provided compensation of $75. The customer was satisfied, and the matter was resolved.

Case Summary

Intermittent internet service issues

A wireless internet customer experienced intermittent service issues that he was unable to resolve with his provider, so he submitted a complaint to the CCTS.

The customer said his provider had advised him the problem was probably related to his router. The customer purchased a new router but the problem persisted. He wanted help in getting his service issues resolved and he also wanted to be reimbursed for the cost of the new router he had bought.

During our investigation, the provider informed us that due to the nature of the internet service, the customer may indeed experience degradation of service during peak usage times. While investigating the matter, the provider found that the tower from which the customer was receiving his wireless internet service was broadcasting two different types of service, which the provider described as “2.5 LTE and 3.5 LTE”. The provider switched the customer’s service to the 3.5 LTE, which the customer confirmed resolved some of his service delivery problems. In addition, the provider agreed to credit the customer for the amount he had spent to replace his router. The customer was satisfied with this course of action, and the complaint was resolved.

Case Summary

Proper investigation of intermittent internet service issues

An internet customer was experiencing intermittent service issues that he was unable to resolve with his service provider.

During the CCTS investigation of the complaint, the provider informed us that it had been working with the customer to resolve the issues. It confirmed that there was no known issue with its network. Each time the customer informed it that he was experiencing intermittent quality issues, the provider had sent a new modem to the customer’s home and confirmed that the service was subsequently working. The provider was able to demonstrate this through documentation submitted to the CCTS.

In addition, the provider was able to demonstrate that the customer was indeed making use of the service during the period in which he claimed the service did not work. Nonetheless, the provider offered to cancel the service, waive all cancellation fees and provide a one-month service credit of $82. The customer informed us that he was satisfied with the offer and would look into moving his business to another provider that could offer a more stable internet connection.

Case Summary

Correct troubleshooting of internet issues

An internet customer contacted the CCTS to complain that she had experienced very slow internet speeds from her service provider for a number of years. Her most recent attempts to resolve the matter had been unsuccessful, so she submitted a complaint to the CCTS. She informed us that she had subscribed to receive speeds of 5 Mbps; however, she claimed that often her speeds reached only 2.5 Mbps.

During our investigation of the complaint we determined that the customer was subscribed to an internet plan that included speeds of “up to” 5 Mbps. The provider’s terms of service do not guarantee the availability and/or the speeds of its services. Despite not having an obligation to provide uninterrupted service, the CCTS expects that the provider will complete troubleshooting with the customer when the service issues are brought forward.

A further review of the account records confirmed that four technician appointments took place in November and December 2019. During these appointments, the customer’s modem was changed and the lines were tested. In addition, the customer had been provided with a total of $561.24 over the years as compensation for service issues, including a recent credit that was applied to her account.

We found that the provider properly followed its troubleshooting procedure and that the service provided was within the terms agreed to by the customer. We explained this to the customer, who was satisfied with the investigation and agreed to close the complaint.

Key Message

Customers have very high demands for internet service quality. Service providers are aware of these high expectations and should be responsive to customer issues, help customers troubleshoot issues, and keep customers informed. Sometimes customer expectations cannot be met, either because of technology limitations or because customers are not aware of limitations in service plans, such as “up to” limits. In the latter case, full and proper disclosure to customers would help to decrease complaints. We urge service providers who are dealing with customer complaints to thoroughly explore the cause of the mismatch between their offer and the service the customer is receiving, and to adjust customer plans accordingly.

Credit management issues

There were 1,593 credit management issues reported this year, up 9% from last year. Credit management issues have increased 122% over the last five years.

Figure 7.10: Five-year view of credit management issues

 

Wireless customers account for more than half of all credit management issues (55%), followed by internet customers (23%).

Table 7.26: Credit management issues by service type
Service type Number Proportion
Wireless 877 55%
Internet 366 23%
TV 191 12%
Phone 159 10%

Bell accounted for 28% of the credit management issues. Rogers accounted for 13% and its customers raised this issue 71% more often than last year. TELUS accounted for 10% of credit management issues.

Table 7.27: Credit management issues – Top 10 providers

NOTE: The average resolution rate for all complaints across all service types is 89%.

 

Credit reporting

Ninety percent of the credit management issues are about credit reporting.

The increase is driven primarily by wireless customers, which account for 54% of credit reporting issues—a disproportionately high number when we consider that wireless customers account for 44% of issues overall.

It’s notable that only 81% of all credit reporting issues are resolved at some point of our process, lower than the average resolution rate of 89% for issues overall.

Bell had 377 credit reporting issues this year, up 3% from last year. Bell accounts for 26% of all credit reporting issues, a lower proportion than might be expected given that Bell accounts for 31% of all issues across all types of service.

Rogers had 203 credit reporting issues, up 75% from last year. It managed to resolve only 76% of these issues, less than the overall resolution rate for credit reporting issues (81%) and far lower than the overall resolution rate for all issues across all service types (89%).

TELUS had 157 credit reporting issues, down 2% from last year. TELUS accounts for 11% of credit reporting issues, somewhat higher than expected considering that it accounts for only 7% of all issues across all types of service.

Although not among the top three service providers for credit reporting issues, the number of times Virgin Mobile and Fido customers raised this issue increased significantly: 85% and 94% respectively.

Table 7.28: Credit reporting issues – Top 3 service providers
Service provider Number of times issue was raised Proportion of issue
Bell 377 26%
Rogers 203 14%
TELUS 157 11%

Case Summary

Incorrect credit reporting damages customer’s credit rating

A customer cancelled her internet and TV services and returned the equipment her provider had given her. A number of months later, she received a collections notice from the provider stating that she had an overdue balance on her account. When she contacted her provider, it confirmed that it had in fact received the equipment and that she did not owe the amount indicated on the notice. A few months later, it came to her attention that the outstanding balance was still showing as owing and had been reported to a credit reporting agency, negatively impacting her credit rating. When she was unable to resolve this matter directly with her provider, she submitted a complaint to the CCTS.

During our investigation, we found that the customer had indeed returned the equipment to her provider after having cancelled the service and did not owe the money that had been reported to the collection agency. In fact, the customer had a credit balance on her closed account of almost $30. The provider investigated and reported to us that there had been a delay in processing the return of her equipment, which generated an outstanding balance that was reported to the credit reporting agency when it went unpaid. The provider called back the report from the credit reporting agency and indicated that it had been sent in error. The provider also refunded the customer the almost $30 that it owed to her. The customer was satisfied with this outcome, and the complaint was resolved.

Disconnection or suspension of service

There is an increase in the number of issues reported about suspension or disconnection of service. This year, this issue was raised 1,159 times by customers, an increase of about 6% in a year when overall issues are down 9% and complaints are down 19%.

This issue is being raised disproportionately by wireless customers, who account for 52% of the disconnection of service issues while only accounting for 44% of issues overall.

Table 7.29: Disconnection/suspension of service issues by service type
Service type Number Proportion
Wireless 601 52%
Internet 253 22%
TV 153 13%
Phone 147 13%
Long distance 5 0%

Although the number of breaches of the disconnection-related provisions in the Wireless Code are down almost 15% from last year, they still account for 19% of all Wireless Code breaches.

For local phone customers, we do not note any anomalies regarding the number or proportion of suspension/disconnection issues raised. However, we do note 9 breaches of the Deposits and Disconnections Code this year whereas no breaches were reported last year. Of these, 78% related to a provider failing to give the customer the required 14-day notice prior to disconnection.

Bell (28%), Rogers (16%) and Freedom Mobile (7%) were the top three providers with disconnection/suspension of service issues.

Table 7.30: Disconnection/suspension of service – Top 3 service providers
Service provider Number of times issue was raised Proportion of issue
Bell 320 28%
Rogers 187 16%
Freedom Mobile 79 7%

Case Summary

Lack of notice before disconnection

A local phone customer submitted a complaint to the CCTS after his service was disconnected without notice. During our investigation, we found that the customer had an unpaid balance of $678 on his previous account at his previous address and that according to the service provider’s terms of service, it had the right to disconnect his service. However, we found that the provider failed to notify the customer that his service was going to be disconnected and failed to inform him of what he was required to do to avoid the disconnection: this is contrary to section 3.2 of the Deposits and Disconnections Code. To remedy its error, the provider offered to credit the entire $678 owed by the customer and reconnect his service. The customer was satisfied and the complaint was resolved.