Topics and Trends

Annual Report

August 1, 2020 – July 31, 2021

In 2020-21, Canadians filed 17,003 complaints about their service providers, up 9% from last year.

Overview

This year’s data captures a full year of Canadians living through the pandemic, which began midway through the CCTS’ last (2019-20) Annual Report period. During the pandemic, Canadians relied increasingly on their communications services, especially to work and learn remotely. For details about Canadian online behaviour during the pandemic, see the Statistics Canada article “Internet use and COVID-19: How the pandemic increased the amount of time Canadians spend online.”

Notwithstanding the increase in complaints, the CCTS successfully resolved 88% of customer complaints in 2020‑21.

These 17,003 complaints raised just over 42,000 issues that fell within the CCTS mandate. A single complaint can contain multiple issues, which can be seen by the disproportionate number of issues raised compared to complaints received.

Wireless issues continue to be raised most often, representing 44% of all issues raised. Internet issues continue to be in second place, accounting for 31% of issues. Internet issues increased by 12% since last year, which may reflect customers’ increased reliance on internet services due to the pandemic.

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.

 

“Your organization relieved the stress and anxiety caused by trying to deal directly with my service provider.”

Spotlight on wireless

  • Wireless is still the most complained-about service.
  • Like last year, wireless issues account for 44% of all issues even though the number of times customers raised wireless issues declined for the second year in a row.
  • Wireless customers raised disclosure issues 11% more often than last year. These issues are about customer concerns that information is not being fully or clearly provided. Disclosure is the leading issue among wireless customers, accounting for 18% of all wireless issues.

  • Incorrect charge is the number two issue for wireless customers, up 16% from last year and accounting for 14% of all wireless issues.
  • Wireless device financing plan issues almost doubled this year (a 97% increase).
  • Issues relating to delayed or missed activation dates also increased by 58%.
  • Wireless customers also complained more about being unable to port their service to a new provider (a 50% increase) and being unable to cancel their service (a 39% increase).
Figure 7.2: Five-year view of wireless issues
Table 7.2: Top 10 wireless issues
Issue Number Proportion YoY (%)
Disclosure issues 3,238 18% 11%
Incorrect charge 2,493 14% 16%
Breach of contract 1,348 7% 5%
Quality of service 1,196 6% 0%
Credit/refund not received 1,069 6% 2%
Credit reporting 776 4% 1%
Data charges 638 3% -40%
Material contract change without notice 488 3% -8%
Legitimacy of early termination fee (ETF) 402 2% 3%
Unable to cancel 366 2% 39%
Figure 7.3: Five-year view of internet issues

 

Spotlight on internet

  • Internet issues account for 31% of all issues raised.
  • Customers raised internet issues 12% more often than last year.
  • The increase in internet issues is largely driven by customers complaining more often about the quality of their internet service. The quality of internet service issue was raised in this year’s complaints 48% more often than last year. Internet quality of service now accounts for 19% of all internet issues, up from 14% last year.
  • Incorrect charge and disclosure issues remain tied as the number two issue, with each accounting for 11% of all internet issues.
  • There are significant increases in some other internet issues:
    • Internet data usage billing issues increased by 67%.
    • Breach of contract issues increased by 53%.

Table 7.3: Top 10 internet issues
Issue Number Proportion YoY (%)
Quality of service 2,532 19% 48%
Incorrect charge 1,471 11% -2%
Disclosure issues 1,414 11% -6%
Breach of contract 842 6% 53%
Credit/refund not received 780 6% 32%
Complete loss of service 518 4% 24%
Legitimacy of early termination fee (ETF) 498 4% 13%
Equipment charges 443 3% 52%
Credit reporting 408 3% 23%
Regular price increase of monthly price plans 377 3% -25%

Spotlight on TV

  • TV issues account for 12% of all issues, decreasing for the second time in the last three years.
  • Incorrect charge is the leading issue, accounting for 16% of all TV issues.
  • Disclosure issues are in second place, accounting for 15% of all TV issues.
  • Quality of service issues account for 9% of all TV issues, up 21% from last year despite a decrease of 13% in the total number of TV issues.
  • Issues about equipment charges increased by 61% from last year, accounting for 5% of all TV issues.
Figure 7.4: TV issues, year-over-year view
Table 7.4: Top 10 TV issues
Issue Number Proportion YoY (%)
Incorrect charge 827 16% -12%
Disclosure issues 779 15% -15%
Quality of service 467 9% 21%
Credit/refund not received 307 6% -4%
Breach of contract 256 5% -8%
Equipment charges 239 5% 61%
Regular price increase of monthly price plans
213 4% -36%
Credit reporting 203 4% 11%
Customer cancellation due date not kept/delayed 160 3% -22%
Invoices not received 136 3% 24%

 

Figure 7.5: Five-year view of phone issues

Spotlight on phone

  • Local phone service (landlines) accounts for 12% of all issues, down for the second year in a row.
  • Incorrect charge and disclosure issues are the top two issues. Incorrect charge issues account for 13% while disclosure issues account for 10% of all local phone issues.
  • Quality of service issues increased by 36% and are the number three issue, accounting for 9% of all local phone issues.
Table 7.5: Top 10 phone issues
Issue Number Proportion YoY (%)
Incorrect charge 674 13% -18%
Disclosure issues 522 10% -24%
Quality of service 434 9% 36%
Legitimacy of ETF 283 6% -5%
Complete loss of service 243 5% 2%
Breach of contract 241 5% -5%
Credit/refund not received
219 4% -14%
Unable to port 182 4% -15%
Customer cancellation due date not kept/delayed 177 4% 1%
Regular price increase of monthly price plans 165 3% -39%

 

Breakdown of issues across all service types

Just like last year, 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

“Without the CCTS, it is very unlikely that my complaint would have been resolved.”

Disclosure issues

Customers often have concerns about information not being fully or clearly provided. Disclosure is the leading issue raised this year (nearly 6,000 times), a marginal decrease of about 1% from last year.

Disclosure issues account for 14% of all issues across all types of service. Furthermore, over the last five years, disclosure issues have increased by 197%.

Figure 7.6: Five-year view of disclosure issues

Disclosure is the top 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 more than 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.

Table 7.7 shows disclosure issues for the top 10 service providers. Many providers had a significant increase in disclosure issues from last year despite a 1% decline in overall disclosure issues.

Although Bell Canada (“Bell”) accounts for 25% of all disclosure issues, its customers raised this issue 34% less often than they did last year.

TELUS, Freedom Mobile and Comwave show 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 average disclosure resolution rate was 91%.

The most-reported type of disclosure issue is contract conflicts with agreement, which concerns a conflict or mismatch between what a customer has agreed to purchase and what their contract indicates. (The contract is often sent to customers after the transaction.) This type of disclosure issue accounts for 75% of all disclosure issues, up from 69% last year.

The number two disclosure issue is a lack of full disclosure about promotions, which accounts for 12% of all disclosure issues, down from 18% last year.

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

Contract conflicts with agreement

Of all disclosure issues raised, 75% are the result of a conflict or mismatch between what the customer believes they 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 4,475 times this year — more than half of the time by wireless customers (53%) and 24% of the time by internet customers.

Of the 4,475 times this issue was raised, 94% was after a customer had entered into an agreement at a distance, either over the phone or online. This represents an 18% increase from last year, which likely reflects that consumers are increasingly entering into agreements at a distance in these unusual pandemic times. The remaining 6% of this issue occurred when customers agreed to their contracts in-store.

Figure 7.8: Contract conflicts with agreement issues by type of service

 

The top three service providers with this type of disclosure issue are Bell (26%), Rogers (15%) and Videotron (14%).

Table 7.9: Disclosure – Contract conflicts with agreement: Top 3 service providers
Service provider Number of times issue was raised Proportion of issue
Bell 1,154 26%
Rogers 672 15%
Videotron 624 14%

 

Case Summary

Monthly service charges do not match contract or agreement

A customer contacted the CCTS after attempts to resolve a dispute with his service provider were unsuccessful. The customer told us that he was offered a new wireless plan via text message, which he accepted. He said he was assured the plan would include 6 GB of data for $40 and that he would not need to pay the $45 fee to move his existing number over to the provider. However, he told the CCTS that, after receiving the first invoice, he was charged $55 for the plan and $45 for the number change fee, contrary to what he was promised.

During our investigation, we found that the agreement sent to the customer indicated a monthly price plan of $45 rather than the $55 the customer was billed. Because the customer indicated he was to be billed $40 per month, we also obtained a copy of the call recording. After reviewing the call recording, we found that the customer was indeed advised he would be billed $40 per month.

Section C.1(iii)(a) of the Wireless Code requires that the Critical Information Summary (CIS) provide a complete description of all key contract terms and conditions, including the minimum monthly charge. Because the price in the customer’s CIS was different than what was agreed, we found that the provider was in breach of its requirements.

After further review of the account notes, we were unable to find a promise to the customer to waive the $45 number change fee. However, during our investigation the provider advised that this fee did not apply to the customer and should not have been billed.

The provider corrected the customer’s plan, credited the difference for the incorrectly billed months, and provided a $45 credit for the improper number change fee. The provider also applied a $50 credit as compensation.

We found the resolution presented by the provider to be fair and reasonable.

Key Message

The Wireless Code states that a Critical Information Summary (CIS) and a contract must be provided to customers. The Wireless Code also stipulates that a CIS must provide a complete description of all key contract terms and conditions, including the minimum monthly charge for services, so customers have a clear understanding of the agreement. Service providers must supply clear and accurate information to customers and are expected to honour the commitments made by their employees.

To avoid subsequent disputes, we recommend that customers use electronic communications such as email and webchat whenever possible and that they keep a record of their communications. In addition, customers should check their invoices soon after entering a new agreement to ensure they are being billed correctly.

Case Summary

Mismatch between customer oral agreement and contract received

A customer told us that in January of 2020, she agreed to a 24-month term for TV and internet services for $187 per month in a sales call with her service provider. When she later received a copy of the service agreement, it listed only TV services for $187 per month although she was receiving both services. The customer reached out to the provider requesting a correction to the agreement to include the missing internet service because the written contract did not match their oral agreement. They were unable to reach a resolution, so the customer submitted a complaint to the CCTS.

During our investigation, we listened to the call recording of the sales call and confirmed that the customer was indeed promised both TV and internet services for $187 per month for 24 months. We confirmed that the service agreement did not match the oral agreement that was made with the customer because internet services were not listed.

When we discussed our findings with the provider, it advised that the deficient service agreement had been generated as a result of a system error. The provider confirmed that the customer was receiving both TV and internet services since January of 2020, and provided the customer’s invoices that showed both services listed for the agreed-upon price. The provider stated that it would continue to provide both services for $187 per month until the end of the 24-month term to honour the agreement.

To correct its system error, the provider reprinted the customer’s service agreement to show both services for $187 per month, provided a credit for one month of service, and provided the option for the customer to cancel the agreement without penalty should she choose to do so. We concluded the complaint because we found the remedies offered to be reasonable given the circumstances.

Case Summary

Disclosure issue with early cancellation fees related to device financing

A customer agreed to a 24-month contract for wireless service and a new device but decided to cancel his contract early. The service provider sent the customer a final invoice with two early cancellation fees: $866 and $904. The customer disputed the $904 cancellation charge. When the parties were unable to resolve the matter, the customer contacted the CCTS.

During our investigation, the provider explained that the contract included an “Agreement Credit” and a reduced device price (the retail device price minus the Agreement Credit). Both the Agreement Credit and the reduced device price were device financing plans. The customer was billed two early cancellation fees: one fee for each of these items.

NOTE: Device financing plans enable customers to pay for a new mobile device in monthly installments until the device is fully paid for, usually over 24 months.

We reviewed the agreement and found it outlined that the early cancellation fee was the remaining device balance. However, the agreement failed to clearly indicate that “Agreement Credit” is another term used to describe the device balance. In effect, the contract had created two separate device balances, which resulted in two early cancellation fees.

We determined that the term “Agreement Credit” as used in the Critical Information Summary (CIS) does not satisfy the Wireless Code’s plain language requirement because it is ambiguous, lacks clarity, and could lead to confusion regarding customers’ obligations in the event of an early cancellation. The term could easily be misinterpreted to mean an amount that does not need to be repaid, as happened in this situation — the customer did not understand that there were two early cancellation fees.

As a remedy to this failure, the provider agreed to waive the early cancellation fee related to the “Agreement Credit” ($904) and credited the customer for late payment fees. The customer was satisfied, and the complaint was resolved.

Key Message

The Wireless Code requires clarity when setting out the terms of an agreement, including any financed amounts that may result in early cancellation fees for the customer, both in the contract and in the Critical Information Summary. These are fundamental requirements to ensure that customers are aware of which cancellation fees will apply when they are choosing their service provider.

We strongly recommend that providers review their practices, contracts and critical information summaries to ensure that all early cancellation fees are clearly disclosed, including any repayment of the balance of a device financing plan. Service provider device financing plans should comply with the recent CRTC decision, which clarified that these plans fall under the scope of the Wireless Code, given the inextricable relationship between wireless service plans and device financing plans.

Lack of disclosure about promotions

Another source of disclosure issues is when the customer is missing information about promotions, which accounts for 12% of all disclosure issues (down from 18% last year). Wireless customers disproportionately raised 56% of these issues, up from 50% last year.

Last year we reported that Bell accounted for a disproportionate percentage of these issues, with 40% of disclosure issues relating to terms associated with promotions. Bell customers raised this issue less often this year, and Bell now accounts for 20% of issues arising from lack of disclosure about promotions.

Table 7.10: Disclosure – Promotion details: Top 3 service providers
Service provider Number of times issue was raised Proportion of issue
Bell 142 20%
Rogers 141 20%
Fido 88 12%

Case Summary

Customer unclear about details of promotion

A customer noticed that the price of his internet service had increased by $15 per month. After being unable to resolve his dispute with his service provider, the customer filed a complaint with the CCTS.

The customer told us he was advised that his promotional discounts had ended. However, he was completely unaware that he had been receiving a promotional discounted rate.

We reached out to the provider for documentation and an explanation of the customer’s service pricing. The provider demonstrated in its account notes that the customer had been provided with two different monthly discounts: one for $15 per month lasting 24 months, and one for $5 per month lasting 6 months.

In our investigation, we found that the expiration dates for each discount were listed on each of the customer’s invoices. The provider’s terms of service also stated that a minimum of 30 days’ notice was required for any account changes or price increases. We found that because the provider clearly disclosed the duration of the promotions that were offered, it had the right to cease applying those promotions on the dates disclosed.

Even though it had no obligation to do so, the provider offered to apply the $15 per month discount for another 24 months and to extend the $5 per month discount for another 12 months. The customer acknowledged our assessment that the provider offered a reasonable resolution to the matter and opted to decline the offer. The customer indicated that he wanted to continue negotiating with the provider independently, and agreed to close his complaint.

Case Summary

Customer unaware of eligibility requirements to maintain promotion

A customer went in store prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and upgraded his device. The customer accepted a special offer to receive a $20 discount on his two wireless lines.

On completion of the 24-month contract for the device upgrade, the customer decided to move one of his lines to a competitor, which caused the loss of the $20 discount. The customer contacted the first service provider and was informed the discount was contingent on maintaining two wireless lines, which the customer told us had not been disclosed in store during sign-up. The customer then requested that his bill be reduced to a more manageable amount because he was struggling to pay rent and other bills through the pandemic. The customer was unable to resolve the matter independently, so submitted a complaint to the CCTS.

In discussion with the customer, we advised that we would review documentation, including the service agreement, account notes and invoices. The customer told us that he did not review the agreement prior to signing in store. We confirmed that the customer’s contract did in fact disclose the condition that the $20 discount required maintaining two wireless lines and that the provider had the right to remove the promotional discount when that condition was no longer met. The customer then consented to conclude the complaint based on this information.

Key Message

Given that lack of disclosure about promotions is a significant issue raised year over year, service providers should carefully review their practices to ensure that their employees are properly informing customers about any conditions associated with promotions, such as the time period of a promotion or required services to maintain the promotion price.

At the point of sale, customers should clarify with their providers when and how providers can change the promotion and should consider using electronic communications such as email and webchat whenever possible to keep a record of their communications. Customers should also carefully review their contracts to ensure that any promises are captured there and that they fully understand any conditions for promotions they are offered.

Breach of contract

In the course of providing service to customers, providers are required to follow their own terms of service, agreements with customers, any specific offers they have made to a customer, as well as terms and conditions imposed by the CRTC’s Codes of Conduct. Any alleged failure by a PSP to do so is classified as a “breach of contract”.

Breach of contract is the number two contract dispute issue, accounting for 21% of all contract dispute issues (up from 17% last year). This issue was raised 14% more often than last year.

Wireless customers account for a disproportionate number of this issue. While wireless services account for 44% of all issues, they account for 50% of all breach of contract issues.

Complaints about internet account for 31% of all breach of contract issues, an increase of 53% compared to last year.

Figure 7.9: Breach of contract issues by service type

 

Bell experienced an 18% decrease in breach of contract issues compared to last year. It now accounts for 22% of all breach of contract issues, down from 31% last year.

Fido saw the highest increase for this issue, with an increase of 149%. Fido customers raised breach of contract issues 221 more times than last year. Overall, Fido accounts for 14% of all breach of contract issues.

Table 7.11: Breach of contract issues – Top 3 service providers
Service provider Number of times issue was raised Proportion of issue
Bell 593 22%
Rogers 372 14%
Fido 369 14%

Case Summary

Failure to gain customer consent

A customer submitted a complaint to the CCTS stating that her wireless service was changed from post-paid to pre-paid in error, which generated a new service agreement. The customer told the CCTS that a $45 suspension fee was billed to her account as a result of this plan change, which confused the customer because her service was not suspended and she had not requested a service suspension. The customer was unable to resolve the matter with her provider independently.

During our investigation, the service provider acknowledged that it had erroneously made changes to the customer’s plan without her knowledge or consent. As a reasonable remedy, the provider immediately credited the $45 suspension fee and voided the service agreement that was created in error on the customer’s account. This resolution satisfied the customer.

Case Summary

Failure to provide invoices in agreed-upon format

A customer contacted his service provider after noticing he had stopped receiving his monthly paper invoices beginning in March of 2021. At the pre-investigation stage, the provider told the customer that it had made a unilateral change for all customers to receive e-billing instead. When the customer insisted that he wanted a paper bill, the provider agreed to continue providing paper bills to the customer, starting on the next billing cycle in July.

When the customer did not receive his July invoice by mail, he believed the matter was a breach of the specific promise the provider had made to continue paper billing, and the complaint proceeded to investigation.

In our investigation, we reached out to the provider to determine if the customer had been switched back to paper billing in June of 2021. The provider advised that there had been a system error that prevented the customer’s July invoice from being generated on paper. However, it confirmed that the customer was subscribed to paper billing as of July 2021.

To compensate for its delay, the provider applied a $15 credit to the account, which appeared to be a reasonable remedy given the circumstances. The customer accepted the resolution and concluded his complaint.

Key Message

When a customer alleges a breach of contract, service providers ought to review the root cause of this allegation. Providers should consider, in addition to the obligations they have in their general terms of service, whether specific promises were made to a customer or whether there were any changes to the customer’s services or agreement with the provider that may have resulted in errors that aggrieve the customer.

Billing issues

Billing issues account for 39% of all issues raised. Billing issues decreased for the second straight year, down 6% from last year and 15% from the year before. However, over the last five years billing issues have increased by 116%.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been financially challenging for many Canadians and small businesses. In many complaints about billing issues, customers told us about their struggles to make ends meet and to make every dollar count. We invite service providers to consider how they can be sensitive to customers’ financial challenges and work with customers quickly to resolve any billing issues.

Figure 7.10: Five-year view of billing issues

 

Figure 7.11: Billing issues by service type


Videotron and Comwave customers reported a significant increase in billing issues: 68% and 39% respectively.

While Bell accounts for the highest proportion of all billing issues (23%), this is down significantly from 33% last year and represents a 35% year-over-year decrease.

Six of the top 10 service providers for billing issues saw increases in billing issues despite the overall 6% decrease in billing issues.

Table 7.12: Billing issues – Top 10 service providers

* The average billing resolution rate was 88%.

 

The top billing issues are incorrect charges for monthly price plans followed by credit or refund not received.

Table 7.13: Top 10 billing issues
Issue Number
Incorrect charge 5,553
Credit/refund not received 2,387
Equipment charges 1,070
Regular price increase of monthly price plans 979
Final bill charges after cancellation 813
Invoices not received 728
Data charges 638
Late-payment fees 482
Activation/reactivation charges
398
Misapplied payments 379

 

Incorrect charge relating to monthly price plan

Thirty-four percent of all billing issues are about customers being charged incorrectly for their monthly price plans. This issue was raised 5,553 times in 2020-21, making it the number one issue under the billing category. Incorrect charge is also the number two issue overall, accounting for 13% of all issues raised across all types of service.

Incorrect charge is the leading issue for wireless, TV and phone customers. Both TV and phone customers raise this issue disproportionately given their share of the overall issues raised.

Figure 7.12: Incorrect charge to monthly price plan by service type

The top three service providers with billing issues related to incorrect charges to monthly price plans are Bell (24%), Rogers (16%) and Videotron (12%).

Fido and Videotron customers contributed the most to the increase. Fido, although not a top 3 provider for this issue, had an increase of 41%. Videotron saw an increase of 52% for incorrect charge issues.

Table 7.14: 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 1,357 24%
Rogers 906 16%
Videotron 661 12%

 

Case Summary

Incorrect charge for service after service change

A wireless customer contacted the CCTS because he claimed he was being billed incorrectly for monthly services. The customer had requested the removal of a $10 per month roaming feature add-on to his wireless service plan because he no longer needed roaming minutes. The customer stated the service provider agreed that he would continue to receive the same phone plan (minus the roaming feature) for $35 per month. The customer said that after he removed the $10 per month roaming feature, his monthly invoice was $43 instead of the expected $35. The customer was unable to resolve the matter with his provider directly.

In our investigation, we requested an explanation from the provider of what occurred along with the account notes, invoices and any applicable service agreements. After reviewing the documentation and receiving the provider’s response, we found that the provider changed the customer to a different monthly plan for $35 per month with a voicemail add-on for $8. The provider was unable to demonstrate that either of these plan changes were disclosed to or agreed to by the customer.

To fix the issue, the provider credited the $8 per month voicemail charges. In addition, the provider offered one month of free service ($35 plus tax) and a $10 per month credit for six months, which appeared reasonable given the circumstances. The customer accepted the resolution, and the complaint was resolved.

Case Summary

Misunderstanding about account balance

A small business customer with three services (phone, internet and TV) stated that during a COVID-19 lockdown his service provider reassured him that the business would not be charged for monthly services for 90 days because his business would be unable to operate during that time. The customer said he continued to receive charges for service during the 90-day period and was unable to resolve the complaint independently, so he submitted a complaint to the CCTS.

In our investigation, we listened to the call recordings, where we found that the customer was misinformed regarding his account balance. In the recording, the provider advised the customer that the account reflected zero dollars owing when in fact the account balance was $123. The CCTS brought this finding to the provider, which issued a $123 credit to the customer’s account as a remedy for its error.

After reviewing all other available documentation, we were unable to confirm a promise to the customer that the provider would waive all service charges for 90 days during the lockdown. The customer accepted our assessment and the credit offered and concluded the complaint.

Key Message

We encourage customers to review their detailed monthly invoices to ensure they are being billed correctly. When in doubt, customers should follow up with their service provider immediately regarding any unusual charges or discrepancies.

Billing issues can stem from a lack of clear information, which may result in customer expectations not being met or suspicions of being incorrectly charged. We urge providers to strive for greater clarity when setting billing expectations and to work with customers to resolve billing disputes.

Credit/refund not received

This year, customers raised concerns about not receiving a promised credit or refund 2,387 times. This is a 7% year-over-year increase despite a 6% decrease in overall billing issues, making credit or refund not received the number two billing-related issue. This issue accounts for 15% of all billing issues.

Figure 7.13: Credit or refund not received issues by service type

 

Customers raised concerns about not receiving a promised credit or refund 7% more often than last year. Internet customers were impacted the most, having complained about this issue 32% more often than last year. Internet customers now account for 33% of all such issues.

The top three providers for this issue are Bell, Videotron and Rogers.

Fido, although not part of the top 3 providers, accounts for the greatest increase in the credit or refund not received issue from internet services — an almost 1,000% increase from last year.

Table 7.15: Credit or refund not received – Top 3 service providers
Service provider Number of times issue was raised Proportion of issue
Bell 497 21%
Videotron 361 15%
Rogers 312 13%

 

Case Summary

Customer charged for router that he never had

A long-time customer of an internet service provider cancelled service prior to moving. Shortly after, he received a letter from the provider advising that he had an outstanding balance for an internet router, which the customer told us he never had. The customer opted to make the payment but continued to dispute the charges. The provider maintained that the charges were valid in full, so the customer brought his complaint to the CCTS.

In our investigation, we requested documentation to demonstrate that the charges were valid and the customer possessed the router. The provider did not submit the requested documentation and instead responded by issuing a credit for the disputed charges and correcting the customer’s credit report. The resolution appeared reasonable, and the customer was satisfied.

Case Summary

Customer requires refund for cancellation during trial period

A wireless customer, who self-identified as a person with a disability, decided to cancel her services and return her device during the extended 30-day trial period provided to persons with disabilities under the Wireless Code (section G.4(iv)). The customer told us she expected a refund for the amounts she had paid prior to cancelling, but the service provider had instead processed a credit to her account. The customer wanted a refund so she could move to a new provider. She filed a complaint with the CCTS.

During our investigation, we considered the provider’s terms of service. We found that the terms of service did not require the provider to issue a refund rather than a credit. We spoke to the provider and asked if it would be willing to refund the credited amount to the customer. To resolve the complaint, the provider agreed to refund the credit balance to the credit card on file. The customer was satisfied with the resolution and concluded her complaint.

Case Summary

Missing credits for roaming charges

A customer was travelling overseas and using an $8 per day service that allowed her to use her domestic wireless plan while abroad. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she was required to lengthen her stay, so she contacted her service provider regarding the roaming charges being incurred during this time. The customer later told the CCTS that the provider agreed to waive all roaming fees from March through June of 2020. However, she continued to receive monthly invoices that included the daily roaming service fees, which she disputed. The parties were unable to resolve the dispute, leading the customer to contact the CCTS.

In our investigation, we asked whether the provider promised to waive all roaming charges from March through June. The provider supplied its account notes for our review, which demonstrated that it had offered to waive roaming fees from March 18 to April 30 for all customers. The provider also demonstrated that the customer had received some adjustments to her roaming charges during this period; however, some charges remained.

To remedy this error, the provider confirmed it would apply the missing credits for roaming charges incurred between March 18 and April 30. In addition, the provider credited the late payment fees incurred on the account as part of the resolution to the complaint. The customer accepted the resolution.

Service delivery issues

Customers raised concerns about service delivery 11,130 times this year, up 9% from last year. These issues account for 26% of all issues raised by customers, up from 24% last year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in Canadians spending much more time online for a variety of activities: remote work, remote learning, access to medical care, keeping in touch with loved ones, ordering essential items, and leisure activities such as watching movies and streaming live video. For details about Canadian online behaviour during the pandemic, see the Statistics Canada article “Internet use and COVID-19: How the pandemic increased the amount of time Canadians spend online.”

The increase in service delivery issues this year may be related to this greater reliance on communications services during the pandemic.

Over the last five years, service delivery issues have increased by 199%.

Figure 7.14: Five-year view of service delivery issues

 

Internet customers raised concerns about service delivery issues 4,740 times (43%), a disproportionately high amount given that internet customers make up 31% of all issues raised.

Figure 7.15: Service delivery issues by service type

 

Of the 10 service providers with the most service delivery issues, Comwave, Videotron and Fido customers reported significant increases in these issues, with increases of 117%, 51% and 44% respectively. Koodo, although not in the list of providers for this issue in Table 7.16 below, had a 40% increase in the number of service delivery issues raised.

Table 7.16: Service delivery issues – Top 10 service providers

* The average service delivery resolution rate was 86%.

 

In the service delivery category, problems with quality of service are the top issue reported. Quality of service accounts for 42% of all service delivery issues, up from 36% last year. Complete loss of service is in second place, accounting for 11% of all service delivery issues.

Table 7.17: Top 10 service delivery issues
Issue Number
Quality of service 4,651
Complete loss of service 1,206
Customer cancellation due date not kept/delayed 1,017
Unable to cancel 948
Install/activate due date not kept/delayed 829
Non-payment/collections 693
Unable to port 499
Service repair/loss due date not kept/delayed 439
Installation error 324
Seasonal suspension 119

Quality of service

Customers raised concerns about the quality of their service 28% more often than last year, raising this issue over 4,600 times across all types of service. Quality of service, such as when service is inadequate or intermittent, is an area of increasing concern for customers.

Table 7.18: Quality of service issues – Top 3 service providers
Service provider Number of times issue was raised Proportion of issue
Bell 791 17%
Rogers 685 15%
Xplornet 460 10%

For internet customers, quality of service is the leading issue. Internet customers raised this issue 825 more times than last year, a 48% increase. Moreover, internet customers raised this issue disproportionately: internet service issues account for 31% of all issues but 54% of quality of service issues. This may be indicative of customers’ increased reliance on internet connectivity and increased service demands with remote work and virtual schooling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Figure 7.16: Quality of service issues by service type

 

Wireless customers account for the second highest proportion of quality of service issues at 26%, down from 33% last year.

Just like last year, customers in rural areas of Canada raised more internet quality of service issues than customers in urban areas. While only 11% of all issues are raised by rural customers, 21% of all internet quality of service issues are raised by rural customers. (Our classification of areas as “rural” or “urban” is as designated by Canadian postal codes.)

Xplornet customers complained about the quality of their internet service 74% more often than last year. Xplornet accounts for 17% of all internet quality of service issues, which is a large proportion given that it accounts for only 6% of all issues about internet services.

Videotron, Rogers and Comwave saw a significant increase in the number of internet quality issues reported, with increases of 162%, 122% and 114% respectively.

Table 7.19: Internet quality of service issues – Top 10 service providers

* The average resolution rate for internet quality of service issues was 87%.

 

Sometimes customer expectations cannot be met because of technology limitations inside their home (e.g., their device, distance from the wireless router, or the number of devices connected to the network) or because of other factors such as network congestion during certain times of day. Other times, customers are not aware that speeds are often advertised as “up to” a specified Mbps, meaning that the advertised speeds may not be reached. Full and proper disclosure of service limitations to customers would help to decrease complaints.

Case Summary

Ongoing internet service issues

A customer in a rural area told us that she switched home internet service providers because she required a stable connection to work from home and conduct online meetings. The customer stated that her new provider had assured her that the new service would meet her needs. However, two weeks into the new service, the customer was receiving download speeds of only 1 Mbps for most of her work although she had a 10 Mbps plan. After spending hours troubleshooting the issue with the provider with no resolution, the customer brought her dispute to the CCTS.

During our investigation, we reviewed the provider’s terms of service. We explained to the customer that the provider’s terms of service do not guarantee internet speeds and that there are many factors that could affect internet speed and performance.

During discussions with the customer, we were able to clarify her goal, which was to reduce the cost of the service to better match the speeds she was receiving and remove the cancelation penalty should she decide to cancel the service at any time.

We brought this request to the provider, which offered the customer a $40 per month discount for six months. As a goodwill gesture, the provider also agreed to remove the cancelation penalty if the customer decided to cancel service at any time. The customer was content with the resolution and concluded the complaint.

Case Summary

Troubleshooting issues with internet and TV outages

A customer submitted a complaint to the CCTS after experiencing numerous internet and TV service outages from February through August of 2020 that his service provider was unable to address to his satisfaction. The customer specifically disputed over 50 days of service delivery issues. The customer asked for compensation for half of the cost of his services from February through August.

In our investigation of the complaint, we reviewed the provider’s terms of service, which stated that it does not guarantee uninterrupted performance of its internet and TV services, and that the customer’s internet speed was provided on an “up to” basis, to signal to customers that advertised speeds might not be reached. The provider’s terms of service also direct customers to contact the provider for technical support when experiencing technical issues.

We then requested the provider’s policies and processes for troubleshooting to ensure that the service provider followed its own processes. In review of the account and technician notes, we identified nine incidents where the customer reported either intermittent service delivery or complete loss of service issues to his service provider. The reviewed notes showed that the provider followed its troubleshooting process except in two of the customer’s reported incidents. We found that the provider could not demonstrate that it had followed its own troubleshooting processes in these instances.

We also requested the customer’s internet usage records, which confirmed that the customer had reasonable access to his internet services during the time period because his average usage volume was over 400 GB per month. Our review of the provider’s available internet plans suggested that the customer was on the best plan for his needs, based on the customer’s usage and pricing.

As a resolution to the complaint, the provider offered the customer a credit of $234.50, which the CCTS determined was a reasonable remedy given the provider’s failure to demonstrate that it had followed its own troubleshooting processes for two of nine reported instances of service delivery issues.

Key Message

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased customers’ demands for reliable internet connectivity to support remote work and learning. Service providers are aware of these high expectations on quality of service and we encourage them to be responsive to customer issues, help customers troubleshoot issues, and keep customers informed.

We urge providers who are dealing with customer complaints to thoroughly explore the cause of the mismatch between their offers and the service quality the customer is receiving, and to work with customers to explore appropriate plans for the customer’s usage and pricing needs. For example, if a customer is receiving a significantly lower speed than the advertised “up to” speed, a provider could consider whether a lower-tier plan better matches the customer’s actual received speeds.

Credit reporting issues

Credit management issues account for 4% of all issues. Credit management issues have increased by 141% over the last five years.

Figure 7.17: Five-year view of credit management issues

 

Credit reporting issues are a subset of credit management issues, and the vast majority of credit management issues are about credit reporting.

Credit reporting issues increased by 6% from last year, driven mainly by internet and TV customers. Wireless customers account for just over half of credit reporting issues (55%).

Figure 7.18: Credit reporting issues by service type

 

Bell had 313 credit reporting issues this year, accounting for 21% of all credit reporting issues and down from 26% last year.

Rogers’ credit reporting issues increased by 35% since last year. Rogers had 274 credit reporting issues, accounting for 19% of all credit reporting.

Table 7.20: Credit reporting issues – Top 3 service providers
Service provider Number of times issue was raised Proportion of issue
Bell 313 21%
Rogers 274 19%
TELUS 152 10%

Although not among the top three service providers for credit reporting issues, the number of times Videotron, Shaw and Freedom Mobile customers raised this issue increased significantly — 70%, 56% and 52% respectively.

Case Summary

Incorrect negative credit report damages customer’s credit rating

A wireless customer noticed that a missed payment was negatively reported to the credit reporting agency. The customer told us he had made the payment via credit card on time, but the provider said the payment was reversed. The customer’s credit card statements did not show any payment reversal, so the customer requested proof of reversal from the provider and correction to the negative credit report. The customer filed a complaint with the CCTS when he was unable to resolve this with his service provider.

At the pre-investigation stage, the provider clarified to the customer which payments were made and reversed, confirmed that the customer had made the payment on time, and scheduled a follow-up to confirm that the customer’s account balance was zero. The provider reported the complaint as resolved, but the customer disputed this because the issue of the negative credit report correction was outstanding. The customer said that the incorrect report of an unpaid bill dramatically affected his credit score, and his loan applications were rejected because of this issue.

During our investigation, the provider said it would check if a negative report was sent regarding any late payment notices. The customer provided a copy of his credit report demonstrating that the provider had indeed reported negative information regarding late payments to the credit bureau.

We then requested evidence from the service provider that it had taken steps to correct the negative credit reporting. The provider provided us its account notes, which showed that the correction was issued to the credit bureau. The provider also advised that the customer should check his credit report later in the month or the next month. Given the details of the complaint, the correction of the negative information appeared to be a reasonable resolution. The customer accepted the explanation and concluded the complaint.

Case Summary

Customer unaware of provider’s credit reporting policy

A small business wireless customer contacted their service provider during the COVID-19 pandemic advising that due to substantial losses to their business during this time, they were having great difficultly settling their business expenses. The customer came to a payment arrangement with the provider and later told the CCTS that they were reassured this would avoid any negative remarks to their credit report. The customer stated they met the payment arrangements made with their provider but months later discovered delinquency on their credit report due to these same payments. The customer was unable to come to a resolution with the provider independently, so brought the complaint to the CCTS.

In our investigation we reviewed all available documentation, including the call recording from the date the arrangement was made. Our investigation found that the provider’s usual procedure, per its terms of service, is to continue to report payments as late even with a payment arrangement. Its payment arrangement policies stipulate that the arrangement will suspend collection calls and/or service suspensions when an account has a past due balance but does not prevent credit reporting from occurring.

After listening to the call recording with the customer and reviewing the account notes, we did not find evidence that the provider agreed to suspend the credit reporting. We explained to the customer that the provider appeared to have met its obligations, and concluded the complaint.

Case Summary

Provider accurately reports payment history

A customer made a complaint to the CCTS about negative information on her credit report. The customer had cancelled her wireless service and received a final bill of $250. She said she made regular payments to her account, finally paying off the final bill exactly 90 days after she received it. She also stated that her service provider was aware she had every intention of paying off her balance because she was making regular payments to the account.

During our investigation, we reviewed the provider’s terms of service, which stated it has the right to report any late payment activity on the account to credit reporting agencies. We also reviewed the provider’s internal policies and procedures for credit reporting. We then reviewed the customer’s invoices and payment history, month by month. We found that the customer had made irregular payments to her final invoice well past the due date stated on the invoice. The provider had the right to report late payments to the credit reporting agency, in accordance with its terms of service. Based on our analysis, it appeared as though the provider met its obligations. The customer accepted our explanation and concluded the complaint.

Key Message

Customers expect full disclosure surrounding credit matters because this can affect them long-term. This year has been stressful for many Canadians, who have struggled with the various hardships brought on suddenly through the COVID-19 pandemic, such as financial uncertainty.

Service providers are aware of the impact that negative information on a credit report can have and should provide up-front clarity regarding their credit reporting and payment arrangement policies when an arrangement is made. We encourage providers who are dealing with customers’ complaints about credit reporting to look into the reason behind these discrepancies between what customers are saying was promised and the service provider’s policies.