Consumer gripes over TV contracts have become a growth area for the telecom complaints commissioner, even though grievances within its mandate — mainly phone and Internet services — and have fallen for a third year.
Overall, telecommunications complaints dropped 18 per cent over the 12 months that ended in July to 8,197, says the latest annual report from the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS).
It says 89 per cent of the complaints it handled were resolved to the customer’s satisfaction, three-quarters of those within 30 days.
Many of the complaints were prompted by charges billed after service cancellation in the wake of regulatory changes that lifted a requirement that consumers provide 30 days’ notice of their intent to ditch a provider.
The CCTS said its investigations led to orders for more than $3.4 million in reimbursement.
But while complaints about telecom issues continue to fall, issues over TV services that are typically bundled together with phone and Internet charges rose 19 per cent to 8,678.
The CCTS says it does not compile specific data on the nature of the TV issues since it lacks jurisdiction to order restitution in the area.
Typically, those matters are referred to the relevant authority, including the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and the Broadcast Standards Council.
As part of regulatory reforms that include a code of conduct for wireless carriers, the CCTS will assume jurisdiction over TV complaints in September. It is also charged with crafting a TV Service Providers Code that will likely reflect aspects of the code for wireless providers.
The CCTS currently has authority over cellular and land line, Internet and long-distance (including prepaid calling cards) services, as well as operator services, directory assistance and white pages directories.
CCTS CEO Howard Maker said the phase-in until the organization assumes responsibility for TV complaints has allowed it time to prepare. But he said it has also created an “awkward” situation, since consumers are turning to the CCTS even though it has no power to act.
“We can’t even call them complaints because we don’t have authority to address them,” Maker added.
The watchdog on Thursday said it accepted the 8,197 individual complaints over the latest period, which addressed an average of 1.9 issues each. All together, it dealt with 7,931 issues about wireless, 4,177 issues about Internet and 3,086 about local phone services.
Billing was the No. 1 consumer grievance in each of the three categories.
The largest number of complaints were registered against the country’s biggest telecom Bell (35.9 per cent), followed by Rogers (10.5 per cent) and Telus (7 per cent). Freedom Mobile (formerly Wind Mobile) and Virgin Mobile both represented 6.1 per cent.
This represented a decrease in the number of complaints for each company except Telus, which saw complaints rise 22.3 per cent