Canada’s Telecommunications Companies Are Harming Consumers: CRTC Report

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Canada’s broadcast regulator, has come down hard on the country’s telecommunications companies, saying their aggressive and misleading sales practices harm consumers to an "unacceptable degree."

In a report issued on Wednesday, the CRTC said new government regulations are needed to protect Canadian consumers – notably seniors and other vulnerable people – from companies such as Rogers, Bell and Telus.

The report came after an eight-month public inquiry. And the CRTC said that harmful sales practices "exist in all sales channels, including in store, online, over the phone, and door-to-door" among telecommunications companies that provide television, telephone and wireless services.

Troublesome practices that the Commission took issue with in its report include call centre employees at major telecom companies adding services to a customer's account without permission, retail store employees fudging contract details and door-to-door salespeople misrepresenting contract prices.

"During our public consultation, it became apparent that while service providers have many tools at their disposal to ensure misleading or aggressive sale practices don't happen, they still do," said the CRTC in its report. "We are taking steps to address this situation and intend to explore additional solutions to ensure Canadians' interactions with their service providers are carried out in a fair and respectful way."

Major recommendations contained in the 41-page report include:

The CRTC creating a mandatory Internet "Code of Conduct" that could include price protections during a contract, similar to those that exist for cellphones under the Wireless Code.

Requiring service providers allow a cooling off period so customers can cancel services if they don't match what they were offered.

Broadening the mandate of the telecom mediator — the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-Television Services (CCTS) — so it can investigate complaints about misleading and aggressive sales tactics.

Conducting nationwide secret shopper tests to ensure retail sales staff aren't misleading customers.

The CRTC says implementing most of the measures needed to address the problems identified by the inquiry will require additional regulatory proceedings by the federal government. For their part, Canada’s big three telecommunications companies – Bell, Rogers and Telus – said they are reviewing the CRTC report and its recommendations.