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CRTC acknowledges Big Telecom’s sales practices are problematic, but without any commitment for next steps

CRTC fails to provide any penalties to offending telecoms, or accountability to prevent these behaviours from continuing.

February 20, 2019 — Today the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) released its report on misleading or aggressive communications retail sales practices. The report, which was ordered by ISED Minister Bains after the CRTC first rejected calls for this investigation, recognizes that bad sales practices are present in the telecommunications and television markets in Canada and that they “occur to an unacceptable degree.”

The report lists numerous potential paths forward that the CRTC and others could take to help address this issue, and ideas for what the CRTC could ‘consider’ doing in future. But there is no clear commitment for what the CRTC will actually do to curb these issues, timeline for when these considerations may be made, nor any penalties being issued to offending companies.

“This report told us what we already knew – the system is broken, and customers are getting hurt. Unfortunately, what we really needed today was action to stem the bad behaviour – and that’s not what the CRTC delivered,” said OpenMedia Executive Director Laura Tribe. “The problem here has been recognized by the CRTC, ISED, and the CCTS. But in an ongoing game of hot potato, it seems everyone has ideas, but no one is willing to take action. Without financial penalties to offenders, or concrete next steps to hold them accountable, what protections do Canadians really have? Reassurances everyone can see the problem don’t help people who have lost their money, been misled, and are continuing to interface with these companies. We need action.”

What the CRTC heard from participants:

  • Four in 10 people in Canada (40%) who responded to the CRTC’s online survey report have experienced sales practices by telecommunications companies in Canada that they consider to be aggressive or misleading. The majority of respondents reported their experience took place in the last year.

  • The leading cause of consumer frustration with bad sales practices is the mismatch between what consumers think they will get and what they actually get.

  • Sales providers have measures to identify and address bad sales practices, however, the CRTC found a gap between these measures and behaviour reported by consumers with respect to their service providers.

  • While consumer protections exist, consumers are not widely aware of them and thus, lack empowerment when it comes to knowing and exercising their rights.

Notable outcomes of the report:

  • Expectation for discounts and promotions for Canadians with disabilities (provided in addition to any other promotions available).

  • CRTC will consider different steps to protect vulnerable Canadians, including the potential for an Internet Code, or requiring companies to provide pre-sales quotes to customers.

  • CRTC will consider monitoring telecoms on an ongoing basis, through initiatives that could include a secret shopper program.

While the outcomes outline a number of potential solutions, they fail to provide any concrete actions, timeline, or clarity for what customers can expect next. Now that ISED, CCTS, and the CRTC have all acknowledged there’s an issue – who’s going to actually step up and take action?

Over 1,000 people from the OpenMedia community shared their stories of bad experiences with misleading sales tactics with the CRTC via https://act.openmedia.org/BigBadSalesPractices.

OpenMedia works to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. We create community-driven campaigns to engage, educate, and empower people to safeguard the Internet.

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