The CRTC says it will implement a nationwide secret shopper program, among other measures to be considered, to try to combat misleading sales practices by the big telcos.
The commission released its Report on Misleading or Aggressive Communications Retail Sales Practices on Wednesday morning. Following 2,300 interventions, an Ipsos survey of 6,300 Canadians and five days of hearings in October that saw a rare, full panel of all eight CRTC commissioners convened, the regulator’s report concludes “that it is apparent that misleading or aggressive retail sales practices are present in the telecommunications service provider market in Canada and, to some extent, in the television service provider market.”
The report says misleading and aggressive sales practices are present in every type of sales channel, including in store, online, over the telephone, and door-to-door.
“They occur to an unacceptable degree; they are harming Canadian consumers, in particular vulnerable Canadians; and they are a serious concern for the CRTC,” states the report.
Internal complaint process ineffective
The regulator found that in many cases internal measures that service providers have put in place to combat customer service issues are not effective.
“The CRTC finds that there is a gap between the internal measures that the Service Providers stated they have in place to identify, monitor, and prevent misleading or aggressive sales practices and the behaviours reported by Canadians on the record in relation to some Service Providers. In some cases, the Service Providers failed to make their policies and processes effective in day-to-day sales activities and to adequately monitor their sales agents’ ongoing compliance with these policies,” the report concludes.
While the CRTC’s ongoing process to establish a mandatory code of conduct for Internet Service Providers will address some of the complaints raised during the public process, the commission is looking at a range of actions including:
- requiring a pre-sale quote that would require contract terms to be provided in writing.
- requiring service providers to offer trial periods to allow customers to cancel a service that did not match what they were offered
- requiring service providers to ensure their offers and promotions match the customer’s needs and means, and
- expanding the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services’ (CCTS) mandate to include handling complaints of misleading or aggressive retail sales practices.
The CRTC will also explore imposing additional penalties on service providers with poor sales practices that could include enhancing the commission’s powers to create “easier-to-use enforcement tools to address non-compliance, such as a streamlined administrative monetary penalty (AMP) regime.”
Additionally, it’s suggesting a set of best practices that would include:
- ensuring Canadians can obtain free recordings or transcripts of their interactions (calls and chats) with customer sales representatives in a timely manner and that they are made aware of this option;
- conducting regular reviews to determine where failures occur in their internal measures’ ability to address misleading or aggressive sales practices and addressing those failures with regard to the sales force’s compensation schemes, use of third-party sales agents, use of door-to-door sales
- considering how Canadians who may be more vulnerable due to their age, a disability, or a language barrier could be better empowered to make informed decisions about the services they purchase through the approaches used by service providers. This best practice may include solutions such as service providers ensuring that their store fronts and kiosks are equipped with tablets pre-loaded with sign language videos that explain key concepts, and/or providing training to their sales staff about how to better serve these customers.
Whether any of these measures is implemented in 2019 remains to be scene with no hard timelines attached to the report. Most of the suggested actions contained within will be subject to further public process before the CRTC can proceed.