Public opinion research commissioned by the CRTC finds that about 40 per cent of Canadians surveyed by IPSOS reported having experienced sales practices by telecommunications companies in Canada that they consider to be aggressive or misleading.
The majority of those reported their most recent experience took place within the past year (60 per cent), meaning 24 per cent of Canadians who participated in the public opinion research reported a bad sales experience within the last year.
Prevalence of aggressive or misleading sales practices was even higher when asked about specific tactics with a majority of Canadians reporting salespeople pushing telecommunications products or services they are not interested in (55 per cent), while four in 10 have had technical support representatives attempt to sell them products or services during a support interaction (39 per cent).
Fewer reported having received a rebate or discount offers where the terms differ from the original information provided (32 per cent), salespeople providing false details of telecommunications products or services (31 per cent), or a rebate or discount offer where terms were not disclosed before purchase (28 per cent).
The research also found a strong majority of Canadians feel that telecommunications companies place the pursuit of profit above consumer protection (76 per cent) and the perception exists that they engage in aggressive or misleading sales practices to pressure more vulnerable people into accepting products or services they do not need (77 per cent).
The research included focus groups held across the country targeting those more likely to be affected by questionable sales practices, including seniors and those living with a disability or whose first language is neither English nor French.
Canadians feel consumer choice limited
The research also identified that concern exists about the amount of competition in the sector (70 per cent extremely/very/somewhat concerned) and qualitatively that Canadians feel they have limited choice of providers and that most major providers act in a similar fashion which compounds the consumer’s ability to address the issues themselves.
Among those impacted by aggressive or misleading sales practices, few have taken significant steps to address the issue beyond speaking to friends and family about their experience (48 per cent) and while four in 10 (39 per cent) complained to their provider, very few (eight per cent) brought their concerns directly to the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-Television Services (CCTS).
“The qualitative research highlighted a feeling of helplessness among many, who believe there is limited accountability amongst telecommunications providers and that they as consumers have little recourse beyond speaking to friends or family about their experiences,” the report states.
Customers of Rogers and Bell/Aliant are more likely to report having experienced aggressive or misleading sales practices either overall or in regards to the specifics types of practices presented. They are also more likely to indicate their experience took place within the past year.
Videotron customers are more likely to report experiencing salespeople selling products or services they do not want and are also among the most likely to report their experience was within the past year.
By region, Canadians who reside in Ontario are most likely to report experiencing aggressive or misleading sales practices and for the incident to have taken place within the past year. Incidence is also somewhat higher among those from Quebec or British Columbia, while those in Saskatchewan/Manitoba are the least likely to have experienced a situation or for it to have been within the past year.
The commission published the results ahead of its week-long public hearing on the issue, starting Oct. 22. Canada’s largest telecommunications carriers will appear before a full commission panel, as will public advocacy groups, senior advocacy groups and other stakeholders.
Canadians are invited to participate throughout the hearing via Twitter using the hashtag #CRTCforum. Tweets using the hashtag #CRTCforum which comply with the CRTC’s Rules of Engagement and which are posted between Oct. 22 (starting at 9 a.m. EDT) and the end of hearing will be added to the public record and considered for the CRTC’s report to government on the matter.
“To ensure a broad range of input from the public, we are inviting Canadians, to share their comments on Twitter during the public hearing,” said CRTC chair and CEO Ian Scott. “The goal is to allow the greatest number of Canadians to share their experience on this important issue.”
The CRTC must submit its report to government by Feb. 28, 2019.
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