In July 2018, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) opened a national public inquiry into the use of misleading or aggressive sales practices by large telecommunications service providers.
The CRTC’s consultation process consisted of three phases:
Phase 1 (July 16-August 30,2018) – Public submission of comments through an online form
Phase 2 (August 27-September 9, 2018) – Online survey
Phase 3 (October 22-26, 2018) – Public Hearing
ACT participated in each of the three phases and submitted a post-hearing report on November 9, 2018 (scroll down for full list of reports).
Why did the CRTC open a public consultation on misleading sales practices?
Early in 2018, former employees of Canadian telecommunications companies went on the record to talk about the misleading and predatory practices of the companies for which they had worked.
Months later, and as a result of the significant efforts of groups like the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), the Canadian Government mandated the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to open public consultation (read more: here).
Note: you can find media coverage on this issue at the bottom of this page.
Why did ACT get involved?
While disturbing stories were hitting the headlines across Canada in 2018, Montreal-based ACT researchers were in the midst of holding focus groups with seniors to understand their responses to the rapid digitization of traditional media forms (television and radio). Although these focus groups were initially unrelated to the topic of misleading and aggressive sales practices, it became obvious through the interviews that this was a topic seniors were eager to discuss.
While speaking to our interviewees, we noticed that many seniors saying similar things: they were concerned that they are being taken advantage of by telecom companies and they told us they often feel overwhelmed by too many options. We listened to stories of blatant scams, companies’ use of convoluted language, and situations in which seniors were being sold services they would never use.
During this time, we were also building a connection with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), an Ottawa-based, non-profit organization that has been working for years to advocate for the rights of Canadian citizens. PIAC had been hearing similar stories about telecommunications companies’ mistreatment of consumers.
Together with PIAC, we opened a telephone line ( 1-800-835-1979) to invite people from across Canada to share their experiences with telecommunication companies and services.
We then wrote an opinion piece (Op-Ed) to bring greater public awareness to the issue. The Op-Ed was published in the Montreal Gazette on April 18, 2018 (it also appeared in the Windsor Star). After the Op-Ed was published, we heard from seniors from British Columbia, Ontario, and Québec. We also published Op-Eds in HuffPost QC and the Toronto Star.
REPORTS AND PRESENTATIONS:
Follow Up Report (November 9, 2018): Listen to vulnerable consumers: Systemic abuses in the Canadian telecommunication industry
Note: ACT submitted this report as a follow up to the CRTC’s Intervention for the inquiry on use of misleading or aggressive sales practices by large telecommunications service providers (CRTC-2018-246)
Presentation (October 23, 2018): ACT Concordia – CRTC Intervention – October 23, 2018. This is the text from ACT’s presentation at the CRTC’s public hearing. Transcripts for other presentations can be found here.
Report to the CRTC (August 29, 2018): Experiences of older adults with abusive sales practices of Canadian telecommunication providers.
ACT IN THE MEDIA:
November 30, 2018 – Mobile Syrup, ACT joins PIAC in boycotting CRTC’s ISP proceeding
August 24, 2018 – Toronto Star, Seniors fall prey to telecom tactics
August 23, 2018 – HuffPost Quebec, Télécoms: les aînés désavantagés par les pratiques de vente trompeuses et agressives.
April 18, 2018 – Montreal Gazette, Opinion: Sales tactics for internet, phone, TV require scrutiny.
ACT’S MEDIA RELEASES:
November 29, 2018 – MEDIA RELEASE: Ageing + Communication + Technologies (ACT) of Concordia University joins the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) in its decision to boycott the CRTC’s “Internet Code” proceeding.
November 27, 2018 – Commission for Complaints for Telecom-Television Services, 57% Increase in Telecom & TV Customer Complaints
November 27, 2018 – CBC, Telecom mediator sees 57% spike in complaints in 2017-18, mainly about wireless.
October 14, 2018 – CBC Go Public, Rogers, Fido and Bell call centre workers penalized for reducing plans, offering credits
September 10, 2018 – CBC, Big telcos tell CRTC they put customers first and shun shady sales tactics.
June 14, 2018 – CBC, Ottawa orders CRTC to investigate reports of ‘aggressive’ telecom sales practices.
March 2, 2018 – CBC Marketplace, CBC hidden camera investigation captures misleading sales tactics for Bell
February 21, 2018 – CBC, CRTC rejects call for public inquiry into aggressive telecom sales practices
January 14, 2018 – CBC Go Public, Rogers employees say managers turn a blind eye so call centre workers can lie and cheat customers.
November 19, 2017 – CBC, Bell insider reveals high-pressure sales tactics required on every single call