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Canadian telecom ombudsman says disclosure, billing remain top issues but complaints down

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Information disclosures and other billing issues continued to be at the root of most complaints, Canada's telecom ombudsman said today (Nov. 30) in its 2019-20 annual report which recorded a 19 per cent drop in complaints compared with a year earlier.

The Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services said the reduction for the 12 months ended July 31 was the first year-over-year decline since 2015-16.

Four of the top five issues and most of the top 10 issues raised for the 12 months ended July 31 were related to billing problems, rather than service quality.

CCTS chairman Howard Maker said his team wondered if the COVID-19 pandemic would increase the number of service issues after people were told to stay home about midway through the organization's reporting period.

"And the answer was, we didn't get a great deal of movement in the numbers," Maker said after the CCTS released its 2019-20 report.

The top issue raised by customers of all types of service continued to be about the disclosure of information to the customer.

Disclosure issues — including the terms of promotional deals — accounted for 6,066 issues raised, or 14 per cent of the total, which was up 10 per cent from last year.

The No. 2 issue raised with the CCTS was incorrect charges on monthly plans at 13 per cent of the total raised, but the number of times it was raised fell by 20 per cent

The No. 3 issue was intermittent or inadequate quality of service, which accounted to eight per cent of the total — about the same as last year.

Maker said the CCTS received slightly more complaints about the quality of home internet between March and July than a year earlier, but "not nearly what we would have seen if the networks not been able to manage the load."

The CCTS can't say with certainty what caused an overall decline in complaints, but Maker suggested one factor was relaxed conditions and payment schedules put in place by some carriers in the early months of the COVID-19 closures.

"There was waiving of fees for data overages, and removing of data caps and some disconnections were halted, and so forth," Maker said.

But the CCTS doesn't have any insight about what steps are taken by providers to resolve complaints directly with their customers, before they go to the ombudsman service, he said.