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Telecommmunications - Consumers often left to their own devices, according to Option consommateurs

To coincide with the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission hearings on the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS), Option consommateurs is releasing its research report Do I have the right number? Customer Service at Telecommunications. The report’s main findings are that consumers are discouraged, at the very outset, from lodging complaints, secondly, that the CCTS is almost unknown to consumers and finally, that the CCTS does not have the power to address the recurring problems of consumers through adequate regulation.

Currently, the procedure for filing complaints in the telecommunications sector requires consumers, in the first instance, to contact the customer services offices within their telecommunications service providers. Consumers have recourse to the CCTS only when they are convinced that they cannot get any satisfaction from their service providers.

According to Geneviève Grenier of Option consommateurs and author of the research report "this approach creates problems ". Presently, consumers have no idea where to complain once they are convinced that they cannot get any satisfaction from their providers’ customer services. At this stage, complainants are ready to admit defeat as they have never been told by customer services about their providers’ in-house complaints service. More importantly, consumers do not know that they can contact the CCTS. Ms. Grenier says that she reached her conclusions by analyzing the results of focus groups on the complaints handling mechanisms within the telecommunications industry.

In the course of their research, Option consommateurs also found that the CCTS was highly effective in managing individual complaints. Therefore, Option consommateurs recommends that the CRTC require telecommunications companies to prominently display the contact details of the CCTS on their websites and on their customers’ bills. Moreover, should a dispute with a consumer not be resolved through the the service providers’ mechanisms, the latter should direct the complainant to the CCTS. CCTS should also undertake a mass media advertising campaign to become better known. Option consommateurs also observed that the CRTC was reticent to pass regulations that would address the systemic problems identified by the CCTS. Therefore, Option consommateurs recommends that the CRTC intervene with the telecommunications industry to remedy the problems once and for all or expand the mandate of the CCTS to give it more coercive powers. Option consommateurs used several different research methods such as focus groups, an analysis of the measures taken by major telecommunications companies to create access to customer services and interviews with leading Canadian telecommunications companies. The researcher also utilised the ISO standards for customer satisfaction and an evaluation report of the CCTS.

Option consommateurs received funding from Industry Canada’s Contributions Program for Non-Profit Consumer and Voluntary Organizations. The views expressed in the report are not necessarily those of Industry Canada or the Government of Canada.

An electronic version of the research report in available at www.option-consommateurs.org.

 [December 1, 2010]


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