2018 Compliance Monitoring Report

Table of Contents

 

 

I. About the CCTS

Founded in 2007, the CCTS is Canada’s national and independent organization dedicated to resolving customer complaints about most phone, wireless, internet and subscription TV services after direct communications between a customer and their service provider have proven ineffective.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which regulates and supervises Canadian telecommunications and broadcasting, reviews and approves our structure and mandate. All telecommunications service providers, and all large TV service providers and their affiliates, must participate in, and fund, the CCTS.

When a service provider is not already a participant of the CCTS, there are two circumstances which trigger the CRTC’s regulatory requirement to sign up: (i) for telecommunications service providers, when a customer complains and (ii) for licensed TV service providers when mandated to do so by the CRTC. We also receive requests from some service providers who wish to participate in the CCTS voluntarily. In 2018, 13 telecommunications service providers that were required to join the CCTS failed to do so. To address this, we have referred these non-compliant service providers to the CRTC (See Appendix A).

The CCTS provides a free and impartial service to customers of approximately 253 Participating Service Providers (“PSPs”), represented by 371 customer-facing brands.[1] The CCTS reports on these activities twice a year – Annual and Mid-Year Reports can be found here.

 

II. About the CCTS’ Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Program

To ensure the CCTS can provide free and effective service to customers when they need it, PSPs must comply with a range of requirements. These obligations include:

  1. Carrying out the CCTS Public Awareness Plan
  2. Compliance with the Procedural Code, which contains rules for our complaint resolution process
  3. Disclosure of financial information and payment of the CCTS fees

In January 2018, in response to the CRTC’s expectations that the CCTS more actively monitor compliance with these requirements, and enforce compliance in situations of major[2] non-compliance, the CCTS launched a Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Program. When PSPs are non-compliant with these obligations, the CCTS has certain enforcement tools that include expelling PSPs, pursuing civil litigation and publicly naming those PSPs.

This report provides information about our 2018 compliance monitoring and enforcement activities, and highlights areas of major non-compliance that we intend to work with PSPs to address.

 

III. Requirements, Monitoring Activities and Results

1. Carrying out the Public Awareness Plan

A. Requirements

For the CCTS to be able to help Canadians, customers must first be aware of their right to escalate their dispute to the CCTS when their attempts to solve the problem directly with their service provider have proven ineffective. Therefore, all PSPs must comply with the CCTS’ Public Awareness Plan, which is summarized below:

  1. Required information and search functionality on websites: PSPs must have a dedicated, public-facing webpage with specific information about their complaint-handing process, and about the CCTS. Additionally, when using the website search function and entering certain keywords, the results must include a link to the PSP’s complaints page.
  2. Customer bill messages: PSPs must, at least four times per year, include a written notice about the CCTS on their customers’ bills, or alternatively via text message or website notices to those customers who do not receive bills.
  3. Customer notification: PSPs must inform a customer about the CCTS immediately upon a failure to resolve the customer’s complaint at the second level of escalation in their complaint-handling process, and again at subsequent levels of escalation in their internal process, should the customer pursue further internal escalations.
  4. White Pages: PSPs that publish white page directories must include a notice about the CCTS, in a prescribed format.

B. Monitoring Activities and Results

To monitor compliance with the CCTS Public Awareness Plan, we:

  1. asked all PSPs to certify compliance by each of their brands; and
  2. reviewed in detail the compliance of over 30 PSP brands, including the ones customers complain about the most.
1. Results of Public Awareness Plan compliance certification[3]

302 PSP brands required to certify compliance with the Public Awareness Plan. Out of those 302 brands, 48 failed to certify compliance and were deemed non-complaint. See Appendix B for more information. Out of the 302 PSP brands required to certify compliance with the Public Awareness Plan, 254 submitted their form. From those who submitted their forms, 151 brands self-identified as fully compliant, and 103 self-identified as not fully compliant.

* See Appendix B

We require each PSP to certify their compliance with the Public Awareness Plan in order to confirm that each PSP is informing their customers about the CCTS at the required times. Out of the 254 compliance forms submitted, we reviewed all 103 forms where the PSPs self-identified as not fully compliant and followed up with them in December 2018. Generally, these PSPs identified that they were not fully compliant with all of the website or bill messaging requirements. Some PSPs did not provide customers with the required CCTS bill message on invoices. Others did not have websites that included all of the required information about their own complaint handling process or about the CCTS.  In 2019, we are working with these PSPs to ensure they understand the requirements and when necessary, to make certain changes to come into compliance.

2. Our review of PSPs’ compliance results

We reviewed in greater detail the compliance of 30 PSP brands, including the ones customers complain about the most, by reviewing their relevant internal processes and customer-facing material. We generally found that most PSPs are complying, although there are some issues that require attention.

Required information and search functionality on websites
PSPs must have a complaints page on their website and ensure it is clearly-labeled and easy for consumers to find from the home page.  If the complaints page is absent or difficult to find, we do not consider the PSP’s website to be compliant with that requirement. Also, if the PSP’s website has a search function, searching with specific keywords must return a link to the complaints page. We observed the following trends:

  1. On twelve PSP websites, we found that the complaints page — which contains information about the PSP’s internal complaint-handling process and about the CCTS – was not sufficiently easy for customers to find. Information about the CCTS was often challenging to locate or requiring too many clicks to access. A few PSPs included CCTS information in the “legal” or “regulatory” sections of the websites, not on their complaints page as required.
  2. Additionally, we found that the search function on six PSP websites did not return a link to the complaints page or to information about the CCTS when some of the required keywords were used.

Customer bill messages
PSPs must include a mandatory CCTS bill message at least four times per year on customer bills (whether electronic or paper).  This is to ensure that customers receive information about the CCTS when they need it – which in many cases is when they receive their bill.  We confirmed that all PSPs that we reviewed included the required bill message at least four times per year.

PSPs are also required to ensure that the CCTS bill message is displayed in a manner that is “reasonably prominent relative to other notices of a similar nature”.  We found that amongst the PSPs we reviewed, most of the customer bills we reviewed were compliant with this requirement. Only six PSPs were not compliant because, in our view, the required information about CCTS was not as prominent as required.

Customer notification
To monitor compliance with the customer notification requirement, we reviewed PSPs’ internal process documents. We found that half of the PSPs we reviewed had internal processes that required customer notification of CCTS at the appropriate time.[4] In 2019 we will be working with the other PSPs whose internal processes revealed compliance issues.

2. Compliance with the CCTS Procedural Code

In our initial year of monitoring Procedural Code compliance, we observed that most PSPs generally comply with most of the requirements. There were however some compliance issues.

A. Requirements

The CCTS Procedural Code contains specific requirements that PSPs must comply with throughout the CCTS complaint-handling process and also afterwards, including:

  1. Implementing agreed-upon resolutions, and CCTS-issued Recommendations and Decisions;
  2. Providing the CCTS all relevant information and documentation at different stages during the complaint-handling process; and
  3. Refraining from collections activity on disputed charges during the course of a complaint to the CCTS.

There are numerous interactions between PSPs and the CCTS in the course of handling and investigating a complaint which may engage these requirements.

B. Monitoring Activities and Results

In the period covered by this report (January 1 – October 31, 2018) we observed approximately 1,000 issues of Procedural Code non-compliance arising in approximately 13,000 complaints. The major issues, and how we have addressed them or plan to address them, are discussed below.

PSPs failing to implement agreed-upon resolutions and CCTS’ Recommendations and Decisions[5]

The CCTS Procedural Code requires PSPs to implement agreed-upon resolutions, Recommendations and Decisions.  Failure to implement these resolutions deprives customers of the remedies to which they are entitled, and undermines the CCTS’ resolution process. When a customer informs the CCTS that their PSP has failed to honour any of these outcomes, it is considered to be a major issue of non-compliance and actions to remedy the situation are taken.

In 2018, this occurred in 21 complaints:

  • in 17 complaints, the PSP complied once CCTS intervened;
  • in 1 complaint the customer was non-responsive to CCTS;
  • in 2 complaints about AllCore Communications Inc. (“AllCore”), AllCore failed to implement a Recommendation, and a resolution, despite numerous contacts over several months. As a result, CCTS expelled AllCore and referred the matter to the CRTC. This resulted in AllCore coming into compliance (including compensating the customers in both cases), and restoring its participation in the CCTS;
  • In 1 complaint, B.V Communications Inc. (“BV”) refused to implement a CCTS Decision for 3 months. We imposed a deadline for compliance, following which we would refer BV to the CRTC. This resulted in BV coming into compliance by compensating the customer.
More than half of the Procedural Code non-compliance issues were about PSPs failing to provide the CCTS with all of the required information for complaint-handling

An ongoing issue is that PSPs do not always provide the CCTS with the information requested, or provide it on time. This has an impact on the investigator’s ability to effectively and efficiently resolve customer complaints.

Once a customer has complained to the CCTS, the PSP has 30 days to contact the customer to try and resolve the complaint, and report back to the CCTS with the result. When a complaint remains unresolved, the PSP is required to[6]: (i) inform the CCTS that the complaint remains unresolved; (ii) provide a full and complete written response to all of the customer’s issues in the complaint, and (iii) provide copies of all documents that are relevant to the complaint. For example, when a customer’s unresolved complaint is about a contractual dispute, the PSP is required to submit the relevant contract. If a complaint remains unresolved after 30 days, a Complaint Resolution Officer reviews all of the materials provided to begin assessing whether the PSP met its obligations to the customer. If the PSP has not provided the CCTS with all of the relevant materials, the Officer must spend additional time going back and forth with the PSP to get the material that should have been provided in the initial timeframe. This affects the efficiency of the resolution process.

There are two separate points in the CCTS process that require PSPs to provide information and documents relevant to the complaint. The first is toward the beginning of the process – that’s when the PSP provides its initial response to inform the CCTS that the complaint remains unresolved. The second is during our investigation of an unresolved complaint – that’s when a Complaint Resolution Officer requests additional information[7] and the PSP is required to provide it within certain timelines. We will engage with PSPs that are experiencing challenges in meeting these requirements to ensure that they understand and comply with them.

Almost half of the Procedural Code non-compliance issues were about PSPs continuing collections against a customer for unpaid charges despite the customer complaining to CCTS

PSPs are required during the course of a complaint to the CCTS to refrain from pursuing collections activity regarding any charges in dispute.[8] This acts as a safeguard for cases where the CCTS determines that the amount in dispute is not owed by the customer. Some PSPs — larger ones generally — do not appear to be consistently complying with this requirement and we plan to work with them to ensure that they adjust their collections process to reflect this requirement.

3. Disclosure of financial information and payment of CCTS fees

A. Requirements

PSPs fund the CCTS, which allows us to offer our service to customers for free. PSPs pay according to their revenue and the number of complaints they each generate. In order for the CCTS to set fees that adequately cover the cost of operating, PSPs are required to provide certified financial information each year. It is therefore an instance of major non-compliance to fail to provide the required financial information, and to fail to pay invoices.

When PSPs fail to provide this information, or fail to pay their bills to the CCTS, it adds cost, which must be borne by all PSPs. To monitor compliance with financial obligations, the CCTS monitors whether PSPs have complied with the following requirements:

  1. disclosure of financial information; and
  2. payment of CCTS fees.

B. Monitoring Activities and Results

  1. Disclosure of financial information[9]
    In 2018, 203 out of 267 PSPs complied with the requirement to provide us with financial information. See Appendix C for the full list of non-compliant PSPs.
  2. Payment of CCTS fees results[10]
    We bill PSPs on a quarterly basis, and PSPs are required to pay their fees promptly. Starting in 2019, PSPs owing more than $1,000 for over 90 days will be referred for collections. At the end of 2018, 10 PSPs owe CCTS fees that qualify for collection activity, as listed in Appendix D.

 

IV. Conclusion

2018 was the inaugural year of the CCTS Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Program. Our monitoring revealed that while most PSPs, in most cases, are telling customers about the CCTS, following our process, providing us with required information, and paying their fees, there are some major issues that need to be addressed.

The CCTS intends to address these issues by working cooperatively with PSPs to ensure a shared understanding of the requirements and to resolve any potential disagreements. The CCTS also intends to provide PSPs and the public with more information about the complaint handling process, and to review service delivery measures so that customers are served in an effective and fair manner.

 

Appendix A. Service providers that failed to sign up with the CCTS between January 1 – December 31, 2018

 

Appendix B. Brands that failed to certify compliance with the Public Awareness Plan

Service providers in orange failed to provide both the Annual Compliance Certification form and Certification of Retail Revenues form.

  • Accelerated Connections Inc.
  • ALO Telecom Inc.
  • Avenue
  • BabyTel
  • BlueTone
  • Bravo Telecom
  • Brightroam
  • Canada Payphone
  • Canada Relink
  • Canpoco
  • CaspianWave TSP Inc.
  • City Wide Communications Inc.
  • CompuXellence
  • Contact Internet
  • Epik Networks
  • G3 Wireless
  • Infosat Communications
  • InnSys Incorporated
  • Internet Papineau
  • Master Call
  • My BC Datacom Ltd.
  • NECC Telecom
  • NetReach
  • Netscape
  • Nophone.ca
  • Nor-Del Telecom
  • NorthWind Wireless
  • OneConnect
  • Owtel Store Inc.
  • Parolink.net
  • Phonebox
  • PWHR Solutions
  • Quantum Xpress Computers
  • Quinte Long Distance
  • Securenet Information Services Inc.
  • Simcoe County LD
  • SkyChoice Communications Inc.
  • Skydata
  • Smart Telecom
  • Springtel Communications Inc.
  • Syban Systems Ltd.
  • Talkit.ca Inc.
  • Tel-Synergy
  • United Online, Inc.
  • VBuzzer™
  • VoIP Much Phone Company Inc
  • Vox Sun
  • XinFlix Media Inc.

 

 

Appendix C. Service providers that failed to provide required financial information

Service providers in orange failed to provide both the Annual Compliance Certification form and Certification of Retail Revenues form.

  • 159272 Canada Inc. (o/a Securenet)
  • 1947244 Ontario Inc. (Globalive Communications)
  • 2343842 Ontario Inc (o/a Smart Telecom)
  • 7665792 Canada Inc. (Internet Saguenay)
  • Accelerated Connections Inc.
  • AEI Internet Inc.
  • AOL Canada Corp (Affiliated with Verizon)
  • BabyTel
  • BlueTone
  • Brama Telecom Inc.
  • Cable Cable Inc.
  • Canada Relink
  • CaspianWave TSP Inc.
  • Collect To Cell
  • Connex Global Communications Inc.
  • Cybernet Communications
  • Freedom Phone Lines
  • Giantel Inc.
  • Gold Leaf Telecom Ltd.
  • Golden Rural High Speed
  • Green Sunsonic Inc.
  • Groupe Negotel Inc.
  • Horizon Solutions & Telecom Corp.
  • I Link Communications Inc
  • Infosat Communications
  • InnSys Incorporated
  • Jive Communications Technology Canada Ltd.
  • Manitoba NetSet Ltd.
  • Master Call Corporation
  • Maximum ISP Inc.
  • Mustang Technologies
  • My BC Datacom Ltd.
  • MyOntario Telecom
  • MySignal.ca Solutions Inc.
  • NECC Telecom
  • Nor-Del Cablevision Limited
  • Ontario Reconnect (o/a Talk Canada)
  • Pannu Phone Inc.
  • Portal One Systems Inc.
  • Pulse Telecom
  • Pure Channel Communication
  • PWHR Solutions
  • Questzones Inc. (Questzones.net Inc.)
  • Rafiki Technologies
  • Redbox Solution Limited
  • SensNet Canada Inc.
  • SkyChoice Communications Inc.
  • SkyNet Data Networks Inc.
  • Springtel Communications Inc.
  • St-Francois Telecom
  • Syban Systems Ltd.
  • Talkit.ca Inc.
  • Teliphone Navigata-Westel Communication Inc. (TNW)
  • Telizon Inc.
  • Tel-Synergy
  • Total Cable / NextCom
  • United Online, Inc.
  • Vecima Networks Inc.
  • VoIP Much Phone Company Inc
  • Vox Sun
  • WestNet Communications Ltd.
  • WISP Internet Services Inc.
  • XinFlix Media Inc.
  • Zoomitel

 

 

Appendix D. Services providers with overdue fees[11] to the CCTS

Footnotes

[1] As at December 31, 2018. The number of brands fluctuates as PSPs add or eliminate brands.

[2] In assessing the nature of non-compliance, the CCTS considers: (i) the type of non-compliance; (ii) the scale of the non-compliance (how many issues of non-compliance there are, and the duration of the non-compliance); (iii) the effect of the non-compliance on customers; (iv) the effect of the non-compliance on CCTS; (v) the conduct of the PSP in attempting to resolve the non-compliance; (vi) the size of the PSP and the state of its compliance with other CCTS participation requirements; and (vii) any other aggravating or mitigating factors.

[3] The information in this section is for the period January 1 – December 31, 2018.

[4] CCTS is unable to verify that PSPs adhere to their internal process documents.

[5] Procedural Code Sections 6.12, 12.6 and 13.3.

[6] See Procedural Code Section 6.6(c).

[7] See Procedural Code Section 15.1.

[8] See Procedural Code Section 7.1. PSPs are required to: 1) suspend the due date for payment of the customer’s disputed charges; 2) refrain from reporting the disputed charges to a credit agency; 3) refrain from attempting to collect the disputed amount (either directly or through a collections agency); and 4) suspend any collection activity that was initiated before the complaint was received by the CCTS.

[9] The data in this section is for the period January 1 – December 31, 2018.

[10] The data in this section is for the period January 1 – December 31, 2018.

[11] As at December 31, 2018, these PsPs had overdue feed of more than $1,000 for 3 months or more.

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