Lessons from the Public Mobile price increase

How to file a complaint with the CCTS the right way

Last week’s events involving a price increase from Public Mobile and the customers of its $40/4GB and $120/12 GB plan were very instructive. Customers said that Public Mobile had promised not to raise the price of these plans for as long as they subscribed to the plan. So consumers felt angry and misled, and used their collective voices to effect change.

They did this primarily by sharing their views on social media.  And they also leveraged the legitimate recourse available to them through the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecom-television Services (CCTS).  In the day and a half before Public Mobile changed course, consumers had filed over 1,600 complaints with the CCTS about this issue, using our secure online interactive questionnaire.  Public Mobile was well aware that its customers were contacting us en masse.

A recent article entitled “How to File a CCTS Complaint Over Public Mobile’s $40/4GB Price Increase” on iphoneincanada.ca , repeated advice from a social media user about how to file a complaint online with the CCTS. While the intent in doing so was to assist consumers, the advice provided actually had the potential to hurt consumers.  Here’s why.

The advice that was posted on how to complain to the CCTS consisted of a link to the CCTS complaints page, followed by:

Select Contract
Select Wireless
When did you become aware? February 15, 2018
Select Public Mobile
Select Personal
Answer: YES that you have tried to resolve this with the company
Answer: NO that there are no other organizations which have the authority to compensate a customer for losses currently helping you to resolve this complaint.

You can answer with the following or change it as follows:

Please provide the details of your complaint. Please ensure that you describe, in as much detail as possible, the steps you took to resolve the issue with your service provider and your service provider’s response. *

My plan provided me with 12gb of data for $120/every 3 months. They are increasing my bill to $150/3 months starting March 20th. This is inconsistent and not what was promised when the advertisement indicated the following “If you have signed up for the promotional plan, you will be able to keep it after the promo period, as long as you are an active customer. This means that, as long as you are an active customer on this plan, your plan price will remain at $120, even after your initial 90 days. No surprises”.

When consumers have a complaint about their telecom or TV service, their first communication must always be to their provider, not to the CCTS.  Our Procedural Code requires that a consumer must have given the provider a “reasonable opportunity” to resolve the complaint before the CCTS can accept it.  The person who posted the advice knew this, and that’s why (s)he told readers to “Answer: YES that you have tried to resolve this with the company”.  A little harmless gaming of the system, right?  Well, not really.  Here’s why.

The CCTS staff might have accepted all of these complaints – at least at first.  Next, we would have sent them to an escalated complaint-handling unit at the service provider.  The service provider would have then objected to the CCTS accepting most of these complaints, because it had not had an opportunity to resolve them first with the customer. We would have then been required to notify all of these customers that we could not accept their complaint until they first gave the provider an opportunity to resolve it.  So consumers would have experienced needless delays, and all of this would have consumed hundreds of hours of CCTS staff time, diverting our resources from helping consumers who had tried to resolve their problems directly with their provider before filing complaints with us.

So…lessons learned

Consumers do have a voice.  Social media can be an effective tool for organizing those voices and effecting change.  And telecom and TV customers have effective recourse with the CCTS for unresolved complaints, using an accessible and efficient online application.  But first they must give their service provider the chance to fix the problem — it often suffices to resolve the issue.