Canada's broadcast and telecom regulator has given another watchdog the authority to handle complaints about Canada's TV service providers.
In a release, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) said Thursday it will now include television services in a new, expanded mandate for the country's telecom complaints watchdog.
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The Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) was founded in 2007 with a mandate to investigate consumer complaints about companies that provide internet, telephone and wireless communication services. Until now, the agency had no authority over television providers, even though they are often just another division of the same companies.
But that's all set to change, as all TV providers will have to become CCTS members by September 1, 2017.
"If a Canadian cannot resolve a complaint with a communications service provider — regardless if it is a television service provider, internet service provider, wireless service provider or telephone service provider — the CCTS will become the single point of contact for obtaining a resolution," the CRTC said.
The CCTS says it received more than 7,000 complaints from television customers who had issues with their conventional or satellite television services last year, but the agency couldn't help them as television providers weren't covered in their mandate. "A speedy and effective complaints process is so important," said David Christopher, the communications manager for consumer lobby group OpenMedia. "These common sense steps should help level the playing field."
The CCTS is funded by the telecom industry but is required to act independently in solving disputes between companies and their customers over things like billing errors, service interruptions and other contract disputes.
Last year, the CCTS reported that overall complaints about wireless services declined by 12 per cent to under 10,000, despite an increase in complaints about misleading contract language after the CRTC phased out three-year terms.
The CRTC also said telecom companies have to do a better job of promoting awareness of the complaints commissioner as being the appropriate place for their customers to have their disputes resolved.
Consumer advocates have been critical of the telecom companies for not doing enough to promote the CCTS as an avenue of last resort for unresolved complaints.