Technology & Science

Cellphones top telecom complaints

Cellphones are the most complained about telecommunications service, according to the agency that resolves issues between consumers and companies.

Cellphones are the most complained-about telecommunications service, according to the agency that resolves issues between consumers and companies.

About 38 per cent of the 3,214 investigations opened by the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services were cellphone-related, the agency reported on Monday. Home phone and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services were second, with 23 per cent of the complaints, followed by internet service, at 16 per cent.

Billing issues such as disconnection fees and overcharging were the most common complaint for telecommunications overall, making up about 34 per cent of the total. Contract disputes were second, with 27 per cent, followed by service delivery issues, such as installation and maintenance, with 16 per cent.

The CCTS is a self-regulating body set up by the industry in 2007 following government deregulation of the home phone market. It resolves complaints between consumers and telecommunications companies on most unregulated services but, notably, does not deal with television connections.

Overall, the number of complaints that were opened was up 44 per cent for the year ended July 31, 2009, versus the previous year. Total contacts with the CCTS were also up dramatically to 17,407, or 183 per cent. More than 2,600 contacts were rejected because they were related to areas the CCTS does not cover, such as telemarketing, pricing and outsourcing. About 1,400 were also rejected because they dealt with companies that are not members of the agency.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has required every telecommunications company with annual revenue exceeding $10 million to be part of the CCTS. The complaints body saw its membership grow to 38 from 16 in its first year.

The vast majority of consumers who contacted the CCTS were seeking further information on it.

Among the nation's biggest telecommunications companies, Bell Canada led the way in terms of total complaints opened, with 1,239. Rogers was second, with 672, followed by Telus, at 579. According to the companies' most recent financial reports, their total cellphone, home phone and internet customers are 15.7 million, 10.8 million and 11.5 million, respectively.

The CCTS expects the public's contact with the commissioner's office to increase dramatically over the next year as it implements its publicity campaign. Member companies will, over the next few months, be required to notify customers of the CCTS's services on their websites, on bills and in phone books. Some have already begun listing contact information on their bills, the CCTS said.