ARCHIVED - Transcript, Hearing 3 November 2015
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Location: Gatineau, Quebec
Date: 3 November 2015
© Copyright Reserved
Attendees and Location
140 Promenade du Portage
- Chairman: Jean-Pierre Blais
- Members: Linda Vennard, Peter Menzies, Stephen Simpson, Christopher MacDonald
- Legal Counsel: Crystal Hulley, Eric Bowles
- Secretary: Jade Roy
- Hearing Manager: Antica Corner
--- Upon commencing on Tuesday, November 3, 2015 at 9:00 a.m.
1 LE PRÉSIDENT: Alors bonjour et bienvenue à cette audience publique.
2 Avant de commencer, je tiens à reconnaître que nous sommes réunis aujourd’hui sur le territoire traditionnel des premières nations. Donc je remercie le peuple Algonquin et rends hommage à leurs aînés.
3 Mesdames et messieurs, au cours des prochains jours, nous examinerons le mandat et la structure du Commissaire aux plaintes relativement aux services de télécommunications, aussi connu sous son abréviation CPRST ou, en anglais, CCTS.
4 Le CPRST est un organisme indépendant qui est d’une grande importance pour les Canadiens dans un marché concurrentiel. Il aide les consommateurs et les petites entreprises à régler des différends avec leur fournisseur de services téléphoniques, sans fil et par internet.
5 Établi en 2007, le CPRST traite plus de 10 000 plaintes par année au sujet des services de télécommunications et peut aller jusqu’à exiger que les fournisseurs pris en défaut remboursent le client un certain montant additionnel.
6 Il s’agira du deuxième examen visant le CPRST après la revue faite en 2010 et 2011.
7 The CRTC requires that all communications service providers become members of the CCTS so that all Canadians could benefit from its services. Currently, over 200 providers are members.
8 Among the issues that the Hearing Panel will be considering is that of whether this requirement should be maintained.
9 For the CCTS to be effective, Canadians must be aware of its existence and the assistance that it can provide them. It is also the responsibility of service providers who are members of the CCTS to promote it.
10 We will also discuss how the CCTS could make sure that a greater number of Canadians are turning to the Ombudsman to resolve a dispute with their providers.
11 In addition, to ensure its effectiveness and independence we will address issues related to the CCTS’ mandate structure and funding model.
12 Recently, as part of the Let’s Talk TV Decision, we developed a Code of Conduct for television service providers. The Code, which is being finalized and should be issued by the end of 2015, will be an essential tool for Canadian television service subscribers.
13 Given that many Canadians get their communication and television services from the same provider, during the Let’s Talk TV Proceeding, we concluded that the CCTS should be the appropriate group to administer the Code.
14 At this hearing we will discuss how the CCTS will take charge of the administration of the Code. We will also discuss if and how the mandate and structure of the CCTS should be modified to enable it to administer the Code of Conduct for Television Service Providers and, finally, should television service providers like telecommunication service providers be required to become members of the CCTS? This question will also be part of our discussions.
15 Avant de débuter, j’aimerais remercier tous ceux et celles qui ont participé à ce processus, soit en soumettant des observations, soit en se présentant devant le Comité. Nous ne pourrions nous acquitter de nos responsabilités législatives sans l’expression de vos points de vue et de votre participation.
16 Les Canadiens qui ne peuvent pas être présents peuvent tout de même participer en affichant leurs commentaires en temps réel dans notre forum de discussion en ligne au www.crtc.gc.ca. Tout au long de l’audience, nous surveillons vos commentaires, que nous attendons avec impatience. En fait, notre salle d’audience n’est pas seulement ici dans la région de la capitale nationale, elle s’étire d’un océan à l’autre.
17 Nous tiendrons compte de toutes vos observations au moment de prendre nos décisions.
18 En fait, j’aimerais faire quelques présentations. Le Comité d’audition est formé des membres suivants. Premièrement, Christopher MacDonald, conseiller régional de l’Atlantique et du Nunavut et Mme Linda Vennard, conseillère régionale de l’Alberta et des Territoires du Nord-Ouest. Il s’agit de la première audience publique de M. MacDonald et de Mme Vennard. Donc je sais qu’ils sont extrêmement bien préparés et j’espère que vous serez à la hauteur de leurs préparations.
19 Vous avez aussi sur ce panel quelques vétérans, dont Steve Simpson, conseiller régional de la Colombie-Britannique et du Yukon, et Peter Menzies, Vice-Président des télécommunications, ainsi que moi-même, Jean-Pierre Blais, Président du CRTC. Je présiderai cette audience.
20 Avant de présenter l’équipe du CRTC qui est ici aujourd’hui, I would like to acknowledge the presence of our new Secretary General Designate, Danielle May-Cuconato, who starts officially on the 16th of November but has taken the opportunity to be present here at our hearing.
21 L’équipe du conseil qui nous aide comprend les membres suivants: Antica Corner, coordonnatrice de l’audience est gestionnaire de politiques sociales et des consommateurs; Crystal Hulley and Eric Bowles, who will be legal cousel et Jade Roy, secrétaire de l’audience et superviseur des audiences publiques.
22 J’invite maintenant la secrétaire de l’audience, Jade Roy, à expliquer la procédure que nous suivrons.
23 Madame la secrétaire.
24 Mme ROY: Merci, Monsieur le président et bienvenue à tous.
25 Before we start I would like to go over a few housekeeping matters to ensure the proper conduct of this hearing.
26 When you are in the hearing room we would ask that you please turn off your smartphones as they are an unwelcome distraction and they cause interference on the internal communications systems used by our translators. We would appreciate your cooperation in this regard throughout the hearing.
27 Nous désirons rappeler aux participants d’allouer un délai raisonnable pour la traduction lors de leur présentation à vive voix, tout en respectant le temps alloué pour leur présentation.
28 Just a reminder that pursuant to Section 41 of the Rules of Practice and Procedures, you must not submit evidence at the hearing unless it supports statements already on the public record. If you wish to introduce new evidence as an exception to this rule, you must ask permission of the Panel of the hearing before you do so.
29 Please note that if parties undertake to file information with the Commission in response to questioning by the Panel, these undertakings will be confirmed on the record throughout the transcript of the hearing. If necessary, parties may speak with Commission legal counsel at a break following their presentation to confirm the undertakings.
30 And now, Mr. Chairman, we will begin with a presentation by the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services. Please introduce yourself and your colleagues, and you have 20 minutes for your presentation.
31 MR. MAKER: Mr. Chair, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Howard Maker and I’m the Commissioner of CCTS. We appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to continue our participation in the examination of CCTS, who we are, what we do, how we do it, and let’s not forget, why we do it.
32 On my right is Marie Bernard-Meunier, the newly-appointed Chair of our Board of Directors, and on my left is Josée Thibault our Assistant Commissioner. The three of us will deliver our comments beginning with Ms. Bernard-Meunier.
33 Mme BERNARD-MEUNIER: Monsieur le président, mon propos sera très bref. Je viens tout juste d’assumer la présidence du Conseil d’administration du CPRST, mais je siège au sein de ce conseil depuis sa création. Ma connaissance de cette institution et ma vision des défis qui l’attende m’inspirent aujourd'hui trois commentaires.
34 Premièrement, beaucoup de choses ont changé depuis notre premier examen devant le CRTC. Il y a trois ans le CPRST en était encore à affiner, voire à mettre en place, tous les instruments nécessaires à son bon fonctionnement. Depuis, nous avons atteint notre vitesse de croisière. Nous croyons avoir fait les investissements humains et technologiques nécessaires pour répondre le mieux possible aux attentes de ceux qui se tournent vers nous pour résoudre les conflits qui les opposent à leurs fournisseurs de services. Nous avons aussi relevé le défi de la nouvelle législation sur les organismes sans but lucratif et nous nous sommes mis en conformité avec celle-ci.
35 Deuxièmement, nous abordons ce deuxième examen par le CRTC dans un esprit ouvert et constructif. Nous nous y sommes préparés avec soin et espérons avoir été à la hauteur de vos attentes en répondant à vos questions préalables. Les témoignages qui vont se succéder et les conclusions qui seront les vôtres nous permettront sûrement d’améliorer encore nos modes de fonctionnement, mais je voudrais d’ores et déjà attirer votre attention sur un point essentiel. Le CPRST se heurte parfois au refus d’obtempérer de certains fournisseurs de service, et dans ces circonstances il voudrait pouvoir compter sur le soutien effectif du CRTC. Dans sa présentation, le Commissaire reviendra plus en détails sur ce point, exemples à l’appui.
36 Troisièmement, le CPRST se verra bientôt confier de nouvelles responsabilités dans le domaine de la télédiffusion. Je tiens à confirmer que nous serons heureux de relever ce nouveau défi. Nous sommes confiants que les préoccupations que nous avons déjà exprimées, notamment sur l’impérieuse nécessité d’éviter les conflits d’interprétation en ayant des codes de conduite plus limpides, auront été entendues.
37 Monsieur le président, je vous remercie de votre attention. À l’issue de la présentation que feront maintenant Monsieur Maker et Madame Thibault, nous serons prêts à répondre à vos questions. Ils répondront à toutes celles ayant trait aux opérations du CPRST. Pour ma part je répondrai à vos questions sur la gouvernance de l’institution, si tant est que vous en ayez.
38 Merci beaucoup.
39 MR. MAKER: The government’s vision was for CCTS was to provide independent, impartial, timely, efficient, and informal resolution of complaints. The Commission subsequently asked that CCTS take on the additional responsibility of administering codes of conduct, the Deposit and Disconnection Code, the Wireless Code, and now the TV Service Provider Code. We consider all this work to form part of our core mandate.
40 This mandate has largely contributed to our ability to quickly and efficiently resolve over 53,000 complaints since inception, with close to 90 percent of these resolved in a manner satisfactory to both customer and service provider. CCTS also plays an important educational and an informational role. We provide consumers with information about their services by responding to their calls and through our public reporting. In 2014-15 alone, CCTS was contacted over 175,000 times by stakeholders seeking our services.
41 We take this responsibility to customers and the handling of their complaints very seriously. We have defined performance objectives for the timeliness of our contact centre response and our investigative activities. I’m pleased to say that we have regularly exceeded these objectives.
42 Feedback from our in-house survey of customers shows that they are highly satisfied with our staff and our process. Overall customer satisfaction has increased year over year and is close to 90 percent for some key aspects of our service.
43 The value of CCTS, as currently structured, has been highlighted by virtually every intervener in this proceeding, our participating service providers - or as we call them PSPs - as well as consumer and public interest groups.
44 Moving to the topic of public awareness, it’s clear that consumers need to be aware of CCTS if they are to benefit from our services. Our strategy is to make sure that we are easily accessible to customers that need our services, when they need them. We believe strongly that this is the most effective public awareness strategy for CCTS.
45 And while we have made efforts to become better known publicly, particularly through our public reporting and through our work with the media, our focus has not been on promoting broad general awareness of CCTS. The main reason is that we really don’t think this would be particularly effective, and the cost of such activities can be substantial. The reality for a not for profit is that funding is not unlimited.
46 There is no benchmark for the optimum level of general public awareness. The statistics emanating from the Commission’s April 2014 Wireless Code public opinion research and “Union des consommateurs” survey provide very different information.
47 And the Commission’s April 2015 Wireless Code research report suggests that perhaps 56 percent of wireless subscribers are aware of CCTS. Indeed this research may indicate that general public awareness is higher than had previously been believed.
48 In any event, we intend to conduct a survey in 2015-16 to establish a baseline for general public awareness that will serve as our starting point going forward.
49 We’re also taking a number of other steps to increase public awareness, both generally and specifically, for customers in need of our support, in particular through the use of social media. Having said this, we must reinforce the crucial role that service providers play in increasing public awareness.
50 Our public awareness plan requires our PSPs to engage in a number of customer awareness raising activities. Service provider responses to the Commission’s request for information in this proceeding might lead one to believe they're largely compliant with their obligations under the plan.
51 However, the responses that they previously provided to our survey of compliance with the -- of the plan paint a very different picture. Of the 133 PSPs that received our survey, only 47 chose to reply, and based on the information we received, not one of the elements of the plan has been fully met by all PSPs.
52 Il est nécessaire que tous les FSP se conforment rigoureusement au plan afin de mesurer son efficacité ou déterminer si des changements sont requis.
53 Comme je l’indiquerai plus tard, nous croyons qu’une partie du problème réside dans le fait que les FSP qui ne se conforment pas à leurs diverses obligations, n’encourent aucune conséquence. Il est impossible pour le CPRST d’assurer le respect du plan et des autres exigences liées à la participation sans l’aide du Conseil.
54 MS. THIBAULT: With regard to participation, we fully understand that any decision will be made as a matter of policy in the public interest. However, we’re hopeful that our experience with the current regime will serve to assist the Commission in making its decision.
55 From our perspective, there are two key issues to be determined. Number one, should participation be mandatory or voluntary; and two, how should participation be triggered for those providers that are not currently CCTS participants?
56 If participation is voluntary there’s a real risk that many providers would withdraw from CCTS, creating a situation in which some customers are entitled to recourse, while others are not. Likewise, there’d be an unevenness in the manner in which we are able to administer the codes of conduct, and compliance data available to help determine the codes’ effectiveness would be diluted. This would also precipitate funding issues and could ultimately diminish CCTS’ independence, as service providers may threaten to or may actually withdraw if they are unhappy with a CCTS decision. Needless to say, CCTS would change dramatically.
57 With respect to how participation is triggered, while the current mechanism may make sense in theory, in practice it has resulted in lengthy delays in the resolution of complaints. It has consumed a disproportionate amount of CCTS’ management and staff time, and has added significantly to the overall administrative burden on CCTS.
58 We believe much of the cost and delay associated with the “sign-up” under the current mechanism would be greatly reduced if the Commission specifically identified which providers are required to join and disclosed to CCTS, on a confidential basis, providers’ eligible annual revenues.
59 With regard to our mandate, CCTS’ core mandate is to resolve complaints and to administer codes of conduct. This mandate is appropriate and it meets the needs of Canadians. Adding TV complaints and TVSP code administration will be a relatively straightforward exercise, as no significant changes are required to governance or to structure.
60 However, our value would be greatly diminished if the Commission were to stray from the foundational principles that shaped our current mandate. We therefore urge the Commission to reject proposals that call for the addition of responsibilities that are more fittingly carried out by consumer protection agencies or other bodies that have more specific experience and expertise. Failure to do so will detract from our core work, add to our cost structure, complicate our mandate, and dilute our ability to quickly and effectively resolve customer complaints and administer codes of conduct.
61 Some service providers have raised questions about certain aspects of how CCTS fulfills its mandate. These include, one, whether CCTS should be allowed to identify code breaches if these breaches have not been directly raised by customers in their complaints; two, whether CCTS is engaging in policy making in the interpret provisions of the Code and; three, whether an additional level should be added to the complaint resolution process, and we will address each of these issues in turn.
62 With regard to number one, the identification of Code breaches, some service providers have taken issue with CCTS itself identifying breaches. These PSPs insist that our role is to only report on breaches specifically identified by customers. We strongly disagree.
63 When making a complaint, customers rarely identify specific sections of the Wireless Code that they think have been breached. Instead, they tell us about their problems and they ask us for help.
64 Analysing whether a PSP complied with the Code is not only necessary to resolve complaints but is specifically required by Section 4 of our Procedural Code.
65 If during the course of investigating a complaint CCTS discovers a breach, we would be remiss if we, the administrator of that Code, did not identify the breach, bring it to the attention of a service provider and publicly report it.
66 Two, with regard to interpretations of the Wireless Code, some service providers have complained that CCTS is engaging in policy-making because, in the course of complaint resolution, we interpret how specific sections of the Wireless Code apply to the unique sets of facts that arise in the thousands of complaints that we receive.
67 To be clear, when CCTS determines the applicability of Wireless Code provisions to a specific fact situation, we are doing so to fulfil our role as code administrator. We are not engaging in policy-making.
68 The need for exactly this type of interpretation was specifically recognized and addressed by the Commission in Regulatory Policy 2013-271. The Commission, stated, and I quote, that:
69 “there may be issues of interpretation that the Commission has not anticipated. In order to ensure the greatest benefit to consumers, if any part of the Code or a consumer’s contract is ambiguous, or if it is unclear how the terms of the Code or the contract are to be applied, then the Code and the contract must be interpreted in a manner that is favourable to consumers.”
70 The Commission’s direction makes it clear that in the course of resolving code-related complaints there is a need and an expectation for CCTS to interpret the provisions of the codes of conduct, not only to administer them but also to ensure timely and informal resolution of the complaint.
71 Si l’on empêche le CPRST d’interpréter les dispositions des codes au contexte des plaintes ou de faire rapport des violations aux codes qui sont identifiées lors des enquêtes sur les plaintes, les clients seront privés des protections offertes par les codes.
72 Cela dit, nous comprenons le besoin d’une plus grande transparence pour expliquer la logique des décisions rendues par le CPRST dans l’administration des codes et la résolution des plaintes. Le CPRST travaille sur une version annotée du Code sur les services sans fil et prévoit la rendre publique d’ici la fin de 2015. Notre objectif, si nos ressources nous le permettent, est d’assurer la mise à jour périodique des annotations. Nous espérons pouvoir produire des versions annotées des autres codes de conduite que nous administrons.
73 Three, with regard to CCTS’ complaint process and specifically when complaints are accepted, it appears that certain PSPs are trying to leave the impression that CCTS is accepting complaints that service providers have not yet had an opportunity to investigate and resolve. This seems to be the basis for Sasktel’s proposal, which was supported by Rogers, to change our process. Under the Sasktel proposal, when customers contact us with a complaint, service providers would be given an additional five days to attempt to resolve the complaint prior to CCTS formally accepting, counting and billing for it.
74 We feel strongly that implementing this recommendation is not necessary. It would be unfair to customers, would delay resolution of complaints, and would increase CCTS’ operating costs.
75 CCTS’ Procedural Code precludes us from accepting a complaint if the customer has not first afforded the provider a reasonable opportunity to resolve it. And this is the right focus. It encourages communication and resolution of issues directly between providers and their customers.
76 Under our public awareness plan, PSPs are obliged to inform customers of their right of recourse to CCTS only after the second escalation of a complaint within their organization, effectively making CCTS the third step for many customers seeking to resolve complaints. Many providers already have multiple internal levels for complaint resolution. Sasktel, for example, has three, whereas Rogers has four.
77 In addition, the very first step in our process is to allow the provider another chance to resolve the complaint before we investigate it.
78 Implementing the Sasktel proposal would send customers that have already made reasonable efforts to resolve their complaints with their providers back to these same providers for yet another attempt at resolution. It effectively makes CCTS the fourth step for many customers seeking to resolve complaints.
79 The additional step would increase our costs as we would require additional staffing to do this work. Further, these costs could no longer be recovered through complaint-based fees since this work would not be done in relation to an accepted complaint. It would also require us to make significant changes to our case management system to allow for a new level in the process.
80 The only thing Sasktel’s proposal would do is to artificially reduce the number of complaints publicly reported and directly billed for each provider. In our view, this would reduce service provider motivation to resolve complaints quickly, delay resolution for customers and make CCTS less effective and efficient.
81 MR. MAKER: Moving to the topic of funding, CCTS has identified two main issues that we’d like to raise with you related to funding, the first being the adequacy of funding generally and the second relating to the funding formula.
82 With respect to the adequacy of funding, the overall level of funding must be sufficient to allow us to adequately fulfil our core mandate in an independent, timely and professional manner.
83 Should the Commission decide to expand our mandate, of its own accord or by accepting some of the many suggestions that have been made by interveners, our costs will increase. PSPs have a right to demand that we work efficiently and that we be accountable for our spending.
84 However, any additional initiatives will need sufficient funding to ensure that they do not interfere with our ability to perform our core mandate.
85 Moreover, an organization that exists for public policy purposes and that is entirely funded by its participants is potentially vulnerable to the use of funding as a tool to pressure or exert influence over the organization. For the record, we’re not suggesting that this is currently happening. However, it’s important that CCTS be able to count on sufficient levels of general funding as well as the timely payment of fees to meet its financial and operational obligations.
86 With respect to the funding formula, as you know, we are funded by our participating service providers. The vast majority of the funding comes from a 60/40 combination of revenue-based fees and complaint-based fees. The majority of the PSPs in this proceeding appear to be pushing for a greater share of the funding to be complaints driven.
87 Le CPRST estime que la convention d’adhésion lui offre les moyens suffisants pour obtenir un consensus organisationnel avec ses FSP au sujet de la structure de sa formule de financement. Cela pourrait se traduire par le maintien du modèle actuel, avec ou sans ajustements, ou par l’adoption d’un tout autre modèle. Nous invitons le Conseil à clairement faire connaître les objectifs stratégiques qu’il souhaite aborder par le biais de la formule de financement. Cependant, nous l’exhortons de ne pas être normatif et de plutôt laisser le CPRST et les FSP déterminer la formule de financement qui répondra le mieux aux besoins de l’organisation.
88 Finally, before concluding, I’d like to talk about compliance and enforcement.
89 Our Participation Agreement imposes on PSPs a number of fundamental requirements. At present, we have compliance problems with all of them, including the public awareness plan, the delivery of revenue declarations, the payment of CCTS fees, and compliance with the Procedural Code. We believe that compliance and enforcement are key structural pieces that are currently missing from our model.
90 Now, we previously referred briefly to our compliance challenges with the public awareness plan, but there are also service providers that do not provide us with their annual certification of revenues, others that have never paid any fees to CCTS, still others that have long-overdue fees. For the first time ever we now have two PSPs that are refusing to implement binding complaint dispositions. While the Participation Agreement contains some remedies for non-compliance, unfortunately they are not sufficient, practical or realistic.
91 CCTS needs the Commission’s help if we are to continue to efficiently and effectively fulfil our mandate. By partnering with us, the Commission will send a strong message to consumers and to industry. This is fundamental to our credibility with all stakeholders. Effective enforcement mechanisms must be meaningful and timely and, ideally, there would be a direct link between a provider’s full and complete participation with CCTS and that provider’s right to offer service.
92 We think that simplification of some existing processes, like changes to the participation trigger mechanism, the confidential sharing of revenue data, for example, will make compliance and enforcement a little more straightforward.
93 We also believe that an unequivocal directive outlining the requirement to comply with all aspects of the Participation Agreement and related Commission determinations is necessary. We ask the Commission to work with us to develop a Commission-based enforcement process to which CCTS can have recourse when a PSP is in default of its participation obligations.
94 Thank you. We look forward to responding to any questions you have for us today.
95 LE PRÉSIDENT: Alors merci beaucoup pour votre présentation, Mesdames et Messieurs, et bienvenue.
96 You won’t be surprised that I’m going to -- you’ve been observing CRTC hearings since I arrived -- that I’m going to start with some big-picture issues and then come down to some more detailed issues. And there are several, and it's merely to build the record and have your perspective on it. They're asked merely in that spirit.
97 The first big picture issue -- because you've been at the helm of this organization in one way or another for a number -- for a number of years, what, in your view, would be lost if the CCTS no longer existed?
98 MR. MAKER: Put simply, what CCTS offers is what I often describe informally as an opportunity to level the playing field for consumers.
99 Consumers previously were without recourse when they had dispute, legitimate or otherwise, with their service provider. So certainly the obvious first answer to your question is the right to an independent review, an impartial review of a legitimate dispute with a service provider would be lost.
100 In addition to that, you know, although that's our core mandate, what we do goes well beyond that now, and we're quite proud of the steps we've taken to advance the quality and the quantity of information and data we put into the public domain about telecom.
101 Certainly, in our annual reports, in our media work and otherwise, we put -- we provide information to consumers about their services, about problems that we see frequently, about things they can do to try and avoid them or how to improve the value that they get from their services.
102 We also put a lot of data into the marketplace about complaint issues, about consumer issues that service providers are very anxious to take up on. At least that's what they say to us. And indeed, we've seen some instances in which issues we've identified have been acted upon and changes have been made in order to enhance the delivery of service to the benefit of consumers.
103 So certainly, now that we've taken on the role of Code administrator as well -- you know, the purposes of the Code, obviously, were to set some minimum standards for provider conduct and to provide some rights and remedies for consumers, and also for providers, and so that, in itself, is one step. But unless you can determine the impact that those steps are having on the industry and on consumers, you know, you're not going to get where you need to be in terms of reaching your objective.
104 And certainly, we are administrating -- administering those Codes, and we are providing a lot of data for the Commission and for others with which to assess the effectiveness of those Codes going forward.
105 So I think those are the main things that respond to your question.
106 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci. Mesdames, si vous voulez ajouter, je vais être entre vos mains. Vous n'avez qu'à indiquer votre intention d'ajouter à la question, mais je me tournerais pas nécessairement vers vous pour des éléments supplémentaires.
107 Now, with respect to the second big picture question, you know, as my nephew and nieces are thinking about mid-terms these days and grades and things like that because they're in university, so I'm going to ask you, maybe, in the spirit of -- we're well past the going back to school and now we're in the evaluation.
108 So if you look at, since our last review, what grade would you give yourself in your ability -- in your having accomplished the objectives you have or the outcomes you define for yourself?
109 Is it a C minus, B plus, an A minus? What's your perspective?
110 MR. MAKER: I'm not usually one to grade myself because we all know how that goes, but your question pre-supposes that we've finished the course, I think, and I guess my initial reaction is this is always a work in progress, so if I have to go us a grade, let's call it a mid-term, perhaps, because, you know, the tasks that we've started are continuing. We don't -- we're not done.
111 Certainly in terms of most of what we've done, I think the intervenors in this proceeding have spoken, and in the last proceeding as well. Most of the comments about CCTS were very complimentary.
112 You know, certainly in areas of key mandate -- key areas of our mandate such as dispute resolution, I mean, that's what we do, and everyone has been largely supportive and complimentary about the work we've done, and we feel very proud of how far we've come even since 2010 in terms of the effectiveness of our process, the timeliness, the training we give our staff, the tools we have in place, the access that we have for -- put in place for consumers.
113 So I think we've done very well on that front.
114 I think that, like every other issue, you know, you could look at it individually, but overall, Code administration, for example, I think we've taken on what was a much bigger challenge than we initially thought it would be. And that's not a critique of the Codes in any sense; just a recognition that sometimes there are things lurking below the water that you don't anticipate when you examine an option.
115 And so we have, I think, done a very good job of wrapping our arms around the Codes, what they mean, what the Commission's expectation for us in terms of administering the Codes are, and we've started to develop data that we hope will not only inform future improvements to the current and perhaps future Codes, but also allows customers to get the benefit of those protections in resolving their complaints.
116 So I think we've done a very good job. You can see I'm hesitating to actually assign grades.
117 I think, you know, our complaint numbers have been down lately, and some people have a tendency to say, you know, that's because everybody's all happy now and all is well or that's because maybe, you know, you're not reaching out enough or people are not interested in your services any more.
118 I don't think that's the case, you know. And in terms of our success, I think our job is to make sure that people know about us, but to make sure that we give good service to the people that do want to avail ourselves.
119 And so overall, I'd say we've made a ton of progress and we're continuing to make the progress, and I think our mid-term report should be pretty flattering.
120 THE CHAIRPERSON: So you really don't want to give yourself a grade, do you?
121 I mean, if you're doing a good job and you're proud of it, why do you hesitate?
122 MR. MAKER: I think there's an objective and a subjective component to a grade. You know, I've -- the -- I have sons who are the same age as your nieces and nephews, and so people tend to attach an importance to a grade. You know, I got an A or I got a B. And really, what underlies that is that you have some strengths and you have some weaknesses and some areas where you could do better.
123 And for me, the key is not so much to focus on the grade, but to focus on the grade, but to focus on what we're doing well and to continue to do it and where we have room for improvement and to work on those things.
124 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. I'll leave it at that.
125 I'm not sure that that's the advice we usually give to people going to university, but anyhow, as long as you're happy, it's fine, right.
126 Okay. Moving on. Participation, I've got a few questions on that area.
127 So in the procedure -- the proceedings so far, some have subjected, and specifically Shaw and Cogeco, have suggested that participation should be voluntary.
128 You started addressing it in part in your oral presentation.
129 From your perspective, what impact would you expect to see if participation was voluntary?
130 MR. MAKER: We noted those comments about voluntary participation as well, Mr. Chair.
131 I think you would see CCTS change dramatically if you were to make participation purely voluntary. I think you'd see a change in our character and a change in our effectiveness, and I think the first thing that would happen is TSPs would withdraw. And there are a number of consequences to that.
132 One of them is if TSPs withdraw, it makes the process more costly for everybody else, it deprives consumers who deal with those TSPs of the opportunity to have recourse and, of course, opportunity to benefit from the provisions of the Code because the administration of the Codes of Conduct are tied so closely into our complaint resolution activities that, presumably, unless some change is made, that there'd be no way for us to ensure that those consumers whose TSPs had withdrawn actually got the benefit of the Code, and it would dilute the information that we could make available about the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of various provisions of the Code because we wouldn't see as many complaints about them.
133 We also think that there's the risk that this would impact our independence. It would provide a bit of leverage for service providers to attempt to perhaps suggest outcomes at the risk of them going elsewhere. And we’ve certainly seen that in other organizations in Canada, where participation has been made voluntary. I’m thinking of OBSI, where the banks were given the opportunity to depart -- to leave the industry ombudsman and set up their own. We’ve seen two of the very large banks do that.
134 So I think that we have fundamental impact on the character of CCTS.
135 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right, your answer -- thank you for that, although your answer does suggest that if it was voluntary, the result would be that people would walk.
136 How do you square that? And maybe you just don’t believe the argument. How do you square that with arguments I often hear from Telecom service providers and others that customer is really important; it’s their primary responsibility, CEOs repeat it on a number of occasions. And therefore wouldn’t they actually want to voluntary participate in any mechanism that improves the service to customers?
137 MR. MAKER: I’ve heard that line frequently as well and when I hear CEOs and senior executives say that, I absolutely believe them. I do think that the CEOs really believe that.
138 The issue is transmitting that through the organization down through all the various levels, you know, to the people who actually deal with the customers and deal with the problems. And I think that’s where the cognitive dissonance is. That’s where the rubber sometimes doesn’t meet the road.
139 And so I agree with them. I think they might also say that we can provide another service of our own that’s just as good as CCTS and less costly. I might not believe them on that one.
140 But really it’s about transmitting the corporate view on high down through the ranks.
141 THE CHAIRPERSON: You don’t seem to be fully enamoured with the trigger-based participation model. You mentioned it again this morning. You argue in part it creates delays and some confusion.
142 Based on your experience, what would be the way to improve the TSP participation model and have you looked at alternate models, short of full mandatory?
143 MR. MAKER: Well, we’ve thought about this in great detail, as you know, and I won’t go into all the details unless you ask, but we’ve filed a lot of material to explain to you how complicated this trigger mechanism is for us and how much time and effort goes into making it work.
144 And the key thing that we know is it’s not meeting the Commission’s regulatory objective. In 2011-46, you said if a service provider is not a participant and CCTS gets a complaint, they have to join within five days.
145 We know that’s not happening. And you’ve seen the statistics that we’ve filed this year for the ones that joined voluntarily at our request -- not voluntarily but complied with our request to join. It took 50 days on average. And some of them didn’t join voluntarily and we referred them to the Commission and their staff, and those took about over 100 days on average for the ones that did join and of course some still didn’t.
146 And we know you understand all of those challenges and difficulties. You know, for us we’ve sat and tried to figure out whether, unless you order everybody in at the beginning and tell us who they all are, give us a timeline to get them in, hopefully give us the revenue data for the ones that you have revenue data for. And we can sit down and have a project to make sure we get everybody in.
147 Short of that, I’m not sure -- we haven’t been able to come up with anything better.
148 I think that our arguments about compliance and enforcement factor in here. We certainly think that the lack of a bit of a stick to incent some of these providers to join more promptly is an issue.
149 And let’s remember who most of these providers are, and I say this with absolutely no disrespect. They’re very small companies, typically very entrepreneurial ownership. As one of these executives said to my colleague, Ms. Thibault, “Yes, I’m the president but I also empty the garbage cans at night.” That’s the reality. They don’t have any experience in dealing with the Commission; no experience, for many of the small guys, with regulation.
150 It’s an effort to get them to understand what they’re required to do and why they’re required to do it and how they have to do it.
151 So you know at the end of the day, to the extent we can both eliminate the need to trigger membership this way, we won’t get rid of it entirely because there’s always changes in the membership and new companies come and go, and you have to have a way to get them in, I don’t really have a better suggestion for you on how to do that.
152 We might look at refining the amount of material we send them and if we can not have to ask them for revenue declarations, and if we can not have to take some of these steps we can make it simpler. But I’m not sure there’s an easy answer.
153 We should look at the things we can do, I would suggest, to simplify the process but in terms of the trigger, I don’t have a better solution for you.
154 THE CHAIRPERSON: That’s why you lean towards more of a mandatory system?
155 MR. MAKER: Well, with a voluntary system and people coming and going all the time, you’re going to have more of this.
156 THE CHAIRPERSON: M’hm.
157 MR. MAKER: But even if you give us the names of every single TSP and TPSP today, we know that next week somebody will acquire somebody else and we’ll have to bring in a new participant or -- new companies come and go.
158 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. But you know it’s fine to think we could do better but unfortunately we have to have an alternate to the trigger system. It’s a bit like democracy. It’s expensive, it’s messy, but we really don’t have an alternative that we would actually think is a wise one. It might be more efficient but it may not be more wise.
159 We have over 1,000 TSPs on the CRTC’s registration list and as you mentioned some of them are smaller. They’re entrepreneurial, they’re busy doing other things.
160 Another form of trigger, other than complaints based, why do you think that that would be less effort to convince those small players that they have met the trigger, whether it’s mandatory, just straight out everybody is a member?
161 You still have to run after those folks, get them to sign your participation agreement; get them to provide some basic information on…
162 I mean there’s still effort to notify them of their obligation, to get them to provide all kinds of unfortunately what they would describe perhaps as distractions to what their main business is.
163 MR. MAKER: Yes, one of the -- you’re quite right, Mr. Chair, and one of the problems we have certainly is trying to find and identify some of these players. So to the extent that the Commission can assist us with that, that would be a step forward.
164 Certainly, we would expect to -- we would hope that you would, subject to what you decide in terms of your public policy choice around which providers should or should not be required to participate, we would expect you to make that order to them very clearly. To state clearly what your expectations are regarding participation in CCTS, both in terms of sign-up and in terms of other things.
165 I was going to quote Winston Churchill to you but you’ve kind of beat me to it in terms of messy democracy. And certainly there are messy pieces to this and if I thought that I had the magic bullet, I would certainly be happy to share it with you.
166 THE CHAIRPERSON: Tell me, how many of the TSPs signed up within the five days? Are there any?
167 MS. THIBAULT: My recollection, in the last five years, I don’t recall one TSP signing up within five days.
168 THE CHAIRPERSON: Even though their complaint was in scope?
169 MS. THIBAULT: Yes, absolutely.
170 As Mr. Maker pointed out, one of the challenges after finding them is convincing them that this is legitimate. We’re not trying to take their money. We’re not trying to sell them a service; that they’re required to do this.
171 And then the other challenge is to obtain the confidential certification of retail revenues. They tend to be very, very reticent to provide that information as well.
172 So on average, about 50 days after we find them.
173 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. That’s the average and do you have a sense of what the mean number would be?
174 MS. THIBAULT: Not off the top of my head, no, sorry.
175 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Just if you had it off the top of your head, that would have been useful but your 50-day number is clear.
176 So let’s turn now to the participation of television service providers. And could you sort of describe the operational challenges you’ll face if the CRTC were to mandate -- it’s a hypothetical question -- were to mandate participation of all TVSPs, including very small and independent TVSPs?
177 MR. MAKER: We have given this some thought, Mr. Chair, and overall we think there’d be, like any other large project, there’d be a lot of moving pieces but we do think that this is a natural fit for CCTS.
178 We don’t think that we would have to adapt our governance structure in any material way. We think it’s perfectly setup right now to certainly -- all we’re doing essentially is adding another line of business and, in fact, many of our existing participating service providers already engage in that line of business, so certainly for them that’s easy.
179 We would obviously have to make some changes to our constating documents to accommodate this new mandate and that’s relatively straightforward we imagine as well.
180 Certainly getting independent TVSP’s in may or may not have some of the challenges -- same challenges that getting independent TSPs in poses.
181 As I understand it and I’m no expert in this area but my understanding is that you have some licencing of many of these TVSPs that doesn’t exist on the telecom side and that may give you another tool to both incent and monitor compliance with signup obligations.
182 As a general matter though, you know, our board has looked at this in some detail and our view is that we can reproduce for TVSPs exactly what we do for TSPs and that’s our objective.
183 THE CHAIRPERSON: Some of the very small and independent TVSPs don’t even have CRTC licence; they operate on exemption order. And unlike the forbearance regime in telecommunications, they don’t even register with us, so we don’t even know who they are. We operate on a complaints basis.
184 So wouldn’t even -- be even more difficult to track them down? For you to implement if it -- we’re -- if we were to extend the mandate to every small independent TVSPs?
185 MR. MAKER: Well and just for the record, CCTS has not taken a position on who should be in or who should be out.
186 THE CHAIRPERSON: Good. I understand that but I’m trying to understand what the practical ramifications would be for you.
187 MR. MAKER: I think the practical consequences are the same as for independent TSPs. It certainly sounds that way. I don’t see any material difference. We -- we’re -- obviously there will be a need to have an effort to communicate with them, both broadly and specifically, to the extent that we can, but if we don’t know who they are, obviously that presents a big problem.
188 So, you know, there are ways to try and develop some of this information but it’s not easy and perhaps we’ll be stuck in the end with the complaint based trigger but there are -- there are lots of wise folks that know a lot more about the TV industry than I do and so certainly we’ll want to consult and take some advice on that.
189 THE CHAIRPERSON: On -- in the notice of consultation for TVSP -- for the TVSP code, we’ve approached it so far, and we haven’t made a final decision, but we’ve approached it so far that the code would apply to licenced and related exempt undertakings.
190 So even though they’re small but if they’re related to a licenced undertaking -- and therefore contrario, that independent -- small independent undertakings that are exempt would not be covered by the code.
191 So, as I say, we haven’t made that decision but let’s treat it as a hypothetical. If we were to go confirm that view going forward, so the code’s not applicable to these small exempt independent TVSPs, would they nevertheless be required to participate in the CCTS; not because they’re under the code but for other reasons. How would that work? Would that be appropriate?
192 MR. MAKER: Well, Mr. Chair, I think in the end that’s the commission’s call. We’re trying to balance, you know, it’s a public policy discussion and we’re trying to balance the ---
193 THE CHAIRPERSON: I’m trying to -- I know that.
194 MR. MAKER: Yes, no, no, but I ---
195 THE CHAIRPERSON: I’m just trying to appreciate the operational consequences from your perspective.
196 MR. MAKER: Right, so I assume that these small exempt providers are small and exempt for a reason. And so that means that they’re not really on your radar and they’re certainly not going to be on our radar.
197 And, you know, certainly from our perspective if we’re not going to be able to make this work in a way that’s reasonable, then I query whether we should take it on.
198 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, but how would you go about if they were -- because they wouldn’t be subject to the code but they may have other consumer relationships?
199 MR. MAKER: So you’re envisioning a situation in which they would be required to participate but not subject to the code?
200 THE CHAIRPERSON: Exactly.
201 MR. MAKER: So it’s -- it’s really a code administration question, I guess, and it’s going to require us to be able to identify who they are and make sure that we don’t impose the code obligations on them when we get complaints from the customers.
202 THE CHAIRPERSON: So that means is it something you could do? Is it more complicated? Is it not worth it? Is it -- I’m trying to understand your impact assessment of that.
203 MR. MAKER: Well we haven’t really gone down that road yet. I think in the end of the day, it’s going to present an operational challenge for us.
204 We’re going to have to find a way to flag these providers in terms of what requirements we impose on them when they -- we investigate their customers complaints, as opposed to when we investigate complaints of customers of other TVSPs.
205 So it’s a level of challenge. There’s some extra training and some staff knowledge issues, perhaps some system changes that we’ll have to make to identify that. I mean it doesn’t sound impossible but it sounds like an extra layer of challenge.
206 THE CHAIRPERSON: Now, you mentioned this earlier, that most licenced TVSPs are also TSPs, particularly -- or are at least affiliated to TSPs. Because of the nature of the communication sector these days, there’s a lot of -- of people offering both what we traditionally would call broadcasting and telecommunications services concurrently.
207 So I take it that in that circumstance, they would immediately become participants, those that are members of -- that are licenced TVSPs, in your view of things?
208 MR. MAKER: Yes, I think that’s right. In some cases, depending on the nature of the corporate relationship between them, we might have to sign them up or they might already be subject to the participation agreement and we’ll clarify the -- with our counsel about that.
209 But yes, they’re all -- my view at -- you should -- we would suggest that you would select a date at which, you know, their participation would be required.
210 And we would, I think, largely look at this as a matter of paperwork. We would need to get the service provider to identify, you know, the identity of the TV service provider.
211 We’d need to add their service -- their TVSP revenues to the overall revenues that they declare to us. We wouldn’t need to do much more than that, I don’t think, other than add them to our IT system.
212 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right, so that deals with a TVSP that’s also a TSP.
213 What would you do in a circumstance where you’ve got a licenced TVSP but he’s not necessarily a participating TSP? How would you -- how would you envisage the triggering of their participation?
214 MR. MAKER: Well I think we would expect -- or we would hope that you would tell us who they are and you’d say to them and to us, TVSP X, Y and Z need to participate in CCTS as of date such and such.
215 We would reach out to them or they might even beat us to it and reach out to us and you’d want to be satisfied that they’d signed up and we could certainly make the list of signed up companies available to you.
216 THE CHAIRPERSON: What if it’s a -- and I know you don’t like it, but what if it’s a complaint based trigger?
217 So it’s -- they’re not a TSP. They’re -- but they are a licenced TVSP and so there’s a triggering event, a complaint for instance; how would you go about that?
218 MR. MAKER: Well right now our current -- our current process for signing up TSPs is -- is the one that’s available to us. And ---
219 THE CHAIRPERSON: In my hypothetical they’re not a TSP, they’re just a TVSP.
220 MR. MAKER: Right but the process that we would use to reach out to them, I think, would likely be the same.
221 We’d have to find them. We’d have the same challenges. You know, if -- you said they’re licenced so presumably there’s a trail.
222 So we can find them. We can reach out to them. There may be revenue data available. We would send them our participation package. We’d speak with them and we’d get them signed up and bring them in and put them into the appropriate participation category.
223 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
224 So help me understand, when you’ve got a company, an undertaking, that has both TSP activities and in the future TVSP activities and there's a trigger, let’s assume it’s a complaint page sort of like currently is because -- it’ll make -- make it easier, is that CCTS participant all in for all the communication services?
225 MR. MAKER: It’s a very good question. You know, to those Canadians who are sort of outside of all of this, you know, the distinction between telecom on TV is really very artificial, for those of us who are inside it, it’s quite significant. So you know, we haven’t really considered your question quite frankly, so if we get a TV complaint about a service provider that’s a TSP but not a CCTS participant, do they just have to sign up their TV arm or do they have to sign up the whole organization?
226 As I say, we don’t have a formal position because we haven’t considered a lot of this nuance, but frankly my personal view is it doesn’t make sense to sign up part of a company.
227 THE CHAIRPERSON: And do I take it the reason you take that position is because from the Canadian -- individual Canadian’s perspective, they often get bundle services and they don’t see the difference?
228 MR. MAKER: And that’s exactly where I was headed, yes, Mr. Chair, you know, the complaint itself might, you know, be about TV but it might be part of a bundle or a package in which they get other telecom services. And so as I say, certainly from our perspective at CCTS having a one-time sign-up, you're in or you're not in, is a lot simpler and certainly for consumers it’s a lot more easier to understand and to explain.
229 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, thank you. And you know, you're back before us at the end of the week, so if you wanted to -- to add to that, you're more than welcome to do so.
230 I’m going to turn now to the question of enforcement. Obviously I’ve heard you -- I’ve read you and I’ve heard you this morning, you're obviously advocating for a more robust compliance process and you’ve elaborated the reasons for that.
231 Help me understand though why you don’t think the current system works. If I read Article 6, participation is almost like a -- of your participation agreement -- it is in a sense a contract, is it not, between the would-be participant who signs on to the participation agreement and agrees to be -- to conduct themselves pursuant to that arrangement in a sense, I'm not sure if legally it is a contract, but it is an arrangement that -- that they agree to? And in Article 6 you actually provide the remedies, you can terminate the TSP’s participation; you can name and shame them; you could undertake civil remedies. So why are those remedies not adequate of suboptimal? What are the challenges associated with those?
232 MR. MAKER: Thank you for that question and you're right, we do think the participation agreement is a contract. It’s a contract for CCTS to deliver some services, and for the participating service providers to do a number of things, and indeed we do think it’s enforceable as a contract. I think it even uses the word “contract”, but I could be wrong about that.
233 In any event you're right, Article 6 does provide a variety of remedies and we could go through them one by one if -- if we like, but what we -- what we have here is a -- is the primary remedy that we have under the contract is the right to enforce the contract. And that means generally to go to a Court and say, “Your Honour, TSP X is not doing thus and so and we’d like you to make an order requiring them to comply with the contractual obligations”, whatever they happen to be. And generally I would say to you that we find that slow and costly.
234 More so -- moreover I would say, in addition to the fact that it takes a long time so it’s not responsive to an urgent problem and that it’s expensive, is the fact that it puts us in a very awkward position vis-à-vis our -- our participating service providers. And what I mean by that is we, as an ombudsman, it’s key that we are independent and impartial as between service providers and customers when we resolve complaints.
235 And if you're a service provider and I'm suing you because I don’t think you're complying with the contract, while at the same time I'm trying to resolve complaints that consumers have brought against you, I think it would be fair for you to question our -- our fairness and our independence. So there’s the two factors, and primarily, you know, we need -- we think we need a more prompt, more efficient, a more practical way to obtain compliance for some of these very fundamental things that are missing.
236 We do have a name and shame provision and you’ve talked about that, it’s very standard for ombudsman organizations to -- to have a provision like that. We have actually very recently tried to do that. As you may be aware, we have two service providers right now that have refused to implement decisions, recommendations and resolutions that the procedural code requires them to implement. And this is -- cuts very much to the heart, to the very core of who we are and what we do.
237 We tell consumers we offer them recourse that it’s potentially binding on the service provider, we need to be able to deliver it. So again, I could go to a Court and ask a judge to make a mandatory order requiring them to do something, but two years or three years later and tens of thousands of dollars later if I’m lucky.
238 So what we can do is we can name and shame, we can issue a media release and hopefully that attracts enough media attention, and hopefully the service provider cares enough about its brand to be impacted by that. And that, you know, those -- those things are very much open for discussion depending on who the provider is.
239 But we did that recently, you know, so in the case of both these providers that I'm referring to, we -- we prepared a media release -- in one case I think more than one -- we sent it to our media list, we have a very extensive media list, we tweeted it and put it on our Facebook page, we did steps that we think were reasonable, you know, to bring the -- the fault to the attention of the public and also to the attention of the providers in a public way. And really the impact of that was minimal, there was some pick-up by industry journals, newspapers, publications, but we didn’t see anything in any of the major media about this. So -- so the story wasn’t perhaps big enough or important enough to them to -- to pick it up. So the name and shame so far anyway in our experience, that has not been particularly effective to -- to bring these recalcitrant providers to heal.
240 We think that really, you know, with respect, this is the Commission’s order that they participate. The Commission has made that order because it thinks this is something consumers are entitled to and entitled to expect, and it’s blessed a series of constating documents for CCTs that make these things binding and mandatory, or require providers to enter into this contract, and we think that we could use your help to -- to enforce it, because we -- our stick so far doesn’t seem to be big enough.
241 THE CHAIRPERSON: You mentioned earlier that it puts you -- when you have to take the various remedies for it that are provided in Article 6 it in a sense prevents you from being a fair arbiter of a complaint, or at least less effective perhaps because you're seen as going against one of your members. Isn't that equally true for a name and shame process?
242 I mean I’ll give you the example that the Commission is constantly challenged with this fairness issue because we have companies that disagree with one of our decisions and legitimately challenge it in front of Cabinet or in front of the Courts or seek leave, and sometimes we have to take mandatory order proceeding in front of Federal Court against -- but it doesn’t prevent us from being fair and independent vis-à-vis those players in other circumstances.
243 So tell me why your remedies somehow put you at a -- in a less -- in a suboptimal position if you have to do it.
244 MR. MAKER: Perhaps I misspoke, Mr. Chair, let me just be clear. I don’t think that if we were pursuing a service provider in a Court of elsewhere for a remedy, that we would in any way treat them differently or feel required to -- to treat them in any different standard than any other provider on any other complaint.
245 I’m talking about the appearance of fairness and independence from their perspective, I think, and you can ask some of the providers perhaps that appear before you this week what they would think, but if I was suing them and then we were dealing with a difficult Code breach issue or a difficult complaint, would they feel that there might be the appearance that we had another axe to grind while we were doing this?
246 THE CHAIRPERSON: So article -- your Participation Agreement provides certain obligations, basic requirements. And could you give me a sense of which obligations you think we should -- we, the Commission, CRTC -- should play a role in enforcing, because I see paying annual fees, reporting revenues, providing information to the CCTS during complaints handling, participating in the complaint handling process, fulfilling public awareness commitments, honouring any remedy imposed by you? I mean, is it all of those or more, or is that the list?
247 MR. MAKER: That’s the list.
248 THE CHAIRPERSON: All right.
249 MR. MAKER: And so potentially it could be all of those. I think there are some things that are more fundamental than others, and I think one of the things that, you know, certainly we’d like to do is have a discussion with the Commission about, you know, which of those things the Commission feels that it can add value in.
250 THE CHAIRPERSON: That’s what we’re having now in a public and transparent way. So ---
251 MR. MAKER: Absolutely. Absolutely.
252 So certainly all of these things are -- in my view, all of the things that we require from service providers are fundamental, you know, public awareness, you know, paying your fees, implementing recommendations and decisions. Like these are all fundamental pieces and, you know, the tools that we currently have available to us, we want you to know are, in our view, lacking. So we’re reaching out to you and we’re asking if you can help us with this because we are concerned about customers being deprived of the recourse their providers are supposed to provide to them and we’re also concerned about the slippery slope that in the absence in the appearance of consequence for breaches of material provisions of the Participation Agreement, we may see more of it rather than less.
253 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
254 Have you had to face -- sorry, what circumstances would you terminate a TSP’s participation?
255 MR. MAKER: We’ve thought a lot about that and that’s certainly one of the rights under the Participation Agreement and we’ve never done it, and that’s by design, primarily for two reasons. First of all, we know that in the end our job is to be there for customers. If we terminate a TSP’s membership, its customers are deprived of that access, so we didn’t want to do that.
256 The other problem is, and this is sort of at the structural level, if we terminate a TSP’s participation, something many of them have asked us to do, I might add, you know, then they are offside your Regulatory Order and we don’t want to put them off your offside Regulatory Order in the absence of a process for you to deal with it. I mean, that’s the bottom line is we think we have an obligation to their customers and, you know, we think we have a duty to the process. And so that’s why we haven’t terminated anybody.
257 THE CHAIRPERSON: And I take it then you -- because it’s not a remedy that you’re thinking about that you don’t have a Code of Procedure or an outline of a procedure you would follow in that circumstance?
258 MR. MAKER: Well, actually, we have thought about it. I’ve thought about it on a number of occasions and, you know, I could speculate on what I might do. I would probably give them -- you know, we’d certainly give them every opportunity to remedy their default and if they failed to do that, I would ask the members, I believe by special resolution, to terminate their membership or their participation, following which I’d write you a letter.
259 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
260 MR. MAKER: I’d write to you and I’d say, “Regretfully, we’ve had to terminate ABC Telecom because thus and so.” And, you know, essentially what I’d be doing by that is I’d be throwing it in your lap and we didn’t really want to do it that way.
261 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. But I take it although you’ve thought about it, and I appreciate your answer, you don’t really have a documented process that you would follow?
262 MR. MAKER: No, I think the process that we’re required to follow is set out in the Participation Agreement. The rest of us -- the rest of it, we have some liberty as to how we would want to do it.
263 THE CHAIRPERSON: Do you track non-compliance?
264 MR. MAKER: In some regards we do. I mean, we don’t have a -- we don’t keep an Excel spreadsheet of non-compliance on various issues, but we do know -- we do have an accounts receivable list. So we know who hasn’t paid and who owes us money and we do have a sense now who -- which providers are not on side the participation -- or sorry, the public awareness requirements. We know exactly who’s not complying with the Procedural Code because it’s so fundamental and it’s so rare and it’s only recent. So we do have a sense in some areas and we do have a list in others.
265 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So if I were to ask -- you don’t have an Excel spreadsheet, so if I were to ask you to put on the record who’s in non-compliance currently, you could only give us a partial list?
266 MR. MAKER: Yes, it would be -- I could tell you -- I could give you a list regarding payment of fees. We have a lot of data around public awareness, but it’s not structured by individual service provider. We do have a list of TSPs that have refused to sign up and we have provided some of those names to you, and if there is any that haven’t been referred to the Commission, we could certainly make that available and certainly there’s the two who are in default, and that’s already on the public record.
267 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
268 So are certain breaches more common than others? Is non-payment -- is the reason you track that one because it’s a more common occurrence?
269 MR. MAKER: It is. I don’t want to misstate it. We don’t have a huge accounts receivable problem. Like the dollar value of it is not huge, but we have a number of providers that don’t feel the obligation to make good on their financial responsibilities to us and, you know, under the Participation Agreement, TSP liability is not supposed to be joint and several. Everybody’s supposed to pay their fair share and, you know, certainly -- so we have a goodly number of them even though the amounts owing by each of them may not be huge.
270 We also have a challenge in the case of one of these TSPs that Brama Telecom who has not honoured a lot of its recommendations and the decisions and so forth.
271 THE CHAIPERSON: Sorry, I didn’t pick up on the name.
272 MR. MAKER: Brama Telecom.
273 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Thank you.
274 MR. MAKER: It’s actually a company that you required to enter in 2011.
275 So with regard to those folks, we have the unusual situation in which a company gets into some operating difficulty and what happens is that generates more and more and more complaints in volumes that you’ve probably never seen from Brama Telecom before. And so, as you know, we have a -- and a company of that size is not paying a revenue-based fee, so they only pay us a complaint-based fee. So as we get more and more and more complaints and we don’t have the authority or the desire to turn them away, the amount that potentially winds up unpaid continues to increase. So in most businesses, if you offer a service and your customers don’t pay, stop offering them service, but we don’t really feel, at least at this point, that that’s an option for us. So that’s a complicating factor.
276 THE CHAIRPERSON: It’s a competitive marketplace in many respects. Have you not seen providers, service providers, that are in good standing point out to potential clients that they’re losing out to these companies that are non-compliant, saying “Come with us; we’re actually going to -- we want to serve you well and if ever we have a problem you have this resource available to you.”
277 MR. MAKER: Yes, there are some service providers that actively market on their customer service, and I do think the industry does see customer service as a differentiator. You know, early in our days we kicked around the idea of sort of having the CCTS good housekeeping seal of approval kind of thing and we’ve often thought that providers would sort of take that on and they’d market and they’d say, “You know what? Here’s what our complaint handling process is. If you have a problem, we’re going to take care of you and if we have a legitimate disagreement about what’s right, we offer you this recourse to CCTS and, you know, I understand that marketing is not usually based on problems. Marketing is based on all the wonderful stuff that we can do for you, but we’ve seen some service providers take that approach but not very many.
278 THE CHAIRPERSON: Because it’s not significant, as using the market force is in a sense, to have consumers make informed choices do I go for presumably a lower price with this company that’s not in good standings versus another company that is? You’re not seeing that as being a significant market based solution?
279 MR. MAKER: I’ve seen service providers say that from time to time. I have not seen it frequently.
280 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
281 One of the obligations is to provide you, in a timely way, relevant requested information so you can deal with complaints.
282 Has this been a significant issue for you or are companies only providing information in later phases of your investigation so you have to start all over again?
283 MR. MAKER: Yes and ---
284 THE CHAIRPERSON: Or if had you known earlier it would have been solved more quickly or something like that?
285 MR. MAKER: Yes and no. It certainly was a problem some years ago.
286 I should point out in context, you know, the participation agreement requires service providers to cooperate, to follow the procedural code.
287 And that means to follow the process for complaint handling and that includes, as you’ve asked, providing information and documentation and so forth, at a very early stage, at our pre-investigation stage.
288 And in our annual reports, I guess the last two or three annual reports, we talked about some of the challenges we were having about the number of service providers that were not responding to us with their position on the complaint and providing the necessary information and documents within that early 30 day window.
289 We worked very hard with service providers to get those numbers down. At one point 40 percent of complaints were going to the investigation stage without getting a response and that was ridiculous.
290 And we made a concerted effort to work with the PSPs, to educate them about the requirement, and to drill down on them and help them understand how it defeats the process and raises their own costs.
291 And we’ve made very good success on that front. I think now it’s about 1 in 10 complaints that we don’t get a response at the front end of our process and it has to be escalated to an investigation, where it otherwise might now.
292 So it is a -- it is an issue. One of the advantages and its -- we haven’t talked to you about this because we don’t need your help on this piece, because if a customer complains and the TSP doesn’t provide the information that we asked for, you know, we keep asking for it but we proceed with our investigation of the complaint in the absence of it.
293 And in most cases if the TSP doesn’t speak -- want to speak for itself, it doesn’t lie in our mouth to speak for them.
294 So we investigate the complaint. We take what the customer says at face value if it makes sense and we resolve the complaint on that basis, so we don’t need any external help for that.
295 THE CHAIRPERSON: So it’s a bit like default judgements in the court system, in a sense?
296 MR. MAKER: A little bit. I mean we do have to do some analysis at the end of the day that a court may not have to in a default situation. The customer’s story still has to hang together.
297 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
298 MR. MAKER: It still needs to make sense but ---
299 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
300 MR. MAKER: But that’s right.
301 THE CHAIRPERSON: I’m now going to turn to the mandate issue and CIPPIC suggested that the CCTS mandate be expanded to include complaints about TSPs general operating practices and in a more general capacity review problematic practises.
302 You mentioned this a little bit but what are your views on that and if you were -- if hypothetically we were to go down that road, how would you decide what is unfair or harmful to customers, which I think is the words CPIC uses?
303 MR. MAKER: And you’ve put your finger right on it, Mr. Chair. I think in our procedural code ---
304 THE CHAIRPERSON: I’m just asking questions.
305 MR. MAKER: Well some questions are better than other questions and that was a good one.
306 Certainly in our procedural code, we are entitled -- so the main standard of review is to determine whether the TSP reasonably met its obligations to its customer, its contractual obligations.
307 But we also look at things like industry codes of conduct and good business practice and whether the service provider has actually followed its own internal operating policies and procedures.
308 And that all makes very good sense to us and the members of CCTS thought that was an appropriate standard of review.
309 What we don’t want to be doing is to be a standard setter. You know, we’re the ombudsman. It’s very important that we have -- we maintain our independence and our impartiality. That we don’t tell service providers what they’re standards should be and maybe an example helps.
310 You know, there are a number of wireless providers that have unlimited plans and that are subject to fair use policies and so all the fair use policies are different and, you know, so if we get a complaint from a customer that says you know I have this unlimited plan and I have these excess charges on my account and I don’t understand why, my plan is unlimited.
311 So we look at the fair use plan and the fair use plan says the customer is entitled to say 10 mega -- 10 gigs a month of data and we determine whether it was fairly applied in the case of the customer and if not then we make sure it gets fairly applied.
312 That’s different then a customer who comes to us and says you know what I can’t believe that you guys let them limit an unlimited plan. Like that’s a complaint about what the standard is.
313 Or -- because we would not accept a complaint, we would consider a complaint like that out of scope.
314 Or a customer might say to us 10 gigs, well I can go across the street to the other service provider and get 15 so why are they -- why should they limit me to 10.
315 So that’s the kind of standard setting, the kind of issue that we don’t think is appropriate for CCTS to get into and that would compromise our role, in our view, as an independent, impartial arbiter of disputes.
316 THE CHAIRPERSON: But by the same token, and I guess I, like many others, can speak from experience, there are some practices that are very infuriating; being left on hold for a long time.
317 One could imagine hypothetically a customer who through one of these telephone trees is being left on hold and can only imagine that if they had not pressed the button to end the service but was pressing the button to add to their services that maybe their call would have been put in a priority.
318 You don’t see that an issue that the members, participating members of your organization, should be tackling?
319 MR. MAKER: Well customer service is a difficult issue, Mr. Chair.
320 And certainly we’re all consumers as well and there’s nothing that I hate more than when I call my service provider and I’m put on hold for half an hour, or I’m transferred to the wrong department, or I’m disconnected on my call, or I’m talking to a rep who’s rude, or who I know doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
321 And these are customer service challenges that all of us encounter and I’m really very sympathetic to customers, because this is an area of the business that really has, I think, improved somewhat; by and large there’s a long way to go.
322 But what we don’t want to do is tell TSPs how to run their customer service operation, because I do agree that eventually customers will get annoyed and they’ll go elsewhere.
323 And that for those customer service -- for those TSPs who are trying to incent to advertise their good customer service and how customer friendly they are, they should be able to take advantage of that.
324 The other problem that I see is that when I call my provider and I’m on hold for half an hour, like, what’s the reasonable benchmark? How long should I be on hold before I can say it’s now unreasonable? Is it 10 minutes, is it 5 minutes, is it half an hour, is it an hour? I’ve been on hold for an hour, you know.
325 And then if an hour is too long but 30 minutes is right so what happens then? What does CCTS do with that complaint that says the benchmark is 30 and I was on hold for 60.
326 Do we create a Meat Chart like the insurance industry does? You know, we pay X dollars if you lose a finger and XY dollars if you lose two fingers and, you know, I don’t know how we would deal with that.
327 And I certainly don’t think -- we don’t think it’s the role of CCTS to say what those reasonable benchmarks or standards should be.
328 As I say, standard setting takes CCTS outside its role as an independent, impartial dispute resolution provider.
329 And, you know, that’s a position feature that we really seriously do not want to compromise. THE CHAIRPERSON: We started talking earlier about what do you do with both in-scope and out-ofâ€‘scope complaints, and the record makes reference to a recent case involving Bell Canada, and you’ve dealt with it.
330 Presumably as we go forward, by adding within your mandate TVSP responsibilities, that those sorts of bundled services, some of which are in-scope or out-of-scope will diminish. Would that be your assumption as well?
331 MR. MAKER: Well, in the decision that you’re referring to, Mr. Chair, we did run into the problem of trying to fashion a resolution in a complaint that dealt with a problem on the telecom side and a problem on the TV side.
332 And we managed to deal with it in a way that we thought was in keeping with our mandate as it currently is or as it was at the time.
333 I do think that it will be helpful, once TV is in, to permit us to not have to worry about parsing finely the specifics of a plan and saying, well, you know, the customer is paying $100 a month and he’s getting this telecom service and that telecom service and TV. Now, we need to credit him for some of the last couple of months, but we can’t credit him for the TV, but it’s not priced individually. How do we figure it out?
334 So I think that kind of problem will disappear.
335 THE CHAIRPERSON: And do you see other residual problems of out-of-scope interface being of any significance or would the TVSP issue resolve most of it?
336 MR. MAKER: I’m sorry, I didn’t understand the question.
337 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, when you have in-scope and out-of-scope overlapping issues, if the TVSP will now be in your bailiwick, does that solve the vast majority of these in-scope, out-of-scope dilemmas or are there still out-of-scope issues that you will have to navigate through?
338 MR. MAKER: Well, there will still, I think, always be some out-of-scope issues, unless ---
339 THE CHAIRPERSON: But are they significant?
340 MR. MAKER: Well, unless the Procedural Code is changed. I mean there are some significant exceptions in Section 3 of our Procedural Code and in 4.3 with Practices and Policies; and in Section 8, around making sure service providers have had the opportunity to resolve; and with limitation period, timelines and those kinds of things.
341 And I think in some form or other, some or all of these will remain in our Procedural Code, subject to the will of the Commission, the will of the members and so forth.
342 So yes, there will still always be out-of-scope issues. The convergence out-of-scope problem will disappear I think. But there’s always lots of things that people will want to talk to us about, where we’ll say, “You know there’s somebody else more experienced, more suited to deal with that complaint and it should go there.”
343 THE CHAIRPERSON: You direct them.
344 MR. MAKER: And we would refer them.
345 THE CHAIRPERSON: You see your role mostly with respect to administration, and you’ve referred to it in your Opening Remarks, which is added to your Written Remarks about interpretation and clarification when you have a normative document. And you clearly say that you believe you have a role in interpretation and in administering the Code.
346 Perhaps you could put a little bit more explanation on when you think at one point it tips over and you really have to refer it to the CRTC, because it’s a little bit more than the hypothesis you were advocating for in your Opening Remarks.
347 MR. MAKER: These circumstances are all very unique. Each case is different. And we don’t frankly envision our role to interpret as requiring us to come to you with all of the various and sundry unique interpretations.
348 Let me just sort of work backwards. I think it’s very clear from the decision, of which the Wireless Code formed a part, that you, the drafter, understands that it’s impossible to cover everything. And it really is, and I’m very sympathetic to the staff that had to draft this. I mean it’s really a challenge to draft something so broad and so comprehensive and pick up on everything.
349 And so the decision explained in pretty clear words, I think, that to the extent that there is lack of clarity or ambiguity, that CCTS should -- and I’m putting the word “interpret” in quotes. CCTS should “interpret” how it believes the provision in question applies to the facts in a particular complaint.
350 And that’s what we’re doing and interestingly enough, it’s been the source of some criticism from many service providers. But I find it -- I find it a bit ironic that really they’re only doing the same thing. They are interpreting the Code and applying it to their business based on how they see it.
351 And that’s really the same thing that we’re doing. We see a provision; we don’t know how to apply it. The plain words don’t provide an application to the facts that we have, so we make our best effort to understand what the policy objective was, and we fashion a resolution based on that interpretation.
352 Maybe an example would help to clarify, Mr. Chair. And this is one we are going to talk about in our Annual Report that we expect to come out next month.
353 So many consumers these days -- wireless consumers are on share plans. Okay? So consumer -- a parent has a plan and multiple devices for their family members or a small-business person has a plan that -- a number of devices for their employees and they share a pool of minutes and a bucket of data.
354 And the Wireless Code has a bill management provision designed to prevent bill shock or bad surprises when you open the bill, and it says that the service provider must cap excess data charges at -- I think it’s $50, in any monthly cycle, unless the “customer”, and I put that word in quotes, unless the “customer” consents.
355 So we get a complaint from a lady who tells us that she opened her bill. She is on one of these wireless share plans with her family members, and she found substantial hundreds of dollars of excess data charges. And we said, “Well, didn’t you get a notice that you were exceeding your allotment of data?” And she said, “No.”
356 So the complaint was accepted. We sent it to the service provider and the service provider wrote back to us and said, “No, we did provide notice.”
357 “How did you provide that notice?”
358 “Well, you know, when one of the devices was using data and they got up to their allocation, we sent a notice to the device, and they accept.”
359 You know they have a choice whether to accept to use more data or not.
360 And you know it wasn’t the customer’s device, that’s what the customer tells us. So it must have been one of the devices on the plan.
361 So the question is for this purpose, who is the customer? And there’s a definition of “customer” in the Code, but it doesn’t help us with this case. Is the customer the wireless plan? Is the customer the subscriber? Is it the person who the TSP will look to for payment, for instructions on the account?
362 And you can see how there would be any number of variations on that theme that might change your result or your interpretation. For example, if one of the wireless devices was being used by a child, a minor. Can the WSP rely on instructions it gets from a minor to exceed a data threshold?
363 Now, take the same case and make the user an adult. I think maybe that changes it, maybe not. What if it’s an adult who is actually authorized on the account to give instructions and to make changes? Does that change the calculus?
364 So you can see that in one kind of service there’s any number of possible ways that the interpretation might change. What if the account holder themselves doesn’t have a device? What if they don’t have a device and you can’t send a text message to them to notify them? So what is the WSP supposed to do then?
365 These are the kinds of things we work our way through and in this case, we said, “Look, we think the “customer” means the person who is responsible for the account, who you are going to pursue for payment of the bill.” And that’s the way we interpreted the provision in that case.
366 But you can see if the facts were a little different, it could have been otherwise.
367 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. So when does it stop to be interpretation for the purpose of administration and when does it start being more of a policy decision that I don’t think you would say is in your bailiwick?
368 MR. MAKER: No, Mr. Chair, and we don’t want to make policy and it’s clearly your bailiwick, not ours. We don’t think that these interpretations by and large constitute policy making, and it’s important to understand a little bit about our process and how we deal with these.
369 So when we get a complaint that raises a Code issue that either the customer has identified or we’ve identified, we make that known to the service provider. We tell them what the concern is and we invite them to explain to us what their view is and we determine, you know -- we get all the facts to support their position as they describe it to us. And in many cases in these sort of non-routine cases, in the cases where there’s something new that we haven’t seen before, a provision that we haven’t had to examine in detail before, we’ll sit around a table. We’ll have myself, Ms. Thibault, the investigator, our team leader of complaints analysis who runs our breach process and we’ll put our minds to this and see if there’s a consensus on what the appropriate interpretation should be. And when we make a decision we feed it back to the service provider and we say, “We think this is a breach of section whatever of the Code” or maybe that it’s not, and if it’s a breach of a section of the Code, we will, in the fullness of time in our mid-year report, our annual report, we’ll report it.
370 And we think that if the service provider is dissatisfied with our interpretation, it has a remedy. It can come to you and ask for a review under Part 1, and we’ve seen that that’s happened once so far, and we think that’s the appropriate way for this to work. I mean, we don’t want to be and we’re not resourced to be in your office every day, you know, 200-300 times a year asking for you to interpret the Code and we don’t think -- because that’s how often we have difficult questions, and we don’t think it’s appropriate to put your staff in the position where we have to approach them informally and ask them for anything more except for broad views about what the Commission’s intention is for any particular provision.
371 THE CHAIRPERSON: What if, in your view, there was a policy issue, what would you do? You would -- do you think it’s part of your role to bring it to our attention more formally or not?
372 MR. MAKER: I’m speculating a little bit because I don’t think we’ve gotten anywhere near that. If there was a policy issue, whatever we define that to be, then I think we probably would try to find a way to communicate that to you, yes.
373 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
374 I understand -- I’m just trying to finish some questions before we take a break in an area. We will be taking a break, let’s hope. I understand you’re working on a draft annotated Code for the Wireless Code and I’d like to understand what brought you to do that, but also what would that document include and do you see it becoming public? What’s the role of the Commission? How do you see that unfolding?
375 MR. MAKER: Yes, you’re correct, we are working on this. We’ve actually been working on it for some time. We’ve been spinning our wheels a little bit because, frankly, we just don’t have the resources in-house right now to really do this in a timely way.
376 However, we’ve recently acquired a free resource actually, an intern from the University of Ottawa Law School who’s been making great progress for us on this. You know, we think it’s important ---
377 THE CHAIRPERSON: I think we call them now unpaid volunteers.
378 MR. MAKER: Yeah. It’s a course credit. I mean, she’s ---
379 THE CHAIRPERSON: Oh, excellent.
380 MR. MAKER: She gets course credit.
381 So, you know, we are developing, you know, I hate to use this word, but case law because we all sort of understands what that means as we go forward, and one of the weaknesses of the sort of ombudsman system is that everything we do is on a case-by-case basis and there’s not a broad sharing of learning, if you will, or approaches.
382 And so for that reason, for example, we try to put lots of case studies in our annual report and we’re working on more for our website just so people get a sense of how we work and how we approach various issues. For the same reason, our decisions are -- we’ve got about 50 decisions on our website from the years that gives some insight into how we work.
383 The Wireless Code is an area in which we’ve been asked many questions by service providers and in which we are developing views, as you know, on how we interpret provisions and we think it’s not only useful but important that we -- that all service providers have access to the same information about how we’re viewing service provider behaviours under various provisions, but it’s not just about service providers. My intention would be to make this a public document. You know, we’d have it on our website. We’d distribute it publicly. You know, the idea would be to -- and I don’t want to go too far because I haven’t seen the latest version of it yet, but ideally we would break it down section by section, discuss some of the key “interpretation issues” that we’ve run up against, describe case studies about how we’ve dealt with sort of complex and more routine, you know, complaint situations that impacted various provisions of the Code. So we think it’s going to be very, very comprehensive and very, very helpful. And, you know, you may look at it and say, “What are these guys doing?” And, you know, you may want take -- discuss that with us, but I don’t think that’s what’s going to happen. I think you’re going to say this stuff makes sense and we’re happy that in the public domain there is such a document. We believe in openness and over the years I think you’ll agree that we have taken a lot of steps to put as much information as we can that’s meaningful and responsive to concerns into the public domain. And our annual report, our mid-year reports, I’d stack them up against any comparable organization in this country. I think they are very instructive and informative and helpful, and that’s the intent with the Code as well.
384 THE CHAIRPERSON: So your view is that this is consistent with ensuring transparency because the document, this draft annotation would be widely available?
385 MR. MAKER: Yes, sir.
386 THE CHAIRPERSON: But it is a codification, in a sense, of your administrative interpretations?
387 MR. MAKER: I think that’s fair.
388 THE CHAIRPERSON: So you would disagree with Rogers’ position that anytime there’s something unclear, ambiguous, that you have to come knocking at our doorstep?
389 MR. MAKER: Well, you could -- I don’t mean to make light of it, but you could set up a wing for us in your offices somewhere. I mean, that’s how many different kinds of fact situations -- and I apologize for making light of it, but that’s how many twists and turns there are. And we have cases that have, you know, four or five Code provisions that we have to deal with and make fit with each other all the time.
390 So no, I don’t think it’s our role and certainly we’re not staffed or resourced to have full-time regulatory folks to deal with all of these situations. So no, I think -- certainly my preference and I think the intent was that for service providers would have the opportunity to object and they have a remedy and they know how to make use of it if they need it.
391 THE CHAIRPERSON: In your opening remarks you commented on the position brought forward by Rogers, TELUS and Shaw that when you receive complaints you seem to -- I don’t mean to use this word -- but zealously go beyond the actual complaint and check broader compliance, and I think I’ve seen your position on that.
392 I’d like you to address, unless you have something to add on that, more address how is this impacting your efficiency at large to address complaints because you are going beyond maybe the narrow scope of the complaint brought forward by an individual complainant?
393 MR. MAKER: Yes, that’s right. I don’t have a lot to add to what we’ve filed. Certainly we do feel it incumbent on us that if we see a Code issue, we should identify it, and that’s how the process, I think, is intended to work and that’s how we’re going to inform more effective Code going forward.
394 But beyond that, the ---
395 MS. THIBAULT: Just if I may clarify a little bit as well, CCTS does identify breaches, as we’ve mentioned, if we see them. It’s important to remember those key words, “if we see them”. We do not do an analysis of every complaint and scrub it against the Code provisions.
396 What we do is we investigate the issue that the customer has brought up, and in doing so sometimes we see things that we know are not compliant, and that’s when we identify them and that may lead us to more questions at that point, but I just wanted to make that clarification.
397 THE CHAIRPERSON: So it reminds me of when I first joined the Commission in the nineties and we would be dealing with a complaint with an elderly subscriber and she would be complaining about the long distance charges, but we realized that she had rented the phone when she was --
398 terminal equipment she would no longer have to rent, and has probably paid $500 for a phone that -- that would be worth about $20, and we helpfully suggested that might want to buy a phone, that sort of activity you get involved in?
399 MS. THIBAULT: So we make a distinction between complaint resolution and code administration. Sometimes these things intersect because sometimes the complaint is about an element that is addressed in the code, other times the complaint is really not related to a code issue. So I think it really depends again on the issue.
400 But generally speaking, we resolve the complaint and then if we see something in the course of doing that, we track it and we report on it. Now, whether that breach directly impacts the resolution of the complaint or not is an entirely different question. I’m talking from purely a code administra -- administration perspective and the requirement as the administrator to report on breaches.
401 So this is an exercise of, “Hey, okay the complaint is about this, but you know, we also notice that you know, the customer was not advised of certain things that they needed to be advised of”, we will track and report that. If it doesn’t change the resolution or the outcome or it did not impact the customer, then that does not generally form part of the complaint resolution aspect. But it doesn’t mean we don’t notice it and that we don’t report on it and we don’t track it.
402 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
403 I think this is a right spot to take a late mid-morning break for about 10 minutes, so we’ll be back -- we’re adjourned till 11 o’clock and we will be continuing the questions for you. Thank you. Merci, jusqu’à 11 heures.
--- Upon recessing at 10:49 a.m.
--- Upon resuming at 11:01 p.m.
404 THE SECRETARY: Please take your seats.
405 LE PRÉSIDENT: À l’ordre s’il vous plait.
406 Donc j’ai plusieurs autres questions et puis on va continuer dans l’ordre que j’avais prévu, mais j’ai eu la chance pendant la pause de -- de limiter le nombre de questions parce que vous avez quand même répondu à plusieurs aspects qui -- qui répondent à certaines préoccupations.
407 So let me now turn to the Annual Report, and as you know the Decision 2011-46 had certain expectations as to what ought to be in the Annual Report, and we’re wondering why, you know, the number of open complaints was one aspect that we felt that should have been in there, a breakdown of remedies awarded and accepted at the recommendation and at the decision stage, and measures of public awareness, and at first blush it would seem that those aspects are not covered in your latest Annual Report. Could you maybe help us understand why that is?
408 MR. MAKER: Sure, if you don’t mind, Mr. Chair, perhaps I could ask you to break them down one by one and we could walk through them.
409 THE CHAIRPERSON: So it’s the number of open complaints.
410 MR. MAKER: So what we report is the number of complaints that we accepted in the year, as well as the number of complaints that we didn’t accept because they were out of mandate, so all that information is in there. And we report the number that we concluded, so how many investigations did we finish, how many resolutions did we achieve and broken down by level and by stage. So what we don’t report I guess is sort of where the inventory’s at. Is that what it is you're looking for?
411 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well I think -- I guess what you're saying is we could do the math, but if you -- why wouldn’t you just tell us how many -- what is your inventory of open complaints in any -- at annual reporting time? Is there a reason why you cannot do that?
412 MR. MAKER: The number of complaints that are currently in process in the system?
413 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yeah.
414 MR. MAKER: Yeah, no, there's no reason why we couldn’t do that.
415 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, so -- then there was a breakdown of remedies awarded and accepted at the recommendation and at the decision stage.
416 MR. MAKER: Yeah, we do have a report in the -- a report in the Annual Report that describes the compensation that we’ve provided, and what we’ve done is we’ve described it based on dollar amounts. So it’s staged based on dollar amounts, and we describe in the sort of introductory language all the various different kinds of remedies that we can provide, so bill credits, bill adjustments, discounted or free products or services, cash and so forth. We don’t -- we don’t break it down by the stage at which these things were awarded.
417 It’s important to go back to the days of 2011-46, so by then the last Annual Report I think in the public domain would have been our 2009-10 report, and the use of the language both by us at the time and by the Commission at the time in terms of the precision of what we were -- what was being looked for and what we were providing was maybe not as good as it is now. So certainly I interpreted it that as saying, “The Commissioner wants to know what people are getting”, and the fact of the stage seemed less important. If I've misunderstood, I’m prepared to be corrected.
418 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. And how about public awareness, which was also identified in 2011-46?
419 MR. MAKER: Well there's two aspects to that, in each Annual Report we typically talk about some of the things that we’ve done during the year and important initiatives that we’ve undertaken would be found in there.
420 Likewise, we publish customer survey results, and some of the -- one section that we typically publish is you know, what customers told us about public awareness activity -- about provider public awareness activities. And so there are questions in there in which they tell us about not -- not only how they found out about us, but about whether they saw the provider bill messages, whether they saw the PSP web notices and -- there's one more in there as well, whether the provider told them about their internal complaint now in process.
421 So -- so those are the pieces that relate to public awareness and they vary a little bit from ---
422 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
423 MR. MAKER: --- report to report.
424 THE CHAIRPERSON: So you -- you're of the view that what you provided in your most recent is -- is compliant with the expectations; is that correct?
425 MR. MAKER: I think that’s generally fair, yes.
426 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Would it be possible -- I’d like to know what the challenges would be if you had to report on all complaints -- all the conclusion of complaints, even those that were resolved amicably?
427 MR. MAKER: Sorry, report what related to those complaints?
428 THE CHAIRPERSON: The conclusions, like actually -- you tend to report on things that -- that you had to intervene as opposed to where the process actually worked, and there are things that have been solved amicably but perhaps not as visible in your report.
429 MR. MAKER: Well I’m a bit sorry to hear you say that because, you know, we focus on early resolution of complaints and timely resolution of complaints and ---
430 THE CHAIRPERSON: I'm not saying you don’t.
431 MR. MAKER: No, no, and so if we’re not conveying that, then there's something missing and certainly we -- in our operational statistics we specifically breakdown number of complaints resolved at the early investi -- at the pre-investigation level; number of complaints resolved at the investigation level. We do try to break that out, but maybe we’re not, you know, making it clear enough how many of these things are dealt with at an early stage.
432 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. But perhaps when we come back at the end of the week we can further elaborate on that, okay?
433 Let me now turn to governance. Certain parties -- I'm going to call them PIAC et al., I know it’s a larger group, I know they don’t like it when I do that, but it’s a lot of initials -- raise the issue and this is the -- the nature of the beast for not for profit corporations that you have members and Directors.
434 And basically, they're saying, well, the members -- whilst Directors because of corporate law have to act in the best interests of the corporation, in this case, the not-for-profit corporation, the members can act in the interests of their -- of the person who membership they represent.
435 And they were suggesting, perhaps, that that needed to be changed if one really wanted it -- I'm putting words in their mouth -- really wanted the organization to be independent of the industry.
436 I was wondering if you had views on this.
437 Oui, Madame.
438 MS. BERNARD-MEUNIER: Thank you. I will provide an answer to that particular question.
439 I think the reality is that we live with the complexities of a stakeholder Board. Directors have different perspectives and, at times, competing interests.
440 While the structure of the Board itself with the three industry Directors, the two consumer Directors and the two independent Directors, has never been an issue on the Board, other issues have been difficult. Those relating to, for instance, the voting thresholds and the decision-making processes.
441 But I think it has to be made very clear that, within the Board, the existing structure has never been an issue and has never been discussed at any length.
442 LE PRÉSIDENT: En tant que membre du Conseil d'administration et maintenant la présidente du Conseil d'administration, vous ne voyez pas cette possibilité que les membres mettent des bâtons dans les roues pour ce que le Conseil d'administration veut accomplir en raison de cette -- ces doubles -- cette structure des membres versus les membres du Conseil d'administration?
443 Mme BERNARD-MEUNIER: Ce que je peux vous dire c’est que ça ne correspond pas à l’expérience qui a été la mienne et je pense l’expérience des autres membres au sein du Conseil.
444 Le sentiment c’est qu’on a réussi à faire fonctionner ce Conseil-là tant au niveau de ses directeurs qu’au niveau de ses membres de façon efficace et dans l’intérêt de l’organisation, et ça n’a pas suscité entre nous de débats acrimonieux.
445 THE CHAIRPERSON: Would the same be true with respect to budgets and the available -- not of the funding formula because I understand the funding formula is just a way to -- pour répartir les montants d’argent et qui doit payer, tandis qu’il y a l’enjeu du budget global.
446 Est-ce que vous avez eu des difficultés à établir le budget global pour atteindre les objectifs de la corporation?
447 MS. BERNARD-MEUNIER: Jusqu’à maintenant, non. C’est un exercice qu’on a été capable de poursuivre dans une harmonie que je qualifierais de plus que relative.
448 Il faut comprendre qu’au fil des années, on a développé au sein du Conseil une vraie culture de consensus et je dirais qu’une culture de consensus -- j’insisterais sur la différence entre une culture de consensus et une culture d’unanimité. C’est pas parce qu’on a effectivement, de parts et d’autres, fait des efforts pour arriver à une entente sur plusieurs points litigieux que tout ça se faisait dans l’harmonie absolue et la conviction que tout le monde y avait trouvé parfaitement son compte.
449 La vérité c’est que il y avait, de la part de tous les membres du Conseil, aussi ceux de l’industrie que les consommateurs ou les indépendants, une vraie volonté de ne pas nuire au démarrage de cette organisation-là. C’est pas parce que certains des membres n’avaient pas de vrais problèmes avec certains aspects, par exemple, de nos statuts, qu’on n’a pas été capable, à l’occasion, de passer outre aux besoins des gens. Les gens expliquaient leur point de vue, voulaient même que dans les minutes d’une réunion soit bien reflété le fait que notre accord à tel ou tel point ne signifiait pas qu’on endossait totalement toutes les dispositions de tous nos statuts.
450 Mais je pense que je voudrais vraiment insister sur le fait que le sentiment collectif au sein du Conseil c’était l’importance de donner à cette organisation, que nous jugions essentielle, les moyens de démarrer rapidement et de ne pas être empêché de fonctionner à cause de débats au niveau du Conseil.
451 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et j’imagine que votre expérience à l’UNESCO vous aide à bien comprendre ce que veut dire parfois le consensus et l’unanimité?
452 Mme BERNARD-MEUNIER: Absolument.
453 THE CHAIRPERSON: The CCTS submitted, at one point, that funding may have been more of a challenge for positions and projects that are not seen -- I'm not sure by whom; that's the question -- as directly needed for complaints handling, or viewed as an additional layer of overhead.
454 I'm wondering if that has played in your ability to have the right funding, and how has that played out? So who makes that judgment of something being within or outside the complaint-handling core mandate?
455 MS. BERNARD-MEUNIER : With your permission, I would let Mr. Maker answer this, and I will add something if need be.
456 LE PRÉSIDENT: Je vous en prie. Merci.
457 MS. BERNARD-MEUNIER: Thank you.
458 MR. MAKER: There's no question that we've -- despite the absence of a grade, we think we've done very well on our complaint-handling activities, and we would not have been able to accomplish that without having the funds necessary to put in place all the people and processes and IT and other requirements.
459 You know -- and I think there's no question that everybody on our Board of Directors is on side with that, and we've certainly never -- you know, when we had more complaints than we thought we could deal with, there's never been an issue of making funds available for those basic core activities.
460 When we needed more office space to accommodate those people, it was not a problem. The need was demonstrable, and the necessary and obvious decisions were made.
461 I do think, however, that there are, as you've heard, you know, differing and competing views on the Board about what the organization really should look like, what the extent of its mandate should be, differing visions of how the organization should accomplish various objectives or not take them on other than related to these core issues.
462 And so those are clearly the issues that are going to generate more discussion.
463 MS. BERNARD-MEUNIER: I'm not sure I want to add a lot, but I think -- I think it's very -- I cannot think of a single instance, up until now, where the Board was prevented from making a decision because of our -- the dispositions in our statutes, for instance, on voting thresholds.
464 We've always been able to work with the system we have. Even if some members had reservations about the system, we've been able to make it work.
465 The very open question is, what would have been different if our decision-making processes had been different. And I'm very reluctant to engage into that kind of -- you know, it's basically speculation.
466 It may be that if some decisions were easier to make, they would have been made. And that might have had a positive impact. But I'm very reluctant to speculate on that.
467 What I see on the basis of my experience over the last eight years is that our -- you know, our operating rules within the Board have not had a direct negative impact on the operations of the organization. I would be hard put to find an instance where, quite clearly, we've taken a decision that was detrimental to the organization because we were not able to achieve a different kind of a decision.
468 THE CHAIRPERSON: There seems to be a suggestion, however, that maybe the resources weren't always -- there were challenges, perhaps, in having resources, for instance, to participate in CRTC proceedings and equipping yourself with the right in-house or expert resources at one point to participate in proceedings.
469 MR. MAKER: That is a point that we have made in previous submissions to the Commission on various issues.
470 We -- you know, as we become drawn further and further sort of into the regulatory ambit with the Code and with the various proceedings that come out of that, you know, we are seeing greater effort and resources and time taken up by senior management in preparing that, and so, you know, part of the calculus -- part of the calculus in any situation is, you know, what are you going to need to do your mandate.
471 So we have not seen a role for a full-time regulatory person and, frankly, I hope we don’t need one. No disrespect, obviously, but what we do really is ---
472 THE CHAIRPERSON: None taken. It’s okay.
473 MR. MAKER: What we do is we try to predict, as we prepare next year’s budget, what our needs are going to be. And certainly, you know, we have some sense of your calendar. You know, you have a three-year plan. We have some sense of the need, and so we find it hard to justify a full-time person, but for a proceeding like this, we know when it’s going to happen. We know that it’s going to happen and we know that it’s going to be intensive for us, and so we budget to retain those resources from outside.
474 THE CHAIRPERSON: I take it that the structure of the Board is probably the most important safeguard to ensure independence.
475 I was wondering if there are other aspects other than the make-up of the Board that you’ve put in place, maybe at the subcommittee level or committee level, or other governance rules that support safeguarding of independence that you might want to share with us, or maybe tell us that no, the structure of the Board is sufficient?
476 MS. BERNARD-MEUNIER: Well, at least I can give you some examples. For instance, all our committees are chaired by one of the four independent directors. I think this is how it was meant to operate, and this has never been an issue, again, amongst us. There was obviously an agreement on the part of industry to have these committees chaired by either a consumer rep or what we call an independent independent, say, for the Chair of the Board. So these are -- these can certain certainly be presented as signs of the organization’s effort to project the image of its independence vis-à-vis the industries.
477 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you for that.
478 Some consumer groups have suggested that maybe there’s a need for more transparency in terms of things such as annual budgets and how you’re actually ruling on complaints, and we talked about that within the Code. But I guess it would also go to issues such as the minutes of your meetings, your structures of committees, so that people would, by throwing light on it through a transparent process, perhaps be more assured that it’s working like it was intended to work?
479 Do you see increased value -- a value in this sort of increased transparency and what are the trade-offs?
480 MS. BERNARD-MEUNIER: You know, it’s very difficult to be against transparency, right? As a principle, I think everybody would agree. I suppose we would also find examples in organizations similar to ours where, for instance, budget numbers are made public.
481 I’m not entirely convinced that transparency has to be pushed to the point where we would have minutes of the -- for the time being, we have very short minutes of our meetings. We record decisions. We don’t report discussions anyway in our minutes, and I’m not sure that it would help the functioning of the organization if every debate within the Board would be publicized. I think our attempts at finding solutions by consensus is somewhat enhanced by the fact that we are, among ourselves, trying to reach the right decision for the organization. So I guess I would see limits to how much transparency we would welcome.
482 On the issue of making the figures in the budget public, this is something I would be very happy to discuss within the Board. It has not been included in our annual report, but this is something the Board could consider at some point.
483 THE CHAIRPERSON: Although you did put your budget numbers on the record of this proceeding?
484 MS. BERNARD-MEUNIER: I was going to say for the purpose of this proceeding we had made these numbers public.
485 THE CHAIRPERSON: That wasn’t an oversight? You actually knew that?
486 MS. BERNARD-MEUNIER: No, we actually knew what we were doing.
487 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Good. It’s a bit late now if it wasn’t your intention.
488 CIPPIC suggested that certainly the consumer directors were subject to stricter confidentiality rules. Is that a misunderstanding of the situation in that by contrast the industry directors were not subject to the same constraints? Is that a misunderstanding of what is actually the confidentiality rules for members of the Board?
489 MS. BERNARD-MEUNIER: I’m sorry, I think we have the same rules applying to everybody. We may have, you know, had more instances where specific issues at times can arise depending on the activities, the outside activities of Board Members. So discussions have been held, but I think the rules applied to all directors in the same way.
490 THE CHAIRPERSON: All right. Okay. Thank you for that. I just wanted to put that so that we can continue our conversation during the course of the week.
491 Funding models, just to be clear -- and this is an opportunity -- I heard you say, and let me make sure that I understood it correctly, that the funding model determines proportion but not budget level; is that correct?
492 MR. MAKER: Yes, that’s right. The budget is based on the assessment of need for the upcoming fiscal year. The funding model is designed to allocate who pays what proportion of it.
493 THE CHAIRPERSON: Is there not an indirect impact potential, though, on -- because the funding model will define ability to pay and, therefore, inevitably revenues will decide -- the ability to pay or contribute to the funding may have an incidence on how much you actually have potentially to spend as part of your budget. How separate are they really?
494 MR. MAKER: I’m not sure I fully understand the question. I suppose there are ---
495 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, if your funders are saying it should be more based on a complaints-driven as opposed to a base amount, that might actually -- or vice versa -- might actually impact the global amount available because you know that some may not have deep enough pockets. You mentioned earlier that although not a crisis, there are some collection issues. So how you fund and who must pay could have an indirect impact on the availability of funds to accomplish your budget?
496 MR. MAKER: I’ve never viewed it that way, Mr. Chair. Certainly if, for example, we had a fully complaint-based revenue or funding model and small providers generated lots of complaints that they couldn’t afford, then we might have an issue. And I think that’s maybe where you’re going with that. I mean, we’ve never seen a situation under our current model where -- except for very rare cases -- where ability to pay, you know, was a real issue. It’s usually more willingness to pay.
497 THE CHAIRPERSON: So you have no concern that flows from the fact the funding model belongs to the members and the budget belongs to the independent Board that there is no conflict there?
498 MR. MAKER: Well, I didn’t say that.
499 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
500 MR. MAKER: It’s ---
501 THE CHAIRPERSON: And I turned that into a question mark.
502 MR. MAKER: Thank you.
503 The members -- you know, the members make up the industry, but they also make up the consumer group and pure independent, if I can put it, members. And so in that respect, essentially we have the same folks approving the budget wearing one hat and governing the funding formula with the other hat. The difference is that the funding formula itself, given that it bears on the fees paid by the members, requires unanimous industry member consent. That’s the only difference.
504 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Well, let me, from that budget funding issue, move now to promotion. But the question then becomes, from a budgetary perspective, have you been limited through budgetary pressures on the nature and scope of the public awareness initiatives that you wanted to undertake?
505 MR. MAKER: Frankly, I ---
506 THE CHAIRPERSON: Has the budget been adequate?
507 MR. MAKER: I think the budget has been generally adequate for the measures that we think are most appropriate for an organisation like ours.
508 Where there are differences may be around the vision of what we should or shouldn’t do as opposed to, you know, the actual amount of the spend on any particular item. You know, our public awareness plan is based on focused awareness. It’s directed at consumers who have a problem and at the time and in the place where they have that problem and where they should be able to know about us.
509 You know, historically it’s pretty clear that organisations like ours generally, you know, our awareness levels are low. And we don’t think that -- our position’s been abroad promotion of general awareness can be both expensive and not particularly effective.
510 So since really 2009, the approach has been to focus on CCTs and the things that we need to do, PSPs and the things they need to do, and other stakeholders.
511 And we can talk about the details of that if you’re so inclined but, you know, it’s really not a lot of money that is required to do this, to implement our plan, and so funding has not been a huge issue related to that.
512 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, so then I’ll ask you from the other side, in terms of measuring awareness, what -- because you seem to suggest that you have the resources required to create, either yourselves or in partnership with the TSPs -- how do you -- what’s the most appropriate way to measure awareness?
513 MR. MAKER: Well I think there may be many ways to do it and certainly there was a question or two in your wireless code research report, that talked about awareness of CCTS and that we referred to earlier.
514 You know, one of the problems is that we don’t know what the levels of awareness are and to me the problem is there isn’t a benchmark. We really don’t know what’s right. We don’t know where we’re going or where we need to go.
515 There’s no, you know, if 50 percent of the population can tell you who CCTS is without aid is that where you need to be or does aided awareness include -- get included?
516 What’s the -- is it 50, is it 40, is it 60, is it 10? Like there’s really no way to know, other than if -- I guess if people stop using your service entirely then maybe you know you have a problem.
517 So as I say, we’re going to go out and do a survey because we think we need to have a starting point and we think that we need to ask specific questions about us and it should be our survey.
518 And -- so we’re going to -- we’ve budgeted to do that for our current fiscal year and that will at least give us a benchmark.
519 And certainly when we talk to TIO, the Telecommunication Industry Ombudsman in Australia, and we do speak to them regularly, we have a Skype call with them. We aim for quarterly, sometimes we don’t quite make it, but they make it very clear that that’s what they do.
520 They do a poll and they get engaged in their awareness activities, and then three years down the road they do another poll, and they look to see whether their numbers have moved in the right direction.
521 So it’s about themselves and it’s a comparison to other ombudsmen, similar ombudsmen organisations in Australia, of which there are many. So that’s how they measure.
522 Our board has committed to do this poll now and I don’t know what the board will say if I ask them to do a poll two or three years from now, I guess that remains to be seen.
523 THE CHAIRPERSON: So there’s no commitment to make it an ongoing process as it stands now? You’re just going to do this for -- in 2015-16; is that correct?
524 MR. MAKER: That’s the plan right now and certainly we don’t budget more than a year out.
525 Certainly the other thing we’re doing though, in advance of this proceeding we started a sort of regular review of all the public awareness issues.
526 And so we kind of got derailed a little bit by this proceeding but -- because we knew you had an interest in this topic in particular.
527 But certainly, you know, the board will need to come to grips with what the next steps are for CCTS, particularly in view of the results of our survey of our participating service providers and their compliance.
528 THE CHAIRPERSON: So what do you intend to -- what themes do you intend specifically to explore in this survey? Where are you at in your planning and what so you think you’re going to get out of it?
529 MR. MAKER: Well right now it’s not planned. I mean it’s planned, we’re going to do it, but we don’t have any details. There’s nothing in writing yet. We’re obviously going to retain a firm with expertise in this and we’re going to take their advice.
530 The big picture is that we want to know if people are aware of us. We want to know how they become aware of us, what methods they use, because that gives us some advice about how to be more effective at reaching them.
531 We want to know how they want to connect with us. That’s obviously important and it’s something we ask customers in our own survey.
532 We may want to measure in a more careful and professional way the extent to which consumers are aware of the steps that their service providers are taking to raise awareness of CCTS.
533 But this is me speaking, you know, from my thoughts and certainly we would take professional advice on this.
534 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
535 More broadly with outreach, in your original public awareness plan you talked about some of the outreach initiatives that you’re thinking of doing it through, you know, government services, elected officials, that sort of thing.
536 So could you tell me where you’re at with broader outreach?
537 MR. MAKER: Beyond that? Beyond those methods or ---?
538 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well did you actually go ahead with it and what else are you doing?
539 MR. MAKER: Yes, so we have done those things. We have relationships with certainly all the consumer groups who -- let me go back a bit.
540 One of the key pieces of our approach is to develop and connect -- develop relationships and connect with what we call key consumer referral points.
541 So if a consumer has a problem and hasn’t heard of CCTS, doesn’t know where to go, who might they turn to?
542 And those are the people we want to get to know about us, to know what we do and have our contact information and all of that.
543 So we look at consumer affairs ministries, provincially we look at Service Canada and we’ve reached out to them and we’re in all their material. I recently saw a tweet from Consumer Protection B.C. saying hey if you’ve got a cell phone problem here’s CCTS.
544 It’s that kind of very simple relationship building. We’ve met with l’Office de la protection du consommateur in Québec a couple of times, I think.
545 So we maintain those relationships. We prepared brochures actually and distributed them to every MPP -- sitting provincial -- legislator. Didn’t get much bang for that buck but it, you know, wasn’t a big spend.
546 So we are -- we have been out there trying to maintain those relationships, because we know that customers who don’t know how to turn to us do know how to turn to some of these organisations.
547 THE CHAIRPERSON: You’ve recently hired a communication officer, what challenges were -- like, was that a budgetary -- some might of said well why didn’t that occur earlier. What challenges have you faced trying to put that together?
548 MR. MAKER: Well, I mean, I think I have very similar challenges to the challenges that anybody who puts together a budget has; you know?
549 Sometimes you have big eyes; right? And you want everything and then reality sets in and you realise, you know, we’ve got a bunch of initiatives and so we’re going to have to put this one up to a future year or we can do this one this year and so forth.
550 Certainly having a communications officer has been a huge boost to us. You know, communications is a skill, it’s a special talent and it’s not a talent -- and it’s not an area of expertise for myself, or for Josée Thibault or frankly really for anyone on our staff.
551 And so when it came to our annual reports we would retain an outside media firm to work media for us and to provide us with a media report at the end of -- at the end of the process.
552 Certainly adding our communications officer, Mr. Carlucci, has been a boon for us, because he knows the business. As a former journalist he understands how to write for the media.
553 He has familiarity with social media that has allowed us to get on that -- you know, those tools. And so, you know, we’ve seen a lot of improvement. He’s also working on developing a lot of content for various channels that we hope will be useful and informative.
554 So it’s been a big add for CCTS. If I had -- if I had two or three more, I could -- we could probably find things for them to do but it’s probably not realistic right now.
555 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
556 But I take it his arrival has helped trigger a planned upgrade of your website and more presence on social media?
557 MR. MAKER: Absolutely. I’m not much for Twitter or for Facebook myself, but these are essential tools today to reach out to consumers, especially young ones. And so, you know, he’s used his expertise to activate our accounts.
558 You may have heard, Mr. Chair, that in June we did a Twitter Town Hall.
559 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes.
560 MR. MAKER: Related to the wireless code and that went well and I think that’s something that we will probably do again.
561 It just adds another layer, helpful and useful layer, to our outreach to Canadians.
562 THE CHAIRPERSON: And I’m sure you’ve taken note of comments on the record about the website needing to be, perhaps, a little bit more responsive and mobile friendly in light of the jurisdiction in light of the jurisdiction you have over the Mobile Code?
563 MR. MAKER: We have heard that.
564 THE CHAIRPERSON: And what’s your response?
565 MR. MAKER: My response is that we budgeted some money this year primarily to add some tools to integrate our social media feeds and to do some other things.
566 I do think that we should look at some search engine optimization. I think that that’s something we looked at a number of years ago and we might want to look at again.
567 We might also want to look at mobile applicability. We obviously would need to cost those things out and take them to our Board and see what they want to do.
568 THE CHAIRPERSON: As you go through that web renewal where does accessibility figure into the picture?
569 MR. MAKER: We did an accessibility review of our website at the time that we last upgraded it and we were compliant with WCAG level -- and I’m going to lie if I guess at the right level. I think it was -- I’m not sure, but certainly when we issue our annual report, you know, we cut it up and we code it for accessibility and we make sure it’s accessible to consumers and we recognize the importance, and that will certainly figure into sort of renewal -- ongoing renewal of the website.
570 THE CHAIRPERSON: So it’s on your radar?
571 MR. MAKER: Yes, sir.
572 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
573 What is your current promotional budget and why is it at that number as opposed to another number? How did you come about deciding what your current promotional budget ought to be in this year or in future? How do you go about that planning process?
574 MR. MAKER: Well, the ---
575 THE CHAIRPERSON: I don’t want to micro and second guess. You’re obviously a CEO, but you know that this is something that is near and dear to the heart of the Commission. For it to be operating you need to know -- we need to have some assurance that it’s properly funded.
576 MR. MAKER: I fully understand. And if you look at the documentation we filed from our financial statements -- and just to clarify, not our budget from our approved financial statements -- you’ll see over the years, in the last few years, a fairly regular recurring amount.
577 THE CHAIRPERSON: M’hm.
578 MR. MAKER: Most of the money in that budget is related to the annual report. So we have numerous service providers that design and then lay it out and we need translation and coding for accessibility and those things. It also includes the cost of our media releases and other related activity. Those are the main -- and sometimes some advice as well, some advice on media outreach is in there. Some of the other activities that I would consider to be related to media are in other lines, are related to outreach or another lines. For example, our communication officer’s salary is in another line. Things that we do to upgrade our website ---
579 THE CHAIRPERSON: I’m happy to hear that actually.
580 MR. MAKER: Yeah. Things that we do to upgrade our website, tools that we buy, you know, if we need a camera to film something for YouTube if we -- whatever those things are in a capital budget. So if you look at the numbers that we filed, they’re not the full sum that is spent on communications or outreach-related activities.
581 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. If you were to add up all the amounts that -- maybe you’re not able to do it now, but perhaps you could when we come back and meet with you at the end of the week, if you were to actually to present it differently for the purposes of this proceeding as to what you thought are a fair amount of the total amount that goes to promotion, even though in your documents you’ve provided it may be embedded elsewhere, is that something you could do?
582 MR. MAKER: We could take a rough guess at it yeah, absolutely.
583 THE CHAIRPERSON: Ballpark.
584 MR. MAKER: Yeah, a ballpark, absolutely.
585 LE PRÉSIDENT: Oui, Madame?
586 Mme BERNARD MEUNIER: Si vous permettez, you seem to have a number of concerns with levels of expenditures on certain items in our budget and I just want to add an element of information here.
587 We set up in the Board, last year, a working group on the budget because up until now the budget was prepared by the Commissioner and brought to the Board with a certain amount of consultations that he undertook personally in the lead-up of the presentation of the budget to the Board, but it was felt on the Board that it would be useful to have a working group where there would be a representative of the industry director and a representative of independent directors. And we’ve given both of these individuals a real mandate to consult with their constituency, if I can call them that, that the industry would talk to the other industry directors in the preparation of the budget and the same for the consumer rep that currently sits on this working group on the budget so that we spend more time, ahead of time, debating what is at stake in the preparation of the budget.
588 And I feel the need to explain this ---
589 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
590 MS. BERNARD-MEUNIER: --- because we do have rules that are questioned by some, true, but there are efforts being made to try and mitigate the fact that we have the rules that we have.
591 It is proving impossible to change the rules, and so we’re looking elsewhere to find solutions to make the Board effective and to help the Board reach the right decision on a number of issues, including in the budget for the interest of the organization.
592 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
593 MS. BERNARD-MEUNIER: So with your permission, I just wanted to clarify this.
594 THE CHAIRPERSON: No, that’s very helpful. Thank you.
595 As you know, more and more in terms of when we communicate there is new platforms available. You’ve mentioned a number of the social media platforms, but the irony is that we still have Canadians that aren’t necessarily on those platforms and we all -- so can you explain to me how -- you know, yes, active users on the internet may be well served, but not everyone is active on the internet. And so how do you come about thinking about reaching those less well equipped Canadians in an internet age?
596 MR. MAKER: Certainly all of the people who would need to reach us are customers of a service provider. They may not be, you know, digital friendly, but maybe they have a phone or maybe a wireless phone or something. So certainly service providers, I think, have a big role, I think, in raising customer awareness for all customers and particularly with respect to those customers.
597 Certainly from our perspective we try to be accessible as possible to them. We have a huge phone queue and they can call us toll free and they can write to us in the old fashioned way or in the new fashioned way. So we’re available to them. You know, outreach to them in a more sort of formal plan way is challenging. You know, I know some believe in community activity, you know, going out to ---
598 THE CHAIRPERSON: M’hm.
599 MR. MAKER: --- to various conferences, seminars, although that’s not really where you’re meeting average Canadians, but even go to a local library and do a session on CCTS. Trying to reach people 20 to 30 at a time is really challenging. I don’t know if it really moves the awareness needle very much in the big picture and it’s costly. I mean, you need to have folks to do that.
600 Should we hang out on university campuses in September when everyone’s looking for that new back-to-school device? I mean, maybe. Those aren’t the consumers, I don’t think, that you’re really referring to.
601 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, my question could be -- I mean, I started at that end of the spectrum, but there’s at the other end of the spectrum some people in the proceeding said, well, are you maximizing -- is the CCAS maximizing the use of things like text messages and emails to create -- and I’m sorry, I’m more curious about your global strategy in communication because oddly enough this more connected world has not made it simpler. We have, in fact, more channels of communication than ever before.
602 MR. MAKER: And that’s exactly, I think, the big challenge is that, you know, we live in a fast-paced information-packed environment where everybody’s posting what they had for lunch. And so to me, the capacity of average Canadians to retain information about CCTS is a broad way, you know, on a billboard on in a newspaper ad is really very limited, and that’s why we focus on a more targeted approach, you know, and that’s typical, I think, for other organizations similar to ours around the world. There are various different kinds of things I think that they do, but by and large, you know, the front page -- the ad in the middle of the national newspaper is not seem to really have an impact in the long term and certainly has a huge cost. So we’ve shied away from that ---
603 THE CHAIRPERSON: M’hm.
604 MR. MAKER: --- you know, in reliance on our own activities and of our stakeholders.
605 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Back in the seventies, a number of decades ago, when the Commission got responsibility not just for broadcasting, which it normally was responsible for but got the responsibility as well for what was under the old Railway Act in telecommunications, we found a clever way of rebranding the CRTC without changing our initials.
606 Have you given some thought about this potential challenge you might have in light of their new responsibility over the TVSPs?
607 MR. MAKER: Yes, I have actually thought exactly of that question. It’s the kind of thing I think about when I wake up in the middle of the night. I find myself thinking what are we going to call ourselves going forward if we add TV?
608 And I didn’t know that it was in the seventies but ---
609 THE CHAIRPERSON: Seventy-six (’76).
610 MR. MAKER: But the Commission does present an option for how to deal with two “T’s”.
611 The challenge for us is, I mean, I wasn’t involved in the initial creation of the name for the organization and it’s not probably the one I would have recommended. But it is the one we have and as the business people and accountants say, there is some goodwill attached to the name CCTS.
612 So I’m reluctant to abandon it, but we really don’t know how much goodwill there is around it and so we’ve thought about that, and I think there’s a workaround available.
613 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So it’s on your radar screen?
614 MR. MAKER: Yes, sir. Absolutely.
615 THE CHAIRPERSON: You might want to do a national competition.
616 My last area of questioning before I turn it to see if my colleagues have some further questions for you is relating -- it’s a very specific issue.
617 C’est par rapport à l’Union des consommateurs qu’ils ont laissé entendre que parfois les dossiers sont fermés chez vous sans nécessairement valider auprès des consommateurs si, effectivement, du point de vue du consommateur, le consommateur pensait qu’il avait eu une bonne résolution en bout de ligne.
618 Je voulais vous donner la chance de traiter de ce sujet-là et de répondre aux préoccupations soulevées par l’Union des consommateurs.
619 MR. MAKER: Well, Mr. Chair, we’re very rigorous in the way we assess complaints, and you’ll see that in the Annual Report, we report specifically the levels at which complaints that we close are closed and the reasons for those closures.
620 So I’ve got here the 2012-13 report, but we have a number of bases under our Procedural Code and otherwise for closing complaints.
621 We close complaints if customers withdraw them obviously. We close complaints -- or we close accepted complaints if we think they’re better handled elsewhere.
622 But really it’s a small number that we close because we determine there is no merit to them. And we understand that, if I understood your question correctly, we get that sometimes consumers don’t get what they want out of the process. We understand that.
623 We do our best to explain to them what our conclusion is and why we’ve reached that conclusion. But at the end of the day, sometimes there are customers who leave without getting what they want.
624 THE CHAIRPERSON: I think the preoccupation was more that, and I’m not suggesting nefarious motives but that the TSP may have been under the mistaken belief that the matter was satisfactorily resolved and that the consumer may not have actually agreed with that.
625 MS. THIBAULT: So just to clarify, our process actually does allow, at the pre-investigation stage, if a service provider informs us that the complaint is resolved but that is not truly the case from the customer’s perspective, the customer does have a window of opportunity to come and tell us that.
626 And all they have to do is tell us. And if they tell us that they’re not satisfied, the complaint automatically gets investigated, regardless of the service provider’s comment that it was resolved.
627 THE CHAIRPERSON: And you believe that’s a sufficient mechanism to address the issue raised by l’Union des consommateurs?
628 MS. THIBAULT: Well, we do because we do make consumers aware that their service provider has told us that the complaint is resolved. The service providers will send a copy of the details of the resolution. And so we do put the onus on the consumer to tell us, “Hey, this isn’t right. Either they’re mischaracterizing what happened or, yeah, this is the resolution they offered me but I’m still not satisfied with it.”
629 And so we do think that that’s the right process.
630 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Those are my questions. I believe the Vice-Chair of Telecommunications has a question for you.
631 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I just have one.
632 Can you just confirm or reconfirm for us the number of times in a year when you get a complaint that triggers the participation of TSP?
633 MS. THIBAULT: So that number does vary every year. I’m reticent to give you an exact figure without having it in front of me, but I can say that on any average month there are usually a couple of cases going around where we are trying to locate the service provider and sign them up.
634 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. So it’s not like -- it’s regular; it’s not infrequent.
635 MS. THIBAULT: I would say that it’s regular. It’s not infrequent but it is not a daily activity, I would say, where there’s a new complaint that requires the sign up of a participating provider.
636 Of course, as we talked about, there are a lot of challenges with the mechanism to do it.
637 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: No, I understand. I was just trying to get some -- get a sense of the size of the issue.
638 MS. THIBAULT: M’hm.
639 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Obviously there’s an issue that needs to be discussed and thought about.
640 MS. THIBAULT: Yes.
641 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: That was my question. Thank you.
642 MS. THIBAULT: Thank you.
643 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Commissioner Simpson?
644 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Good morning.
645 I just have one or two questions regarding Item 6 of your Oral Presentation this morning, Mr. Maker.
646 You had referenced the number of complaints that had been handled by CCTS as being something like 53,000 since inception with a very arguably good track record of 90 percent satisfaction.
647 But then you referenced a number of 175,000 times you’ve been contacted by stakeholders.
648 The first question is, what is a stakeholder as you’re referring to it here; is it a customer or one of your members?
649 MR. MAKER: This number represents the addition of the number of phone calls we took in the year, and the number of written workload items that we handled during the year.
650 So that’s how we -- it’s the demand for our service.
651 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: So it’s an amalgamation of all calls?
652 MR. MAKER: Yes, Commissioner Simpson.
653 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Anecdotally if you can, out of that 175,000, how many of those calls might have been consumers calling and their complaint is out-of-scope? Do you have any idea?
654 MR. MAKER: There’s a huge number of those actually. And we do record a number in our Annual Report. So for 2013-14, we have a number of 7,200 roughly of those calls.
655 But you know I sit in the Contact Centre from time to time, as does Josée, to just listen in on calls and see what’s going on, and I can tell you that a lot of those calls are driven by the bill messaging. You know, somebody sees our phone number at the bottom and they come on the phone and they say, “How come channel 159 is not working?”
656 MR. MAKER: And we say, “Hold on, hold on.”
657 But it’s an opportunity also for us to explain to them who we are and what we do, and all the folks appreciate that actually. And then we give them the number that they really need to reach, as “Who is your service provider? Here is the number to call. They’ll sort out channel 159 for you.”
658 So yes, there’s a lot of that -- a great deal of that.
659 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: My reason for asking these questions goes back to promotion, and general awareness is nice but there has to be context. And perhaps the workload of those callers calling to find out that they’re out of scope would be part of the communication messaging that you might want to engage in if you’d go further.
660 MR. MAKER: Well, I agree with you and, in fact, that’s our practice; we don’t just say, “Oh! You want the service provider.” We say, “Hi, you’ve reached CCTS. Here’s who we are. This is why you got our number.” We’re on the bill so that people know about us, there is an informational component to that. Now some folks say, “Okay, well just tell me who to call, I don’t really care.” But we do make that effort to provide the information and a little bit of information goes a long way and most people appreciate it.
661 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you, a last question goes to promotion as an activity. Help me out first, is there a requirement or an expectation of the members to participate other than through the CCTS independently to help promote the existence of your organization?
662 MR. MAKER: Well we have a public awareness plan that has a number of requirements for service providers in order to raise customer awareness, and it’s actually a commitment under our participation agreement that they will implement those measures.
663 And you know, we file the plan, I’m sure you’ve seen it, but you know, they have -- there are things they're supposed to do in terms of the bill messaging requirement -- and that’s one of your requirements as well -- on their websites they need to have easy to find pages with notices about us and links to our website. If they have a search function, certain key terms identified in the plan have to return a hit to the page that has our -- our notice on it. And most important of all, there’s an obligation on them to tell us -- to tell consumers about CCTS in the event of a complaint that remains unresolved ---
664 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: M'hm.
665 MR. MAKER: --- after a particular level of escalation within the company.
666 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you, last question, with the -- the coming on board of TVSPs, have you and your communication planning, considered the net benefit of having participants in the television industry being that they're distributors, but still they have tools like interstitials and so on that they -- at their disposal, have you put that into your planning?
667 MR. MAKER: We don’t have a formalized plan yet, I did see a lot of discussion about that in the interventions in this proceeding, and quite apart from the details of public avails and so forth which are a little above my pay grade, I don’t see why we wouldn’t at least consider it. I mean I’ve seen -- I've seen -- I know myself as a consumer particularly when my kids were young and I was up late watching infomercials, you know, I’d see CBSE public service announcements and ---
668 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yeah.
669 MR. MAKER: --- they're not -- they don’t seem that expensive, it’s kind of a voiceover over a photo of whatever, and I don’t see why if we thought that was a reasonable way to reach people that we wouldn’t do it.
670 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay, thank you.
671 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. So those are our questions at this stage, so thank you very much for your patience, we appreciate it.
672 Ce que je crois nous allons faire c’est demander aux prochains intervenants de venir faire leur présentation de 20 minutes et on procédera aux questions après la pause du déjeuner si -- si ça vous va. Merci.
673 So the next presenters are -- well Madame Secrétaire, you can do this.
674 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Merci, Monsieur le président.
675 I would ask National Pensioners Federation Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of British Columbia and Public Interest Advocacy Centre to come to presentation table.
676 THE SECRETARY: Please introduce yourself and your colleagues and you have 20 minutes for your presentation.
677 MR. LAWFORD: Thank you, Madam Chair -- sorry, Madam Secretary. Good morning Commissioners, my name is John Lawford and ---
678 THE SECRETARY: It’s okay, thank you.
679 MR. LAWFORD: I'm still working on it, I've been here so many years and I’ve forgotten how to do this, I’m nervous I guess.
680 Good morning, Commissioners, my name is John Lawford and I'm Executive Director and General Counsel of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, and I am here today representing PIAC and the National Pensioners Federation and the Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of British Columbia, together we call ourselves NPF-COSCO-PIAC, yes, it’s long. To my right is Jonathan Bishop, our Research and Parliamentary Affairs Analyst at PIAC, and to my left is Alysia Lau, Legal Counsel at PIAC.
681 We are pleased to appear today to present our remarks on the Commission’s review of the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS).
682 The establishment of CCTS was a milestone for consumer protection and empowerment in the telecommunications sector. In its first year, CCTS accepted 2,226 complaints within its mandate. Today, CCTS accepts between 11,000 and 13,000 complaints a year. The scope of CCTS’ responsibilities has also grown, with the ombudsman now administering mandatory codes of conduct such as the Wireless Code and the Deposit and Disconnection Code.
683 CCTS resolves complaints between individual residential and small business telecom customers and their service providers. It is an organization that all stakeholders, including consumer groups, service providers and telecom customers are recognizing and accepting as occupying a distinct, positive role in the telecom sector. We believe, however, the time has come for CCTS to mature, to become a stronger, more independent and accountable ombudsman.
684 The Commission has a role in guiding this process. The Commission has already recognized that CCTS should expand its mandate to receive complaints about television services, as millions of Canadian households now receive all of their communications services from one service provider. This new responsibility also includes administration of a Television Service Provider Code.
685 NPF-COSCO-PIAC support all of these measures. Participating Service Providers, or PSPs, have generally accepted the role of the CCTS. However, we believe that future initiatives to grow and strengthen the CCTS will only be effective where new requirements are made mandatory.
686 We invite you to consider all of the recommendations made in our August 25th intervention. However, today we highlight three key areas we believe will foster CCTS’ maturation into a robust and accountable ombudsman. Firstly, public awareness; secondly, enforcement; and lastly, independence.
687 I’ll now ask Jonathan Bishop to discuss public awareness.
688 MR. BISHOP: In terms of public awareness challenges facing the CCTS, the issues raised in NPF-COSCO-PIAC’s submission and the recommendations that flow from our analysis largely fall under three major categories: measurement, disclosure and promotion.
689 A key missing piece in assessing the public’s awareness of the CCTS is measurement. Determining the level of public awareness of the CCTS has been challenging for consumer groups, the CCTS, and the Commission itself due to an absence of regular measurement and reporting.
690 Unfortunately, this is not a new issue for the Commission’s consideration. In Telecom Regulatory Policy 2011-46, the Commission noted the importance of the CCTS Annual Report in the assessment of numerous items, including “the effectiveness of public awareness initiatives.” Moreover, the Commission asked, at a minimum, that the CCTS include measurements of public awareness in its Annual Report.
691 To NPF-COSCO-PIAC’s knowledge, this has not occurred or at the very least, has not been regularly reported. This is unfortunate, since NPF-COSCO-PIAC believe this data is crucial to assessing the CCTS’ effectiveness in carrying out its mandate.
692 As a result, NPF-COSCO-PIAC recommend the Commission direct the CCTS to allocate funding to regular public awareness measurement and reporting. We believe that this would be unlikely to occur without specific Commission intervention. In fact, the CCTS has stressed that budgetary pressures have limited the number of initiatives it can undertake. It has also acknowledged its ability to verify TSP compliance is limited without diverting funds from activities viewed as more closely related to dispute resolution.
693 NPF-COSCO-PIAC believe that until a substantial proportion of the Canadian public is aware the CCTS exists, attempting to determine its effectiveness in fulfilling its mandate will remain inconclusive.
694 In Telecom Regulatory Policy 2011-46, the Commission also recognized that “the degree of public awareness of the CCTS is crucial to its effectiveness, consumers will not seek recourse with the CCTS if they are not aware that it exists or how it might help them.”
695 While the CCTS has noted the challenges with determining the appropriate level of public awareness, we believe the expectation at this stage is not for the CCTS to determine and reach an optimal awareness level, but to regularly measure, compare and report on public awareness.
696 This brings me to the second category of CCTS public awareness challenges, disclosure. There appears to be inconsistent CCTS reporting of customer survey results. For instance, the customer survey results found in the CCTS annual report for 2013-2014, when compared to the annual reports for the previous three years, were missing the results of three key questions.
697 One, "Did your service provider tell you about the CCTS?" Two, "Have you seen a notice of CCTS on your bill?" And three, "Have you seen a notice about CCTS on your service provider's web site?"
698 Since these three questions directly correlate to the obligations of participating service providers outlined in the CCTS' public awareness plan, this data is imperative to determining customer awareness of these communication methods.
699 The data would also speak to the effectiveness of these awareness strategies and potentially lead to questions regarding PSP compliance with their outreach obligations.
700 Without this information, NPF-COSCO-PIAC believe stakeholders were limited in their ability to determine the effectiveness of public awareness initiatives related to the CCTS. The Commission, too, stated in 2011 that it expected CCTS Annual Reports to include measurements of public awareness and customer satisfaction, and to be as comprehensive as possible.
701 The manner in which this research is disclosed may be at the discretion of the CCTS. However, the determination of whether it should be disclosed at all should not.
702 Finally, I now turn to promotion of CCTS.
703 It has become clear, based on intervener comments on public awareness, that the majority of PSPs will only undertake those activities required by the Commission to promote CCTS. NPF-COSCO-PIAC, therefore, recommend a number of promotional awareness strategies for the Commission to consider.
704 These include the creation and airing of public service announcements, the introduction of an explanatory email with every new home Internet service subscription, the introduction of an explanatory text message with every new wireless service subscription, and the inclusion of CCTS messaging in service providers’ interactive voice response systems.
705 We would be happy to elaborate on the details of these initiatives during questioning or in our final written submissions.
706 For the CCTS itself, we suggested that the Commission consider several proposals, notably, requiring the CCTS to establish a designated budget for marketing and communications that is transparent and reported in CCTS Annual Reports. This way, all stakeholders, including the Commission, are aware of the financial resources which CCTS allocates to meeting this challenge.
707 Another proposal applies to Canadian consumers who engage in communications services in a language other than English or French.
708 The 2011 Canadian census showed that 3.67 million Canadians, or 11 percent of the population, most often spoke a non-official language at home. Moreover, 6.5 million Canadians, or 19.8 percent of the population, had a mother tongue that was not English or French.
709 The Commission should acknowledge this reality by recommending the CCTS develop and distribute communications material in multiple languages. The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman in Australia, for instance, produces a fact sheet in over 30 languages as well as multilingual brochures.
710 There also are no constraints compelling the CCTS to wait until the production of its Annual Report to release information that may be of interest to consumers. Many ombudsman offices release newsworthy achievements routinely.
711 Releasing information in a more timely fashion would give CCTS additional opportunities to engage the media and the public directly. These additional interactions will reinforce the relevance and utility of the CCTS.
712 Finally, NPF-COSCO-PIAC recommend asking consumers how they would prefer to learn about the CCTS. In the United Kingdom, the Financial Ombudsman Service learned in 2010 the most popular means of hearing about the ombudsman service was on television, with 55 percent of survey respondents saying this is how they would most like to learn about the service. However, the same data revealed a substantial number of respondents, 29 percent, preferred hearing about the ombudsman online.
713 Stakeholders and the CCTS itself will remain unaware of the types of platforms that are most effective in generating greater public awareness until they employ the time and the resources to ask Canadians and then analyze the results.
714 Our recommendations related to measurement, promotion and disclosure would enhance the effectiveness of the CCTS to the benefit of Canadians, PSPs, the CCTS itself, and the Commission.
715 Other interveners may seek to characterize our public awareness recommendations as excessive or expensive. However, each suggestion will lead to more Canadians being informed about their avenues of recourse when engaged with a PSP.
716 I'll now turn it over to Alysia for words on enforcement.
717 MS. LAU: There must be a strong enforcement regime in place in order to ensure that CCTS is effective for both communications customers and service providers.
718 First, there must be mandatory CCTS participation for all telecommunications and television service providers, including resellers, small service providers, and exempt television service providers. Participation should be automatic and not complaint-triggered.
719 All customers should be entitled to use CCTS’ services. Whether a service provider is exempt or whether a service is regulated makes no difference to a customer who just wants a way to resolve their dispute with their provider.
720 Second, CCTS has already stated that it is not in a position to respond to PSP non-compliance in areas including CCTS participation, CCTS’ Public Awareness Plan, and fee payments. This is for several reasons, including a lack of effective remedies and the conflicting position of acting as complaints resolution provider and PSP enforcer.
721 NPF-COSCO-PIAC, therefore, propose a scheme in which CCTS would be responsible for monitoring and reporting on leading non-compliance issues, and the Commission would be charged with addressing that non-compliance.
722 We have already proposed that CCTS report regularly to the Commission on matters such as systemic issues and PSP non-compliance. We believe these reports should be made public in a timely manner.
723 The Commission would then be best placed to enforce PSP compliance with CCTS obligations. The CRTC has a wide spectrum of remedies, including Administrative Monetary Penalties, to ensure regulatory compliance.
724 Strengthening enforcement will foster a robust communications ombudsman regime.
726 The final area in which the CCTS must be allowed to mature as an ombudsman is independence. Independence can be furthered in several ways, including independent and transparent reporting.
727 To that end, NPF-COSCO-PIAC have recommended that CCTS be required to publish its annual budgets. However, we also wish to focus on governance.
728 Independence is at the heart of a functioning and effective ombudsman. Although he must be accountable to the Board of Directors, the ombudsman should not de facto be controlled or directed by any specific stakeholder, nor prevented from being able to set annual budgets required for him to effectively carry out his mandate.
729 NPF-COSCO-PIAC have made several recommendations relating to CCTS’ governance structure. We have, for instance, requested that two more Directors, one “Consumer” and one “Independent”, be added to the Board, and that a six-year term apply to all Board Directors.
730 However, we are most concerned about the current voting structure, especially the extraordinary resolution votes required to approve decisions which influence CCTS operations. Subjecting items related to CCTS’ funding, budget and business plan to votes by Extraordinary Resolution, which require approval of at least two-thirds of the Industry Directors, creates conflicts of interest which would compromise CCTS’ ability to carry out its mandate effectively.
731 Extraordinary Resolution votes are uncommon in governance structures of other ombudsman organizations and, where instituted, are, in fact, designed to ensure an ombudsman’s independence from the Board Directors representing industry stakeholders, not the opposite.
732 Therefore, we ask that these types of votes be removed by the Commission, and that, in particular, items such as the annual budget, CCTS business plan and PSP fees and costs be approved by a simple majority only.
733 Votes should also be carried out by CCTS’ Board of Directors as a whole, and not by CCTS members.
734 We believe that CCTS is now established enough to be able to grow independently of the industry members that had helped create it.
736 MR. LAWFORD: The CCTS has done very well, given its resources, in receiving customer complaints and in providing a fair and independent process to get those complaints resolved. Tens of thousands of customers who were not able to resolve complaints with their service providers have been able to achieve a form of resolution because of the CCTS process.
737 However, CCTS has been hampered by a significant lack of public awareness, inadequate enforcement, and a deficit of independence.
738 We want CCTS to continue to mature into a strong ombudsman service that is independent and well-known. We believe that participation in CCTS and compliance with CCTS obligations should be bolstered by a robust enforcement regime with coordination between CCTS and the Commission.
739 Some parties have suggested that the CCTS complaints resolution process should be weakened or discouraged in order for service providers to have the opportunity to focus on improving their customer service and on managing complaints. However, the current process already allows service providers to address their customers’ concerns first before CCTS registers a complaint. In fact, we believe a stronger and well-publicized CCTS process, and not a weaker one, would more effectively incentivizing service providers to improve their own customer service processes.
740 Therefore, the Commission should reaffirm and reinvigorate CCTS to perform their role as an expert in telecommunications complaints, all communications complaints, excuse me. This does not only mean complaints resolution, but understanding complaints issues at an in-depth level and effectively communicating about them with all stakeholders through research, reporting and outreach. CCTS’ ability to mature into this role will ultimately strengthen the entire communications services system.
741 The CRTC has a major role in this transition by guiding the CCTS through the changes we have suggested.
742 NPF-COSCO-PIAC thank the Commission for the opportunity to appear today and welcome your questions before or after lunch.
743 Thank you.
744 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, thank you. I can’t help but notice that we’ve just heard the NPF-COSCO-PIAC’s presentation about the CCTS before the CRTC.
745 THE CHAIRPERSON: And I think at that point we probably should take a break for lunch and come back at 1:30 for questioning.
746 Thank you very much.
747 MR. LAWFORD: Thank you.
--- Upon recessing at 12:22 p.m.
--- Upon resuming at 1:32 p.m.
748 THE SECRETARY: Please take your seats.
749 LE PRÉSIDENT: À l’ordre, s’il vous plaît.
750 So Vice-Chair Menzies will start us off.
751 COMMISSONER MENZIES: Thank you for your presentation. That was a long pause for a thank you.
752 But just to sort of give us a little scope to your position, can you describe how the three organizations you represent consulted and came to these positions with -- consulted with your consumer constituency and came to these positions?
753 MR. LAWFORD: PIAC typically has their own position developed in-house with the lawyers who are there and our Board of Directors in cases that are little more difficult to get a position on. And then in terms of our other groups, they have their own membership structure and their own governance structure and they tend to liaison with the lawyers. So in this case we had done some preliminary work on the file and gone to each of those groups and said that our position is roughly along these lines and what would you like to add, and do you agree with these positions and some back and forth with those representatives and then we’re here today.
754 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Thank you.
755 You mentioned that today as well -- but for reference I’ll just go to paragraph 19 of your written submission when you’re expressing concern regarding the information that isn’t detailed in the reports. And your position on that is clear and, as you noted today, some of it is information that you’d expected to have, but could you describe what value that particular -- those particular pieces of information bring to the consumer perspective and how they empower them or their absence disempowers them?
756 MR. LAWFORD: The requirement to tell customers who’ve reached the end of the customer service rope, if you will, add a particular telecommunications service provider in all the CCTS decisions and that Commission mandate helps consumers because that is the customer who most needs to know about the CCTS’s existence and any figures that show that companies are not regularly offering that information to customers we think are both violating those decisions and doing the CCTS and themselves a big disservice by not offering a further independent step to those obviously dissatisfied customers.
757 The Commission likewise mandated the notices on the bill last time, I think it was four times a year. Again, knowing that that’s not being done is a way to ensure consumers get timely notice of the existence of this body and it seems to relate quite directly, I think, to consumer protection.
758 And website notices are very variable, but to the extent that consumers, as Jonathan noted in his presentation, a large -- at least a large plurality of them prefer to, in the experience of some ombudsmen, get their information through the web. If it’s in a terribly hard to find spot on the website, consumers who are doing the average kind of diligence anybody would do in trying to solve their problem may not come across it, and that doesn’t seem to be, again, in accord with what the Commission has required.
759 So all those things would lead somebody straight to where they want to be, which is the CCTS to resolve their complaint, and yet either not much effort is being made or clear requirements are being avoided. So I think it has a fairly direct link.
760 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: How would you respond to an anticipated alternative view that would say this information isn’t all that necessary because the very vast majority, the overwhelming majority of complaints or disputes that customers have with their service providers are managed between just those two parties and so the CCTS becomes really a destination of last resort as opposed to a port of entry for consumers? What would you say to that point of view?
761 MR. LAWFORD: I think if I understand the question correctly, the point of having he CCTS at all is that the companies already have a chance to fix the problem. And the creation of CCTS was because there had been many media complaints -- many media stories and lots of consumer outcry to politicians and others, including our office and other consumer groups, that there is no redress in their particular case. It gives, as Mr. Maker pointed out, a level playing field for those disputes that for whatever reason the company does not want to consider an even handed enough manner. And, you know, the government, in its wisdom, directed the Commission to look into creating this thing and then the Commission has now on a couple of occasions said that that’s a good way to handle it and consumers should have that right. And so I suppose you could conceive of it a different way, but I believe it would be a huge step backward for consumers to consider that.
762 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
763 In paragraph 20 you call for -- this is again of your written -- you want the CCTS to have -- to commission customer satisfaction surveys. And, I mean, the TSPs themselves do that because it’s, I think, pretty vital to their commercial interests.
764 Why do you think that there should be one separate? Why do you think the CCTS should be spending its resources on commissioning customer satisfaction surveys? What does that add to the ---
765 MR. LAWFORD: I’ll let Jonathan answer that one.
766 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Oh, excuse me. Yes, yes.
767 MR. BISHOP: Thank you for the question, Commissioner.
768 I would suggest that this isn’t necessarily a customer satisfaction survey, more than it is a public awareness measurement tool.
769 The survey would -- that we propose on an ongoing basis, would be more of to try and gauge the level of awareness of CCTS and not necessarily a customer’s satisfaction with the CCTS process. That was the intent of recommendation number 1, my understanding.
770 We -- and we do think ---
771 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, well thanks. Thanks for clarifying then.
772 So -- while -- but while we’re on that, in another point. Well later on. I can find it here if you wish. It’s really under recommendation 4. I guess where it specifically we’re talking about public awareness.
773 You reference levels of awareness, and Mr. Maker referred to that this morning a little bit, about the difficulty about trying to find out what would be an appropriate level of awareness, which is probably something that mystifies many of us in terms of that.
774 Like 100 percent is pretty unlikely, 0 percent is obviously unsatisfactory, but what would be normal for -- appropriate or satisfactory for a level of public awareness?
775 Do you have something in your head, 30, 40, 50, 60 or more like Mr. Maker said “getting better”.
776 MR. LAWFORD: Well we have a couple answers to that. One is that there’s no optimal level for CCTS except the level for CCTS. We don’t have a baseline yet.
777 And that’s why we were so disturbed or concerned about the -- let’s call it the hit and miss approach to CCTS in measuring the awareness of their organisation.
778 So I mean if there’s no baseline you can’t tell if you’re getting better or worse or same and so that’s the place to start.
779 Some ombudsmen have achieved, you know, closer to 50 percent unprompted awareness and that would seem to be a much higher level than presently CCTS enjoys, but we don’t know.
780 Did you want to add anything?
781 MR. BISHOP: A comparative organisation would be the TIO in Australia and as indicated in our submission, they have measured public awareness in 2004, 2006, 2008 and again in 2012.
782 So they have a clear indication of what the general level of public awareness is of their ombudsmen in that nation and we would like to see a similar scenario play out here, so that we can at least have a baseline and see the effects of various public awareness initiatives and either -- and hopefully improving that general awareness unprompted score.
783 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Do you think the awareness levels of the CRTC are of assistance or even awareness levels of groups such as yourself?
784 Because if -- people might phone us wondering where to go. We can direct them and I’m assuming the same occurs for you.
785 I know PIAC has a link on its website to direct people to there. Do you think that assists in over -- I mean if you’re aware of the CRTC, the CRTC can make you aware; if you’re aware of PIAC, PIAC can make you aware.
786 MR. BISHOP: Yes, I think that the network of other organisations that have a relationship to CCTS is very helpful, but I don’t think that it takes the place of a general public awareness and getting to that critical mass of people who know yes, you know what, I don’t have to just complain to other people at dinner parties or on the street that I’m having a terrible time with fill in the blank carrier. I know there’s a CCTS and then it’s up to them if they want to make the call and go to CCTS.
787 I don’t believe that that’s being addressed with the present network, if you will.
788 We’ve had our link-up to CCTS, hate to say it, before CRTC ever did. And the number of people we refer per month, that come to us unsolicited through email is about 2 or 3 a month.
789 But it’s slowly building but little groups like ours that can do that kind of work are few and far between in this country and as big as CRTC is, and as well-known as you are, I’m also not quite sure if we have evidence that people associate being able to solve these sort of, you know, individual customer service problems with CRTC; that they would come to you first and then be shuttled over.
790 I know a lot of people do, but there’s a different kind of messaging I think you want to get to consumers which is got a problem go to CCTS. Got a problem with your television or internet or wireless provider, go to CCTS; not bounce through two people and find it and be happy.
791 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Certainly the extra phone call probably at that stage is not -- appreciated, but not necessarily welcome. I understand that.
792 What in the -- for yourselves and the other groups you represent, what would you say was the -- is the biggest hurdle or the barrier in getting –- in connecting with -- this information to consumers?
793 As you said you get -- you refer two or -- a relatively small number of people per month and that sort of stuff.
794 And the other groups, based on the west coast, for instance I’m not sure if the farther away you get from Ottawa the less aware you are of what is available in Ottawa or not, but are there significant barriers there that need to be removed in terms of -- in terms of managing this information, getting this information to people?
795 MR. LAWFORD: One of the barriers that we identified pretty quickly was the language barrier and the numbers that we gave you for Canadians who don’t speak English or French primarily. And that seems to have been something that, you know, the TIO has tried to address; that’s certainly one of the barriers.
796 The other one is just, I hate to say it, but I’ve got to -- I can just use the short words, public awareness.
797 It’s -- it has to come to mind quickly without much work. As you pointed it, if there’s an extra step for a consumer to go through, a lot of them drop off on each level.
798 And this is also why we’re concerned about adding extra levels to sending consumers back to CCTS, to us -- back to the provider, excuse me, to try again because then more and more complaints that are legitimate we believe get dropped off.
799 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Do you want to add something?
800 We’ll come back to some of this in a minute but I just -- there was a -- just refer you to paragraph 85 of your written submission.
801 MR. LAWFORD: Yes.
802 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I just -- if you could -- it’s not so much a challenge but a question of clarity. Could you just unpack that a little bit for us?
803 MR. LAWFORD: Sure.
804 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And tell us exactly what the issue is you’re trying to address there.
805 MR. LAWFORD: Yes, sorry. That’s very lawyery(sic) language.
806 It’s basically in those exchanges where there’s still regulation, by that I mean price regulation, on local service.
807 Those customers don’t enjoy CCTS’s protection. It’s one of the excluded grounds so if you call up and you’re from, I guess, Kapuskasing or somewhere where there’s still price regulation, you will be referred back to CRTC rather than CCTS.
808 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And you would like to see that remedied?
809 MR. LAWFORD: Yes, there’s really no reason now to say that a consumer is going to find the CRTC website, file a part -- I don’t even know what it is anymore. It used to be a part 5, a part one-ish and ask for their individual $200 issue to be remedied.
810 It didn’t work before in large numbers. It doesn’t work now and really there’s no real large burden on the ILECs to handle this. It’s going to be wireline customers and it’s going to be a fairly small number of them.
811 And really it’s treating one consumer quite a bit differently from the other, on the presumption that there’s this regulated system that’s going to protect them, which actually offers them a far less convenient and practical solution to their problem.
812 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: This is again just specific to non-forborne?
813 MR. LAWFORD: Yes.
814 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right, okay. Thank you. I understand your position there.
815 I think you made it clear in your oral presentation again, but I just wanted to confirm for the record that in recommendation 7, on page 35 of your written, that you want everything -- “all entities to be covered by CCTS” and that this would apply to TVSPs that are currently exempt with no measure -- no trigger?
816 MR. LAWFORD: That is correct. And we followed the conversation this morning between the Panel and Mr. Maker on this point, but we stick by the position that that’s the consumer friendly position, if you will, that it’s not the consumer’s job to know who is exempt and not exempt and who’s in and who’s out.
817 They just have a problem with billing. They have a problem that looks very similar across the industry and they just want resolution. So that should be provided by CCTS. And the mechanics of getting those people in is really a job to be shared probably between the Commission and CCTS.
818 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And the same with TSPs, you’ve made that clear.
819 Are you concerned at all about the challenge of, to use a non-legal term, “rounding up” the TSPs that are out there and trying to -- it sounds like it would take a good deal of resources on the part of all involved to get them signing participation agreements.
820 MR. LAWFORD: Well, I think that as you add layers of -- I won’t call it regulations because it’s not really supposed to be but let’s say tools like the Wireless Code and CCTS to the market, there comes a point where it touches a lot of these providers. And they have to be made aware that they have these obligations or will have if the decision goes the way that we’re suggesting.
821 You know, they’re not starting a corner kiosk to sell lollipops. They’re doing telecommunications services or broadcasting services, which are meant for the general public.
822 And with that, comes responsibilities and one of those responsibilities that we think is very reasonable, if a customer has a problem, which is otherwise covered by the Wireless Code or the rules around the Procedural Code in this scheme, that they have a right to redress.
823 And yes, it will be a burden, but I think from what we’ve seen, consumers would like that work to get done.
824 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
825 Paragraph 104 of your Written Submission, you’re proposing:
826 “… that the CCTS mandate incorporate issues relating to goods or services that are bundled or sold with a communications service.”
827 That includes set-top boxes. I guess would it include anything that went with the promotion, such as for instance a TV set?
828 Is that the scope you’re talking about?
829 MS. LAU: Yes, I think -- yes, I think in the way that we propose it, it would include it, if it were bundled with the telecommunications service provided to the customer.
830 MR. LAWFORD: Yes, this is on the theory that it’s all an incentive to the customer to take the other services; largely the products are either complimentary or promotional.
831 And if a company wants to lead with its products, so to speak, then we are suggesting that the consumer would naturally want to have redress again to do with that package or promotion. And it’s not a big stretch to go that far.
832 We are aware of the Commission cutting off its -- let’s say, regulation at customer premises equipment in other context.
833 But given the direction that this Ombudsman is going and given the need for consumers to have a comprehensive answer, if you will, when they go to CCTS, we thought it was better to go with this position than the one of excluding it, especially when it was, as Alysia pointed out, you know really the reason for the promotion or bundle.
834 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: In recommendation 12, you say:
835 “While incorporating TVSP representatives, the CCTS Board should retain the same number of Industry Directors in total – that is, 3 Industry Directors.”
836 So the recommendation there is that no additional TVSP reps; that that would have to be built within the three existing positions?
837 MR. LAWFORD: Yes. The idea behind that proposal is to rejig the governance ---
838 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right.
839 MR. LAWFORD: --- at CCTS, such that -- such that the industry doesn’t really have an effective veto on any of the most important decisions.
840 So the idea of adding the two consumer --I’m sorry, the one consumer and the extra independent is to make a structure that’s much more like TIO in Australia, where you have four, four and three industry consumer and then independents in the middle.
841 If the extra person is added and no -- sorry, no industry directors are added, then you could have a situation with even a two-thirds vote, which is a special majority, where -- extraordinary? Not extraordinary -- special, I believe it’s a special motion. That you’d have three directors who were independents, three who were now consumers, and three who were industry. And therefore, two-thirds of the Board could still decide things if the industry did not agree.
842 This is on the assumption that this thing, this CCTS governance, is truly an independent board and that you could actually have votes that went the other way from the industry. That’s what we are trying to set up.
843 Alternatively, you can leave the same numbers that there are, but you have to do all of the votes by a simple majority.
844 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right. You’ve made your concern clear about the special majority or super majority nature of that. But is there an instance of something, and dealing generally -- and I can expand that question generally to the governance structure.
845 Is there something you can point to specifically, where that structure has failed?
846 Mr. Maker, this morning, and his team indicated that they didn’t see that as the issue the way you see it. So I need to understand the gap between the perspectives and whether you’re trying to address something that has occurred or something you fear may occur?
847 MR. LAWFORD: I totally appreciate the question. It’s a very good one. I’ll treat it very delicately.
848 The industry directors are also industry players if you will. So the consumer directors are consumer group appointed directors. They are not consumer directors. I cannot sit as a director.
849 Because of that, I can never know, even though I have people who are named consumer directors or consumer appointed directors and even if we talk, because of their confidentiality requirements, I can never know exactly what has gone on inside that Board.
850 I have heard rumours and that’s not what we’re here to talk about, about difficulties with money and with certain aspects that appear to us to be key. But you know, I cannot sit here today and say that, yes, there have been problems on the Board because I can’t sit on the Board and I wasn’t there, and the people who can sit on the Board can’t tell me.
851 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So how would the changes you suggest make that different?
852 MR. LAWFORD: Well, ---
853 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Because you’re talking about the composition of the Board primarily, not -- I mean, Board conversations are generally going to be confidential in nature, right?
854 MR. LAWFORD: Right.
855 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Just because there’s more or more diverse or something like that, that’s not going to change.
856 MR. LAWFORD: No, but just to rewind your question for me, if you can help me out, it was originally to asking?
857 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: It was asking whether you were trying to address something that you believe has occurred or you could give us an example to say, this is -- the current structure is faulty because ---
858 MR. LAWFORD: Right. And I’m saying, I can’t ---
859 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- on June 17th, something or other, something happened and consumers’ interests were diminished or ---
860 MR. LAWFORD: To point to something more concrete, we believe that the spotty record doing the public awareness surveys, is a symptom that probably has as its cause a Board that cannot say, “We want to regularly measure and monitor ourselves.” Because it might show that they are not doing enough.
861 And I can’t know that for sure because of the reason I gave you, but I suspect that if the rules were different and the true consumer directors like people from various consumer groups being on there, that I would know that answer.
862 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. And when you refer to the “spotty record” on public awareness, you’re referring to TSPs falling short of expectations in regard to consumer notification; are you?
863 MR. LAWFORD: In part, because we don't have regular surveys of customers from CCTS that have been done by CCTS saying that our customers were not told that there was this resolution process or they didn't see a web site notice or whatever.
864 It's also partly the fact CCTS itself is not expending resources to measure itself, and why is that not being undertaken? Not consistently.
865 MR. MENZIES: I see. And that's also tied in with the items that you were referring to that had been requested would be reported, but that were missing from ---
866 MR. LAWFORD: Right.
867 MR. MENZIES: --- from the reports.
868 MS. LAU: And -- sorry.
869 MR. MENZIES: So you're kind of -- you're joining dots there rather than one single thing. You're -- okay. I understand ---
870 MR. LAWFORD: That's correct.
871 MR. MENZIES: --- where you're coming from.
872 MS. LAU: I'd just like to add an additional point, if I may.
873 There is -- when it comes to independence, there is real independence and then the opposite, so real bias, but there's also structural independence, structural bias, and the appearance of independence and the appearance of bias.
874 And so when we look at the way ombudsman organizations are set up and the way that they are structured, often, they are structured in order for there to be, for instance, public confidence in the independence of an organization and -- yeah. I'm sorry. That's all I had.
875 MR. MENZIES: Thanks.
876 I'm just going to move forward to paragraph 150 of your written submission. It's -- in which you state you're troubled that some customers who may have been entitled to compensation greater than $5,000 were only able to recover a portion of what they were owed.
877 And the groups are concerned that service providers may lowball awards to complainants because they are aware of the cap.
878 So we'll divide that into -- those two sentences into two questions.
879 Do you have examples of people who were only able to collect -- that $5,000 represented only a portion of what they were owed?
880 MR. LAWFORD: We don't have individual customers coming to complain to us that they've been lowballed or that their claim was 7,000 and they only received 5,000, but this is in -- as quoted in our submission at paragraph 149, a chart which is from the CCTS annual report compensation analysis that lists in 2013-14 granted of 7,000, almost 8,000 complaints; 25 that were not allowed to achieve more than $5,000.
881 So it's not a large number, but there. Once it gets to be a large number, there's -- for people, it's still a lot of money.
882 Just we do note that, in the TIO, I believe, just put their compensation limit up to 25,000 Australian dollars. Previously it was 25,000; now it's gone to 100,000.
883 Now, they do rights-of-way and other things that can be extremely expensive, but it's notable that theirs has gone up and ours is quite low. I mean, 5,000 is quite low with the average spend of consumers. And if you have four bundled services, I can -- you know, even for a consumer, if there's a long-standing complaint there could be a claim that's over 5,000.
884 MR. MENZIES: But for clarity, the 5,000 doesn't include the cost of any resolution, of any bill that's in dispute; right?
885 It's not like you can only -- if you are -- if you got a $10,000 bill and you were complaining, this would be a matter of that bill -- the issue of that bill would be resolved and the 5,000 is in addition to resolving that bill issue.
886 It's not like -- just so people -- I don't want anybody to be confused that if they have an issue of something bigger than $5,000 they can't take it to the CCTS.
887 MR. LAWFORD: This limit has been discussed at many levels, and we've never quite been able to figure it out.
888 There -- it's not -- I don't believe it's a hard cap, but the total compensation that you can get is, I believe -- I guess I -- we just don't know, like, what that 5,000 exactly represents. But the paragraph you originally quoted was meant to isolate situations where, if there were, in Mr. Maker or his investigators' point of view, it would have been fairer to give the entire amount, that it would have been cut down to 5,000.
889 I would maybe ask, when they're back, for them to clarify that limit because it's, to be quite honest, very complicated in the Procedural Code, and it's not terribly clear to us, and I don't think it's terribly clear to consumers, either, where that ends.
890 But we just did note that there are some cases where they've said they've not provided the entire amount of compensation above $5,000.
891 MR. MENZIES: Okay. That's what you're referring to, then ---
892 MR. LAWFORD: Yes.
893 MR. MENZIES: --- which answers that question.
894 MR. LAWFORD: Yeah.
895 MR. MENZIES: On the suggestion that it be raised to 25,000 -- now, I can understand -- I think most people could -- that your position that the $5,000 cap in terms of additional compensation might cause companies to lowball their offer in a negotiated settlement. But by the same token, some people might argue that a $25,000 prospect might cause them to fight harder and drag matters out.
896 So I'd like your thoughts on that possible ---
897 MR. LAWFORD: Yeah. No, I ---
898 MR. MENZIES: --- alternative view.
899 MR. LAWFORD: It's a good question.
900 Sorry, go ahead. Finish.
901 It's a good question because, I mean, the ombudsman in the banking field in OPSI comes up against this problem because they have a $300,000 limit, and yet many investment disputes and many banking disputes can get more than that. And we have heard from that ombudsman that there are lowball offers because of their limit.
902 And it's true that the banks -- and this is one of the reasons for a couple of the banks leaving -- were uncomfortable with having to pay such large amounts.
903 So putting up the limit to $25,000, perhaps one of the perverse results might be some providers might want to leave the scheme. It might get too dangerous for them. It's possible.
904 They might want to leave and set up a separate ombudsman, which we would, of course, think would be totally counter-productive.
905 It's an interesting point you raise.
906 There's probably a sweet spot. Maybe 25,000 is too high.
907 I would urge the Commission to look at the sort of highest average consumer spend in a year. Most likely a dispute won't go back two, three years. It'll most likely be only a year's worth of problems.
908 And if the average highest consumer spend for, say, four services is -- I can't even do the math -- $4,000, $8,000 at most, let's say, then maybe it doesn't need to be $25,000.
909 MR. MENZIES: I'm going to move forward to -- just for clarity's sake, to reference to paragraph 163.
910 I'm not really clear what you're looking at in terms of this separate ombudsman's report. Is this ombudsman the same as the position held by Mr. Maker right now, or is -- are you talking about a sort of parallel ombudsman?
911 I take it from your presentation that what you're concerned about is the reporting relationship to the Board and tying in your -- and correct me if I'm wrong because I sometimes -- but the relationship to the Board, the structure of the Board and the report, that you're tying in those three concerns and coming to the conclusion that you need an ombudsman's report that is unfettered by any concerns about relationships with the Board that you may perceive.
912 MS. LAU: Yeah. There are several foci when it comes to the recommendations made in our intervention, and one of them is transparency and independent reporting.
913 And so when we go looking for different ideas about how the -- that independent reporting could transpire, one of them was the idea of an ombudsman report which we'd found in the UK, which is a report that is created and developed by the ombudsman so, in this case, it would be Mr. Maker, and that would not require Board approval. And so in this specific UK case, the Board would be permitted to append kind of a preamble or a foreword to the Ombudsman Report, but the Ombudsman Report itself could not be redacted by the Board.
914 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thank you.
915 In your -- how do you -- just moving on two paragraphs to paragraph 165, you want two reports and you also want CCTS to issue two reports annually rather than one?
916 MR. LAWFORD: The CCTS recently did do a mid-year report and we found that very helpful. The telecom market’s fast moving and just because we get lots of analyst’s reports of how the companies you're doing quarterly and all that, that’s great, but hearing about what's going on with consumers and consumer complaints is an interesting metric for -- for consumer protection organizations and for consumers themselves.
917 And as we’ve emphasized all through, more communication with the public, more results, more reporting is always better. And we don’t think that one extra report -- it doesn’t have to be very lengthy, I don’t believe the last one was terribly large -- would just give the industry and consumers a really good yardstick, rather than having to wait till every November just to see whether things have been getting better or worse.
918 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, I understand that just in terms of maintaining currency or ---
919 MR. LAWFORD: Yes.
920 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- at least a mid-year update or something like that ---
921 MR. LAWFORD: Correct, yeah.
922 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- with not necessarily two full -- or as full as you can get.
923 MR. LAWFORD: I don’t think we were suggesting two full annual or ---
924 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay.
925 MR. LAWFORD: --- semi-annual reports, no.
926 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Do you have -- do you have any estimation about -- or let’s get back to the -- a couple of other items first of all just to finish off in terms of the -- the promotion issues that you’ve presented.
927 You talk about -- going back to recommendation 5 -- you talk about PSAs, email blitzes, et cetera. I’m kind of -- I’m trying to get an idea of what kind of volume you're -- you're envisioning in terms of that, like as a television watcher or media consumer, how frequently do you envision me being exposed to one of these PSAs or receiving -- and of course there's SPAM issues about email too, so you would need people to opt in, so you would need to reach them in another way like that, but I’m assuming that’s to people who are already customers and receiving -- and receiving bills, but what kind of intensity would -- in your perfect world would be happening here?
928 MR. LAWFORD: I’ll start and perhaps the others can -- can offer their thoughts. I’m going to break it down TV, wireless and then internet and home phone. TV, let's start with TV, as someone mentioned previously the Advertising Standards Council also puts out -- puts out advertisement -- false advertising notices to consumers on, you know, not on a terribly regular basis, but the kind of frequency that you're looking at -- and we’re quite well aware of the airtime, you know, the jealously guarded airtime of BDUs and broadcasters -- but you know, once, twice -- once or twice a month a 30-second spot not to -- not to you know, put a huge wedge into their time.
929 For BDUs it can come out of local availabilities, for broadcasters it can be airtime I presume bought, since they're not in this proceeding strictly speaking, by CCTS. It doesn’t have to be crazy amounts, but as the research for other ombudsmen shows, and I think it would show here if we asked people, a lot of people would want to know about CCTS through the television and it’s a great platform now that BDUs are in to do that. So that’s the kind of frequency we’re talking about there.
930 In terms of wireless and internet users, we’ve already suggested that when you get a new cellphone, a new account, you would get a text message with this information. It could be an email for an internet service provider. That would, you know, that -- that could be repeated on other occasions as we’ve done with the bill. Insert, we haven’t suggested that I don’t believe in our submission, we’ve just said on the initial sign-up, but I leave it open to your consideration as something that would be a low cost and an effective way to reach consumers.
931 So we’re not looking to inundate people, we’re just looking to use these new tools at key points, key sort of pivot points where consumers do something, sign-up, you know, change providers, these sort of things, they will get a reminder.
932 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And we’ve -- we’ve heard today that some of those public awareness paths might not be the most efficient way in terms of doing that. And there are other intervenors who indicate that particularly the PSAs are problematic in terms of it can cause confusion with say -- I believe Shaw referenced it, if not it was somebody else’s that I was reading, but a provider referenced it in terms of the fact that it would confuse people regarding the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council and other things like that. And all of a sudden you’d have broadcasting complaints as opposed to BDU complaints.
933 And I think as all -- as we all know, it’s -- we’re fairly unique in our ability to break these into segments, most people just see it as the company that gives me stuff, right, in terms of that, and they would want to know that they have a single point that they can go to and that -- anyway, the point being that this -- this could just further confuse people. What's your response to that?
934 MR. LAWFORD: The CCTS already deals with confusion, people calling their phone lines. And as you heard -- it seems kind of steep to me, but whatever -- 175,000 contacts a year, of which only 10 to 13 become accepted complaints and probably that’ll grow with TV, but still. They're already dealing with that, so there's some confusion no matter how much you try to be clear in the ad, or you try to -- you know, we’re doing something new here.
935 The benefit of telling people about this service outweighs the confusion, and I'm sure that CCTS can work out a system with Broadcast Standards to trade people who call the wrong line, you know, it’s not that hard. And the confusion is worth it for -- for what we’re aiming for here, it’s not a reason to kill the idea.
936 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Do you have any idea how much this would cost, like all of your -- your recommendations? Any cost estimate with the additional ---
937 MR. LAWFORD: We did not cost it out and a lot of the cost inputs of course we wouldn’t be privy to. We’re aware the TV spots are expensive and -- but we’re also aware that text messages are extremely cheap and so are emails. And so working those into the processes of the companies, I'm sure they can give you a figure better than us. But you know, to honestly answer your question, no, we have not costed it out, we haven’t even tried.
938 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. I just want to move on to your -- your recommendation regarding multiple languages. And I don’t dispute your facts in terms of your numbers of people who speak a -- an unofficial language in the home in terms of that. However, I mean I checked the websites of the parties you represent and yours is in French and English, the two official languages, and the others are just in English on the West Coast there.
939 And I was trying to understand how the CCTS could be asked to -- and you referenced up to 30 languages -- could be asked to undertake that burden, whereas the consumer groups that are represented at your table today have obviously been intimated by the cost of that, particularly the group out of British Columbia where you have probably -- I can't say the highest, but among the highest levels of unofficial language use in the home.
940 So help me understand how that’s a reasonable ask to make of -- of CCTS in terms of distribution of materials.
941 MR. LAWFORD: I don’t think we’re holding ourselves out as a public body that resolves complaints in the telecommunication sphere, they do. Other ombuds people in Australia and UK have done more work in this area because as they’re just looking at their population and saying, “Goodness, a lot of people use the phone. You can talk to somebody in Punjabi, you know, and they can understand you in Punjabi and they’re both using a phone. They may have a problem with that phone.” That’s where we’re coming from. You know, call it hypocritical from our point of view. We should probably be getting more memberships and trying to deal with the public.
942 I agree that CCTS is also a small organization, relatively speaking, but what we’re saying is they have not prioritized that. We see other ombudspeople doing it because they intent to serve the broad public, and if other countries have noticed that it’s a need and if we reflect what’s really required for this society such as it is, it’s going to do a lot more good to have CCTS with public facing, say, five major languages than it is for PIAC at least short term.
943 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. I mean, I’m aware that TSPs themselves and potentially TVSPs in terms of their customer service offer service in -- on a market-by-market basis on demand in third languages.
944 I’m just trying to think how you could justify that big an ask for a public entity such as this and what the repercussions of that are going to be? Whoever’s -- if you decide you’re going to -- I mean, you must be aware of this. If you decide that it’s going to be 10 languages, somebody’s going to be at 11, right? Somebody’s going to be the one that just didn’t get in and you’re going to have endless lobbying and people will have a sense of exclusion and that sort of stuff.
945 Isn’t this just a lot simpler to leave this as Canada’s official languages? People will be served in the language of their choice and not create quasi-official languages?
946 MR. LAWFORD: All I can say is that of the consumer protection organizations we deal with, they are looking at this issue right now. Ontario Ministry of Consumer and Business Services is preparing materials in other languages. I’ve seen materials for various boards in Ontario in Portuguese and in Italian, and yes, in some other languages. I’ve seen them in Mandarin. It’s not uncommon at the consumer protection level, and I believe that’s the trend in consumer protection. We’re saying this is a consumer protection body first and foremost.
947 Maybe a study; they could look at it and see if there’s a need. Maybe they can learn from these other consumer protection bureaus that have done the hard work about cutting it off at, say, 10 languages and, you know, how to deal with the folks who are number 11. But let’s start the conversation because there’s so many folks in this country that could benefit from this and we don’t know if the barrier to getting CCTS access is language, but we suspect it is in some cases.
948 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Thanks. That’s actually filled out my understanding of your perspective there.
949 Do you think it would be appropriate for CCTS to terminate participation of a non-compliant TSP?
950 MR. LAWFORD: It’s a dream come true for the non-compliant TSP, because then they’re out of the system; they don’t have to pay and they can ignore it and nobody’s coming after them. I would take that if I were a TSP who didn’t feel like following the rules.
951 No, that should never happen.
952 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay.
953 MR. LAWFORD: It’s not a remedy.
954 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
955 Just checking for a couple more here. I may have covered them. That one we did. That one we did.
956 In your presentation today, in paragraph 37 you mentioned that that CRTC has a wide spectrum of remedies when we’re talking about enforcing compliance. Which one do you prefer?
957 MR. LAWFORD: It depends on the -- it depends on the non-compliance and depends on all the factors that presently CRTC goes through at the moment for “Do Not Call” and for “Anti-Spam”. So you get somebody first time; they cooperate with the investigator, or whoever is charged with doing the administrative work on the CRTC side. They’re most pleasant. They promise to do stuff. They do it on time. You give them a warning, “Okay, don’t do it again.” No problem, no fine, no nothing. You know, maybe a little public education within their organization and then we’re done.
958 Somebody else, same same exact non-compliance, don’t talk to the investigators, refuse to have anything to do with it, refuse to acknowledge they ever heard of the CCTS. Okay, now we’re talking about maybe you should come in and get a notice of -- a Notice of Compliance and be talking about AMPS, that sort of thing, at the limit, especially if it’s a repeat customer. And by that I mean someone who’s had a couple of violations. This has all been developed in the context of those two regimes. Why not use it? And now there’s the general AMPS part. I wouldn’t jump straight to that and we have no interest in having companies be in an antagonist relationship with the Commission because of small complaints. But, you know, if at the end of the day you get a company -- and a couple of them have been mentioned here today -- who might have many complaints and are doing nothing about it -- there’s two companies out there who refuse to do anything -- we have to get them in line.
959 So the only way to get the attention of, whether it’s a small entrepreneurial company or not, is to call and say, “Listen, you know, we can do this the nice way or we can do this the hard way.” And you guys have this -- we do actually have a very well developed broad spectrum of things that you can use to very sensitively or, you know, with thunder behind it to come to a right resolution.
960 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thank you.
961 Recommendation 3, when you’re talking about accessibility requirements, I was just trying to get a sense of the sort of beginning scope you were looking for, and I noticed like COSCO and NPF both had, you know, zoom tools right on the pages and I’ve seen those. Is that what you’re talking about, something as basically as straightforward and simple as that for -- at least for starters?
962 MR. LAWFORD: Well, the website compliance is key to start, and for visually impaired people that’s one of the tools that might be helpful, making sure it’s compliant with W3C, or whatever it is, standard so that all screen readers can be used. There are lots of other disabilities that require different accommodations. We realize it’s an endless list, but where do you start? Yes, visual acuity of Canadians is -- I mean, a large number of Canadians have problems without something like a screen enlarger, so that would be a good place to start. We didn’t suggest which tools exactly, but again, that’s something CCTS should be looking at, we think, in the course of their usual business to see what their customers need.
963 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thanks. I was just trying to get a sense of -- to narrow down the aspiration to something like this.
964 Those are all my questions. My colleagues may have some for you as well. Thank you.
965 THE CHAIRPERSON: Just one, just in following up on the enforcement issue. I take your point about AMPS if it’s related to telecommunications. What do we do with TVSPs?
966 MR. LAWFORD: I guess they have to go to Parliament and get another amendment. It’s within our power.
967 THE CHAIRPERSON: Within your present power?
968 MR. LAWFORD: I imagine that a number of the disputes involving TVSPs are going to be bundled, and so you’ll have the hook for telecom as well. There are other tools. I mean, if a TVSP alone, perhaps an exempt one is becoming a problem, I can see your issue. I can see your issue. I’m not quite sure how we would propose solving it at this point. It would take a little more thought. We might think about it for final reply.
969 THE CHAIRPERSON: I mean, implicit in what you’re saying, if it’s licensed, I guess you have a mandatory order, which is so much fun and, you know, straightforward from a quasi-judicial perspective and due process, but an exempt is equally difficult.
970 I guess one could argue that if you haven’t complied, you somehow put in peril your exemption which then the only way you could do that is come back and do a mandatory order yet again. See, you’re coming up with great ideas just on your own. I’m sure with the entire staff you could come up with even more.
971 MR. LAWFORD: That’s the kind of thinking we will have to engage, to be honest, because you don’t have the same toolkit.
972 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. To what extent do you -- I mean, I was asking earlier some questions about the impact of market forces, and obviously some people have chosen certain suppliers of services because it made sense to them. I’m not always convinced that they fully appreciate that the lower price might come with less quality in terms of consumer protection type measures that CCTS provides.
973 To what extent do consumer groups have a role to play to bring to the general population’s knowledge issues related to not being in good standing with those CCTS standards?
974 MR. LAWFORD: Let’s put it this way. I think most of the consumer groups that are presently in existence tend to focus on going forward issues -- in other words, we’re so busy trying to get the next ombudsman set up or preserved or whatever that we often don’t look back and think that we have a role in compliance. And I think that’s something that is starting to dawn on a number of the groups. Give us some time to work that into our workflow, if you will. I think there’s some role there.
975 It would be extremely helpful to have as much information as possible which was consistent and timely from the CCTS so that we could do the analysis to say, “Hey, you know, there does seem to be a problem here.”
976 And in particular, we have been starting to ask CCTS for the raw Excel data on their complaints because we might be able to crunch the numbers and see something they don’t see.
977 We’re happy to, if there are frequent flyers, let’s put it, you know, subject to not being libellous, to warn the public about problems because the -- as some of these things are made, in terms of being a CCTS, on their website -- you know, this company is not compliant, it’s probably not going to reach consumers in the way that we could reach more of them. So we probably have a role there, yes.
978 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Well, thank you.
979 I think you’ll have a chance to maybe elaborate on some of your thinking in that respect. So thank you very much.
980 MR. LAWFORD: Thank you.
981 LE PRÉSIDENT: Madame la secrétaire.
982 THE SECRETARY: I would now ask TELUS to come to the presentation table.
--- (SHORT PAUSE)
983 THE CHAIRPERSON: Good afternoon. So when you’re ready, please identify your panel and make your presentation, please.
984 MR. SCHMIDT: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chair Menzies and Commissioners. My name is Stephen Schmidt and I am Vice-President, Telecom Policy & Chief Regulatory Legal Counsel at TELUS. My colleagues and I are very pleased to have the opportunity to speak with you today on the structure and the mandate of the CCTS.
985 With me today, from my right to left, are: Eric Edora, Director of Regulatory Affairs; Darlene Dasilva, Senior Regulatory Advisor; to my left, Arleen King, Senior Vice-President, Customer Experience, and Ann Mainville-Neeson, Vice-President, Broadcasting Policy & Regulatory Affairs.
986 TELUS is pleased to participate in this review of the structure and the mandate of the CCTS. As a founding member, TELUS has supported the CCTS and its role as an independent agency to resolve complaints for individuals and small business customers since its inception.
987 CRTC decisions to embrace competition across all classes of telecommunications services are the primary mechanism for ensuring that customers benefit from reliable, affordable and high quality telecommunications services throughout Canada.
988 However, for a small number of customers, an additional mechanism of redress is necessary and helpful. To that end, the CCTS provides an opportunity for consumers and small businesses to seek cost-effective complaint resolution if they think that their service provider has fallen short of its commitments. Additionally, the publication by the CCTS of its annual report also puts some measure of reputational pressure on providers to ensure that they are keeping their commitments to their customers. Both of these functions -- both of these CCTS functions help to underpin the effective operation of market forces.
989 For these reasons, TELUS also supports the possible expansion of the CCTS’ mandate to include the administration of the proposed Television Service Provider Code of Conduct and its provisions that govern the relationship between TV service providers and their customers.
990 While the resolution of complaints through the CCTS is important, it is but one part of TELUS’ commitment to customer service. This commitment is called Putting Customers First. TELUS’ goal is to resolve customer complaints before they have to be escalated to the CCTS because we believe in taking ownership of complaints and resolving them jointly with our customers. This is a major reason why TELUS has far lower numbers of CCTS complaints relative to its peers.
991 I will now turn it over to Arleen King, Senior Vice-President, Customer Experience, who will speak more about our customer service commitment and how complaints handling is a central part of that.
992 MS. KING: Thank you, Stephen.
993 TELUS is committed to fairness and transparency in our relationship with our customers. Putting Customers First is our number one priority. It forms our comprehensive policy on how we engage with our customers. This goes for all of our brands, TELUS, Koodo, and Public Mobile and for all of our services, wireless, wireline telephone, internet and Optik TV.
994 The commitments we make to prospective customers through our communications and our advertising become obligations to fulfill at every touch point throughout the customer journey. We work very hard to keep customers satisfied, to minimize the number of complaints and to resolve any service issues where they might occur.
995 An important part of putting Customers First is our acknowledgement that we have to continually improve. This is only done by listening to our customers. We recognize that customers are entitled to demand more from their chosen service provider, entitled to complain and entitled to expect the best in overall customer experience. Our customers tell us when they think we have missed the mark or somehow have failed in meeting their expectations. Our job as a service provider is to use that insight and find out what needs to be fixed and to put those solutions into action.
996 Our philosophy is simple. We make it easy for our customers to complain. We have institutionalized learning from our complaints and complaints -- all complaints -- serve as an opportunity to improve our service, our products and our processes in support of our customers.
997 How we handle customer complaints is an important facet of our Customers First program. We take pride in resolving complaints by empowering our team. We try to find root causes for any service problems that appear, and we consider it our mandate to be so good at keeping our customers happy that there will eventually be no need for our customers to escalate to the CCTS. Our mantra is that if a customer is so frustrated that they seek an external body to resolve their issues, we have failed.
998 Our efforts have borne tremendous results. The latest CCTS annual report shows TELUS as an industry leader in minimizing complaints to the CCTS.
999 Of course, we know that we’re not perfect and that sometimes our customers complain to the CCTS. Our complaints process is designed to be consistent with our Customers First principles, and Darlene Dasilva will walk you through and comment on how TELUS works with the CCTS on the complaints process.
1000 MS. DASILVA: Thank you, Arleen.
1001 Our CCTS complaints resolution process is designed to be effective, efficient and responsive, with a goal to obtain a reasonable resolution for our customers and our company.
1002 When we receive a complaint from the CCTS it is triaged by the CCTS complaints team and regulatory affairs. These complaints are treated as time sensitive and important in the same regard as a complaint filed with the CRTC.
1003 Our CCTS complaints team is engaged at every key touchpoint of the CCTS complaint cycle. We engage the appropriate business unit partners based on the facts of the situation.
1004 We compile our internal evidence on the customer complaint and review all required documentation to determine if Telus has reasonably met its obligations, in accordance with our terms of service, customer contracts and any applicable CRTC decisions or codes of conduct.
1005 Where we have not, we work with our customer escalation teams to determine how we can resolve the issue, without further steps in the CCTS process being required.
1006 Even where we might disagree with the complaint, our agents are empowered, encouraged to think outside the box and to be creative and innovative to find the best suitable solution for both parties.
1007 Our interactions with the CCTS are generally positive. There have been isolated situations where we have found that the information demands from the CCTS were repetitive or onerous, but that does not happen in the vast majority of cases.
1008 In all, we see a desire on the CCTS to be responsive and efficient, because it understands the impact that it has on the customer and our business.
1009 Our one process request was that the standard timelines in the CCTS process be shortened to some degree, so that we can get to a final resolution on the complaint within a timely manner, which is good for the customer.
1010 That ultimately is what matters most, that the customer finds that the CCTS has provided a satisfactory process and comes to a fair resolution.
1011 MR. SCHMIDT: Telus sees considerable merit to the existence of the CCTS, particularly in these past years when it has grown in stature, visibility and positive impact.
1012 Our experience with the CCTS is that its process is generally efficient for both the customer and the service provider.
1013 The procedural code as it stands, affords it sufficient jurisdiction to handle key customer issues, such as compliance with contract terms, billing disputes and errors, service delivery, collections practices and complaints related to codes of conduct.
1014 Having said that, there are some ways to enhance the CCTS. In its intervention, Telus has made some focused and concrete suggestions about the CCTS’s role in interpreting CRTC decisions, about the funding model and about improved processes for complaints handling.
1015 These were made with a view to improving the CCTS to make it even more effective within its current mandate.
1016 Telus believes that the CCTS’s current mandate for telecommunications services does not need to be expanded. We say this for two principal reasons.
1017 First, some of the proposals before you contemplate the CCTS taking jurisdiction currently exercised by the CRTC.
1018 Second, some of these same proposals may have the CCTS reaching far beyond its core institutional expertise of the resolution of telecommunications complaints.
1019 With respect to broadcasting services, Telus believes the CCTS’s mandate should be restricted to addressing the same types of issues that it currently addresses for telecommunication services.
1020 This will ensure that the CCTS focuses on complaints squarely within the service provider-customer relationship, that it has both the resources and expertise to fully address.
1021 Telus’ support of the current governance structure; our understanding is that the current model has provided effective governance with the general operations of the CCTS kept in the hands of Commissioner and staff.
1022 The structure contains the right perspectives and the right balance in our view.
1023 There is no need to -- for a change at this time and no compelling evidence before the commission of a problem that would justify material changes to the governance structure.
1024 Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chair Menzies and Commissioners. We would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
1025 THE CHAIRPERSON: I think we’ll take a break, if that’s okay with you? Just -- I -- if you -- unless you want to start and take a little break a little later on? It’s up to you.
1026 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Sure.
1027 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
1028 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Let’s do that.
1029 THE CHAIRPERSON: Why don’t we go to until 3:00 or so and ---
1030 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Sure.
1031 Because I think my line of questioning was going to be broadly based at first and then get into some of the housekeeping and specific issues later and perhaps a break between those two is appropriate.
1032 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Mr. Schmidt ---
1033 MR. SCHIDT: Yes, I picked up. Commissioner Simpson will start his ---
1034 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Jumping right in, like your frogs on the letterhead here.
1035 Mr. Schmidt, I just -- I couldn’t help but notice on the top of page 3, that you had changed from the written and you had -- the written had indicated that both the -- both of the CCTS functions helped to underpin the effective operation.
1036 And in writing it said “markets for forborne services” and you said “market-forces”. Is there a reason why you changed that?
1037 MR. SCHMIDT: No, yes just -- just reading on the fly.
1038 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Ah, okay.
1039 MR. SCHMIDT: Market -- “markets for forborne services”.
1040 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: So it’s nice to hear that you think that should ---
1041 MR. SCHMIDT: Yes, it should track the language of the order and council essentially.
1042 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: M'hm, right. Yes, okay, wonderful.
1043 On the broad based level of things, I was impressed with -- I know Telus is on a charm offensive full force with customers, and good on you for doing that.
1044 But I noticed in your oral presentation that, you know, you made quite an observation about how -- the exhaustive level to which you develop your business plans and your products for customers, and how you constantly review the performance of those products.
1045 I’m paraphrasing here but the general idea is that you put a lot of work and thought into your customer engagement and the products you offer, and you constantly review your performance on that.
1046 So with that statement, I’m curious as to why you and other major stakeholders of CCTS feel that when the CCTS drifts past the specifics of a complaint into interpretation and broader issues of the code, why you feel that’s unnecessary, when you yourself are constantly looking at causal issues with respect to consumer complaints?
1047 MR. SCHMIDT: I will -- thank you, Commissioner Simpson. My colleague, Mr. Edora, will answer that. Thanks.
1048 MR. EDORA: Thank you for the question. The -- you’re absolutely correct. Our goal as a business, obviously, is to ensure that we can deliver the right products to the right customers at the right time.
1049 And so we need to continually improve our services and our service delivery so we can deliver on that commitment.
1050 We understand the CCTS has a service -- service delivery commitment as well, but that service delivery commitment is defined by the order and council, and the commission mandate that it was -- that the CCTS has been granted.
1051 And so when the CCTS starts to stray -- and stray is probably a pejorative term. When it starts to go outside what it was designed to do, which is resolve customer complaints, that’s when we feel that the CCTS might be going beyond what it is designed to do.
1052 The -- it is very good at resolving customer complaints. It is very good at the process and it’s very good about figuring out what happened in a situation and trying to come to a fair resolution.
1053 But when the CRTC issues a decision about how certain codes are supposed to be interpreted and read, that’s when we think the CCTS should step back and realise that its expertise is not in the interpretation role.
1054 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you. But things change. Consumer expectations change, markets change, companies consolidate and, you know, what runs common through all CCTS members is that their relationship with their customers is subscriber oriented.
1055 You know, you guys are in the business of long term relationships and the more consolidation that occurs, the more bundling, the more economies of scale, better value you can offer to your -- to those customers to keep them, because retention is the name of the game here.
1056 So when -- if supposedly, a customer who finds after a certain level things escalate to the point where they want to resort to CCTS, is it not understandable that their expectations -- it’s like being a marriage counsellor.
1057 It’s not always just the fact that somebody leaves their socks on the bed. It’s the larger issues that often cause a relationship to deteriorate.
1058 Is it not valuable, giving you full marks for being top in your game for customer relations but perhaps others aren’t, is it not reasonable to expect that if there’s a preponderance of that type of complaint, where it’s relationship built rather than specific delivery of product and service that you would not want CCTS to at least have their ears open to that and perhaps advise the membership because there’s a trend forming with certain types of complaints?
1059 MR. SCHMIDT: I’ll aim at an initial answer and Mr. Edora will improve on my answer.
1060 On a practical level we’re a broadcast distribution undertaking and a telecommunications service provider. We’re not providing a lot of other things like lawn mowers or, you know, jet airplanes or something.
1061 And particularly if you get to the point where you make the decision to expand the mandate to embrace broadcasting, at some practical level most of the problems that a TELUS customer is going to have will be embraced by the CCTS mandate. So I think that’s the sort of high-level practical answer.
1062 I don’t know if you have anything to add beyond that?
1063 MR. EDORA: I think it’s important to recognize what we say about interpretation. We understand that CCTS is going to take the facts of a situation and examine them and see whether there’s a fault in the service provider or what exactly happened, and if that involves a Wireless Code breach or some breach of a code, then absolutely, even if the customer didn’t specifically raise that breach, then we expect the CCTS will investigate a particular breach.
1064 The interpretation role that we were advising against was when it was a particular circumstance where the CCTS actually read a Code differently than it was actually written. That’s when we took some problem with what the CCTS was trying to do.
1065 And to answer your question, Commissioner Simpson, I completely agree, if the CCTS sees a general trend in service compliance about TELUS, that may not be specifically about one complaint but might happen in a number of areas, then they should raise it with us, maybe not specifically define us in breach of any particular provision but just say “We noticed that three complaints came on on this particular thing and so maybe you want to investigate your services and see whether there’s some improvement you can make.”
1066 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thanks.
1067 I can’t help but observe that in both the Part 1 before the hearing and through the number of interveners today that I keep hearing he word ombudsman used frequently to reference some of the work or to reference CCTS, and yet in a lot of the Part 1 interventions that we’re getting from stakeholders, it seems that they want to characterize CCTS as sort of a glorified complaints department.
1068 And I’m trying to probe whether, from my line of questioning here on the broad base stuff, whether there isn’t a movement within the consumers who are seeking to do their end on a long-term relationship that is causing -- is the underpinning of a lot of the unsatisfied complaints because they’re out of scope. Because, you know, I think we saw numbers of 57,000 complainants, 90 percent were satisfied but 157,000 other calls, and we just don’t know what those represent.
1069 So my question I guess is this. If an ombudsman -- I guess I’m trying to figure out whether you would agree that they act in some part as an ombudsman organization or ombudsperson because -- now, the very loose definition of an ombudsperson is someone or something that is advocating on behalf of the customer or the consumer or the citizen, and part of their role is to identify systematic problems that occur. And given that stakeholders within CCTS don’t like that expansion of the scope, but on the other end you -- I’ve referenced that the other side of this bit would be a glorified complaints department. If you had to describe CCTS somewhere between those two, what would it be today? Would it be a complaints department or ombuds organization?
1070 MR. SCHMIDT: On the terms that -- I’m thrilled that you defined ombudsman because -- or gave us operational terms because I wouldn’t have been able to do that on the fly.
1071 To the extent that you operationalize the ombudsman role as advocacy, we would say it would be in conflict to some degree with the terms of the Procedural Code which envisages impartiality as between providers as across the customer and the provider. So I doubt it’s compatible with the way the Code is cast now and I would question whether it’s compatible with the intent of the Order-in-Council which had in mind complaints resolution which has a sort of adjudicative quality to it as opposed to an advocacy quality. So that would be my sense right now. I’m not saying whether it’s good or bad but that it’s probably incompatible with some of these key instruments.
1072 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: So you’re kicking the ball right back to us. That’s why he’s got the big job.
1073 I’d like to ask some anecdotal questions about awareness. TELUS -- because I live in your backyard -- is a very effective advertiser and promoter of your products. You’ve won many awards for you campaigns. You spend a lot of money.
1074 But I find it interesting that you take the position that you think the awareness levels and the job of promotion and awareness that the CCTS is doing is just fine.
1075 Mr. Maker said earlier today he has no idea what the benchmark should be for awareness. You spend millions, I presume, on your campaigns. Do you sort of operate on the same premise that you have no idea what a good campaign represents in terms of awareness or is this something that perhaps you and other stakeholders should be sharing with the CCTS to give them some guidance?
1076 MR. SCHMIDT: I think it’s possible that a number of us will have a useful perspective to offer on this. I would say most unhelpfully as a prefatory comment, I mean, we’re -- our sense is it’s not general awareness in the abstract. That’s the aim, you know, so that every Canadian from age 4 to 104 can spell the URL of CCTS in French or English but rather for that -- at that crucial moment, for the small subset of folks who are complaining that they can find it, they know where it is like 911, so to speak, and it’s readily discoverable. So that’s sort of our way of looking at it. There may be a number of other perspectives we can share here as well.
1077 MS. MAINVILLE-NEESON: I think I might add as well to your point, Commissioner Simpson, that when we -- when we place an ad wherever, whether it’s on television or in print or wherever, we’re looking at targeting a certain market. And what we’ve said in our submission is that the CCTS should be looking at targeting its marketing, let’s put it that way, to the folks who actually need that information when they need it. So general awareness of the CCTS is not the buyers group when you compare our advertising. General advertising is one thing, but more often than not we’re targeting certain segments to whom we want to sell products, and we believe that the CCTS should also be looking at improving its marketing only where it is most needed, and we believe that that is when a customer has a complaint, which is why the awareness of when they have a concern that they weren’t able to resolve with their service provider, that’s where they need to focus their attention, not on general awareness how many Canadians in fact are aware of that particular organization.
1078 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: But you just may have outperformed Google if you really believe that can happen. I mean, that’s like saying if you need a dentist you presuppose that you know who will need a dentist down the road and only target to those people so that when they have a toothache they’ll know where to call.
1079 MS. KING: I think we’re accountable for serving our customers and for giving that level of service that our customers expect. They expect us to resolve their issues, and through that process we’re committed to resolving our customers’ issues, but when we fail they clearly tell us when we fail and we then have a responsibility to then promote the CCTS and their options to go to that body to help resolve the issue. But I’d say first and foremost it’s our responsibility towards our customers.
1080 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay. I’m going to leave it at this and then we’ll take a break.
1081 May I get clarification on something that you said in your written intervention? I’m trying not to paraphrase here. This had to do with your overall satisfaction levels with the level of promotion the CCTS is doing, and I think it was also a trailing part of why you felt that they shouldn’t be relying on expensive tools like television advertising pro bono or otherwise.
1082 But it was said that current communications mechanisms are sufficient as long as unsatisfied customers are aware of their rights to use the CCTS.
1083 Now, I feel that's sort of splitting an infinitive here, but what -- are you saying that you feel the levels of promotion are good because those who walk away unhappy, that 10 percent, at least knew they had the CCTS?
1084 What was the -- unpack that statement for me. Where did he get it?
1085 MR. EDORA: I don't have the liberty of reviewing that intervention ---
1086 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Right.
1087 MR. EDORA: --- the message that -- I'm sorry.
1088 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: We'll find it for you during the break.
1089 MR. EDORA: Oh, no, it's fine, Commissioner Simpson. I think that we -- there might be some unclarity in terms of what we wrote there.
1090 What we're talking about in that particular case is not that the class of unsatisfied customers walk away knowing that they have the CCTS in -- as a potential option for them. It's when a customer makes it clear to us -- as Arleen mentioned, when a customer makes it clear to us that we are not doing enough for them, in their mind, that we make their options available to them. That's the unsatisfied customer we're talking about in that situation.
1091 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you.
1092 For the record, it was Question 6 in the -- I pre-supposed it was the deficiencies. The question was, "Are the current measures used by CCTS participants to promote the CCTS sufficient?" And it goes on.
1093 And your answer was:
1094 "The current communication mechanisms are sufficient. So long as unsatisfied customers are aware of the right to bring their complaint to CCTS, there is no need to promote the CCTS."
1095 Then I just felt it was sort of folding onto itself.
1096 So anyway, there were a couple of instances where I had a need for clarification, but we'll get into those after the break. Thanks.
1097 THE CHAIRPERSON: So why don't we take a 10-minute break? We'll come back at about 3:10 and continue the line of questioning.
1098 Thank you.
--- Upon recessing at 3:01 p.m.
--- Upon resuming at 3:12 p.m.
1099 THE SECRETARY: Please take your seats.
1100 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Simpson.
1101 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Let's first talk about participation requirements.
1102 You were extremely clear, thank you very much, on your view with respect to mandatory participations in both TSPs and TBSPs, but I'd like to get into a little bit of, you know, how that would work.
1103 Your view was that -- I'm going to specifically talk about TSPs for a second because I have a separate set of -- different questions on TBSPs.
1104 You had said that your view was that participation with TSPs should be mandatory and imposed immediately.
1105 So with respect to that view, do you have anything you can contribute to whether you've thought about what that would do to the administrative costs of CCTS and would those -- and if you have, would those costs far -- would the costs be outweighed by the benefits of having them on board?
1106 MR. SCHMIDT: So if this is a question about telecom service providers?
1107 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yeah, TSPs.
1108 MR. SCHMIDT: I keep getting lost in the acronyms for a moment.
1109 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yeah. Welcome into my world. Yeah, TSPs.
1110 MR. SCHMIDT: In chatting about this very issue at lunch, we did feel that you would reach some cost benefit sort of disjunction where potentially enormous amounts of resources at the CCTS are diverted away from the timely resolution of problems and into the chasing down of these small providers with three customers or something.
1111 So you do have an issue where the cost and benefit fall out of balance. How you resolve that is a good question, whether you raise thresholds on size. You've used revenue thresholds in certain instances, or whether you give them a longer timeline to comply. The whole five-day idea seemed very challenging to us where it might take sort of five days to figure out is this spam or is this a real email or whatever.
1112 So it may be both a greater time to come into compliance as necessary and you may consider different triggers that leave some people effectively immune from having to comply, but maybe they're just so small.
1113 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: I should have actually embellished that question by giving you some benefit of my thinking here.
1114 I was looking at CCTS' issues regarding the resource -- the application of resources to the triggering method and how long that triggering method seems to take before, you know, a TSP gets on board. And it seemed to be quite a consumer of dollars and human time, and I was just trying to understand whether there was a benefit to the mandatory immediate sign-up.
1115 MR. SCHMIDT: And I think we're kind of getting there.
1116 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yeah. Okay.
1117 On resellers, sort of the same question, but I've got, actually, another question first.
1118 Are your resellers who are authorized Telus resellers somehow automatically tied to an obligation to -- if there's a complaint directed at them because of your membership, are there any obligations that they play ball?
1119 MR. SCHMIDT: So there -- my colleagues may wish to add to this, but, you know, historically, you had no mechanism under the Act for fixing obligations directly to resellers, and I know you know that. So folks who entered into agreements with us, you know, either by virtue of the provisions of tariffs or by virtue of the provisions of agreements, we've -- you know, the Commission has compelled us to fasten the obligations onto them that way, so absolutely.
1120 It's out there. But the far more, I think, efficient mechanism to sort of reach them in the aggregate would be instead of effectively us chasing them in almost a private contract mode would be to apply the obligations to them directly.
1121 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: And do you have any view, given your intimate knowledge of the industry and the reseller side of the industry, how complex or achievable -- if we were to take the view that we wanted to impose CCTS on all resellers, there's awareness and ability, I think, as issues for their compliance, if not participation.
1122 Have you got anything that you could share?
1123 MR. SCHMIDT: You seem to have more scope, potentially, for achieving it readily on the telecom side of your mandate because of other sort of infrastructure that you have in place, bits licensing, reseller registration, contribution payments, so you have a lot more visibility on these folks and you kind of know where they live. So I think you could get there a lot quicker on the telecom side.
1124 I have some sympathy for the view that it could be incredibly challenging on the broadcast side, including going after exempt folks that you don't even know who they are.
1125 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yeah. But on the telecom side, there would be -- are we to anticipate there would be a level of cooperation between all the major incumbents because they know where all the resellers are, that there would be -- it would be a fairly easy exercise to aggregate who they are in a marketplace?
1126 MR. SCHMIDT: Yeah. To some extent they're aggregated on your web site through ---
1127 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yeah.
1128 MR. SCHMIDT: And there might be a small additional husk of them that are not registered and -- but we -- to the extent that we deal with them, yes, you would pick up a lot of awareness just through knowing who the big players deal with.
1129 What do you think about the issue of -- I'm thinking here about triggers, if we stay with that for some reason, although that doesn't seem to be the popular avenue of approach.
1130 Do you think that triggers would be more effective in that they might not happen as frequently if there was some kind of imposition of -- or obligation for resellers and non-member TSPs to effectively promote the existence of CCTS, if not outright at the first level of a problem that they experience with a customer?
1131 MR. SCHMIDT: My kind of cynical or concerned reaction would be that they -- you're having trouble getting them to comply with obligations X and Y and Z now, and you want to nail more one onto them.
1132 I don’t in fact think we’ll necessarily be successful, but that said, if you're casting it in terms of a direct obligation that's attachable to them, perhaps we’ll do better than the past.
1133 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Do you think that -- or is it your view that all TSPs and resellers would have the financial capacity to participate if the -- if their participation -- if their participation became mandatory?
1134 MR. SCHMIDT: I mean, subject to check, the expense of participation isn't onerous, and so the answer is yes, one way or the other. And I -- again, I have -- I have sympathy for the view this morning that was expressed I think by PIAC that these are very important services that are being offered to the public. They're not in, you know, the t-shirt business or the lollipop business or whatever, they're in the telecommunications business, it’s a special type of enterprise that carries with it additional obligations, so “c’est la vie”, you know.
1135 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: This is a question for both TVSPs and TSPs. It’s been proposed by you and I'm not sure by others that the ratio of the revenues of CCTS change -- the ratio if I recall is about 60 percent in your proposal that would be from complaints’ levies and the rest from general revenue -- is -- could you sort of expand on the rationale behind that? And is it tied to your position on resellers and other TSPs coming in?
1136 MR. EDORA: It’s not tied to our position on resellers, it’s entirely based on the philosophy that if you drive complaints to the CCTS, you should pay more. And so the current model is 60 revenue, 40 -- 40 percent complaint- based, and I think it was set up for that for some certainty in CCTS as infancy or -- is to make sure they had a steady or a consistent stream of revenue.
1137 But now that it’s been established and we have mandatory requirements for membership and participation, our -- our proposal is based on the -- the fact that if you're a service provider and you know that you're paying more if you send more complaints or if you have more complaints before the CCTS, maybe you’ll do something so you won't have that same number. And so it’s entirely based on making -- giving incentives to reduce the number of complaints.
1138 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: So you're looking at it as an incentive. But from an operational standpoint, for some reason this recommendation is flying around in my head as being a little counterintuitive because if the revenues were -- on ratio were declining and yet the membership increasing, wouldn’t that contribute more to the CCTS coffers if there was a wholesale increase in membership?
1139 MR. EDORA: I think that the budget for the CCTS is set. I think we heard this morning from the CCTS that they ask for a certain amount of money in their budget and that’s not tied to -- that’s not tied to the fact that you might have 50 big guys and 10 small players, it’s tied to what they expect their complaint volume to be.
1140 And so I don’t think that you're going to have -- I don’t think that our -- our proposal affects that calculation at all. What it -- what it affects is the fact that as a service provider I know that each complaint costs $80 or somewhere thereabouts or some amount, if that amount increases to 100 or $200, then as a service provider I have an incentive to reduce the number of complaints that go to CCTS.
1141 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Sort of like experience rating which is used in things like workers’ compensation where if you're a particularly bad actor with respect to accidents on the job site, you know, you're hit on a per-accident claim is going to go way up. I’m kidding, I get it, it took me a while but I got it.
1142 On TSP specifically now, if there's mandatory membership as you're proposing -- and I guess I want to take that apart -- when you say that you believe that all TVSP should be members, both licensed and exempt, are you also indicating that that should be the case for independent TVSPs?
1143 MS. MAINVILLE-NEESON: Frankly, other than the cost effective comments that were made by my colleague Stephen, ultimately there's no reason to separate those who are independent from those who are affiliated with larger providers. So yes, once you put it either as a condition of license, condition of exemption, everyone should be captured in our view.
1144 Now, recognizing however that really small players -- it just might not be cost effective to go after those very small ones, and that’s a separate issue to deal with, but from -- strictly speaking philosophically should independents somehow not be captured by this, it doesn’t seem to -- to fit with the objectives of the CCTS.
1145 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: So what would happen if in the course of clarity reasoning of the Commission we decided that exempt independent TVSP shouldn’t have to adhere to the code, what happens to that recommendation?
1146 MS. MAINVILLE-NEESON: Certainly that will create a lot of complexity for the CCTS in administrating any complaints that will be received regarding those providers, because it will have to ---
1147 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yeah.
1148 MS. MAINVILLE-NEESON: --- determine that this complaint can't be dealt with that. And from a consumer perspective it would be very unfortunate, because the -- if the complexity is very high for an expert like the CCTS, I can't imagine how consumers will understand what's happening to them.
1149 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: And we all love symmetry, don’t we? Particularly the regulatory.
1150 On TVSPs, I'm thinking about participation models here, given vertical immigration and affiliation, if a TVSP is either owned by or affiliated with a TSP, should these companies be required to immediately come on board or is there a -- because I'm thinking in regulatory terms whether if conditions of license were to be the mechanism by which all this happens, there's a bit of a gap here and have you thought about that in terms of -- because you don’t want a -- you know, a hard stop or a hard start would be advantageous to participation, but there's regulatory issues with respect to the time period between that date and a renewal of a license. How would that work in your mind? What's your goal ---
1151 MS. MAINVILLE-NEESON: Well we’re certainly hoping that once -- once the new TVSP code is announced that there will be a period of -- before which we will have time to adjust our systems and whatnot for ultimate implementation of the TVSP code, at which time we’ll be getting closer to some of the renewal dates for the -- for many of the broadcast distribution undertakings.
1152 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: M'hm.
1153 MS. MAINVILLE-NEESON: Or at least within past the five years where you can call them in for -- for bringing in conditions of license, so I’m -- if a sufficient ramp up period for the implementation of the TVSP code is provided, I think that solves the problem of the asymmetrical implementation by condition of license.
1154 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay, thank you.
1155 Again, on participation models, staff’s curious and this is where we get in minutia a little bit here, but if the Commission decides in its wisdom that we’re going to stay with the trigger -- a triggering system and it triggers the participation of TSP and we create the same for TVSP, if a complaint triggers a requirement -- I’m reading here, I can't hide it:
1156 “If a complaint triggers a requirement to participate in the CCTS for a service provider, should that company be required to participate with the CCTS for all communications that -- that they offer, subscription, TV, telecommunications, regardless of the service type that the complaint was about?”
1157 MS. MAINVILLE-NEESON: Again, we would answer yes on the basis of symmetry.
1158 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay.
1159 MS. MAINVILLE-NEESON: It seems to -- once the -- once the CCTS has undertaken to find that provider and bring them in, the goal is really to reduce some of the -- the workload in bringing ---
1160 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yeah.
1161 MS. MAINVILLE-NEESON: --- membership in.
1162 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: So the butterfly net will work, okay.
1163 Enforcement, it’s been inferred by a lot of intervenors that the -- that the Commission should have perhaps a more elevated role in this -- in this matter. And I’m curious -- in your view what specific obligations we should -- the Commission look at enforcing if we decided to weigh in? I mean after all we have our own little police force now with badges and everything, I’m just kidding. But if -- if we got involved more in the enforcement, could you prescribe where, how and how far?
1164 MR. SCHMIDT: This is an interesting question, I mean certainly we’ve said a lot to the Commission in the course of various proceedings about enforcement and enforcement models, and we believe the CCTS ought to exhaust a sort of progressive discipline model effectively where it’s not going to capital punishment first but it sort of cajoles, warrants, whatever.
1165 And if it can’t bring, say, a TSP on side, at the end of the day, they are breaching a Section 24 condition and it eventually becomes the Commission’s problem, I suspect, to secure compliance.
1166 And I actually think it will probably be easier for the Commission to secure some measure of rapid compliance compared to the CCTS. It’s just obvious that you have a range of statutory tools and bad things can happen if the folks don’t come into line.
1167 So I would contemplate a role for you. You have a lot of tools in your toolbox and sometimes just the fact of calling is enough.
1168 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: And what should we stay away from?
1169 MR. SCHMIDT: That’s less obvious to me but membership -- membership is absolutely crucial and core.
1170 If there’s anything you want to add, Eric, I’m ---
1171 MR. EDORA: I think some of the CCTS requirements were listed earlier. I won’t be able to rattle them all off, but things like obviously participation, payment of revenues, participating in the public awareness plan. These are integral components of any member’s requirements.
1172 And so we think that if the CCTS understands their systemic non-compliance on any particular participant, and they’ve tried and used their efforts to try to get that participant to perform its obligations, this is when the CRTC might be able to use some of the tools to help with that type of -- with those types of obligations.
1173 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: On the issues of CCTS’s role in interpreting the Wireless Code and potentially the -- and assessing potential breaches, I have been curious about your position where you say that, you know, if the CCTS is permitted to issue interpretations, there must be full public transparency.
1174 And I am curious as to what exactly do you mean? Are you talking about in annual report reporting? Are you talking about in rendering decisions?
1175 Because it sounds to me like if you’re going to get called out -- any member is called out on a -- on a violation or a decision, that if interpretation was involved, you want full disclosure so that the company can at least have its side presented as to why the finding -- as to what led up to the decision.
1176 Am I reading that right?
1177 MR. EDORA: Again, I have to apologize. I’m not certain what reference you’re speaking about.
1178 When we talked about interpretation in a specific case of a Code particular provision, the position of TELUS in that case was that it wasn’t that the CCTS should never interpret a Code because it’s limited to a strict administration; look and see and then apply.
1179 In so many cases in the CCTS’s role, it’s going to have to interpret a provision, compare it to the facts, and apply it. And so that’s not what we’re talking about.
1180 What we were talking about was a specific Wireless Code provision that was clear, and the CCTS read it a different way. And it created a problem because, as a service provider, when we did our compliance program for the Wireless Code, we read the words on the paper and we complied in a particular way.
1181 And so it left us in a situation where it was impossible for us to comply because the CCTS was taking the Code provision in a different way.
1182 And when we talked about transparency in that particular context, what we were talking about was the CRTC proceeding that led to the Wireless Code was completely transparent and had the participants and intervenors able to comment on every proposed provision of the Code. And that’s the transparency.
1183 When the CCTS goes beyond its mandate and starts interpreting Code provisions in that case, there is no public proceeding there. It’s just the CCTS imposing its decision on a particular provision and that left us, as I said, in a situation of non-compliance.
1184 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay.
1185 So that was an isolated instance but you’re cautioning that if it happens again, that would be your remedy?
1186 MR. EDORA: Yes, the -- Rogers filed the Part 1 Application about that particular provision and we intervened. And our comments in that intervention were that, were precisely what I said.
1187 But in addition, we understand the CCTS’s role, and it has a difficult job to enforce the Wireless Code. And so if it ends up in a situation where it disagrees or it thinks that a particular provision needs to be expanded beyond what is written on paper, then it can raise that with the CRTC or, yes in this particular case, a service provider actually had to file a Part 1 Application to the CRTC for interpretation.
1188 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay, thanks. That helps.
1189 Why are you opposed to the CCTS identifying breaches of the Wireless Code that were specifically identified by customers in their complaints or is that just rehashing what you said?
1190 MR. EDORA: It’s a different issue. It’s related, but we don’t disagree with the CCTS raising a potential Wireless Code breach in the context of a complaint.
1191 What we were talking about in that particular case was -- the CCTS’s role is to resolve complaints. And I mean we all agree with that. They do a great job.
1192 And so in the situations that TELUS was faced with, we actually had situations where a customer complained, there was an investigation, and the CCTS actually found in TELUS’s favour. We acted reasonably with that customer and they closed the complaint.
1193 And so in our view, that’s the end of that particular complaint and the jurisdiction of the CCTS. What they did was they examined the full facts and said there’s another fact here, TELUS, that we don’t think you complied with the Wireless Code and therefore we are going to find you in breach.
1194 And in that particular case, again, we’re not saying the CCTS couldn’t raise that with us. It’s really good information for us to know that there was a problem or potential problem in our service provision that might have breached the Wireless Code but allow us to correct that.
1195 In the context of this complaint, we shouldn’t be found in breach because the complaint was closed and in that particular case actually closed in our favour.
1196 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Then help me understand, why in my mind interpretation -- or the Wireless Code and Code of Conduct is part of their mandate? Why do you think it was inappropriate for them to wade into that?
1197 MR. EDORA: Because in the context of the complaint ---
1198 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Because they were wrong?
1199 MR. EDORA: No. Well, no.
1200 The customer was raising an issue that wasn’t related to the Wireless Code situation. It was a billing dispute and we settled the billing dispute and, as I said, it was actually settled in our favour.
1201 As in the context of that billing dispute, there was a suspension of the customer services and CCTS decided to investigate whether our suspension process followed the Wireless Code.
1202 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: So they jumped the tracks on you?
1203 MR. EDORA: Yes. As I said, our issue wasn’t that they informed us that the Wireless Code suspension provisions were not followed. We accepted that. And they should tell us that.
1204 But the problem was that they published that we breached the Wireless Code provision where, in the context of that complaint, we were actually found in favour.
1205 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay. Mr. Schmidt?
1206 MR. SCHMIDT: At the end of the day, it becomes a kind of rule of law, what are the contours of their mandate. They acquire their mandate from resolving a particular complaint and not sort of saying, “You know but I’m also kind of interested in your compliance on a bunch of other things, and I’m going to look into it.”
1207 And you know these Constating Documents, and the Order in Council, and the Commission’s decision have to mean something, and I think it’s the Commission that can take a larger role. And it has said as much in the Wireless decision about systemic non-compliance or whatever.
1208 So it’s a concern about confining them to their box, and we all have to be concerned about that, including that TELUS be appropriately confined to its box under the Act, et cetera.
1209 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: We will see. Thank you.
1210 If Google is now the alphabet company and this is the alphabet organization. The NPF, COSCO, PIAC argument was the CCTS really should stick its nose into all aspects in broadcasting and/or television services, not just complaints. And you have a view on that.
1211 Would you mind expanding on that?
1212 MS. MAINVILLE-NEESON: Well, I think there are numerous issues that distributors have to deal with on a day-to-day basis that aren’t in the TVSP Code and are other regulatory requirements, simultaneous substitution being one of them, for example.
1213 When a customer complains that they have had an issue with that, it is something that we will resolve with the complainant naturally, but it isn’t in the TVSP Code. And to have the CCTS have to learn all of the rules that the CRTC has put in place with respect to the regulated broadcasting system seems way out of scope.
1214 So yes we absolutely feel that confining to the TVSP code makes a lot of sense and it is within the expertise of the CCTS and it is something that they would do well.
1215 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: I think I hear you saying that, you know, there’s a very definite line between transmission and content, for example.
1216 And this organisation has been predominantly focused on delivery of content, but not the content itself; is that correct?
1217 MS. MAINVILLE-NEESON: Absolutely. Certainly delivery of content to the extent the content itself is within the scope of the CBSC, for example, and all other matters that are within the distributor’s bailiwick, but not the billing customer relationship, is something that is best handled by the CRTC and it’s within its expertise.
1218 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you.
1219 Annual report subject -- I’m getting down to the end of my questions here.
1220 Going back to resellers, if this Commission decided to -- that resellers should come into the CCTS and thinking about that in context to a recurring issue with resellers not always following the game plan of the wholesaler, and therefore problems created at the consumer end, what would be your main concern regarding bringing resellers into the fold so that it makes it a lot more difficult for them just to point the finger at the wholesaler and say the problem is with him not with me?
1221 Because that seems to be a pattern and that -- and I guess I’m asking you this in context to why some feel that it would be a problem to have the CCTS report on these trends as a specific instance in their annual report?
1222 MR. SCHMIDT: The publication is core to the mandate as conceived by the order and council, and we find it -- it’s frankly very useful for the reputational pressure it puts on people who aren’t living up to the game for encouraging us to raise our game, et cetera.
1223 We don’t want to be slipping year, over year, et cetera, so the report is a useful sort of form of soft power, that I think benefits the industry and consumers.
1224 Naming people who are sort of offside their obligations, including resellers, may -- you know, publication may be a useful tool; amps aren’t the only tool in the toolbox.
1225 So there could be some benefit to that. Hopefully that gets part way to your answer.
1226 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Anyone else?
1227 MR. EDORA: I’m looking at the annual report and the top 10 issues raised in complaints, things like incorrect charge, non-disclosure of terms, cancellation policy. These are service terms that the re-seller imposes directly on its end customer.
1228 It’s got nothing to do with the wholesale arrangement.
1229 And so for a re-seller to say we had a lot of complaints because of our wholesale provision wasn’t satisfactory, I don’t think -- I think that avoids the real issue which is you have -- you might have had a lot of service issues that are directly within the retail provision of the service.
1230 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: I’m sure you’re pained, because I can tell you, you know, from within my office how often we hear that the CRTC made us do it.
1231 And it ---
1232 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Anyway, I want to get into governance for a second.
1233 You know, it’s a complicated structure when you’ve got membership with vested interest and then you have a board that practices governance on behalf of the greater good and the whole.
1234 And most of the rest of the questions regarding governance, I think, were asked this morning by the Chair, but mine is wanting to focus in on your submission where you noted that the rule -- I’m talking specifically about corporate governance with respect to sub-committee.
1235 And I’m wondering if you could just give me a little bit of a walking tour on the role of the corporate governance sub-committee and how it plays that role with respect to ensuring independence and ultimately the effectiveness of the CCTS.
1236 MR. EDORA: We have to apologize. We’re not -- none of us are members of this board and so we’re not directly aware of the corporate governance sub-committee of the board of the CCTS.
1237 MR. SCHMIDT: Yes, if there’s an acute interest in us answering this --
1238 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: M'hm, m’hm, yes.
1239 MR. SCHMIDT: -- we could undertake but we’re not -- we have no sort of participation in this day to day board.
1240 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Fine then, let’s do this as an undertaking and what is the cut-off, Mr. Chair?
1241 THE CHAIRPERSON: The 12th of November.
1242 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you very much. Would that be okay? Thank you, okay.
1243 Undertaking / Engagement
1244 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Now onto the fun stuff, promotion.
1245 I had asked most of my questions earlier but I have to go back to the issue of what potential good things might happen coming out of the TVSPs coming on board.
1246 You had taken a position where you said oh advertising on television is expensive and it’s, you know, it’s really a big boy’s game and the like.
1247 Yet it’s an extremely powerful medium and there are provisions, as I asked earlier of Mr. Maker, such as the interstitials that are made available to BDUs.
1248 And I would like you to tell me why you still think that television in any form, as a part of TVSP participation and promotion of the CCTS, is a bad thing?
1249 MS. MAINVILLE-NEESON: So the -- it’s not so much that TELUS has indicated that it’s a bad thing.
1250 The -- our point is that general awareness -- twofold. General awareness we didn’t believe is really where we should be focusing our efforts, but rather on ensuring that when someone needs the services they know where to get it.
1251 So that’s the first point which I think we’ve exhausted. The second point, with respect to the use of the local avails or the interstitials as you’re mentioning, these -- not all CCTS members would have access to local avails. Of course it would be only the TVSPs, so there would be an asymmetrical obligation imposed on them.
1252 In addition, not all TVSPs use the local avails and therefore wouldn’t -- don’t have them available. They haven’t negotiated the contract arrangements in order to be able to use them. They haven’t setup the infrastructure.
1253 And so to the extent that you’d have this obligation on some CCTS members and only some of -- a portion of those TVSP members, is of course a concern.
1254 The concern would be lessened, of course, if the -- if the use of the local avails were part of that general 75 percent which is allocated to the broadcasters and not to the BDUs. At least that would eliminate some of the discomfort on the asymmetrical application.
1255 And so at this point, especially since the whole business model for the use of local avails is under some pressure, given some changes that were introduced following the let’s talk TV hearings.
1256 And so making an exception to allow for the CCTS PSA to be in that portion, the broadcaster portion of the local avails, that 75 percent allocated to them, is something that might be less punitive to the TVSP service providers.
1257 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay.
1258 Given that many of the -- I’m thinking particularly smaller and exempt TVSPs are potentially IP providers as well, is there any thought that they might include banner ads or splash -- on their splash pages and so on?
1259 Is that something that might -- it’s definitely out of scope with respect to VIPs but it is -- there seems to be such a reliance within a lot of the membership to use internet to communicate, you know, email and other forms, with respect to the services of the CCTS, that I’m just wondering if that’s -- am I jumping the tracks here or is that something that -- because webpages are used by IPs to promote themselves as well.
1260 MS. MAINVILLE-NEESON: So just so I understand the question, are you talking about the websites of the individual providers, whether they’re TSPs or TVSPs or are you talking about the mobile content ---
1261 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: I’m thinking -- I’m thinking of the exempts in particular, you know, because a lot of the exempts are usually small IPs as well.
1262 MS. MAINVILLE-NEESON: As in exempt distribution undertakings?
1263 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yes, yes.
1264 MS. MAINVILLE-NEESON: And on their TV service provision -- sorry, which is IP?
1265 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: I’m trying to figure out ways to -- and to help Mr. Maker enhance his brand, through to the possible coming on board of the TVSPs.
1266 MS. MAINVILLE-NEESON: Yes.
1267 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: But the VIs and the affiliated ones, I think you know there’s a lot of tools available to them, but with the small exempts, has there been consideration of the membership or the governance of CCTS as to how they might weigh in and punch above their weight with promotion?
1268 MS. MAINVILLE-NEESON: Right. You know, obviously we’re not in that position and I can’t speak on their behalf.
1269 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: You’re not there yet.
1270 MS. MAINVILLE-NEESON: It just seems to me that, you know, banner ads and those types of things, when you’re embedding it onto something that a costumer is tuning in to watch is probably not the best approach to customer satisfaction and also particularly difficult for a smaller entity. It’s not that easy.
1271 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: TV ads seem to work. But anyway, thank you because that was my little way of getting on the record with an idea.
1272 Now cleaning up I’ve got two more questions, I think. With respect to accessibility, is it a policy of TELUS’ to make those who are -- have accessibility issues -- do you promote CCTS on the accessibility pages of your website?
1273 MR. SCHMIDT: I’ll start and Eric will fix my answer.
1274 So for a variety of reasons we make our webpages accessible according to certain standards. In addition, we’re a phone company so of course there’s TTY and other modes for the deaf or the hard-of-hearing communicating with us. So we certainly do take a variety of measures for a variety of reasons.
1275 MR. EDORA: To answer your specific question about the special needs webpage, I actually don’t know. We’ll look into that, and I think that it’s a great suggestion.
1276 I mean, as Stephen has mentioned, we make the CCTS webpage accessible on its own through our webpage, but if there is a specific need for our special needs page to actually highlight the CCTS, then certainly that’s a possibility.
1277 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Great.
1278 Do you know or have you contemplated using text as a way to reach out because there are communities that rely heavily on texts on their phones to communicate?
1279 MR. EDORA: Text as it means to educate our customers about CCTS?
1280 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: I’m thinking SMS in particular. I know that that’s a thorny issue because, you know, on hand the Commission is wanting to, you know, stop SMS practices on an advertising sense, but it’s still an effective tool.
1281 MR. EDORA: It certainly is an effective tool. I mean, millions of text messages every second indicate how useful text messaging is.
1282 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yeah.
1283 MR. EDORA: I think the issue that we have with text messaging isn’t that it’s not effective; it’s just that we want to make sure that the communication is actually itself effective, and sending a text message to all of our wireless customers about the existence of CCTS might be looked at as more of an irritation or a nuisance as opposed to a useful message.
1284 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: M’hm.
1285 MR. EDORA: And I think that in 2011, the public awareness plan was designed so that we put messages in our -- on our bills instead of text messaging for our postpaid customers.
1286 I think Darlene wants to add something.
1287 MS. DASILVA: We do provide a text message to our prepaid client basis because they don’t get a paper invoice for the ---
1288 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Good, great, because that’s a whole other issue that that captures with respect to particularly the young’uns who don’t get paper bills. Thanks very much on that.
1289 Second-to-last question, on non-PSPs there’s been interventions that we’ve received that say a lot of -- some non-PSPs might not be aware of even the existence of CCTS and, therefore, don’t -- never file a complaint with the Commission.
1290 So I guess my question is this. Should the Commission require that non-PSPs comply with the requirements of the CCTS Awareness Plan?
1291 MR. EDORA: We’re not sure what a non-PSP is. Is there a description or definition that we can ---
1292 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Well, it’s all service providers, you know.
1293 Would you like to clarify what a PSP is?
1294 THE CHAIRPERSON: It’s a participating service provider.
1295 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Sorry, it’s our acronym.
1296 THE CHAIRPERSON: So a member of the acronym means somebody who’s a TSP who happens to be a participating member of the CCTS, with “non” appended in front of it, meaning who aren’t in fact participating.
1297 MR. SCHMIDT: I think it brings you back to the general awareness thing. It’s important to build general awareness. We’re not trying to minimize that, or it’s important to build awareness and our quibbles are more about the how, not the if. I think the Commission will own part of that and CCTS will own part of it in terms of reaching out to that stakeholder set of providers who hasn’t seen fit to come on board.
1298 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yeah, that seems to be the general thrust of that question.
1299 And if we were to do that, if we were to impose upon them participation in the awareness plan, I think we are looking for suggestions as to how that participation might be worded given that you are -- you have a governance role within the CCTS and it really is an issue that’s on your side of the fence, but we can certainly -- we can stimulate it. So it’s definitely something worth thinking about and if you have a contribution that you can make to the CCTS, we would appreciate it.
1300 MR. SCHMIDT: I think that a practical challenge is not on the carrier side of the ledger but on the all the much smaller re-sellers who probably -- it’s not willful non-compliance; they just don’t even have a contemplation that they’re actually caught by this. And so partly it’s a communications problem and now with your new Section 24 power for non-carriers, you know, I think you can actually broadcast the decision that explicitly catches them and it may become more obvious that they’re roped in than in the past, which understandably they might not have been aware.
1301 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: M’hm.
1302 MS. MAINVILLE-NEESON: Commissioner Simpson, we’d be pleased to add to our undertaking in contemplating this suggestion.
1303 Undertaking / Engagement
1304 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Last question, hurray.
1305 With respect to remedies, the whole issue of remedies, including financial rewards for damages or claims or settlements to a customer, should -- what’s your position on whether an offending member should have to go back and help that customer repair their credit by actually engaging their credit service agency to help rather than it being their responsibility alone?
1306 MR. SCHMIDT: Darlene’s going to answer this one. Thank you.
1307 MS. DASILVA: If there’s an error on the service provider’s part, definitely, absolutely, we should be amending the customer’s credit bureau and fixing that.
1308 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay. But that’s not a policy now of the CRTC or of the CCTS membership? MS. KING: When we found that we have been in the error, then we’ve undertaken that on our behalf.
1309 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: As a company?
1310 MS. KING: As a company.
1311 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: But I’m asking you to -- remember we talked about the two hats of governance, membership versus governance? And I guess what I’m doing is I’m talking because none of you are on the Board, but there is an issue that has caused some concern that some members would not undertake to do that kind of a responsible engagement with the credit service.
1312 MS. KING: We would think that would be a reasonable request.
1313 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: So that’s your position, that it would be reasonable if we were to look at it? Okay. Thank you. That’s it.
1314 THE CHAIRPERSON: Just a few questions. Just to clarify, earlier you were talking about the accessibility pages. So that’s an undertaking for the 12th of November as well?
1315 MR. EDORA: Yeah, absolutely.
1316 Undertaking / Engagement
1317 THE CHAIRPERSON: You make a compelling case that you are really focused as a company on consumers, and I’m just going to take that at face value. I’m not questioning it. You actually put evidence forward.
1318 You may have heard this morning when I was exchanging with CCTS and we talked about CEO visions and then what happens in the front line. So what’s your secret sauce?
1319 MS. KING: A couple of things. To be customer focused I think you have to be permanently dissatisfied, continually looking for what is the next thing that we need to do. We use -- all of our complaints dig in very deep on a daily basis onto understanding what is getting to our customers. We use the CCTS complaints as some very good case stories of what the extreme is and really digging in to that as well. I’d say, you know, we talked about empowering our team to come up with good solutions and allowing them to do so in the name of our customers.
1320 That’s not the only thing. It’s really getting an organization around it. It’s about looking at how you go to market with things. Eliminating fees was not an easy thing for us to do in that context, but it sends a clear message to everyone in our organization, including our frontline team, that we’re very serious about this, looking at what are the processes that are cumbersome for our customers, what policies are customers continually citing as being onerous.
1321 And then when you start to make these changes in the organization, your team and the whole organization starts to say, “Okay, they’re serious about this” and then they start unearthing all of these ideas, and it becomes creating a culture around it.
1322 So that’s, in part, what I would say is the biggest part around that, is being serious about it and being -- you know, taking the risks that sometimes come with either eliminating fees, being simple, putting learning centres in your stores, allowing customers to have shorter windows for appointments, taking all of those risks and knowing that eventually those will pay off. They might cost more in the present, but they will pay off because your customers will reward you. And we see that happening as our customers are rewarding us with being the most loyal in the industry.
1323 THE CHAIRPERSON: Am I correct in assuming as well that the performance contracts within your company reward customer satisfaction -- I don’t want to compare to others -- but perhaps more than other players who might reward company share value as opposed to consumer satisfaction as a performance measure?
1324 MS. KING: I won’t comment about others because I’m not -- I won’t say I was -- have enough insight on that, but I could say that it’s a very big priority for us, and that yes, we do reward based on customer satisfaction.
1325 THE CHAIRPERSON: How is that done?
1326 MS. KING: We actually ask our customers. It’s the customers that grade our satisfaction, not internal people that actually decide whether it was a good interaction.
1327 THE CHAIRPERSON: So you have a metric that comes out that qualifies how satisfied he is, and then how does that get translated in performance?
1328 MS. KING: So we do internal surveys that we do internally to our customers. We also have external -- we engage external firms to evaluate our service as well for likelihood to recommend. But I would say for -- you know, that all of us are accountable. Every team member in TELUS is accountable for and is measured on, and our internal ones that might be specific bound to a specific team member even, where a customer evaluates a specific team member.
1329 THE CHAIRPERSON: Does it represent 5 percent, 20 percent of your incentive remuneration?
1330 MS. KING: I would say more, much more.
1331 THE CHAIRPERSON: Ballpark?
1332 MS. KING: I would say customer focus is about 50 percent or more.
1333 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
1334 MS. KING: In many cases much more, but on the whole 50 percent for sure.
1335 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Thank you.
1336 MS. KING: But I’d have to validate that to be 100 percent sure, but it’s a very large number.
1337 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
1338 It’s not germane to the hearing. I just wanted to give you an opportunity to share your secrets.
1339 THE CHAIRPERSON: A sceptical observer might look at your position on promotion that might argue -- not me, of course, a sceptical observer -- that you fear too much public attention on the CCTS because it might actually damage either your individual brand or your collective brand in the following sense, that the more you speak of complaints, the more it creates perhaps the perception that there’s a problem. And in fact, you’re arguing that you’re dealing with the problem.
1340 How would you respond to that?
1341 MS. KING: Let’s say -- I’m sure you’ve seen our Expect More campaign where we actually highlight some of our -- what we’ve done well and we also highlight where we need to improve. So we’re not at ease with where we are and we think we have more work to do.
1342 Where we see an opportunity is our customers -- we don’t want to send a message to our customers that we’re not accountable to them. So we want to make sure that they understand that we’re accountable.
1343 But as I think most of my colleagues have said, we’re not against promoting. We’re definitely not against that, and I think our results -- we certainly promote on our bills and when our customers escalate, and we’ve seen that that hasn’t stopped us from having great results.
1344 MS. MAINVILLE-NEESON: If I may add, the Expect More campaign that we’ve launched is actually telling our TELUS customers to complain, but to us ---
1345 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
1346 MS. MAINVILLE-NEESON: --- not to the CCTS.
1347 So we’re not trying to shy away from having people express their concerns, quite the opposite, but we do believe that the primary relationship is with us. Our customers should be coming to us with their problems so that we can learn from them and, of course, resolve their concerns.
1348 Promoting the CCTS as the way to go for people who have concerns takes the service provider out of the equation almost, and we feel that we should be the ones who are primarily accountable.
1349 THE CHAIRPERSON: And you see it as a competitive advantage to brand yourself that way?
1350 MS. MAINVILLE-NEESON: That is right, absolutely.
1351 THE CHAIRPERSON: Fair enough.
1352 Thank you. Those are our questions. Thank you very much.
1353 Madame la secrétaire, s’il vous plaît, prochain intervenant.
1354 THE SECRETARY: I would now ask the Consumers Council of Canada to come to the presentation table.
--- (SHORT PAUSE)
1355 THE SECRETARY: Please introduce yourself, and you have 20 minutes.
1356 MR. DEANE: My name is Howard Deane and I’m representing the Consumers Council of Canada. Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, Mr. Vice-Chair and Commissioners.
1357 The Consumers Council of Canada is a not-for-profit organization that supports the protection and strengthening of consumers’ rights, and the awareness of consumer responsibilities. We do this primarily through our efforts to improve the marketplace, working with consumers, government and business.
1358 The Council has a clear interest in the improvement of the public’s awareness of the CCTS, its real and perceived independence, the effectiveness of processing and resolving complaints, and the capturing of unresolved consumer complaints.
1359 We believe that the number of unresolved complaints that do not make it to the CCTS is significant, and that the reasons, and blame, vary. We estimate that there are more than 43,000,000 contracts eligible for CCTS service and resolution, for which only 11,340 complaints were filed last year. That’s one complaint to the CCTS for about every 4,000 contracts. To us this defies common sense.
1360 The TSPs, by and large, are recommending fine tuning in their submissions. We think that a gathering of the facts should be the first step, before determining that only tinkering is required. We don’t have those facts. We see virtually no call for a collection of evidence on which to decide such important matters.
1361 These facts can be determined through a comprehensive multi-stakeholder survey, designed to determine: the degree and nature of unresolved complaints, and the TSPs to which they apply; the TSPs’ adherence to the public awareness initiatives required of them; and, the effectiveness of the public awareness initiatives of the CCTS and the TSPs.
1362 We see conflicting and minimal evidence to support many of the assertions that the TSPs make regarding public awareness.
1363 We see scant evidence about the effectiveness of public awareness efforts being made and little to support assertions and multiple blanket claims and beliefs’ statements of the TSPs, who in essence say: “All is well. Just let us do our job, and there will be no problems.”
1364 We reiterate that we are recommending a multi-stakeholder committee oversee such a survey to ensure that we can dispense in the future with the constant questioning of others’ data, or lack thereof, with little effort in gathering it oneself.
1365 Our resolve for our recommendation to conduct such a comprehensive multi-stakeholder survey is only strengthened after reviewing the replies to CRTC 2015-239.
1366 In our testimony and submissions, we do not refer to the Commission’s TVSP questions. Notwithstanding that, we believe TVSPs should be included in the survey, and from a read of the submissions we believe this would not be an issue.
1367 Can we really tell how well the CCTS is doing? We don’t know how well the CCTS is doing, because we don’t know how many complaints could or should be coming to the CCTS under their mandate.
1368 Given the importance of the CCTS and consumer satisfaction in the telecommunications space, which is critical to Canada’s digital strategy, having the right information is paramount. The ubiquity of internet connectivity, and particularly the staggering rise in mobile connectivity and its use in ecommerce and social networking underpins an increasing part of Canada’s digital economy. A truly satisfied consumer base is critical in the success of a connected country. But how do we know that we have that? It’s ironic that we want to be leaders in the information age, yet are unwilling to get the right information.
1369 We need to determine whether 11,340 complaints last year is a good thing, so-so, or a bad thing. Is the fact that it dropped relevant? Bell notes that the CCTS:
1370 “...has been clearly effective as evidenced by the fact that the CCTS has managed to resolve over 53,000 complaints since its inception.”
1371 To us, this is only relevant if one knows the denominator, 53,000 out of how many? Imagine your child coming home from school with a mark of 53. Just 53. No percent, no other number. What does that tell you? Is it good? Is it bad? Do you really want to risk not knowing the denominator?
1372 Shaw’s following comment while valid as stated, highlights one of the problems:
1373 “The evidence on the record to date shows that consumers are highly satisfied with the services provided by the CCTS and value its role in resolving disputes within its mandate and scope.”
1374 The CCTS has been largely successful in meeting its “customer” needs, but consumer is a wider term. We don’t know if “consumers” are satisfied, or to what degree. One can say that consumer awareness creates customers for the CCTS.
1375 Bell cites the remarkably positive statistics regarding the low level of complaints to the CCTS:
1376 “Only 0.02 percent of all eligible service subscriptions in Canada were the subject of a complaint to the CCTS in 2013-2014.”
1377 To that point, TELUS has demonstrated customer service is a market differentiator, not unlike environmentalism. However, what if Bell were to take this statistic and incorporate it into their marketing, stating that only 1 in 5,000 customers had an unresolved complaint last year? On the surface it’s a pretty impressive statistic. So why hasn’t Bell? If there are so few unresolved complaints, then it is a clear market differentiator that one can only assume the TSPs’ marketers would rightly seize upon. However, we think too many customers would seriously question it.
1378 Tbaytel and Shaw, in their intervention, and COGECO, all in varying ways, support the contention that:
1379 “The CCTS should be asking itself whether there is sufficient awareness amongst customers that have a need to use the services of the CCTS, those with unresolved complaints.”
1380 We wholeheartedly agree with this, and find this as support for determining the real numbers.
1381 Where is the evidence? It is clear to us from the interested parties’ submission that much is claimed without clear relevant evidence. We suffer somewhat from the same problem, with two differences. One, we admit it; and two, we suggest a clear relevant solution to gathering the evidence. Rather than rely on blanket claims, anecdotal evidence and our beliefs, however well founded they may be, we recommend seeking out the evidence, unlike the assertion below, to which we ask, “Where is the evidence?”
1382 Rogers notes that:
1383 “Contrary to the views of some interested parties...” -- now they're citing Tbaytel -- “...the low number of accepted complaints in relation to the potential number of complaints is not the result of unawareness of the CCTS, but rather the result of the continued efforts of the TSPs in meeting the needs and wishes of their customers.”
1384 Furthermore, how is Rogers determining “the potential number of complaints” to which they refer? The TSP believe and/or claim that CCTS public awareness efforts are effective.
1385 Bell, amongst other TSPs, makes statements on the public awareness efforts of the CCTS, but supply no clear metrics against which the ultimate success or effectiveness is measured:
1386 “First, the CCTS is fulfilling its mandate with the current type and level of promotional efforts.”
1388 “There currently exists comprehensive public awareness and outreach activities by the CCTS itself, the CRTC, and CCTS participants.”
1390 “The CCTS is sufficiently discoverable to those customers who might require the CCTS’ service, so additional public awareness tools, including use of public service announcements, are not necessary.”
1391 Where is the evidence that the CCTS is successful in its public awareness efforts? And against what measures? We feel compelled to ask the question, how would the CCTS marketing or awareness campaigns rate in the evaluation process that a Rogers, Bell or TELUS would bring to their marketing campaigns?
1392 We note that the CCTS has Board approval to conduct a public awareness poll, but there are few details as to scope and objectives, and the reliance the TSPs will commit to place on the results, the latter point being critical.
1393 The TSPs believe that they are effective in their public awareness efforts. Many TSPs submitted comments regarding efforts and effectiveness of their public awareness programs, for instance, CNOC:
1394 “A review of the record of Notice 2015-239 evidences that a number of activities are currently undertaken by the CCTS and participating service providers in order to increase CCTS awareness generally and specifically for consumers that have a complaint.”
1395 “CNOC also agrees with parties that the existing public awareness obligations of participating service providers are sufficient to promote awareness of the CCTS.”
1397 “In fact, this plan has worked well and the activities of this awareness campaign have been effective.”
1398 Where is the evidence that the TSPs are successful in their public awareness efforts? Against what measures?
1399 One of the TSPs, Shaw, one of the minority that took the time and effort to reply to the CCTS public awareness survey indicate a lack of clarity around the results:
1400 “However, based on the survey results that the CCTS provided in its comments, not only is it unclear who among all PSPs were non-compliant but also which elements of the Plan were not adhered to.”
1401 We agree. We would like further clarity, given the concern expressed by Shaw. If the performance of the TSPs is truly better than this service indicates -- sorry, survey indicates, we think it needs to be made clear, so decisions are made on better evidence. We really do want to be fair and objective. We want the real facts, not just ones that cast a negative light on the TSPs.
1402 Many TSPs suggest, not unreasonably, that awareness is best conveyed at time of need, for instance Bell citing the CT -- CCTS:
1403 “CCTS' public awareness plan is built on the strategy of ensuring that information about CCTS is readily available to customers at the time they experience a problem.”
1405 “As noted above, the focus must be on ensuring that dissatisfied customers are able to reach the CCTS when they actually need to, and in TELUS’ view, the CCTS’ existing public awareness plan is effective for achieving this goal.”
1406 We agree, but where is the evidence this is being done now? Where is the evidence of its effectiveness, particularly with in store encounters, via telephone and online chat support?
1407 Rogers takes a slightly more strident approach, which causes us some concern:
1408 “The key objective is that dissatisfied customers be aware of how to contact the CCTS when they have a particular need and Rogers submits that dissatisfied customers have this ability. This ability is guaranteed by the information about the CCTS that must be provided on the TSP’s website. It is also guaranteed by the requirement that TSP complaint-handling representatives must inform complainants of the existence of the CCTS should the complaint not have been resolved upon taking the complaint to the second level in the complaint resolution process. It is also guaranteed by the requirement that TSP complaint-handling representatives must inform complainants of the existence of the CCTS.”
1409 The only guarantee is that these steps are in the organization’s process. It does not guarantee that they will be followed, understood by staff, nor does it guarantee that they will be done in such a manner as to be successfully understood by a consumer.
1410 Do all TSPs agree as to where these steps fall within their customer service and complaints handling processes?
1411 Some solutions, we believe, deflect from the key issue. Asking people who found you doesn't really solve the issue of those who didn't. Cogeco:
1412 "The best approach to measure the effectiveness of the CCTS public awareness initiatives would be to ask consumers who register a complaint with the CCTS how they found out about the CCTS. It would be preferable, as also suggested by TELUS, that the question be included on the CCTS complaint form filled out by the complainant."
1413 We agree this should be added, but not in place of determining who didn't get to the CCTS that should have, and why they did not. A broader survey will determine this.
1414 There is some appetite for a survey, albeit not resounding. There is no clear support from any TSP that this survey is truly required.
1415 As mentioned, the CCTS has Board approval for a poll, but we reiterate the specific objectives, the nature of any multi-stakeholder involvement, the nature of the questions and measures and depth is unclear. There is no budget amount stated.
1416 We do note the comment of tybatel in their recognition of some merit in our argument to determine unresolved complaints, and we believe this is a reasonable approach. Perhaps this is the Canadian version of trust, but verify. Tybatel:
1417 "While there may be merit in the Consumers Council of Canada's position, tybatel will continue to rely on the belief that its efforts meet the needs and wishes of its customers and keep the complaint numbers low."
1418 Tybatel, like other TSPs, note that they believe they are dealing with complaints well and properly, yet tybatel appears to be willing to get the evidence and go from there. We assume they would be involved in the process of the survey and then act on what would be the results.
1419 We believe that the TSPs should take this approach.
1420 There were general comments that we should be careful with money and get value. We agree. However, we want the facts first, unlike CNOC.
1421 "CNOC remains of the view that additional public awareness requirements would place a disproportionate burden on participating service providers."
1422 How much does it cost to add a note to a quarterly invoice, add information to a web site and tell people on calls and in stores?
1423 Furthermore, it is yet to be determined whether further initiatives are necessary. We suspect that more diligent adherence to those activities already required would be a significant improvement.
1424 As well, the TSPs would benefit from knowing where they aren't doing it well enough.
1425 The CCTS notes that such surveys would be tough on budget:
1426 "...would require a significant amount of human and financial resources, and that would, in turn, have an impact on CCTS' funding requirements."
1427 It may. If it is important enough, then funding should follow.
1428 We believe it is importance enough, as both the CCTS and CRTC have noted. We recommend evaluating the need before indicating all the problems that it may cost or cause.
1429 Part of the survey work should be determine the optimum number and nature of measurable variables necessary to form an objective assessment of the effectiveness of CCTS as a strategy for resolving problems.
1430 The vast majority of interested parties are suggesting a five-year period for review. We believe the next review should be based on clearer data. We are not there yet.
1431 We suggest that the next review be within the next two years because many TSPs are looking to only maintain existing public awareness, with little supporting evidence as to the effectiveness of their efforts other than many blanket claims. There is little appetite for any real change in the CCTS by the TSPs other than primarily self-interested changes relating to items such as funding and invalid complaints.
1432 Given the reluctance of many of the interested parties for gathering and acting on such evidence, particularly the TSPs, we believe that change will happen only when more significant pressure is applied. This is too important to wait.
1433 We believe it will receive more appropriate attention if it has the attention of a consultation or other clear and dated reporting mandate.
1434 To reiterate, regarding public awareness and the issue of unresolved complaints, there is a void of evidence around which are swirling a multitude of blanket claims, belief statements and unsupported statements. We believe this is inadequate on which to base such an important decision to be made regarding the future of CCTS and Canada's consumer rights, and strongly recommend the CRTC -- CCTS, through a multi-stakeholder survey, gather the appropriate evidence.
1435 And frankly, if the TSPs remove their barriers to fact collection and their assertions are proved correct about the effectiveness of their performance, it would likely be able to silence the critics in the marketplace.
1436 Thank you.
1437 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Mr. Deane.
1438 Commissioner MacDonald will start us off.
1439 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Thank you very much, Mr. Deane. And for those of us that have been with us since the beginning of the day, you can be assured that we are nearing the end of the agenda for today.
1440 Mr. Deane, in both your interventions and in your presentation today, you focus largely on issues surrounding public awareness, so I think, to start off, I'd like to do the same and discuss promotions and funding, as the three tend to meld together.
1441 In paragraph 26 of your intervention from August, you state that there's evidence that only 13 percent of consumer are aware of the CCTS through notifications by their TSPs, and that data comes from a 2004 -- or sorry, a 2014 poll that was conducted.
1442 If the CCTS had to or chose to ask consumers how they became aware of the CCTS, which tool would you suggest that the CCTS currently uses would be best able to gauge that data? Would it be through a customer survey or a complaint form?
1443 MR. DEANE: To answer your question, I need to make a pre-comment in that it would -- there are different groups.
1444 If you were to ask the people who got there how they got there, that would tell you how people who managed to get there and were successful got there. You're still missing a big piece.
1445 What is a good way to do it? A well-designed, objective survey works, but I see too many surveys that are designed to come up with an answer -- pre-determined answer as opposed to be willing to live with what they really get.
1446 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So a customer survey may not be appropriate because it wouldn't capture a large enough audience, but a larger consumer survey ---
1447 MR. DEANE: I think you're missing a lot of people who have a complaint, and for one reason or another, don't. If we were to say -- let's take a number. Let's take 100 as a number.
1448 And those are complaints people have, but they don't come to the CCTS and they let them ride. Some of them will be because the customer or the consumer says, "It's not worth it, I don't want to make the effort" or, you know, "I just let it go because I procrastinate".
1449 Some of it will be because they can't get to the CCTS and they otherwise should have known about it.
1450 So we're not saying that all the unresolved complaints relate to the TSP's fault or the CCTS. It's a variety of blames, and we need to find out what those unresolved complaints -- what the reasons are.
1451 And we will find, I think, that some of it relate to consumers who don't take the responsibility to solve some of their own problems. And from the Consumers Council point of view, we are focused very much on consumer rights, but also consumer responsibilities.
1452 So if, in the survey, we find out that many consumers aren't doing things that we think they could easily do to solve the problems themselves, then I think it becomes part of our job to work on that area and to inform consumers how they can take some responsibility themselves. We don't think it's all one-sided.
1453 I don't know if that answered your question.
1454 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Yeah.
1455 MR. DEANE: Okay.
1456 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Various different intervenors disagree on whether general awareness versus timely awareness of the CCTS is most important, and the CCTS touched on it earlier today as well.
1457 Could you explain your stance and the relative importance of the two?
1458 MR. DEANE: I would say that, over the course of the work we've been doing this, our stance has changed slightly, and we've moved -- we've always believed that it's important at the time of a problem to know where to get your solution.
1459 But I'm leaning more, and you'll see it as you read through the -- the transition through our three documents that we're leaning more toward when you have a problem, where is the answer and where can it best be given or how can it best be given.
1460 Our concern, though, is that we do not believe that the effectiveness of those efforts by the TSPs is what it should be, and we're also not certain that those are the best efforts to be made.
1461 So back to the general awareness, I think it's important but, to me, it's less important and I would put more dollars toward the TSPs doing it at the time, although I think it's a much tougher task.
1462 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: When you say it’s a much tougher task, you know, if the TSPs are supposed to outline the existence and the mandate of the CCTS at the second level of unresolved escalation, do you feel that that’s not happening is some instance or there may be training issues with the individual working the phone?
1463 MR. DEANE: I have personal and anecdotal evidence over that but that’s all. But it’s extensive and it’s been over time.
1464 Common sense, to me, dictates that that is a problem and this survey would determine that. So while I do have views now, I don’t think it’s enough on which to make a decision. But I think it’s enough on which to make a decision to do the survey and determine what the real facts are.
1465 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: In your submission, you mention the need for a strong web and social media presence, and I note on your own website, you can actually get to the CCTS website within a couple of links, a couple of clicks. So thank you for that.
1466 The CCTS does have a media policy. They do have a Twitter account. I think they’d take note that perhaps their website is not overly accessible on some smartphones and tablets.
1467 Is there anything else that you would suggest in the way of social media or online attempts to raise their awareness?
1468 MR. DEANE: Social media is good in that it does give you general awareness but in some ways I think the TSPs can use social media to direct to the CCTS. Although I don’t know if they would have much of an appetite to do that. I think it would be more effective for them on the whole than it would be for the CCTS.
1469 As to what do I think the CCTS could do? Using something along the lines of Google AdWords, which we mentioned, I believe, in our intervention, you can target very clearly specific terms and then when people click on the ad, the Google ad, they go directly to the relevant page, not just the top page.
1470 I also think that -- and I know that the CCTS has committed to do this, but there are some changes they could make in the way they describe their page and how it shows on Google searches and perhaps have a wider catch of Google phrases that they use. But they’re heading in that direction.
1471 And typically, it is easy to find the CCTS if you’re looking for it. But I notice that many of the TSPs said, “Hey, if people want to find it, they can.”
1472 Well, my view is that you should have told them first when you were talking to them in the store and you’ve had a problem, they had escalated it in the store. You should have told them on the telephone or you should have told them on the online chat room.
1473 And I have questions as to whether that is completed as crisply and as consistently as it should be.
1474 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So you mentioned a couple of moments ago that you tend to be focusing perhaps more on timely awareness versus general awareness.
1475 Could you speak to perhaps some of the concerns that you would have or that the service providers have also shared today and through the course of their interventions that they obviously want to own that customer relationship and have the ability to resolve their complaint internally? It’s quicker and more cost-effective to be able to do it.
1476 If public awareness of the CCTS reaches a higher threshold, are you at all concerned that people may start circumnavigating their service providers and going directly to the CCTS?
1477 MR. DEANE: I think the logical answer to that is yes, there is some risk there. I come back to the more I think about it, the more we look at it is getting the TSPs to let people know at the time. But that also requires, I would think, considerable enforcement. I would suggest something put in place.
1478 Mr. Chair, you mentioned earlier about waiting online for a half an hour, online. I would suggest that you put a requirement that you determine the average hold time for a sales call and the average hold time for a customer service call. And I would say that if somebody is on hold for a customer service call for a period longer than the average time they wait for a sales call, then a notice comes on saying, “By the way, if you have a problem, when you go to the second level of escalating, you can call the CCTS and here they are.”
1479 I think that would be great incentive for the TSPs to reduce the hold time for customer service calls, which is a huge level of complaint. There is a strong -- one of the things that prompted us to look at this area specifically, is that we continue to hear considerable anecdotal evidence about wasting of time and runaround in getting customer service complaints resolved. It’s clear in the media.
1480 You only have to look to the Toronto Star last weekend, where the big cartoons from -- comics from Blondie was about customer service. And Dagwood was back and forth from one desk to another for about seven panels. And at the very end, he asked the fellow, “What do I do now?” And the customer service agent says, “I don’t know. Nobody’s got this far before.”
1481 And a lot of people feel that way.
1482 And frankly, if it’s going to be a Blondie comic, it’s got to be something that’s relevant to people out there.
1483 So to me, this is common sense that there are a staggering number of unresolved complaints.
1484 I don’t care frankly who solves it. If it’s solved at the TSP level, great. It’s better because then I don’t have to deal with the complaint at the CCTS. I would rather, as would most consumers if not all, have it resolved locally.
1485 I don’t believe they’re doing as good enough a job on that. I believe they want to; some more than others, my opinion.
1486 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: A lot of the work that the CCTS is doing now with respect to promotion relies very heavily on the Internet, and that assumes that people are actually using the Internet and want to have that interaction or receive that information online.
1487 Could you maybe speak to and including the surveys that you suggest, whether that’s appropriate and what other forms promotions may take?
1488 MR. DEANE: Well, it’s appropriate because so many people get it that way, particularly in mobile. And that’s why I have a particular issue in the lack of responsive design on the CCTS, and it should be there now, and it should have been there a while ago.
1489 But back to your question, which is the use of the Internet, I think you capture a lot of people and that number is increasing. It’s not the only way. It comes back to somehow making the TSPs do a better job at the time.
1490 Do I think that for public awareness, radio spots work? Yes, I do. They have different demographics, but you’re not going to capture people when they have the problem.
1491 To my mind, when a solution is made available to you, it should resonate with a problem you have. And then when you have that problem, you know that that, indeed, is the solution to the problem and you have access to the solution. And that’s tough when you just have general announcements about availability of something.
1492 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: If we could leave promotions for a minute and discuss remedies provided by the CCTS, we just heard from TELUS around a conversation of reporting customers who have issues or payment issues to a credit agency. And they stated on the record that it would be appropriate, if the service provider has found an error, to go back to that credit agency to ensure that any harm to credit had been repaired.
1493 My question is sort of in between the first step and the last step, in that is it appropriate at all, do you feel, for service providers to refer a customer to a credit agency while there is still an open and active complaint before the CCTS?
1494 MR. DEANE: That’s not something to which we responded in here, and I hesitate to comment because I don’t think any comment I have at the moment would bring considerable value to it.
1495 My thought is it’s inappropriate to do that, but that’s a personal opinion and I don’t think it would carry the weight necessary for value to this hearing.
1496 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: I know participation in the CCTS wasn’t something that you spoke to specifically in your submissions to the Commission. But could you at least anecdotally give your thoughts on whether or not the CCTS would likely see a rise and fall of participation if it were made voluntary?
1497 MR. DEANE: Once again, I’ll couch these with the same comments as the last one as to my personal opinion.
1498 If you move to voluntary, you will lose people. I mean, if you look what happened to OBSI when, I believe, Royal and I forget the other bank that pulled out. And then you don’t have the economies of scale. You don’t have the public nature saying, we have all the banks or all the area to be covered.
1499 So I think it gives it less support and I think sometimes you get a rid of a snowball effect. So do I think it would pull more out? Yes. I do not know the degree of difficulty of commitment for a smaller TSP if they were to be in before they have a complaint.
1500 At first blush it would seem pretty simple. Website, quarterly billings and make sure that your customer service staff know to escalate on the second level of complaint, online in store and on the telephone.
1501 So my personal preference would be mandate it, because it’s not an unreasonable approach to say that we have an ombudsperson for this organisation.
1502 And then once again I keep coming back to the fact that I think some of this is market differentiating.
1503 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And if we could speak to sort of how this all gets funded, anytime there’s new obligations, be they related to promotion or surveys or what have you, that are imposed upon an organisation like the CCTS, there’s costs that are ensued and in doing that some of them may be very small costs, some of them may be more significant.
1504 Also imposing certain requirements on the service providers to increase frequency of their public awareness or inserts sent to bills, or what have you, do carry a price-tag as well, ultimately which gets borne by the customer of those service providers at the end of the day.
1505 So could you at all speak to I guess the balancing act that? We need to -- we need to look at both ensuring that there is awareness but also ensuring that the costs for these service providers and for individuals are not too significant, to the point where they become detrimental.
1506 MR. DEANE: You know, I’m an accountant, I’m a CPA. I understand the issues. I spent 25 years at KPMG. I understand that and I have a bit of that bent, so I don’t like to spend unnecessarily.
1507 But to me that’s often the second step. First is how important is this and then determine how much you need and what you do to get it.
1508 But -- so you’re asking is it worth it against competing priorities and how do you push to do that? Well if you were to look at the survey I don’t have an actual number but I would be pretty certain it would be between $200,000 and $1 million.
1509 Let’s say -- and that’s a wide range, but let’s say it’s $1 million, that’s $0.02 per contract, roughly. One of the TSPs, I forget whom, mentioned it well that’s going to have to be borne by subscribers. I suspect most subscribers would be okay with that.
1510 And all Bell would need to do is stop sending me an annual or monthly note saying come back to us, come back to us. I’m sure they’re paying more than $0.02 for mail. It’s not a full first class letter but it’s going to be more than $0.02 and it’s on nice glossy paper and there’s an envelope.
1511 So the -- I’m not -- I don’t think I should be saying hey let’s spend Bell’s money, or TELUS, or anybody else, but I do think that it doesn’t cost that much in the whole scheme of things and it’s vital to determine who is being left out there.
1512 And just one comment, one of the reasons that the council, and me and particular feel so strongly about this, in talking with Doug Melville who has just recently left the position of the office ombudsman of banking services and investments, we were talking about some of the issues about processes and about how good the processes were at the OBSI.
1513 And his response was you know what, we can make them a bit better. We can make them better, yes, but they’re pretty good right now, he says.
1514 And this was an informal comment with him, but his point was that I’m more concerned about the uncaptured complaints. All the complaints that we don’t get, that don’t make it to us.
1515 And that was a seed change for me. I started to think more and more about and that’s driven some of my push here.
1516 It’s not in my evidence so I don’t know if that’s a problem but it’s not there.
1517 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: I think that was everything that I had so I’ll turn it back over to the Chair.
1518 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
1519 Commissioner Vennard?
1520 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Well good afternoon, I’ll try and make this short. It’s been a long day for all of us but I can’t resist asking you a question or two about the survey.
1521 You spent quite a lot of time talking about the survey and how there are various challenges that would -- would come along with doing something like that.
1522 I’m left with the impression that you don’t think that maybe CCTS would be -- should be the one to do it. On the other hand, possibly the TSPs would not be the ones to do it either.
1523 Who do you think should be doing it then?
1524 MR. DEANE: I would put together a multi-stakeholder group, that would include CCTS, TSPs, consumer group or groups and a research organisation that understands how to conduct surveys, telephone surveys; however they want to do it.
1525 And ideally to come up with a survey that has the objective of determining the number, roughly the number of complaints that are unresolved, the nature of them and ideally to the TSPs to which they apply and that -- that group would say yes this is a reasonable approach. So that when the answers come out, there’s a commitment to act on whatever the answers are.
1526 There’s risk in that but that’s what businesses do, they take risk. So and I don’t believe that that -- that that should be under this -- just the CCTS. One, because it’s very big but you can hire a professional organisation to do much of that.
1527 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: M’hm.
1528 MR. DEANE: But I would also see the CRTC being involved and I’m not sure to what level or how but the CRTC I believe would be a member of that group.
1529 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: How do you see something like that being paid for?
1530 That would -- that would be tremendously costly to do, because if you’re looking for say one unsatisfied customer out of approximately 4,000, it’s very hard to find the -- it’s very hard to find the people that aren’t there.
1531 I mean it’s quite -- it’s not that difficult to get a survey on a website with people that you already know who they are, you know exactly who you’re dealing with, but it’s finding those people that have slipped through the cracks, that haven’t been dealt with.
1532 MR. DEANE: I would -- I guess I would respectfully disagree on that.
1533 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: M'hm.
1534 MR. DEANE: I think if you take a sample of people and for that kind of money you can get a very big sample and ask the question one, have you had a problem with your TSP that remains unresolved.
1535 And then you would cascade down other questions, which is are you aware of the CCTS. The answer is no. Would you -- had you known about the CCTS taken that complaint to resolution.
1536 If not, why not. And you would determine that way through a cascading of questions like that and that’s the approach I would take.
1537 We did a survey of -- we put 370 surveys out, very open-ended questions. We received 66 responses and we asked do you know about the CCTS, yes or no, and the only reason we asked that was not to get an awareness level, because it was only 66 people, but to get a sense of when they answered the next question how it applied.
1538 So we asked them if they knew about it, do you have an unresolved complaint that you didn’t take and if not why not.
1539 If they didn’t know we said do you have -- I think I’ve got the order reverses, but we asked if you didn’t know do you have a complaint you otherwise would have taken and from that we got some good anecdotal evidence but not representative evidence.
1540 But in 66 people we had enough people who said oh I did have complaint I would have taken but didn’t. So we’re looking for the -- of the 3,999 people who didn’t register a complaint, of those what do we think is a representative sample and why, what’s the nature of them.
1541 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: And you just hit the nail on the head with respect to the representative sample and therein I think would lie the problem.
1542 But perhaps you and I can finish the discussion at another time because I’m sure everybody wants to go home instead of hearing us debate about hypothetical surveys.
1543 MR. DEANE: And I don’t think I answered your bit about who’s going to pay for it.
1544 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yes, yes. Good question.
1545 MR. DEANE: If –-- let’s say -- and I don’t -- let’s say we take $1 million. I’m not suggesting that’s the number, that’s $0.02 per subscriber.
1546 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: M'hm.
1547 MR. DEANE: My initial thought would be charge it back through the bills $0.02 apiece. My point is it’s a trivial amount overall.
1548 So if this puts the TSPs in a position to say hey we’re doing it like we say we are now get off our back, that’s peanuts for them. So if it’s -- if there’s a onetime funding that goes through the CCTS to cover it to me that would be the option.
1549 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: M'hm.
1550 MR. DEANE: I’m not suggesting we do this survey annually or bi-annually.
1551 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yes. I -- as a professor, the first thing that comes to my mind is a university would make a very good project for a university.
1552 MR. DEANE: I hadn’t thought about that but I actually quite like that idea.
1553 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yes. Thank you.
1554 MR. DEANE: Thank you.
1555 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Mr. Deane. Those are our questions. Thank you for participating and your perspective on this.
1556 I must apologize for people in the room because the air got turned off at 4:00 p.m. I guess here in a public hearing dealing with issues for and about Canadians, I guess the arrangements we had made with Public Works and government services did not matter.
1557 I guess I have a problem of customer services, I may raise it with the Deputy Minister of Public Works, I trust he won't put me on hold. But really, a public hearing without air? Thank you very much, especially when they charge us extra money for this.
1558 THE CHAIRPERSON: I'm feeling better now.
1559 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much, so we’ll adjourn for today and gather back at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.
1560 Merci beaucoup, à demain 9 heures, merci.
--- Upon adjourning at 4:50 p.m.
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