Transcript, Hearing October 22, 2018
Location: Gatineau, Quebec
Date: October 22, 2018
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Attendees and Location
140 Promenade du Portage
- Chairperson: Ian Scott
- Vice-Chairperson Broadcasting: Caroline J. Simard
- Vice-Chairperson Telecommunications: Christianne Laizner
- Commissioners: Joanne T. Levy, Monique Lafontaine, Linda Vennard, Christopher MacDonald, Yves Dupras,
- Legal Advisors: William Abbott, Yael Wexler
- Secretary: Jade Roy
- Hearing Manager: Guillaume Leclerc
--- Upon commencing on Monday, October 22, 2018 at 9:02 a.m.
1 LE PRÉSIDENT : Bonjour. Good morning. Bonjour et bienvenue à cette audience publique.
2 Avant de commencer, je tiens à souligner que nous sommes rassemblés sur le territoire traditionnel des Premières Nations. Je tiens à remercier le peuple algonquin et rendre hommage à leurs aînés.
3 La première phase de l’enquête a commencé le 16 juillet par la publication de l’Avis de consultation dans le cadre duquel nous avons reçu plus de 2 300 interventions de la part des Canadiens.
4 Pour la deuxième phase de l’enquête, nous avons invité les Canadiens à répondre à un sondage par panel en ligne et un sondage public en ligne, en plus d’avoir tenu des groupes de discussions, qui ont tous été menés par Ipsos. Je tiens à remercier tous les participants d’avoir pris le temps de soumettre leurs commentaires.
5 This inquiry was triggered by an Order in Council published in June 2018 concerning misleading or aggressive retail sales practices of large telecommunications carriers, and the record has brought to the Commission’s attention several areas of concern.
6 My fellow commissioners and I are concerned by the results of the Ipsos Public Opinion Research, which were made available on the record of this Hearing on October the 16th. When one in four Canadians have reported experiencing aggressive or misleading sales practices within the last year, it would appear that consumers’ interests may not be being respected. We look forward to all parties’ views on the survey and other evidence now on the record.
7 Some of the retail sales practices that have been reported on the public record of this hearing, if substantiated, would not be tolerated in other industries. For instance, if you pulled into your local gas station, filled your tank and then when you went in to pay, you were told the price per litre is now higher than that indicated on the pump, and if you’d wanted the pump price you would have had to pay at the pump and now it’s too late, that would be unacceptable to consumers. If at the end of this proceeding, the record were to show that the misleading and aggressive practices are common, it would be a serious concern for us.
8 Today, with this public hearing, we are launching the third and final phase of our inquiry. And the public is once again invited to participate, this time via Twitter. Valid tweets using the hashtag #CRTCforum that are posted as of 9 a.m. eastern time this morning, and until the end of the hearing, will be added to the public record of the proceeding. These tweets will be considered for the CRTC’s report to the Government on the matter.
9 All of this will result in a report – to be delivered by February 28, 2019 – to the Government on whether misleading or aggressive retail sales practices are used by large telecommunications service providers, their impact on consumers, as well as potential solutions to strengthen the existing consumer protections.
10 Au cours des prochains jours, nous entendrons un certain nombre de participants, dont des particuliers canadiens, la Commission des plaintes relatives aux services de télécom-télévision, les représentants de grandes entreprises de télécommunication, des groupes de défense des consommateurs et des chercheurs. Le dossier de cette audience a déjà fourni au Conseil des allégations sur le recours à des pratiques de vente trompeuses ou agressives par de grands fournisseurs de services de télécommunication.
11 Cette semaine, nous allons continuer d’explorer les preuves sur toutes les questions, et nous souhaitons particulièrement entendre parler de solutions et de saines pratiques qui serviront les intérêts des consommateurs et de l’industrie dans son ensemble.
12 Compte tenu de l’importance de cette question, le comité chargé de l’audience est composé de tous les membres du Conseil, des personnes qui connaissent et représentent les différentes régions et perspectives du Canada.
13 Je tiens à souligner la présence de mes collègues, Christianne Laizner, vice-présidente, Télécommunications; Caroline Simard, vice-présidente, Radiodiffusion; Christopher MacDonald, conseiller, région de l’Atlantique et du Nunavut; Monique Lafontaine, conseillère d’Ontario; Joanne Levy, conseillère, Manitoba et Saskatchewan; Yves Dupras, conseiller, Québec; Linda Vennard, conseillère, Alberta et les Territoires du Nord-Ouest; et bien sûr, moi-même, Ian Scott, président.
14 The Commission staff assisting us includes, Guillaume Leclerc, Hearing Manager; Yael Wexler and William Abbott, Legal Counsel; and Jade Roy, our Hearing Secretary.
15 I would like now to invite Ms. Roy to explain the procedure we will be following as she is the Hearing Secretary and is tasked with keeping us on track.
16 Madame la secrétaire.
17 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Merci, Monsieur le président. Bienvenue et bonjour.
18 Before we start, I would like to go over a few housekeeping matters to ensure the proper conduct of the hearing. When you are at the presentation table, we would ask that you please turn off your smart phones, as they can cause interference on the internal communication systems used by our translators.
19 Le service d’interprétation simultanée est disponible durant cette audience. 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.
20 Veuillez noter que les documents seront disponibles sur Twitter sur le compte du Conseil à #CTRTCaudiences en utilisant le mot clic #CRTC.
21 There is a verbatim transcript of this hearing being taken by the Court Reporter sitting at the table to my right. Please note that a transcript of each day will be posted on the Commission’s website the following business day.
22 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.
23 Please also 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 through the transcript of the Hearing. If necessary, parties may speak with Commission legal counsel at a break following their presentation to confirm the undertakings.
24 And now we will begin with the presentation by the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services, CCTS. Please introduce yourself and your colleagues and you have 10 minutes for your presentation.
25 MR. MAKER: Mr. Chair, Vice-Chairs, Commissioners, Commission staff, bonjour, good morning. I’m Howard Maker, the Commissioner and CEO of CCTS.
26 AS the first party to appear, we hope to help set the stage for the coming discussion about current consumer protections regarding retail sales practices and whether and how to strengthen these measures.
27 We have a big team from across our organization here today to help with this conversation. To my left is Josée Thibault, our Assistant Commissioner. To her left Tamar Toufayan, Manager of Compliance and Complaints Analysis, and to her left Marco Lanoue, Director of Customer Care and Investigations.
28 To my right is Geoff White, Director and Regulatory Counsel, and to his right Mauricio Pérez, Regulatory Analyst.
29 Créée en 2007, la CPRST est l’organisation nationale et indépendante du Canada chargée de résoudre, d’une manière équitable et gratuite, les plaintes des clients au sujet des services non réglementés de télécommunication et de télévision fournis par environ 242 fournisseurs de services par l’intermédiaire d’environ 360 marques.
30 Nous traitons des milliers de plaintes chaque année et résolvons plus de 90 pour cent d’entre elles. Aider les clients à résoudre leur plainte est notre raison d’être. Nous ne réglementons pas les fournisseurs de services participants et n’intervenons pas dans leur gestion interne. Nous acceptons les plaintes admissibles en vertu du mandat codifié et approuvé par le Conseil. Nous examinons celles qui sont non résolues, selon notre norme d’examen, tentons de faciliter une résolution et, lorsque nécessaire, imposons un redressement.
31 As some interveners have observed, customer satisfaction with CCTS is high. We often hear that the only way a customer was able to get an issue resolved was to come to us. Of course, we can’t please all parties all of the time, but we do listen to feedback and we are committed to continuous improvement.
32 We also track and report on our activities in our Annual and Mid-year reports and in Commission proceedings like these. We deal with contract disputes, billing issues, service delivery and credit management problems, among others.
33 We stress, however, that because our process which results in most complaints being resolved without us having to assess the provider’s conduct, our data reveals just the tip of the iceberg without revealing what may be happening more broadly.
34 We also administer three Commission-developed codes: the Deposit and Disconnection Code for residential phone service, the Wireless Code for wireless service, and the Television Service Provider Code for home TV service.
35 In our presentation, we focus today on two areas:
36 First, what we see to be a leading cause of customer frustration, specifically, a mismatch between customer expectations from the sales process, and subsequent customer experiences. In other words, a mismatch between what customers think they’re going to get, and what they actually get.
37 Second, we set out a series of considerations about the Commission’s current consumer protection framework and our role in it to assist you as you consider whether to recommend additional measures.
38 Mme THIBAULT: Pour nous préparer à cette audience, nous avons examiné un échantillon de 441 plaintes de clients de services sans fil, d’internet, de téléphonie locale et de télévision, sélectionnées dans les catégories où se trouvent habituellement les plaintes sur les pratiques de vente, soit rupture de contrat, non-divulgation et modalités trompeuses, modification importante au contrat et frais incorrects.
39 Dans 53 pour cent des plaintes, les clients se plaignent de la différence entre leurs attentes ou les informations reçues au moment de l’abonnement au service et leurs expériences subséquentes avec le service.
40 Cette différence entre les attentes et la suite des choses se manifeste souvent par les plaintes sur les frais facturés, la prestation ou l’utilisation de service, et les changements effectués par les fournisseurs de services à l’un de ces éléments à la surprise du client.
41 The mismatch tends to occur in three main scenarios.
42 In the first scenario or in in 48 percent of the complaints we sampled, there was a conflict between what the customer said they had agreed to, and what was actually delivered.
43 In the second scenario or in 41 percent of the complaints, the customer claimed not to be aware that their provider’s terms included a right to make unilateral change to price or service, either because this was not disclosed or because the salesperson promised a price or a service for a fixed period.
44 In the third scenario or in just over 11 percent of the sampled complaints, customers alleged that they were not aware of conditions attached to promotions, such as time limits, or ongoing eligibility requirements like having to subscribe to certain services to maintain the promotion.
45 This is consistent with the comments we have frequently repeated in our annual reports identifying non-disclosure, misleading information, and incorrect billing as top customer issues.
46 It’s fair to say that customers generally don’t like these kinds of surprises and that they want some level of predictability in what they pay and what they receive.
47 Cela nous mène à la question centrale de cette audience: est-ce que le CRTC devrait recommander le renforcement ou l’élargissement des protections des consommateurs, comme cela s’est fait avec les codes de conduite existants?
48 Le Conseil a créé trois codes qui sont administrés par la CPRST. L’objet de ces trois codes, généralement, est d’éviter les surprises.
49 Malgré cela, comme vous pouvez le constater d’après les commentaires des Canadiens, le rapport de recherche sur l’opinion publique et nos déclarations d’aujourd’hui, les clients continuent d’être victimes de surprises.
50 Certains fournisseurs prétendent qu’il n’y a pas de problème et que le statu quo est convenable. Par contre, quelques groupes de consommateurs, avec le soutien de certains fournisseurs, proposent de créer un code sur les pratiques de vente.
51 MR. WHITE: Some proponents say new rules are needed and some appear to suggest the rules already exist, they just need to be codified.
52 We see how codifying minimum standards of behaviour in codes of conduct, or in a new code, may be a way to improve all parties’ understanding of what’s expected. However, as a neutral party, we take no position on whether there should be new rules.
53 In the event you do recommend new rules which CCTS would administer, we have a few considerations.
54 Codes of conduct are relevant for CCTS because our standard of review, the standard against which we assess service provider behaviour, requires us to consider not only the applicable contract and the provider’s usual policies, but also any applicable codes of conduct, good industry practice, general principles of law, and what’s fair and reasonable in the circumstances.
55 Because our process results in most complaints being informally resolved however, we’re seldom required by our process to make a full assessment of the provider’s behaviour.
56 In addition, we don’t have all of the evidence necessary to know what may have transpired in situations where customers allege they were orally promised something but the only evidence we have is a written document provided after the sales transaction.
57 So in the event the mismatch phenomenon is the result of non-disclosure or ineffective disclosure, rules requiring the disclosure and documenting of certain information at the point of sale and then the preservation of records could facilitate our handling of these situations. Trial periods may be another measure for mitigating mismatches.
58 As the Commission considers whether to recommend new rules or a new code, we note that the current consumer protections are not consistent across all lines of business and any consideration of new measures should consider whether more symmetry would assist all stakeholders better understand the ground rules.
59 M. MAKER: Nous sommes conscients que cette consultation ne porte pas sur la CPRST. Cependant, je ferais preuve de négligence si je concluais sans ajouter quelques commentaires sur le rôle que nous pourrions être appelé à jouer à l’avenir.
60 Notre rôle est de résoudre les plaintes entre clients et fournisseurs et nous le faisons très bien, à en juger par le haut taux de résolutions opportunes obtenues sans le besoin de mener une enquête complète sur chaque plainte.
61 Many interventions discussed CCTS and we've seen a great deal of commentary about the potential expansion of our mandate to address perceived problems.
62 Most of this discussion has been vague but I want to be clear with you that if the question is whether it’s necessary to expand our mandate to allow us to deal with complaints from customers about misleading sales practices, that is complaints about what has been sold to them and how, then no expansion of mandate is needed because we deal with complaints like this every day and our procedural code gives us plenty of latitude to do so.
63 With respect to aggressive sales practices or the imposition of a suitability requirement, this raises questions about the standard against which we would assess such complaints, in the absence of a clear regulatory requirement. Also to say it presents evidentiary challenges.
64 In the event that you recommend we take on additional responsibilities, we ask you to ensure that CCTS, which is funded entirely by industry for the benefit of customers, continues to complement existing publicly-funded bodies and not overlap with them, and obligations in respect of consumers, which we don’t administer unless there’s an actual customer-provider relationship, would certainly be a game changer for CCTS.
65 In conclusion, in 2016 you issued a very detailed decision following a very thorough review of CCTS. As now, the evidence then showed that we have been very successful in working with Canadians and providers to resolve disputes. Should the Commission recommend taking steps to change our role or our mandate, it’s critical that those changes do not detract from our core role.
66 For this reason, if you recommend something new that would have a material impact on CCTS, we respectfully request a seat at the table where any potential changes might be developed with a view to ensuring that CCTS can continue to do the good work it has been doing for Canadians for over 10 years.
67 Thank you, and we look forward to your questions.
68 THE CHAIRPERSON: So perhaps I'll begin.
69 You mentioned in your remarks "our data reveals just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what may be happening more broadly". I wonder if you'd take a minute or two to expand on what you think is actually below the surface level.
70 MR. MAKER: Certainly, Mr. Chair. And that's one of the challenges, is this is a statement we've made in our annual report last year, I believe, that we know there's a lot that's under the water line that we don't have access to really -- to see and to comment on.
71 What we produce and the data we produce in our annual reports or for you today, is entirely reliable. It reflects what customers tell us the problems that they're seeing in their transactions and otherwise with their service providers, but I think we must all recognize that it's kind of limited in some respects.
72 So first of all, you know, we don't regulate the industry. We don't monitor its general operating practices per se.
73 We deal with the complaints that come to us, so we know, for example, that in the wireless world we have at least 31 million customer connections in Canada, just wireless alone. And we got, in our last fiscal year, about 14,000 complaints.
74 So there is a question of scale, certainly.
75 In addition, you know, as you would expect from an Ombudsman process, our process is structured for the timely and effective resolution of complaints, and it's not designed to develop data in cases that are resolved simply and promptly for the benefit of the customer.
76 And so when complaints come in to us, we identify the issues. Once we accept them, we record them and the complaint goes for -- to the service provider for a period to attempt to resolve that complaint directly with the customer.
77 If those complaints are resolved, and typically 75 percent of them are, that's the end of our role, so we have the customer's explanation of the problem. We may occasionally get a correction of that from the service provider, but that's the data that we have. And it reflects the inputs.
78 In addition, some of the other 25 percent or so of the cases that get to our investigation stage, those also get resolved before there's a complete analysis in many cases, at least a significant proportion of them do.
79 So the number of cases in which we've done a full analysis, have completely vetted each and every issue and determined whether there's merit, whether, you know, there was merit to the allegation or not, those are fairly small in number, so there's some limitations there.
80 Finally, one of the things that is critical in our role is that we investigate complaints from customers and our procedural code defines what a customer is. It's somebody who is receiving or has received service from a participating service provider.
81 We don't deal with complaints from consumers, people who have a complaint or a concern about something that's happened, something they've seen, something they've read, something they're dissatisfied with, but outside the context of a provider-customer relationship. And so we have a limited window of data, but we think it's data that you can rely on.
82 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. And that is understood.
83 You mentioned in terms of the volume of complaints that a significant percentage are resolved after the issue is identified and you have informed the service provider. So statistically, if it's resolved in that first instance, then it doesn't show in the statistics. Is that correct?
84 MR. MAKER: So we report complaints resolved at different stages of our process, so we report the number of complaints we accept, the number that are resolved at our pre-investigation stage, so that's when the complaint is sent to the service provider, and it's resolved directly between the provider and the customer under the auspices of our process.
85 We report those, and we report complaints that are closed, resolved or where recommendations and decisions are issued once they've fallen into the hands of one of our complaint resolution officers.
86 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Thank you.
87 So recognizing that your current mandate doesn't address all of the issues in front of us, nevertheless, we'd ask that you help us as we try and work through a number of issues, including some definitional challenges.
88 So I wonder, as a starting point, if you have a view or could help us define what you think is misleading, what would a complaint that involves some -- a service provider being misleading that would warrant intervention.
89 MR. MAKER: I'm going to ask you just, Mr. Chair, to just clarify your question in terms of "warranting intervention".
90 Do you mean warranting a resolution by CCTS?
91 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes.
92 MR. MAKER: Okay. So we see everything that you might imagine.
93 Typically, it's customers who -- customers always come out of a transaction with a variety of expectations, and any one of those particular expectations may be grounded in the exchange they had with their service provider or elsewhere. And they come out expecting to receive certain kinds of service, certain prices, and they don't always get them.
94 So certainly we've talked about, in our opening comments, how many complaints we receive from customers who felt that a service provider had no right to change the price of the service partway into the -- into the service delivery situation.
95 We receive lots of complaints about "I thought I had unlimited bandwidth, but I've got a cap". We receive complaints that say, "I signed up for the five gigabit data package but they're only giving me three and I'm being charged for overages".
96 I mean, pretty much anything you might see. "I thought I was getting, you know, the movie channels with this package and it's -- that's why they told me, but now I don't get it".
97 So anything that you could imagine where a customer expects something and doesn't get it through any incident of service, we see complaint like that and we deal with them every day.
98 THE CHAIRPERSON: And moving from there, could you help us similarly understand what you would think would be an aggressive marketing tactic rather than misleading and, again, that would warrant intervention from a regulatory perspective?
99 MR. MAKER: Well, that's a very important question. And I know when I was thinking about this, my question is, what's the definition of "aggressive".
100 THE CHAIRPERSON: That's kind of my question.
101 MR. MAKER: I'm agreeing with you, it is a good question.
102 THE CHAIRPERSON: And we might repeat it a few times during the course of the proceeding.
103 MR. MAKER: I suspect it's a word that will be heard this week a fair bit.
104 So I looked at this from two perspectives. So I looked at the -- sort of the common day-to-day meaning of the word "aggressive", so pushy, forceful, in your face. And so that was the first approach I took to thinking about this.
105 And I said, you know, from a technical perspective, complaints like that should fall within our mandate. There's nothing specifically that excludes a complaint about a telecom or TV service simply because the allegation is that I was -- you know, I was forced into this, I was pushed into some transaction that I now regret.
106 And so those -- those complaints certainly would fall within our mandate.
107 They're problematic for us in many respects because, first of all, the evidence is typically of a "he said/she said" variety. And second of all, the concept of pushiness or forcefulness is very subjective. And what's pushy to one person and aggressive to one folk -- person might be entirely fine for someone else. And there's really no objective standard against which to measure how aggressive a salesperson is.
108 The other way I thought about this was in terms of the language used in the Order in Council which, when talking about "aggressive", used the word "sales of products that are not suitable for the customer". And I know that that was something that the Fair Communication Services Coalition's intervention spoke at great length about the concept of suitability.
109 And as you know, Mr. Chair, that's a concept that comes from the financial services world, so I need to think about how we -- how and if we can transfer a financial services concept to a telecom and TV world.
110 So if you sign up, Mr. Chair, for a -- for a financial account, the sales rep has a legal and regulatory obligation to ask a bunch of skill-testing questions about you. And their job is to find out what your investment objectives are and what your tolerances for risk are, and they have a legal and regulatory obligation to document that information and then to make sure that any investment products they sell to you are suitable so that they fit within your investment objectives and risk tolerances. And we have an Ombudsman service in this country, OBSI, that deals with investment world and suitability issues are at the top of their list about what customers complain about.
111 So there is an established framework in that industry about what suitable means, what the processes and requirements are and how you sell things that are suitable to customers. That's not to say it's black and white. It's actually quite grey in many respects. Risk ratings of products are not all commonly agreed.
112 So how do we transfer that into our realm? And right now we know certainly there's no know your client regulatory requirement for telecom or TV service providers. There's no requirement to investigate the needs of a customer who calls up asking for a service, although I would suggest it's good business practice to do that, but there's no requirement. And so, you know, for us to try and in the current absence of sort of a regulatory responsibility define criteria of what suitablity means it would be very challenging for us to even pose something pretty much out of the blue in suitability cases.
113 So we've seen some extreme examples of that. There was one example in one of the filings about I think a high speed internet service sold to an elderly senior and who wanted to check their email once a day. And I think we probably all, in the absence of any other evidence, say that that might very well be unsuitable. By the same token, that same sale to a house with four teenagers who are streaming and downloading and gaming and watching Netflix all day might be entirely suitable. And those are probably the easy cases, because we probably would all come to some common understanding of suitability in those cases, but it's the other 99 per cent that are in the middle that are entirely subjective and that, in the absence of regulatory standards, would present a problem for us I think.
114 THE CHAIRPERSON: But in that case, as you point out, the starting point is for the prospective customer, I guess existing customer, to share a fairly extensive amount of information with the service provider in order to then receive that advice.
115 MR. MAKER: Well, certainly there'd have to be some sharing. I'd like to think that there is now. I'd like to think that when a customer calls they don't automatically say, "I need the ABC internet package." That a sales rep would ask them, "So, you want some internet service. Great. We're happy to help you. What is it you want to do? We have a bunch of tiers. They have different factors and they have different prices. What is it you're looking to do?"
116 So I think that the exchange of information like that is critical to making sure that people get what they want at the price point they're looking for. So certainly that would be an exercise that would be required as part of a suitability analysis for sure.
117 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. So understanding that obviously the role of the salesperson is to sell products, did any of the stories you mentioned -- you did just mention one, but did any of the stories filed on the record of the proceeding particularly strike you as being aggressive or misleading, given the discussion we just had about the definition of those terms?
118 MR. WHITE: This -- your line of questioning, Mr. Chairman, really is all about, you know, how do we define things and how is misleading defined. I'll give you our formal definition of it as it currently stands. And this is just a label we apply to the complaints that come into our organisation.
119 Non-disclosure and misleading terms are about issues that pertain to disputes about a service provider's failure to disclose key contractual information or about the provision of inaccurate information to the customer. That's misleading. When we think about aggressive we do think that's -- based on the Order in Council we think that's synonymous with a suitability standard.
120 We've reviewed some of the interventions that were filed publicly and we're seeing in those interventions, and we're seeing in our mismatched complaints issues with surprises, customers being surprised by signing up for one thing, getting another in terms of price or service.
121 When we think about aggressive sales, which I take it to be synonymous with a suitability standard of some sort to be defined, CCTS -- Commissioner Maker talked about how we can handle those in extreme cases, but this very much is about vulnerable customers. And there is -- we're dealing with elderly customers or customers who may not be in a position to understand exactly what's -- through language barriers or comprehension issues or accessibility issues in terms of what's being offered and what's right.
122 We do need to zoom in on those definitions to have a better understanding of how we would apply that. Our standard of review directs us to look at any applicable codes of conduct. And as it stands right now, there is no suitability standard or -- regarding aggressive sales practices, but our standard of review also lets us consider what's fair and reasonable in the circumstances. So that's giving us a bit of latitude to handle some of these situations.
123 But, yes, I think on the record there are a number of examples. We could undertake to highlight some of them for you, but I think, in many respects, these cases speak for themselves.
124 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, thank you.
125 MS. THIBAULT: Mr. Chair, if I can, I can leave ---
126 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes.
127 MS. THIBAULT: --- you maybe with a common example we see often and one that we -- did come up in our special audit that we alluded to in preparation for this proceeding. And, you know, I mention it because it's very common actually. So it's a customer who calls up their service provider and enters into a transaction over the phone. And the customer's under the assumption that their monthly price will be $85 per month and that they're getting a free wireless device. And then they get their contract and related documents emailed to them and they check on it a few days later. And when they open up the document it's $95 a month and they've been charged $100 for their device. And this is a very common, I'd say, example, and is probably a decent example in and of itself.
128 But where it becomes even more interesting is when CCTS gets its hands on it, because, of course, before coming to CCTS this customer had to have called their service provider and said, "Hey, I received, you know, my contract and it doesn't at all say what we just agreed to over the phone last week", but the provider refused to correct it, so it remained unresolved.
129 The customer comes to CCTS and it was a pretty easy complaint, because when we investigated it we were able to find the call recording. And very clearly we were able to confirm that the customer was indeed advised it'd be $85 per month and that there'd be no device charge.
130 And so these, I think, are pretty good examples of some of the things we see regularly and that we would probably say is obvious evidence of the customer being misled as to what they were going to get.
131 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you for that.
132 Mr. White, a moment ago you did say that -- as part of your answer that you looked at the issue of suitability and aggressive as somewhat synonymous. I'm not sure that -- clearly, they're both important issues to this proceeding. I think they may be distinct issues and certainly the definitions around what is aggressive go well beyond suitability so, but we'll come back to that.
133 That was helpful. Your example was very helpful. And I note, again, in your opening remarks, you talked about those surprises and a mismatched phenomena and you don't have the necessary data. So, clearly, you either need more information at the point of sale, or as you mentioned, the other approach would be that trial periods or the ability to undo what has been done, so to speak, would be another approach. As between those two, do you have a view as to which is superior or are both required?
134 MR. MAKER: I'm not sure that we should -- that one mutually excludes the other. I think we have to look at this holistically to make sure that the protections line up in a way that meets the objective of the Commission in doing this.
135 So, for example, we've identified in our materials some asymmetry in the current protections around trial periods. And I recall specifically sitting in this room at the wireless code review hearing and commenting on the fact that, you know, in a situation where a customer makes a purchase and asks for their contract to be provided on paper, the service provider has 15 days to get it to them, but 15 days is also the length of the trial period.
136 So, sir, there are some challenges around that and certainly we've identified disclosure at the point of sale, as opposed to afterwards. We've identified, you know, the trial periods as part -- one of the puzzle pieces. And certainly the one thing that we've also identified is documentation.
137 We struggle, not infrequently, in handling these complaints to find originating documentation. Be it, you know, account notes, be it phone calls, be it chat logs, from transactions that happened, three, six, nine, 12 months ago that we’re now investigating because the customer claims something is not as it was intended to be.
138 So that requirement to document evidence, together with a review of what the trial periods are and the point of sale disclosure. Those are the three things I think that we’ve primarily identified as items for you to consider.
139 THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you again.
140 So following on that is, if the Commission were to adopt solutions to address the surprizes, as you put them, do you generally think that we’re best advised to take very targeted, specific actions, or a more systemic approach? Is it about individual carriers? Is it industry-wide? Is it across all services? Do you have a view about that?
141 MR. MAKER: Given our role, we don’t have a position on that, Mr. Chair.
142 I would say though, as the party that administers the current existing codes of conduct, that there is an argument to be made for standardization and simplification. We do think that codes or other measures, whatever you call them, that are simple, straightforward, that apply broadly, are easier for consumers to understand, probably easier for service providers to adopt -- although I know you’ll ask them that question -- and certainly easier for us to administer, train our staff, and help educate customers.
143 THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you.
144 Moving on a little bit, and this may go into an area where you’re -- where you’re less inclined to respond. But do you think these practices, or the surprises, I’ll keep using your term, are more of a problem with respect to door to door sales when we talk about how consumers feel about misleading or aggressive practices?
145 MR. MAKER: I don’t know -- I don’t have any data for you on that, Mr. Chair. I do know that the door to door sales practices, we don’t count them, we don’t track specific complaints that arise from door to door sales. But we do see complaints, not infrequently, that arise from that situation.
146 The problem we have with them is that they seem to happen -- and I hope this is not the wrong term -- in a vacuum. So somebody knocks on someone’s door and from this emerges a contract, and there’s really no -- nothing in writing that discloses, sort of, what the -- there’s no evidence about what happened, what was discussed, what was promised. The customer get’s something by email or in the mail that sets out the terms of an offer or an order, and then we’re left to put the pieces back together when the customer says, this is not what I bargained for.
147 So yes, we do get complaints of this sort, not infrequently, but we don’t have any specific numbers for you.
148 THE CHAIRMAN: So online, or over the internet might have a -- as you call it, more of a paper trail, or more of a record. Would in-store sales have -- be different fundamentally than door to door, in terms of the evidence that you have to work with for the record?
149 MR. MAKER: I think you’re right, Mr. Chair. That’s the other -- certainly the other channel where we see difficulty in collecting evidence. Certainly, many of the salespeople in the stores don’t even work, technically, for the service provider. They work for third parties. So yeah, the record keeping in the store is often a challenge for us, and transactions in the store then become a little more difficult to unwind.
150 THE CHAIRPERSON: So not to put words in your mouth, but where you have more of a record, over the phone, over the internet, a little bit easier for you to enforce than door to door and in store, where you have less records, harder. Is that a fair summary?
151 MS. THIBAULT: I don’t know if it’s fair to say that there is a higher degree of challenge obtaining evidence through door to door, or in store transactions. I think that there are definitely challenges obtaining evidence through those two channels. But I would be leery to answer it in that way, because there’s also a lot of challenges obtaining the evidence for phone transactions, and online transactions.
152 THE CHAIRPERSON: Understood. Thank you.
153 What about mass marketing campaigns? Mass mail outs and so on, any comments on that marketing approach?
154 MR. MAKER: No comments on that as a marketing approach, Mr. Chair.
155 I mean, as I indicated, we only accept complaints from customers, so certainly when we do that, we look if there’s a complaint about the sales transaction. We do have a look at the evidence that led to the transaction. So pre-contractual discussions, and that may include a flyer that somebody got as part of a mass marketing campaign or an email. But no comments, in particular, about that method of communication.
156 THE CHAIRPERSON: So I guess the key question, sort of on, generally speaking about new measures -- and I think I know your answer, but I’ll pose the question, is do you think we need new industry-wide measures to be put in place?
157 MR. MAKER: Well, I think in our opening remarks, Mr. Chair, we’ve identified some areas for improvement, and certainly for you to consider, in terms of what next steps are. As an independent, impartial body, we don’t think it’s our role to tell you what you should do, or whether you should do anything. We’re here to inform the record, to provide you with some data, and some analysis, but we don’t as an organization have a formal position on that.
158 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Thank you.
159 So I guess, going back to what you do work with regularly, in the wireless code and the television code, you have rules addressing contract clarity. And clearly, one of the areas where customers are surprised, as you’ve described are rebates and discounts that don’t last the full duration of a contract term. So in your view, have those approaches in the wireless code and the TVSP code been effective?
160 MR. MAKER: Difficult question to answer, Mr. Chair, for a variety of reasons. Certainly, in our remarks we’ve identified for you some aspects of the clarity and disclosure provisions of the code that we think could be tuned up, in terms of timing of disclosure and retention of evidence. When we look at our data, it’s very tempting to say, “Oh, well CCTS recorded more wireless code breaches this year, so things must be worse.” But that doesn’t necessarily compute.
161 So there’s a lot of factors that go into how many complaints we’ve accepted and how many code breaches we’ve determined. And so, you know, awareness by customers, increasing numbers, actions by service providers. They all serve to impact the numbers in a way that doesn’t give a -- there’s no clear direct relationship between those numbers and the conduct of service providers in the marketplace. So we do think that those -- that’s the right idea in terms of making sure that as much disclosure as possible is made available to consumers.
162 We know that disclosure, you know, we can have the most -- the tightest code possible about disclosure, like you know, we all know that there’s a very large telecommunications consumer protection code in Australia, 100 plus pages covering every aspect of every incident of telecom sales and service, and there’s 12 pages worth, an entire section about customer sales and contracts, and so forth.
163 And it’s highly prescriptive, so it’s you must have a summary of every offer that you offer in the marketplace. It must be called a critical information summary. It must have certain prescribed information disclosed to customers. It must be in a certain -- this prescribed information must be presented in a prescribed order. It must be provided to the customer at the point of sale and it can’t be more than two pages of eight and a half by 11 paper.
164 But yet, you look at their data and they had 167,000 complaints in their last reporting period and -- which is the bad news, I guess. The good news is about less than five percent of them are about non-disclosure issues. So disclosure is clearly an important consideration here, but you know, it’s not going to prevent us from having to deal with customer complaints.
165 THE CHAIRPERSON: Fair enough. But do you think a similar approach to those rules could help for internet services, for home phone services?
166 MR. MAKER: I don’t see off the top of my head any reason why we would discriminate between services or among services. I mean, a sale transaction is a sale transaction. And certainly, we get more complaints about non-disclosure in some services than others, such as wireless, and increasingly so in internet, where there are financial risks to customers who think they've got one thing and wind up with something else. But as we’ve said, I think symmetry and simplification across lines of service, if possible, might be a desirable outcome.
167 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. So, I asked you earlier in a general way about whether or not better at the point of sale or after in terms of the trial period, but specifically with respect to a trial period, would the adoption of that requirement for all communication services, in your view, would that help to reduce consumer frustration and surprises?
168 MR. MAKER: I think -- I think it would be a mistake to look at these things independently in isolation, one from the other. Having a trial period is great, but if you don't find out about the thing that you think -- that you wrongly think you're getting until after the trial period, you're still going to have a problem. That's why I suggest that all of these things need to be looked at holistically and together, so that we make sure they fit together like puzzle pieces.
169 THE CHAIRPERSON: And when you say, “You’ll still have a problem”, is that because -- as you've pointed out before -- the trial period may be too short in the existing approach or more than that?
170 MR. MAKER: Well, the combination of when the disclosure is made, how good and effective and accurate the disclosure is, and the expiry of the trial period together serve to create that particular problem or perhaps remedy it.
171 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So moving on to another subject that I think will be near and dear to your heart. You've indicated that, as an organization, the CCTS does have a very high degree of success in resolving complaints, but we have a sort of broader challenge perhaps in the industry, which is about the awareness of CCTS as the venue where consumers can take their complaints. So I guess, could improved awareness of your organization go partway or a significant way to resolving some of the issues that we’re discussing in this proceeding?
172 MR. MAKER: Awareness of CCTS is never a bad thing, Mr. Chair, and I’m -- you won't be surprised to hear that from me. We don't go out looking for business, but all of our public awareness activities are structured to make sure that customers can find us when they need us. So ---
173 THE CHAIRPERSON: But first they have to be looking for you, I guess that -- that's the issue ---
174 MR. MAKER: Well ---
175 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- do enough Canadians -- are a sufficient number of Canadians aware of the organization?
176 MR. MAKER: Well, I read your public opinion report which had some comments about that and I read it with some interest because as you -- as you know, we -- we did our own public awareness survey in 2016 I believe, and the results were that about 20 percent of Canadians were familiar with CCTS. Most of that, I must confess, was aided awareness, so people getting helped to understand what CCTS is in answering that question. So, your public relations research suggested that that's up to 30 percent in the course of a couple of years. So, I think that's a really good thing actually.
177 And quite frankly, in a country like Canada where ombudsman processes are not that well known, I strenuously disagree with the characterization by the pollster of that as “low awareness”. I think that's actually “high awareness” for an ombudsman service. And if you look at the literature in the ombudsman world worldwide, Australia, the UK, everywhere other ombudsman services of Canada, general awareness of ombudsman services is typically quite low.
178 And what I would have liked to have seen from your pollster is a question that says, “Okay, so if you have an unresolved complaint with your telecom provider, is there something you can do? Is there some place you can go?” Because even if they've never heard of CCTS, if they're aware that there is someplace to go to, then it’s -- we’re pretty easy to find. You Google, you know, “telecom complaint” or “cell phone complaint Canada”; we’re easy to find.
179 And we work with service providers, consumer groups, provincial and federal agent, consumer agencies to make sure that they spread the word about CCTS. We have our own social media activity that -- so lots of measures in place to help customers know that there's a service available for them and how to find us and what we can do for them. And so, we think -- we think -- we’re glad to see that awareness is improving, we think it’s higher than -- actually higher that I would have expected quite frankly. We think that more Canadians than the 30 percent probably know that they have a recourse if they need it.
180 And so, sure, would it be better if 80 percent or 90 percent of Canadians could say, “Oh! I know what CCTS is, they're the telecom complaint handling guys.” Yeah, that would be great, but we also live in a world where we have to be realistic and we don't really think that's going to happen.
181 THE CHAIRPERSON: I take your point, but I appreciate the last -- the last comment in particular, which is, “It still would be better if more consumers were aware than fewer.” So, I guess one question that's important for you to respond to would be, what can we do to increase awareness and who should be doing it?
182 MR. MAKER: Well, historically awareness of CCTS has been generated by sort of all of the “stakeholders”. So, certainly from your end, Mr. Chair, the CRTC through its social media channels, through its Contact Centre and calls refers customers to us, talks to customers about us on a regular basis. We get many, many referrals from the Commission.
183 Obviously, we have our own social media, not as active as it might be, but we use social media. We recently redesigned our website, we have a online complaint form that now accounts for about 80 percent of the complaints that are filed through our interactive questionnaire to help customers make their complaints and make sure that they provide us with all the information that we need to assess their complaints. We know that consumer groups are regularly referring people to us, and we have a very detailed public awareness plan for service providers who are required to tell customers about CCTS at a certain stage, to have information about CCTS on their websites, to have complaint handling pages. And we’re now in the process of launching -- of doing a compliance review to determine just how effectively the service provider communities is engaging in those activities, and we hope to have some results on that pretty soon.
184 So, this is a multi-party -- and let me add to that actually, we do media quite frequently, you know, we’re often called to ask questions about telecom issues, about what we’re doing, about what you're doing, about what service providers are doing.
185 THE CHAIRPERSON: I hope you're giving them positive responses.
186 MR. MAKER: So, of course we do whatever we can to fly the flag and to make sure that consumers are aware that they do have an independent, impartial, free of charge recourse when they can't sort out their telecom problems with their provider.
187 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you for that. Maybe switching gears again back a little bit, back to the practices. There’ve been a number of parties that have raised concern about the use of third parties in the sales process. Based on your experience, is that a particular problem? Are there more issues when third parties are involved in the process? Do you have any comment on that?
188 MR. MAKER: Well, if you're referring to third parties, I think of door-to-door sales people, and I think ---
189 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, well third party agents. You mentioned ---
190 MR. MAKER: Yes, in the store.
191 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- the issue in some phone stores, they're not ---
192 MR. MAKER: Sure.
193 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- necessarily telephone employees, but obviously there is door-to-door and agents of various service providers.
194 MR. MAKER: Well, as I said previously, Mr. Chair, we do get complaints about sales made through those channels. And as I said, they are -- they're challenging to find evidence in most of those cases. You know, in the Australian scenario for example, there is a requirement for service providers to train sales reps specifically required, and also to monitor to make sure that there -- if there are any deficiencies in sales practices, they are being taken care of and they are being eliminated. And so, I don't see -- if I’m a customer and I'm coming to deal with my service provider, I don't really have any way of knowing if I'm dealing with an employee or a third party contractor and I shouldn't have to.
195 THE CHAIRPERSON: So going to, I guess, broad almost summary questions, so in your comments today and into your intervention, you've stated the main practice -- the main issue facing customers contacted your organization is this mismatch between expectations and what they get or what they -- and their subsequent experience with the service.
196 So can you just spend a minute to elaborate on that? I know you've addressed it, but I want to be sure that we have a very clear understanding of what you -- of what you've seen in terms of this mismatch of expectation and -- and actual service delivery.
197 MR. MAKER: Sure, Mr. Chair.
198 So we -- in response to the Notice of Consultation, we consulted a special audit of some of our complaint files through 2017-18 to try and develop some data to help you understand what we're seeing in our complaints. And I'm going to ask Ms. Thibault to tell you a bit more about that.
199 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
200 MS. THIBAULT: Sure. Thank you.
201 A little while ago I did give you one example of a very common complaint and I think that -- you know, I won't repeat that one, but I would just maybe loop back to see that example because that's a very common one.
202 But another one -- and although we don't track the proportion of complaints that came to us that had to do with sales transactions that occurred door to door, my next one is a door-to-door example because we do know that this has been raised and we do see it, as Mr. Maker has mentioned.
203 So again, a customer receives a knock at the door. They engage in a discussion with the service provider's agent, and there's some sort of agreement that is entered into.
204 And you know, in the example that we were looking in our audit, we came across one where the agreement was for a monthly price plan of $116 per month. There was going to be no activation fee, no contract. You know, just a month-to-month deal.
205 And the customer gets their first bill, and their first bill is not $116 per month but is $160 per month, and they've been put on a two-year fixed term contract.
206 And so like my other example, the customer will call the service provider, but it remained unresolved which, to us, is surprising because when we investigated the complaint, in light of the fact that this was a door-to-door transaction, the customer actually was left with documentation that really did clearly show no fixed term contract and $116 per month.
207 So I think that that's another example. Yeah.
208 So we -- as we mentioned in our oral comments, we did conduct a special complaint audit to prepare us for this proceeding. And what we did is we took a sample of the complaints at our investigation stage.
209 And so again, the majority of complaints get resolved informally and quickly, but we do have a subset of them that go through a more fulsome review.
210 So we looked at 441 of these, or about 16 percent of all the complaints that required investigation in our 2017-18 fiscal year. And out of these, we found 235 complaints that were essentially about this mismatch idea, so customer expecting one thing and the experience actually being something else.
211 So out of those, you know, the first scenario are very much like the examples that I have gone through today where they really are expecting to receive one thing and then their experience is very different.
212 The second scenario had to do with customers not understanding that promotions that they were given were really tied to an expiry date, essentially, that -- or they could expire, sorry. And again, we had about 11 percent of the complaints we sampled that fell into that category.
213 So a customer essentially, at the point of sale, being said, "Okay, well, the service is normally $100 but we're going to give you $20 off", but the customer's not made aware that that $20 might only last for three months or 12 months out of a two-year commitment. So that was another scenario.
214 And then the third scenario or, you know, 41 percent of the complaints sampled were really about the service provider's right to make a unilateral change. And so one example that we came across was a customer who consented to obtain service that include five gigs of wireless data, but on closer inspection we see it's actually three gigs plus two gigs as an add-on. And the customer was never informed that because those two additional gigs were an add-on and not part of the contract, that they could actually be changed with notice.
215 So those are some sorts of examples. And I'm -- I trust that helps to clarify things?
216 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes, that's very helpful. Thank you.
217 So again, picking up a theme in your comments and in your submissions, you talk about observing some asymmetries in protection, and you've mentioned a couple. Can you elaborate on that for us as well, please?
218 MR. WHITE: Absolutely, Mr. Chair.
219 The -- Commissioner Maker talked about how and we've had a bit of a discussion about how there's no code for internet services and whether or not there ought to be a code, so that's one thing. We recognize there are consumer empowerment measures, but there is no internet code, for example.
220 Then when we look within the three current Commission-developed codes that CCTS administers, we start with the Deposit and Disconnection Code, which is quite narrow in scope. It really just governs the provision of the deposit, in what circumstances the security deposit, and in what circumstances a disconnection may occur.
221 Then you move on to the Wireless Code, which is a -- which is broader in focus, which is -- it's governing disclosure, it's governing rights and responsibilities in respect of what has to be in the contract, what is a key contract term and condition which cannot be changed for the duration of the contract, rules around disconnection, rules about clarity of offers, et cetera. And that's available to individual customers and small business customers.
222 And then you move to the Television Service Provider Code, which is not -- it's only available to individual customers. It's not available to small business customers like the Wireless Code is. And generally speaking, I would suggest it's a bit narrower than the Wireless Code in terms of its protections.
223 There are some differences there. For example, I would suggest the TVSP Code allows a little more flexibility in terms of the service provider's right to make changes to key contract terms.
224 On the other hand, when you look at the trial period provision in the Television Service Provider Code, it's -- I think it's more broadly applicable to consumers, whereas the Wireless Codes -- I may mix this around.
225 One trial period, one code is available to certain consumers, and in the other code it's available to consumers who have self-identified with an accessibility issue.
226 So those are some examples, I think, of the mismatch. We haven't done a line-by-line comparison of the three codes, but there's definitely a level of asymmetry there across lines of business and within those codes.
227 THE CHAIRPERSON: And to go back to Mr. Maker's comment earlier, I suppose consistency -- there are advantages to having a higher degree of uniformity and a higher degree of simplicity in the codes broadly.
228 MR. MAKER: I think as a general principle, we would agree with that.
229 THE CHAIRPERSON: I guess you've said a couple of times, and I understand, the nature of your organization requires you to say you don't or won't take a position on policy matters, or shouldn't, I should say; not won't, including the adequacy of the existing protections. But you did speak about the practical issues that should be taken into account.
230 And again, I'd appreciate it if you go back and give us sort of a summary view about that. Can you elaborate on what we should deal with if we are to expand, alter, make more consistent codes, whatever we ultimately decide? What practical advice do you have for us?
231 MR. MAKER: Well, I think in terms of practical advice, if I had to summarize it, it would be we're trying to get to no surprises. I'm not sure that it's realistic to ever think there will never be surprises, but we want to make it simpler for customers and service -- for customers to understand what they're getting and for service providers to be able to deliver it simply and -- so we've talked about measures like matching trial periods to disclosure requirements. We've talked about disclosure requirements at point of sale.
232 We've talked about documentation and requiring the retention of documentation related to sales transactions which doesn't prevent surprises but, you know, helps us unravel why there was a surprise and whether there should have been or not.
233 And we've talked about, as we just finished saying, simplicity, symmetry, you know, make things as easy as we can for consumers to understand so they know what their rights are and for service providers to deliver what customers really want.
234 We talked about the need -- well, we talked about suitability. I don’t know if that's on -- obviously it's on your radar. I don’t know. We're certainly not suggesting that you should do that or not do that but we're suggesting that it ought to be seen as a good business practice for service providers to make sure that customers are getting, you know, what they need and what they want. I think that's how you develop and maintain long-term good business relationships.
235 I think that summarizes the things we've talked about. Have I missed anything?
236 MR. WHITE: From a -- Commissioner Maker has talked about sort of designing considerations in terms of what a new instrument or a new code might look like. I think CCTS would also -- and we've mentioned this but I'd like to reiterate it. I think it's critical for all of stakeholders that -- and for CCTS in particular that we understand our role in this because we're dealing with -- and you've mentioned it in some of your questions -- we talk about marketing for example and that engages or it may engage, you know, the Competition Bureau.
237 So it's helpful for us as the administrator of any new code or new set of rules to understand what our role is and that it's clearly defined so that we know where one organization’s responsibility ends and where ours begins.
238 I think it also would be constructive to the extent that this Commission recommends that the new rules be developed that as the potential administrator of those rules that we have a seat at the table so that we can provide our neutral observations on our experience with given rules, ambiguity about past rules, lessons learned, et cetera.
239 So that's our recommendation to you.
240 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you and before I ask the other members if they have any follow-on questions, I'll take a step back for one sec.
241 We've talked a couple of times about the, you know, before and after provisions I'll call it but we've discussed that possibly there should be new rules established that address the sales activities before a contract has been signed and obviously that presents some practical challenges, Mr. Maker, as you mentioned.
242 I just wonder if you can talk about those a little bit more. What do you see as the principal challenges associated with establishing rules at the outset prior to the signing of a contract?
243 MR. MAKER: Unless I misunderstand your question, Mr. Chair, I'm not sure there are practical problems with establishing rules.
244 THE CHAIRPERSON: Fair enough.
245 MR. MAKER: I think there are practical problems with determining whether they've been met and those are... you know, we talked about sort of lack of a suitability standard, lack of suitability requirement. Those kinds of things would have to be in place for consumers to be able to rely on them and for a third-party dispute resolution service to be able to conduct investigations based on a known standard.
246 THE CHAIRPERSON: Fair enough. Thank you.
247 Commissioner Dupras?
248 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: Thank you. Good morning.
249 Just one question. In your Mid-year Report, you're telling us that the trend for non-disclosure terms, misleading information about terms is increasing. Can you speak more about that and is it the telecom providers that are doing it more or is it more awareness of CCTS? How do you explain that? Can we have your views on this?
250 MR. MAKER: Yes, Mr. Commissioner, I think you've got part of it right. It's not -- there's no direct way to know why the numbers are going up. What I can tell you is that we're going to issue our annual report for our last fiscal year late next month and I don’t want to bury the lead here but it's very clear that disclosure issues in the past year were our number one complaint item. The most complaint about issue were disclosure issues.
251 Now I would say that complaints were up a substantial percentage this year. So it's not unreasonable to think that non-disclosure issues would rise but I can tell you, without giving you any firm numbers, that the increase in the non-disclosure issues is significantly above the increase in the number of complaints.
252 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: Thank you.
253 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Laizner?
254 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Good morning. I have some questions related to vulnerable consumers or persons that have accessibility needs such as members of the deaf, hard-of-hearing, or deaf-blind communities.
255 When you were looking at the complaints you received, did you look at these communities in particular and did you identify any particular misleading practices or aggressive sales tactics that you would consider were applicable to those communities?
256 MS. THIBAULT: We don’t have any developed data on these sorts of issues stemming specifically from the accessibility community. We are in the process of tracking more detailed information like that generally, not just with regard to maybe issues that are being engaged with regard to sales practices but just more generally.
257 So we hope maybe in the future to be able to have that. We can say of course we do see some of this. It’s just we can't give you numbers.
258 The second example that I did give you with regard to the door-to-door transaction engaged an elderly customer that we think maybe had some element of consideration in there maybe what happened but we don’t have data and trends that we can share with you right now.
259 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: And have you received complaints from persons that are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or deaf-blind for example? Is that something that you can identify?
260 MS. THIBAULT: Not in any specific number. Just to clarify, you're talking specifically with regard to sales practices from this community?
261 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Yes.
262 MS. THIBAULT: M’hm. Not with any detailed numbers, no, we can't identify them.
263 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Or for the elderly, you don’t identify that specifically either?
264 MS. THIBAULT: We don’t identity the demographics of the customers at the intake stage of our complaints and so we don’t have that detailed data available.
265 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Okay. Thank you.
266 THE CHAIRPERSON: Go ahead, Commissioner.
267 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: Thank you. Good morning.
268 I just want a bit of clarification on the issue of mismatch that you talked about and I'm wondering if you could just tell us a little bit more about the link between the mismatch in the information that the customer has understood and the service provider and the lack of disclosure or the evidence on hand? Is there a correlation between the two in your assessment?
269 MS. THIBAULT: I think, you know, the scenarios that we described in our comments and that we're elaborated on are generally the broad scenarios that we see. I'm not -- do you think you could specify your question a little bit more and I may be able to answer more specifically?
270 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: Yes, thank you. Sorry. So we talked about that there were a number of the -- the complaints that you audited for this proceeding show that there is mismatch between the information that the customer had as compared to what the telecommunication service provider had.
271 And do you think that this mismatch is caused by the lack of documentation or evidence that the customer has on hand?
272 MS. THIBAULT: I don’t think we can really comment as to why the mismatch is occurring, just that it is occurring and those are the three general situations that we found that repeated themselves.
273 One thing I would say because you mentioned the mismatch between what the customer has, the information, and the information the service provider has, and surely that happens but I will call your attention to, you know, the two examples we gave. It was actually not a mismatch when you dug down deep between the information that the service provider had somewhere deep in its systems and what the customer had.
274 The issue came up when the rubber hit the road, when the bill was generated, or some additional piece of documentation was sent and that, like a contract, the CIS and that did not match with the customer's experience. But in both of the examples that I elaborated on today. It did strike us that the information was there.
275 MR. WHITE: May I just -- may I just add to that, Commissioner Lafontaine?
276 The mismatch phenomenon is a label we're using to describe a set of issues where, for one reason or another, the customer doesn't appreciate the circumstances under which their price or what's included in their services changes. And I've -- you know, in looking at the examples provided in IPSOS, I can read three right off the top there:
277 "A rep tried to sell me a bundle for a reasonable price, but when it came to actually sign the papers, the price was twice as much." (As read)
279 "When I signed up for internet, they made the plan sound much better than it was. They didn't really mention that it would go up in price halfway through the contract." (As read)
280 Another one, and this is my last one:
281 "I was told the rate would be the same for the entire contract, but two months later the rate was increased." (As read)
282 So you mentioned is the mismatch about information, and the answer is, maybe. It's not about -- just about information. It's about consumer or customer understanding, and disclosure may very well be a piece of this.
283 Disclosure really goes -- the effectiveness of disclosure is about timing of the disclosure, the location of it, and the clarity of it because disclosure may very well be made to a customer, but it may be made on page 10 of a terms of service, and the question then is, was the customer aware. Did the customer appreciate the circumstances under which a price that was told to be guaranteed could change?
284 And I leave that question with you.
285 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: Thank you. Merci.
286 THE CHAIRPERSON: No other questions from Members?
287 Oh, Commissioner Levy.
288 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Your organization obviously takes complaints from across the country. I wonder if you could comment on trends that you see from one province to the other and what seemed to arise as best practices that affect the level of complaints as a result of where they originate from?
289 MR. MAKER: I'd love to answer your question, Commissioner Levy. I'm just not sure that I can.
290 We don't track sales practice activity by region, and we're not -- we're not informed of different sales practices that are practised in different regions of the country, so I'm afraid we can't get help you with that.
291 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Okay.
292 THE CHAIRPERSON: I'll ask Commission counsel, do you have any follow-up questions for the panel?
293 MR. ABBOTT: Just one follow-up question.
294 In your submission at paragraph 82 and in your opening statement, you talked about clearly defining the contours of the CCTS's mandate and ensuring that any changes to the mandate of the CCTS are complementary to public bodies and don't overlap.
295 Do you have views on the areas of the CCTS's mandate that should not be expanded -- areas that it shouldn't be expanded into or gaps that the CCTS could effectively fill in consumer protection?
296 MR. MAKER: Well, in response to that, Mr. Abbott, I guess I'd say we don't think that there should be any addition to our mandate that would detract from what we do, which is resolve customer problems. And you know, that's the focus of our activity.
297 In order to do that, we need a certain degree of independence and impartiality and this is the sort of "you're the regulator, we're the Ombudsman" kind of approach, if I may put it that bluntly.
298 We don't think it's appropriate for us to be stepping into roles that would violate our perceived neutrality as we try to honestly broker resolutions and -- in customer and service provider disputes, so we think that's important.
299 We also think that there are some suggestions of possible expansions to our mandate that would be game changers operationally that would potentially expand the scope of what we do like, for example, if the -- if we were required to accept complaints from consumers who don't have a contractual relationship with a service provider who then say, "Hey, I saw this ad and, you know, there was something wrong with it", for example.
300 You know, in the end I'm not sure what we would do with a complaint like that. I'm not sure what the remedy is. But where there are other publicly-funded bodies like Competition Bureau or the Privacy Commission that have particular areas of expertise, those are probably the more appropriate place for complaints of that sort.
301 THE CHAIRPERSON: Mme la secrétaire.
302 MS. ROY: We will take a 15 minutes break. Thank you very much for your presentation and questions.
303 THE CHAIRPERSON: So returning at 20 to, let's say, or just -- 19 to. Thank you.
--- Upon recessing at 10:25 a.m.
--- Upon resuming at 10:45 a.m.
304 MS. ROY: Thank you.
305 We will now hear the presentation from Deaf Wireless Canada Consultive Committee, Canadian Association of the Deaf/Association des Sourds du Canada, Canadian National Society of the Deaf-Blind and Deafness Association Advocacy Nova Scotia.
306 Please introduce yourself and your colleagues, and you have 15 minutes for your presentation.
307 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: Hello. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Scott, and fellow Commissioners. Thank you for having us here today.
308 Before I proceed, I would like to make a quick comment. This week there will be many parties presenting and the people in the audience have the privilege to hear it all, but we can’t because interpreters were not provided for the week.
309 I feel this is not fair, and not equitable.
310 Now, I would like to move forward and begin with an introduction of myself and my colleagues.
311 I am Lisa Anderson-Kellett from the Deaf Wireless Consultative Committee. And to my right is Frank Folino, President of the Canadian Association of the Deaf/Association des Sourds du Canada.
312 And to my second right is Mr. Elliott Richman, Executive Director of Deafness Advocacy Association Nova Scotia.
313 To my left is Ms. Megan McHugh, President of the Canadian National Society of the Deaf-Blind, CNSDB.
314 You can find all of our organizations and descriptions in the handout. We are pleased to be here.
315 Now if we can move to the agenda, there are four items we will review, and each of these four items we will have three connected sections.
317 Thank you.
318 So the four areas are background, telecom retail store experience, accessibility plans and deaf-blind issues and experiences. And we're going to go through a survey analysis, our issues and challenges, and recommendations.
319 Now, Mr. Richman, would you like to proceed? Thank you.
320 MR. RICHMAN: Today I'm going to talk about which telecoms -- issues with which telecoms. Thirty-three (33) percent reported that they had bad experience with Bell Canada, 31 percent with Rogers and 27 percent with Telus.
321 Modes of communication. Forty-three (43) percent reported they communicated by phone via relay, 33 percent reported in-store experience -- issues with in-store experiences, 18 percent had issues with online live chat.
322 Challenges and evidence of collection. The CRTC required all supporting rationale and all evidence on which they rely to formulate their positions. The problem is that SRV Canada VRS does not allow callers to record conversations, either signed or text.
323 Therefore, the deaf, the deaf/blind and hard of hearing cannot collect or preserve paper or electronic evidence required by the CRTC. The end result is that our report is relied on both anecdotal and empirical evidence, due to the SRV VRS Canada technical limitations.
324 Our recommendations -- we don't have any recommendations for this, sorry, because it's out of scope for this proceeding.
325 Awareness of CCTS, 57 per cent were not aware or did not know they could file a complaint with CCTS.
326 We have three recommendations. CCTS needs to create accessible ASL and LSQ videos in consultation with DWCC et al. about the complaint process.
327 Secondly, CCTS should employ ASL and LSQ fluent deaf, deaf/blind, hard of hearing individuals to handle frontline complaints and inquiries.
328 CCTS is to produce annual reports detailing complaints related to accessibility issues.
329 And you heard that comment previous to our presentation with the previous panel.
330 I would like to ask Mr. Frank Folino to take the floor from here.
331 MR. FOLINO: Thank you, Elliott.
332 Good morning, Mr. Chairperson and Commissioners. I would like to talk about the next issue, the overall issues and challenges in retail store experiences.
333 There are three important issues that I will elaborate on. First is accessibility issues, staff awareness and training secondly, and thirdly, ASL and LSQ videos specific to the wireless code and contract terminology.
334 So I'll elaborate.
335 So, firstly, accessibility services, did you know 81 per cent of deaf, deaf/blind and hard of hearing consumers entering an in-store retailer was unable to communicate and they communicate by pen and paper and that leads to miscommunication to selling practices within that environment?
336 Also, 81 per cent of deaf, deaf/blind and hard of hearing consumers are unaware that they can request a sign language interpreter to communicate with the sales staff in the store. And that's a concern.
337 And third point in our survey analysis is that 72 per cent of deaf, deaf/blind and hard of hearing consumers feel that the telephone companies, the telecom companies have not made the effort to accommodate their needs.
338 And I'd like to elaborate on our second point about staff awareness and training. The first point is to train the staff how to design the framework to include policies and procedures, practices and how they address the deaf and deaf/blind and hard of hearing community when they enter a store. Do they have that kind of accessibility training? Do they have an accessibility plan? Do they -- are aware that they can provide sign language interpreters and various resources?
339 Develop material -- when they developed this material did they consult us, the deaf community? What training do they have and what does the training material look like? They haven't consulted the experts to work with them in collaboration to ensure that the training is appropriate and accessible to address the accessibility barriers and eliminate them essentially.
340 The big question is the training timelines. What does that look like? At the beginning of an employment opportunity they need to be provided with training, and that should not just happen the one time when they're hired. It should happen and be reviewed annually as the context changes and the environment changes, to ensure that all of their staff are updated in terms of the accessibility plans, accessibility information, sign language interpreters, anything in their system. So if a deaf person or a deaf/blind person or hard of hearing person comes in, we want to avoid those and systemic barriers that happen inherently.
341 And then in terms of the ASL and LSQ videos, with regards to the wireless codes, some deaf, deaf/blind and hard of hearing consumers enter a retail store and the first thing they notice is that there is printed tent card at the front desk, a English script or in French or both, depending on what area or retail store they enter. And so that's provided readily, but there's nothing comparable or comparable in ASL or LSQ. There should be equivalent information, equivalent accessibility. It's their right and obligation to be informed and we need to protect our consumers to ensure that they know their rights.
342 And our second point of concern is that the wireless vocabulary, contract vocabulary should be translated in ASL and LSQ. So when an individual is ready to purchase a telephone or enter a contract that they can view in ASL and LSQ, because you can provide the text in ASL -- in English and in French, rather, so there should be a comparable translation in ASL and LSQ on a video so that they can review the contract before they enter in the contract. So language accessibility is our primary concern, to be equal participants in Canadian society and to be able to view this in our language.
343 So overall, our recommendations in terms of addressing and resolving these barriers in retail stores across Canada to avoid misleading sales practices, it's important that we reduce those barriers in that environment. Firstly, to set up an accessibility stores at -- in large urban locations in Canada so that deaf, deaf/blind and hard of hearing people know where to go or which stores are accessible to them and that those services are readily provided to them. So that will reduce that one barrier.
344 Our second recommendation is that you hire a deaf, deaf/blind and hard of hearing person to be that frontline person, to communicate with them.
345 And thirdly, to provide ASL LSQ interpreters and actively promote that you have these interpreters available, as long as they request it in advance, that they would be available in these various locations. And I also recommend adding VRI, video remote interpreting, at certain locations across Canada.
346 And then with regards to training materials, again, they should be consulting the experts and ensuring that the accessibility training is appropriate and accessible for all, and that will reduce many issues that arise in store.
347 And then lastly, our recommendation is to ensure that the telecom companies and retail stores must set up ASL LSQ videos on an iPad or on a tablet. And then just as comparable is available in English and in French, then also be available in LSQ and ASL and so that their rights are protected and they are aware of the terminology and the contract terminology before they enter into a contract or before they purchase a phone.
348 And thank you, that’s it for me and I’m going to move on to Lisa that will discuss the accessibility plans.
349 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: Thank you, Frank.
350 First off, I want to thank you for the policy in the 2016-496 that directs WSP provisions of accessibility plans. Thank you for that.
351 With our most recent survey that we did, 53 percent of our consumers do not have an accessibility plan. Twenty-six (26) percent were unsure if they had an accessibility plan. Sixty-one (61) percent had a hard time getting an accessibility plan, and 18 percent weren’t sure. Thirty-three (33) percent tried to get an accessibility plan, but they were varying in terms of data plans. So it seems that there are a lot of backdoor agreements, or one on one agreements, between the customer and the sales agent that is off the books, and that’s not acceptable. We should have a standardized plan available.
352 Rogers had $20 reduced -- $20 off accessibility plans and 30 percent tried to get that, and 17 percent were trying to get two free gigabytes top up from Bell. And then 11 percent were trying to keep their grandfathered plan.
353 And then 82 percent were not informed by the salesperson that there is an accessibility plan, that they have an accessibility plan. Just as Frank recently explained, they’re unaware or they don’t have the frontline training, the frontline staff don’t have the appropriate training. They haven’t been given an orientation to their own company website to find that accessibility plan. More often than not, our consumers are told that there isn’t an accessibility plan in place.
354 Now, I’m going to address our issues and our challenges. And when you go back to the December 2017 debacle, where there was 60 -- 10 Gigabytes for $60, many deaf wanted to get -- take advantage of that plan, because that accommodates our needs, more data for videoconferencing, for less. And so that fit their needs. But unfortunately, the majority of our community were told no, they couldn’t have the accessibility on top of that. Many of the front sales staff were rude and they refused to provide the accessibility plan.
355 So I spent the beginning of my Christmas break playing a mediator between the consumers and the telecom companies trying to resolve many complaints, there were about 30. Out of the 30 complaints, about 27 were resolved and three were not resolved, and I did recommend that they go to the CCTS. I don’t know if they followed up with their complaints.
356 So after all that chaos, a resolution would be to go get the plan, is what I recommended, and then a few days later follow up and get the accessibility plan once the phone lines calmed down and it was less busy. Now we see more barriers.
357 That $20 reduction, that concept is not a “one size fit all” and it doesn’t work with our consumers. For example, I pay $230 for my husband and I, for our phone, for 15 Gigabytes and we get a $20 reduction each. But we still pay $200 and that doesn’t fit for me. I use a lot of data and lots of video to speak with the deaf community, to speak with wireless companies, the telecom companies, and this doesn’t fit for me because I go through a lot of data.
358 And the sales practice, from the anecdote stories that we provided in our report, there are 10 stories there. There are three common scenarios. Individuals want a new phone and they want to buy a new phone because they want good quality video to be able to communicate in sign language. But unfortunately, they were told that they couldn’t -- they were denied an accessibility plan, and that’s discrimination.
359 Another situation is an individual will purchase a phone or ask them to purchase a phone outright and then they’ll be given an accessibility plan. But a lot of our consumers can’t afford to pay for the phone. They want to take advantage of a monthly plan and so the companies just come up with this idea, no, you have to pay the phone outright first, purchase a phone and then you’ll get access to an accessibility plan, which is unjust.
360 If they want to take advantage of a sale price, the company said -- they were told that they were not able to take -- that was already discounted and they can’t take advantage of the accessibility plan as well, because that discount price is special. And so, they are thinking it’s two different discount plans, but it’s not, it’s actually their accessibility right, their human right to obtain an accessibility plan, and they need increased data in order to use video.
361 So going on to our recommendations, there should -- we can’t be refused our accessibility plan if the individual has proof that they are a member of the deaf, deaf blind, or hard of hearing community. They automatically should qualify for the accessibility plan and it is an accessibility plan, period. It is not a discount.
362 There also should be some reconsiderations going on into the accessibility plans that the companies currently are offering. We really need to look at the amount of data that our community is using and what other services and features that we are not using, and the price should be adjusted to reflect that. Deaf, deaf blind, and hard of hearing Canadians should not be forced to pay for additional features that they wouldn’t be using because they cannot benefit from it. For example, call waiting, call conferencing, evening and weekend plans, that’s not something that we use. We don’t use voice on our phones.
363 Our recommendation in terms of promotion. Promoting the accessibility plans on a single page or a webpage. For an example, let’s use Rogers.com/ accessibilityplan, they should have one. In terms of point of sale systems that are in store, that information should readily be accessible and easy to find, but that doesn’t seem to be happening. When an individual goes in to a retail store there seems to be a disagreement on where to find information and what information there is.
364 And a lot of companies, telecom companies have not made videos or they don’t have clear accessibility plans in place in clear easy to find places. So it is our recommendation, because the telcos have not made videos about their accessibility plans, we suggest CWTA, because they did a wonderful job with the Wireless Code videos, CWTA can make the videos that explain policy 2016-496, that includes information about the accessibility plan and that they can contact the companies for more information
365 The final recommendation comes focussing on accessibility department and the requirements that they should be holding. There should be a certain department per teleco that focusses on accessibility needs, not just calling the general business number and be transferred a number of times. There should be one direct point of contact for that. You can see that at accessibility at Telus.com, they do have one point of contact.
366 A final contact -- a final recommendation I have comes to the data plans that we are using. Right now, it’s really just the tip of the iceberg of what we’re using and paying for in terms of our plans on our phones. We don't see -- sorry, pardon me, we don't use a lot of the features that are included in the plan. We don't use anything in terms of voice calling, call waiting, family calling long distance, weekend and evening discounts; that is not a benefit to us. We don't use those voice minutes or those voice plans. And we’re paying for advanced voice mail as well too, which is an advanced feature that we are usually stuck paying.
367 Now, we don't mind, of course, paying for 911 emergency, that's rather instrumental, also for call display as well. And it’s a really great benefit to have voice minutes in the event that we do need to use voice, and those can be at a pay per use. And then we should be offered more data for data plans for the video platforms that we do use like Skype, Face Time, SRV Canada VRS, Glide and other -- other video messaging platforms, because that is how we communicate. We don't use the other voice features in the bottom part of the iceberg that we are still -- that we are still stuck paying for.
368 And now I will hand the floor over to Megan and she will go into the deaf -- sorry, the deaf-blind experience.
369 MS. McHUGH: Hi, I'm Megan McHugh and I’m going to be speaking about the challenges and experiences of the deaf-blind.
370 So, the first thing to point out is the special challenge of deaf-blind is that because of the combination of deafness and blindness, we typically cannot use one sense to compensate for the loss of the other. That means that we are very challenged in terms of access to information, communication, being able to travel, even being able to work, which means -- and also it limits the ways in which we can communicate and access information.
371 So, we have a special need for accessible wireless technology because it makes a huge difference for -- for some we use the help like for example, access to things like way-finding, like video -- video and messaging. Video is great, not all deaf-blind people can access it because of their vision, so there are other ways of communication as well that also require wireless and data, way-finding, getting around using GPS and transit apps, digital access to information that we can't see and print, access to text with 911.
372 And so they are the challenges when people have limited data for example, because it’s so expensive and they can't afford more, then if they run all of their data it limits the -- not just video communication, but it also limits the ability to go places and do things.
373 But especially for people who are deaf-blind, the access to text with 911 is pretty critical. And one example that I gave was a senior couple, a deaf-blind woman and -- in the report with a deaf-blind woman and her deaf husband were -- because the deaf-blind woman switched from the main provider -- the service provider to a subsidiary of that service provider and they were told that they were unable to use text with 911 due to -- due to their plan being prepaid. And it was just a whole -- it was a whole big mess and we ended up -- even though they had a prepaid plan with text with 911 with the original company, it was a whole big mess fighting for -- but the problem was even though the company -- finally, the support people agreed to -- we had to fight with the support people going through the process, finally they agreed to manually put the text with 911 on the woman’s plan, but we don't know if it works yet because we haven’t had a chance to test it.
374 But the situation there, any other deaf or deaf-blind person who goes to that company and they try to get text with 911 on their prepaid plan and they get the error message or the store tells them that, you know, the store support tells them it doesn’t work with prepaid, they aren’t going to know to fight it. They're just going to let it go and they're not going to have access. It’s a matter of life and death.
375 I mean especially for seniors like the couple that I'm talking about is, you know, and they're not -- they're not just a couple of random deaf people, I mean they're -- I mean they're very important people, I mean their lives depend on having this access. No, I mean if that's -- it’s special to me because I know them and, you know, they mean a lot to me, they're human beings, but every single deaf person and deaf-blind person or hard of hearing person, I mean it’s the same thing. I mean like these people who are not getting access to text with 911, I mean depending on their age they could be your parents or your grandparents, or they could even be you in the future if you lose hearing and vision as you age, it’s everybody, so it’s a serious situation.
376 And then there's other -- another person was saying because they were limited in the plan they could get, they couldn’t get the accessibility. And because the data was too expensive and they were fighting with the -- their telecom, they were fighting and fighting to try to get a better accessible data plan and they weren’t, so they had a limited data plan. And the telecom wasn’t even telling them that they were -- they were eligible for the accessible discount. So -- and then they were telling them they're limited in their ability to travel around, because when their data plan runs out they can't travel to use the way-finding or use the transit apps in order to travel safely. So these were all -- these were all big considerations.
377 And so, people who are deaf-blind, because of the communication challenges, it’s harder to access information are not always receiving the information related to, you know, special plans. Plus, when they're trying to contact the telecoms, they -- there's more limited ways of communicating. And if the telecom -- the personnel that they're talking to, you know, if they are not being patient, if they're not explaining it clearly or if they're being forced to use an inaccessible way to communicate -- I told one telecom that someone in the telecom kept telling me to communicate with them in a different way, to go on the website and use the live chat or whatever it’s called, well that was not as accessible for me, so -- and they kept hanging up without even explaining. I mean that was very frustrating and that client eventually ended up leaving that telecom and going to somebody else that was more accessible. It's a real challenge there.
378 So -- and then because these are like -- these are real people who are challenged in getting access to the information and if they go into the store, they have special challenge communicating if people aren’t always patient or don't understand how to communicate with someone who is deaf-blind, then it breaks down very quickly because of the additional challenge of both -- loss of both senses.
379 And I would like to point out that the part about being able to request an interpreter, I would like to know well, if there's someone who’s deaf-blind and they can't -- if they can't get to the retail store on their own, is the retail store going to cover an intervenor to helping that person to the store and then take -- provide the communication and then take them home? That's actually a big challenge for a lot of people.
380 So -- and the information from the telecoms is not -- is often not very easy to find for people who are deaf-blind, and I'm sure it’s not really easy to find for a lot of people. But I talk to so many people who were also very frustrated about contacting telecoms and the communication was breaking down because they weren’t patient, or they didn’t understand how to communicate with the deaf-blind person, people weren’t getting the discount, they weren’t being told about it.
381 And so and I would echo a lot of the other recommendations that other people have made here in that -- let me see --and especially that the staff need training and because it's not just enough just to communicate with pen and paper. If the person can't see very well, that doesn't necessarily help. You need to be able to maybe pull out an accessible iPad and know how to set up the accessibility so that they've got an inverted black background and large text and accessible keyboard to type on for it in order that they can actually see what's on the screen. That's just an example.
382 We need a lot -- need more patience for the staff. The staff need to be willing to work with the person to understand what their accessibility need is, not just assuming or trying to -- insisting on doing it in a way that the person doesn't quite understand.
383 And because the person doesn't always hear or see well, it's very helpful if the staff ensure that the person understand. It's also -- for a person who is deaf/blind at a telecom store, it helps a lot if the staff will accommodate them by meeting with them in a more accessible spot, because if a person -- because I've had times where I've been in the stores or other people who are deaf/blind while they're hard of hearing or they're very low vision, because of the lighting they can't see to communicate. They can't see to lip read or see to write notes or it's too glary. If you're hard of hearing there's a lot of noise going on in the background. You can't see to lip read. It's just -- it helps an awful lot if you can take -- provide an accessible spot to discuss it where the person might -- that makes it more accessible.
384 And the other thing is, well, we were talking about the -- those accessible plans and, in particular, the deaf/blind were very badly left out when it came to those, you know, those $20 -- no, sorry, 10 gigabytes for $60 a month last December I believe, a very, very large number of deaf/blind people wanted that, but they were left out because they had no way of communicating in time. So we need -- so a grace period is very, very important.
385 So thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak. I hope I didn't go over.
386 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Thank you for your submissions. Commissioner Laizner I believe has some questions for you.
387 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Good morning. Thank you for the work you have put into your interventions and the survey and your appearance with us today. We appreciate your attendance.
388 I was struck in the survey by the percentage of people who were deaf, deaf/blind or hard of hearing who were not informed of any accessibility plan associated with them, 82 per cent I saw. And that 61 per cent had a hard time or great difficulty getting those plans.
389 I'd like to dig deeper into that. I gather that from your survey you felt that large numbers of salespeople from many different companies were simply not aware of these plans. But did you also experience complaints from your members that they felt that they were deliberately misled that those plans did not exist? That's a yes?
390 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: Yes. I've heard lots of stories and lots of people posed on social media. It's a wonderful forum, Facebook. And so I've seen lots of comments from our community and felt like they were taken advantage of and not given the full picture and all the information. Again, 81 per cent of them were writing back and forth with pen and paper. And so that is limiting in terms of communication because often you'll try to take shortcuts and just write one word or two words and it -- they're not informed entirely. And so then it's just let go.
391 Frank, you wanted to add?
392 MR. FOLINO: That's the reason why I bring up training for staff. Have they been appropriately trained on all of the accessibility plans available to the community that they can provide sign language interpreters and that there is information in ASL and LSQ. So what do their training materials look like? Did they train their staff to be prepared to work with a customer that comes in that may be deaf or deaf/blind or hard of hearing? If they're not getting the appropriate training and if they're not aware of their accessibility plans, that becomes a barrier in itself.
393 Just as Lisa said, 81 per cent of individuals weren't aware that they could request sign language interpreters in advance. So how much are they actually advertising these services and promoting these services, because a lot of individuals weren't aware that there was an accessibility plan available.
394 MS. McHUGH: So, first of all, if you're going to the wireless store to ask about the accessibility plan or special plans for accessibility or for whatever you need, you're going there expecting that the salesperson there knows what you're -- is going to understand what you're looking for and they're going to provide you with that information. You're not going there expecting that you're going to have to explain to them about the program -- about the accessibility discount and how it works and how the T911 system works and how you're supposed to be able to sign up for it or anything. That's sort of like you taking your car to a garage and the mechanic expecting you to explain what's wrong with it and tell him how to fix it. But yet that's what's happening with us a lot.
395 Because, like, I work with a lot of people who are deaf/blind, I mean, I'm a technology instructor, so, you know, the average person, they don't know all the ins and outs. They just expect they're going to the store or to call the support person and they're going to say, "I'd like to get the accessibility plan." And but what happens is that the person in the store or the person on the support -- in the support department, they say, "We don't have an accessibility plan." And then they -- or they don't know anything about the text with 911.
396 So when they're saying -- because they don't know about the accessibility plan or text with 911, they are actually telling people who are deaf or deaf/blind or hard of hearing that they don't have it, or they're saying we don't have an accessibility department because they don't know that there actually is one.
397 So, like, if I'm calling, then I'm on the line there or I'm in the store and I am spending my time explaining in great detail that, yes, you do have this plan and you do have T911 and here's how it works and here's how the person is supposed to be able to sign up for it, but it's not working. That's what happened with that couple, that senior couple who were not aware -- the wife was not able to get signed into it. These people in the store, none of them knew what it was and then the people in the support department didn't know what it was either.
398 And then they were trying -- and I had to actually go through the details, explain, okay, first you're going to do -- you have to do this and then this is what happens, but then it breaks down and it doesn't work from here, and explain to them why it was so essential for that person to have the -- you know, the text with 911. And then the support people kept saying, "We don't have it." So that's a challenge.
399 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Did you identify any companies where this experience was particularly problematic or any companies where you found that you had no problems getting accessibility plans.
400 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: This is Lisa speaking.
401 From my understanding, Telus was a pretty good service provider for the accessibility plan. Rogers seems that -- Rogers seems to have a strong deaf following because the video -- the videos are really, really clear, but it is also the most expensive plan as well.
402 There seems to be a lot of -- a lot of negotiating with Rogers for decent plans, but the free two gigabits from Bell wasn't really -- isn't really a benefit to us because we're still paying full price for -- you're not seeing a cost reduction with the two gigabyte free gift that they're giving you, so there seems to be a lot of -- a lot of people wanting the discount from Bell and Rogers, but Bell doesn't offer that.
403 Rogers and Telus provide it, but Bell doesn't offer it.
404 Sorry. I'm getting a little quick for the interpreters with all three of the companies.
405 But in general, everyone seems to be receiving the -- we're getting the same stat that a lot of people are unaware or that they do have it, but there's rules being made up on how it doesn't apply to the phone or the plan that they have.
406 So if someone gets -- wants a new phone, wants to upgrade to a new phone, then they can't have the accessibility plan or if -- if they give you a discounted price, then you can't have the accessibility plan on top of that because they feel that you're getting discounted twice.
407 But again, the accessibility plan is not a discount. It's an accommodation.
408 Megan, you had a comment?
409 MS. McHUGH: The text with 911 situation happened with someone who was with Telus with a pre-paid plan and they signed up for the text with 911 with Telus and then the -- and with the pre-paid and the text with 911 with Telus works fine, but then they switched to Koodo and they kept their same phone number because they -- but because they switched to Koodo, they had to re-register for text with 911 so it was again -- it was a pre-paid plan with Koodo and yet, when they went through the process to try to get the text with 911 with Koodo, it didn't work. It crashed on the -- during the registration process and we had to go through the rigmarole with the staff trying to get them to fix it.
410 Mind you, the people at the -- the sales people in the store were awesome. I mean, after I explained what need -- what it was, how important it was, even though they didn't know about it at first, once I explained how important it was, they went to bat for us and they really -- they hung in there and worked through it with the support people, who were a little reluctant.
411 But there, because it's crashing when the person with the pre-paid plan with Koodo, I'm assuming it's going to do the same thing for any deaf or deaf-blind or hard of hearing person who tries to sign up for a text with 911 if they go to Koodo or if they transfer from Telus to Koodo and they're not going to get it.
412 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Thank you.
413 I'd like to focus on the matters that were raised by the CCTS in terms of examples where they felt that consumers were surprised or possibly misled. And I'd like to get from you your experience for your community of deaf, hard of hearing or deaf-blind.
414 So Mr. Maker gave the example about a customer entering into a contract and expecting to get a service at a certain price point, perhaps a free mobile device, but then when they were billed seeing that the price point was higher and they were billed for the device.
415 Have your -- have your survey results demonstrated or through your research is this a problem that you've experience as well?
416 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: This is Lisa speaking.
417 Yes, it is. One customer in particular was told that they would receive -- that they would be getting 65 -- their bill would be $65, but it ended up being $114. And when they called again to find out what was happening, the next bill they received was $85.
418 So the price was still not the same for the three billing cycles. It kept going up and down and it kept changing.
419 And that does happen quite frequently with what I'm hearing from the deaf community, and there is -- they're not getting billed the fixed price they had agreed upon.
420 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: And what about the example that was given where -- with respect to promotions or even the accessibility plan where, in the example that was given by the CCTS, they felt that consumers were not clear about the fact that a discount might only apply for a few months, they expected it to apply for the full contract? I'd like to know whether that has been an experience that you've heard about.
421 And also, I'll just ask the second question at the same time. Are there cases where the accessibility plan, the discount has been applied, but not for the full term of the contract?
422 Have you had problems like that?
423 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: Again this is Lisa.
424 That's a really good question. I don't know that I have any information in terms of that, you know, but that is something that I will follow up with.
425 I do have 12 contacts that I can do a follow-up with that they had said if they needed any more information that I could be in touch with them, so I will do that.
426 MS. McHUGH: So I've -- I've had a couple of people tell me that they had gotten some kind of a discount on their plan, but it was not explained clearly to them that it was only a temporary discount and they expected it to last like for, you know -- well, I guess to continue on.
427 I'm not clear on what kind of discount, but they were -- they did not understand that it was only a temporary one, so they expected it to continue.
428 So yes, I've seen that happen with a few deaf-blind people.
429 MR. FOLINO: And this is Frank.
430 It's important that when an individual goes into a store, whether they're deaf, deaf-blind or hard of hearing, and they go into the store and they're shopping for a new device or a new plan what is agreed upon and what is in the contract and what is written within that contract is not accessible for the deaf, deaf-blind, hard of hearing community.
431 English is not their first language. The vocabulary is quite dense and rather advance, so there really needs to be some -- some avenue, whether it be an iPad or some sort of technology that is ready and available that can have the information that they need in their preferred language, in ASL or LSQ via video.
432 Having that technology available would reduce so many confusions and complaints and misunderstandings that everyone's needs would be met. Information would be clearer if there were videos available in ASL and LSQ for the deaf individual to watch before purchasing a new contract.
433 And this should be readily available in all of the telecom stores. It is their -- and also, that many didn't know that it's their right to make that request. This information should be ready and available and there.
434 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Thank you.
435 What about contracts where the customer gets a certain amount of gigabytes and data and then finds out months later that their service provider has unilaterally changed their contract and reduced the data?
436 Do you have experiences from your community where people have experienced what they felt was a surprise, a change in contract terms that they thought they had negotiated.
437 MS. ANDERSON KELLETT: This is Lisa. Yes, absolutely. There are some situations that they received a reduced price in data and every month it just seems to creep up and when that price was not agreed upon, because they thought that they had a lot of gigabytes, but it seems that every month they're getting paid to top that up. And that is a common occurrence.
438 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Was that something you identified in percentage terms or is that information you have through reports you've heard from people who've experienced the problem?
439 MS. ANDERSON KELLETT: The question was in a previous survey that we had done in TNC 2018/9/8, so that question is in that proceeding, but I don't have the answer in front of me right now.
440 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: And that would have been filed on the record of our proceeding ---
441 MS. ANDERSON KELLETT: It certainly was.
442 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: --- at the time?
443 MS. ANDERSON KELLETT: Yes, it certainly was.
444 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Okay.
445 MS. ANDERSON KELLETT: Yes.
446 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: We can look into that.
447 MS. ANDERSON KELLETT: You can have a look at that -- yeah, that proceeding. Thank you.
448 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: I noticed that in your presentation you talked about the $60 debacle in December of 2017. And that I think it was you, Ms. Anderson Kellett, that said that you had recommended to people that they should just get the plan, wait a few days and then deal with the discount for their accessibility part of the plan. Can you explain to us why you felt you had to do that and what -- just elaborate a little bit on that issue?
449 MS. ANDERSON KELLETT: Certainly. From what I had seen from my survey of the situation was that just trying to get through the phone lines were so busy, that the wait time, the queues were so busy to try and get in contact with a customer service representative. There was -- you know, you were -- one individual called to get in touch with a customer service representative and they were, you know, the thousandth in line. So a lot of people were trying to get through to access this service and the customer service agents were tired and they were rude and they were not willing to negotiate and they had no energy to focus on that because they had this queue that was so long of people wanting to take advantage of this plan.
450 So it was our decision to -- it was -- my recommendation was to go ahead, sign the deal, get the plan and then later call the accessibility department to negotiate the accessibility plan on their line once the -- once everything has calmed down and the queues were a little shorter. And then hopefully the representatives would be able to provide that accessibility plan.
451 It was really more just about surveying the situation and the stress that the customer service representatives were going through to try and meet the demand of people wanting the plan.
453 MS. McHUGH: What I was told is -- well, and what I have experienced, when it comes to the accessibility discount, when you -- well, back then anyway, is that if you ask for it at the retail store they would just tell you that you would need to call the support people and ask them about it, because the retail store -- I don't know if this is still the case or if that was just, like, in some cases because retail store people didn't know about it, but they were just saying, "We can't deal with that here. You have to call the, you know, customer support and get that added onto your plan." And I guess -- so I don't know if that's still a problem. I mean, I think it is, not because they don't always know about it at the store.
454 MR. FOLINO: And this is Frank. One point that I also wanted to add as well too, when that $60 debacle happened, the queues were really, really long and the survey was that the deaf, deaf/blind, hard of hearing community had to write back and forth for communication, which is very limited. So it really took a lot of time for people to negotiate this plan.
455 Now, if this promotion was -- it was only a December promotion, but if it was advertised in ASL and LSQ, if you -- to our communities if they wanted to take advantage of it please book a sign language interpreter to make sure that it can be done in at a timely fashion and this will be provided to you in your preferred language in order to make sure that it is accessible for the community, because that month of December was so stressful, for many different reasons. But when a deaf individual showed up at a store there was already a long line and a lot of the representatives weren't aware of the accessibility accommodations. And when an individual had wanted to register for this plan in store, communication was an issue.
456 If there was information readily available on their system that the representative could access, it would have made things so much easier, but when an individual was asking for the new plan with the accessibility discount as well too, it wasn't available. They were told that it was not available and they didn't have access to add that feature onto their plan. That information was missing in their system.
457 So there's something missing out of the picture. There needs to be -- we need to dig a little deeper on where the resources are going, what sort of plans are available, where they should be available, how they can be accessed, whether it be online or what sort of procedure needs to be happen. There needs to be some clear instructions on how an individual who requires the accessibility plan can have that offered to them. There are no instructions. There are no clear procedures or policies. And a lot of the store staff are left unsure and they can become defensive when they feel like someone is trying to negotiate something that they don't know that they have available. And it can be intimidating.
458 The people in the deaf community or deaf/blind, hard of hearing don't want to be misled into purchasing a plan or a device that does not meet their needs.
459 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Would you characterise some of these experiences that you've just described as a person feeling that they were being subjected to aggressive behaviour on the part of the sales agents? Or how would you define aggressive sales practices that we would need to intervene on?
460 MS. ANDERSON KELLETT: This is Lisa. These individuals working with customers should have more patience, yeah, just more patience, just to be a little more understanding of the situation and not be focussing on making the sale. If the individual has limited information, then they should not be proceeding with having someone sign a contract if they don't know all the details. It's pushy.
461 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Did -- if I could just clarify something in my question. I'm looking for examples where you've heard of pushy behaviour, forceful behaviour on the part of salespersons during the transaction with members of the community.
462 MS. ANDERSON KELLETT: If you just wouldn't mind holding for one moment, I'm going to have a look at some of the cases that I have here.
463 MR. RICHMAN: But this is Elliott speaking, if I may. Let me talk about the word "aggressive". Aggressive situation happens when the information between the company and the consumer is not clear.
464 As Frank and Lisa just mentioned earlier, you have to be -- you have to have a full understanding before you can agree to anything. That's only possible when this information is provided in ASL and LSQ, in their language.
465 I would be lost if I were to buy a phone or enter a contract in Germany if it was in German because I don't speak German. I don't know German. I know English and that’s my language. So similarly, a deaf person who is well versed in ASL and LSQ, if they are looking at something in a different language, that could be intimidating. And then could lead to -- what’s the word I’m looking for? Lack of -- or lack of informed consent. Without being informed, you’re in the dark and that leads to possible misleading situations, then leads to aggressive situations. Does that help?
466 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Yes.
467 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: I have a story here, number eight on page 56 of our report, where one person called through video relay service to Telus -- oh a 1-866 number, wanting to -- one of the Google Pixel three’s. And they were looking at their previous account for the last two years and she was interested in a new phone and didn’t want the voice plan.
468 She wanted to continue with her 10 Gigabytes and was told that she couldn’t have that plan because you can’t use that 10 Gigabyte plan anymore, it’s not available. You’ll have to take less Gigabytes, but she didn’t want that. She actually wanted more Gigabytes because that’s what she needed in order to communicate. And the sales staff wanted her to buy 1,000 -- buy the phone outright for $1,200 and she couldn’t afford that.
469 She wanted a two-year agreement contract plan, and carryover the same current plan that she was on with 10 Gigabytes at a reduced price, and also allowing the accessibility plan, the $20 off because she was deaf. And she was told that she couldn’t have that phone. That she’d have to stay with her old phone and then carry the current plan. And that’s not what she wanted.
470 She wanted a new phone and the same plan, and she felt that she was taken advantage of and she was trying to be convinced to buy this new phone. You have to buy the 1,200 phone outright, and then you’re going to have to change your Gigabyte plan, you’re going to get reduced Gigabytes. And that didn’t meet her needs, so she posted her story on Facebook and Twitter, and that she couldn’t pay for the phone outright because she can’t afford it. So that’s one situation.
471 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: And do you feel that ---
472 MS. McHUGH: So this is just ---
473 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Oh, sorry. Go ahead Megan.
474 MS. McHUGH: This is a story that I just heard on Friday when I was facilitating an IOS club for people who are deaf blind. And afterwards one of the intervenors told me about her elderly uncle, who is deaf, and said her uncle had gone to -- I think it was Bell, because he wanted to sign up for text with 9-1-1. But the salespeople at Bell told him that his current phone was not -- was not I guess compatible with text with 9-1-1. So they -- and he had to get a new phone.
475 Well, that may have been the case, but and so he ended up with a new phone and a very new, more expensive phone, and a new more expensive plan when -- and but the thing was, he felt that he had been pressured, like you know, pressured and pushed into buying -- getting the newer, more expensive phone and also the higher cost plan. And I think that, well, because it wasn’t really explained to him very well why -- why exactly he needed it. He was just told, you have to do this, but he wasn’t really explained in a way that he could understand it.
476 So he did feel that that was an aggressive sales tactic, that he didn’t really know anything about, you know, the requirements, and why, and et cetera. And they just didn’t explain it to him in a way that was accessible so that he was fully understood why and, you know, so on.
477 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Is there a difference in the experience in-store as opposed to using the video relay service? Is one or the other better or do you experience these issues in both situations equally?
478 MR. RICHMAN: If I may respond to that question in a different way. In both situations we can’t record any evidence of the conversation, either way.
479 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: If I may, it’s Lisa here. I want to add -- and then I’ll let Megan make a comment.
480 With VRS, it might be easier to communicate back and forth because I’m using my language, but as Elliot indicated, there -- we can’t record that. There is no evidence.
481 With IP relay, I’ve had some experience with IP relay. This wasn’t recent, this was a long time ago, where is would type back and forth and negotiate my contract and ask for a new phone, or a new plan, and then I would print their response verbally, what we had agreed to. And then when my phone bill arrives, it was different from what I agreed to and I had the IP relay transcript. So I had proof in that instance. So I went back into the store and said, this is not what we agreed to and you’ve charged me differently on my bill and I have proof here with my transcription from our conversation through IP relay.
482 And then secondly, I already mentioned this, but that we can’t record any evidence with VRS, with IP relay I had the transcript, so then I felt more confident going back in the store and negotiating and -- because I know I’d win, because I have the actual transcript, the proof. So you don’t have the same privilege with VRS.
483 MS. McHUGH: I’ve had the exact same experience with Lisa. When I’ve called them from my own self or for other people, where with IP relay it’s easy to save a transcript. Obviously, when you’re in the store you’re not writing it all down and writing down, he said, she said, et cetera. So you can’t really remember every single detail of that afterward.
484 But the whole point is that when people are going through this whole process with the store personnel, or online, or through the support people, they are expecting, you know, these are the experts. These people know all of this stuff, so they’re expecting it to be resolved. Like, they’re not thinking at that time, “Oh, I need to keep a transcript and write all these details down so if something screws up I can go back.” We’re not thinking about that.
485 So even you use IP relay, a lot of people will just close it afterwards, assuming that everything is fine and then they get their bill and they are like, “Wait, what the heck happened?” I mean, we’re not -- we’re not anticipating that to happen now. Although, mind you, with the number of calls I’ve made for myself and my -- and other people, I am kind of now making sure I keep the transcripts.
486 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: And Lisa here, just to add -- to respond to your question. On video relay service, you can have a more in-depth dialogue. In person, writing with pen and paper it’s limited. And in IP relay you can have the same experience with VRS and you can have more in-depth dialogue, but it’s limiting in person with pen and paper, if that helps.
487 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: I asked the CCTS when they were here this morning, about complaints from persons that were elderly, or deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf blind, and they weren’t able in terms of their statistical analysis to identify that. And you in your survey have also raised lack of awareness of the CCTS as an issue.
488 Can you elaborate on what steps you think or activities could raise that awareness so that persons within the community could get an easier access to the CCTS?
489 MR. FOLINO: Frank here.
490 To raise that awareness within the deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind community to be more aware of the CCTS, the first thing that has to happen is that there needs to be promotional videos in ASL and LSQ explaining how the complaint process works and what it looks like.
491 And the second point in the complaint process, there should be alternate formats available so that a deaf Canadian can then sign in video their complaint and send that to the CCTS and then the CCTS internally can hire a deaf worker to look at that and translate it into English or French to -- as a reporting mechanism. And that will enable the deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing community to be able to access the complaint process.
492 So first and foremost, those videos need to be done in ASL and LSQ about the complaint process and then promoted. A large percentage of our community is unaware of the complaint process available through CCTS.
493 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: And there's -- Lisa here.
494 You mentioned stats, and we would like to recommend or request that the CCTS collect stats specifically on accessibility issues.
495 When we have more awareness and more deaf consumers using -- use cases using CCTS through video, making these videos available, it'll be nice to finally see the complete breakdown of what the issues are and then we will have more information to share in the future -- in future proceedings.
496 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: So when there are complaints, would -- just along that vein of CCTS tracking, would it be your expectation that people would self-identify as being part of the community of deaf or hard of hearing or deaf-blind so that the CCTS would be able to track it or do you think it would just become evident on the basis of the complaint?
497 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: Like with our survey, if you ask the question and give those options to check off whether they're deaf, hard of hearing or deaf-blind, then those numbers will populate and increase. So that's my suggestion. That makes it easier for all.
498 And yes, it would be nice to know how many were refused or denied an accessibility plan.
499 MR. FOLINO: If I could just add -- Frank here.
500 When I mentioned hiring a deaf-blind or hard of hearing employee that works in the CCTS responsible for resolving issues within the complaint process, so if there is a consumer who's deaf or deaf-blind or hard of hearing and they file a complaint with CCTS, they -- systemically, the CCTS would already have an employee that can work directly with those consumers to resolve their complaint.
501 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: And then Lisa here.
502 Just to add, with a direct phone line via video, they can use SRV/VRS Canada, their platform. They have a customer service line and you can use that concept to apply to the CCTS.
503 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: You've mentioned the solutions on the record, and they're very comprehensive. Can you give me the top five solutions that would address issues that you've experienced for misleading or aggressive sales tactics and inability to resolve complaints?
504 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: I have to think about that.
505 We have 20 recommendations and you're asking us to pick five.
506 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: No, I'm just trying to determine the importance that you attribute to those recommendation, so it's not a question asking you to limit yourself in your proposals, but it's more in the nature what are the most important of those.
507 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: In-store accessibility. Having an iPad or a tablet available with ASL and LSQ, with the wireless terminology available in ASL and LSQ.
508 And a direct phone number or direct email address to the accessibility department, not being involved a phone tree or being passed from person to person and not having educated individuals knowing about the accessibility plans available for the various companies.
509 And then in-store deaf, hard of hearing or deaf-blind people working in the front line who are fluent in ASL and LSQ, so there's that direct point-to-point conversations happening.
510 And reconsider the accessibility plan, the structure. There should be three-tiered pricing, you know, a large data plan with less -- for less than just having one size fits all. That doesn't accommodate everyone and meet our needs.
511 And people working within the phone companies' accessibility department and at CCTS that are deaf, the deaf-blind and hard of hearing and that have video capability to be able to understand or have the complaint process translated in ASL and LSQ so that's available to our community.
512 We need something to raise awareness to our community, to let them know that there's an accessibility plan available and where to go for more information, so ensure that the staff and the company is aware about their own accessibility plans, and that will reduce the issues that we're seeing where they're denied. So we want to see more yeses than nos, and we don't want to see those refuses or denials of accessibility plans in store.
513 I hope I covered it all. Does everyone agree here at the table?
514 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: So thank you very much. Those are all the questions that I have, and I'll -- the Chair will see whether others have questions as well.
515 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
516 No, we don't have any other questions.
517 I, once again, would like to thank you for appearing before us today and sharing your concerns and proposed solutions. Thank you.
518 Oh, pardon me. Counsel.
519 MR. ABBOTT: Mr. Chair, if I could just clarify an undertaking.
520 THE CHAIRPERSON: I -- thank you.
521 I believe legal counsel has a point to raise.
522 MR. ABBOTT: Good afternoon. I just wanted to clarify an undertaking.
523 In response to Vice-Chair Laizner's question, Ms. Anderson-Kellett offered to provide follow-up information, if available, on the deaf, the deaf-blind and hard of hearing experience concerning whether promotional discounts are honoured for the entire period of the contract and whether accessibility discounts are honoured for the entire period of a contract.
525 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: Right. That it applies the whole entire term of the contract and not just a short term, right.
526 I can follow up with those 12 individuals and see what happens, so hopefully I -- someone will have a response to that.
527 MR. ABBOTT: Thank you. And the undertakings are due on November 1st.
528 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: Okay, will do.
529 Thank you.
530 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. That lets me say thank you once again for appearing and for sharing your views with us.
531 With that, we will recess for lunch, resuming at 1:10.
532 Madame la secrétaire.
--- Upon recessing at 12:09 p.m.
--- Upon resuming at 1:10 p.m.
533 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.
534 We’ll now hear the presentation of Mr. Tony Wacheski. You may begin your presentation, you have five minutes. Thank you.
535 MR. WACHESKI: Good afternoon. I’ll be reading a prepared statement to stay within the five minutes.
536 My name is Tony Wacheski. I’m here to encourage Bell and Rogers to rethink how they are treating their customers, and hopefully convince you that your encouragement might also be needed.
537 As you know, Canadians and the prosperity of this country, depends on the services they provide. You may argue that if you don’t like Bell you can go to Rogers. The problem is that they act exactly the same. If you don’t like the incumbents you can go to a new entry. There's still challenges there.
538 I’ve been a customer of Rogers and Bell and I'm very happy with the products that Bell is currently providing, but I, and pretty much everyone I know, is not happy with the nefarious business practices we have experienced. Currently, Bell is refusing to honour a verbal contract and I will share some of those details.
539 Previously, I did switch to Teksavvy. However, they are dependent on the incumbents for that last mile. A couple examples of issues, my Teksavvy modem needed a firmware upgrade, but Rogers network could not or would not allow it, so Teksavvy had to mail me a new modem instead of flashing my firmware over the network. When my neighbour changed their cable service, I lost my internet. I chased the truck as it drove away, then I called Teksavvy two minutes later, and my internet wasn’t restored for three days. I couldn’t afford being without internet and I had to sign directly with Rogers.
540 Then one day my brother-in-law proudly announced he dumped Rogers for Bell and got a great three-year guarantee on price. In February of 2016, I received three calls from Bell offering a three-year price guarantee for a complete cable-internet-phone package and three months free call display. I noted her name and employee number. I asked her several times to clarify what “price guarantee” meant. She was very persistent and absolutely confirmed the price would not change for three years. She even told me that after three months if I called Bell, they would extend the free call display. I asked for it in writing. She explained I would receive an email with all the details once I agreed.
541 When I received the email, the three-year price guarantee was not clearly spelled out. I called Bell and another employee looked at the work order and agreed it was a three-year offer.
542 On March 1st, 2016I rewired the network in my house, it’s not simple to change from Rogers to Bell for me, and the service was installed. Three months later I did call to try extend the free call display. Of course, that was not possible resulting in a $361 increase to the overall contract.
543 On March 9th, 2017, so about a year later, the monthly bill increased. Bell acknowledged I had a price guarantee, but explained the contract said the price can change and a manager would call me the next day. So I have a price guarantee, but the price can change. I did not sign a contract and I did not receive a call from the manager.
544 On March 11th, 2017 I used Bell’s online chat facility to follow-up. I was told the network usage is up 40 percent to increase the increase. At the time, they applied a one-time adjustment of $26 to address a $60 contract increase. I did file -- I did include the chat with Jade, so she has that information as well.
545 On December 8th, 2017 my monthly bill increased $34.16. And I’m back on the phone for an extended song and dance -- usually you're on hold for about an hour -- before being connected to the loyalty team. The loyalty team was able to adjust my promotions to reduce my monthly bill closer to the original contract.
546 On April 15th, 2018 I was on the phone for over an hour with another increase. Beth told me there was simply no more discounts to apply to honour the contract. But Tina from the loyalty team -- again, got redirected to someone else -- provided a three-month reimbursement to offset the increase and I requested a manager to call me.
547 On April 18th, Rob did call and told me I have no proof of the original offer, and suggested we -- no, sorry, I suggested that we talk to the person who originally made the offer, I had her name, I had her employee number, but he said that absolutely would not happen.
548 On May 2nd, I submitted an Incident Report with the CCTS for Bell to honour their original offer and refund the additional charges. I received a phone message and email from Bell and replied on May 7th -- I think I included that as well. On May 8th, Jin called me back and explained she cannot even see the original order, their system don’t go back that far, so they can't even see what was originally agreed, but she offered a three-month differential reimbursement. So, instead of trying to change the price, they just add a little bit of money here and there as they go.
549 On May 20th, Stephan offered me a two-month credit to close my CCTS complaint, and then said he would remove the credit that was previously applied by Jin unless I took the offer. I was amazed. And they did remove the credit on a future bill, they took off the money that they reimbursed me.
550 On September 7th, 2018 CCTS called me to discuss my complaint, told me there's nothing they could do and suggest -- and said they were going to close the complaint and there was really no other option at that point.
551 Which brings me here today. I have spent hours fighting for Bell to keep their promise, an unsolicited offer confirmed multiple times. How can one line in the fine print of an email I didn’t even sign or even read, override a promise from a real person? Bell and Rogers are iconic Canadian companies with great caring people selling essential services. They do not need to compete on the most devious sale practices. They do need to align their entire teams on a common goal of delighting their customers. I hope you can help them do this.
552 Thank you very much.
553 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Thank you for your submission and for taking the time to be with us today.
554 Commissioner Levy, I believe you have some questions.
555 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Hello.
556 MR. WACHESKI: Hi.
557 COMMISSIONER LEVY: In the Ipsos Survey Report that the CRTC added on the record last week -- I don’t know whether you’ve seen it or not, but it is noted that 40 percent of Canadians -- that four out of 10 have experienced aggressive or misleading sales practices. Does that number jibe with what you would expect?
558 MR. WACHESKI: Well, at Thanksgiving I had the family over and I’d mention that I was going to appear at the CRTC hearing, and they all had similar experience to share and complain about. Everyone I know has similar experiences to share and complain about, either Bell or Rogers. I mean you can go online and find the “I hate Rogers” domain and all that kind of stuff. I would say -- I would say yes.
559 And just as an analogy, driving over here, this is what this is like, if I had a variable rate mortgage and the other bank called me and said, “I can give you a three-year fixed mortgage for less that your variable rate.” “Great, okay, I’ll take that.” And then a year later they call you back and say, “You know what, the interest rates have gone up, so now your three-year fixed mortgage is going to go up too.” That’s exactly what's happening when Bell does this to the people.
560 And my brother-in-law, who told me about it and, you know, when I got the call, “I said, oh, maybe I should check with him, did it work out?” And I called him, “Yeah, it worked out great.” Well, until a year, now he’s paying 50 percent more than they originally promised. I mean, it’s happening in my tight circle and I'm sure it’s happening everywhere else.
561 COMMISSIONER LEVY: In your written submission you talked about this price increase. If service providers were required to provide a written document, before signing a contract, that more clearly disclosed the fact that rates would increase; would that help your issue?
562 MR. WACHESKI: Well, I mean the first issue is someone verbally confirmed this on three separate calls very explicitly; right? I mean, why do I have to go comb through, you know, pages and pages of contract to figure out if what they said is the truth? Why wouldn’t I believe them; right? I think it’s very difficult.
563 I look at the bills that I get from Bell, they're very hard to read, understand what they're saying. I mean they’ve got all kinds of stuff. It’s just -- all I want to know is what I'm going to pay in the next year and that’s what it should be. If I look at -- back at the prices I pay, I see it goes up, it goes down, it goes up, it goes around. And because I've called and spent hours on the phone trying to get to the right place, it does come back around.
564 But one thing, they shouldn’t be able to lie and that -- I mean that’s a cultural thing with their sales practices that they have to address, but I don’t know what the best way is. Definitely having it clearly written, “This is what you're getting for this long, this is how much it’s going to cost”, anyone would expect them to find anything.
565 COMMISSIONER LEVY: What other solutions do you think we could contemplate?
566 MR. WACHESKI: Well, the bank wouldn’t be allowed to do that, as I’ve just said; right? I think you do need to have a Code of Conduct with the providers to how they deal with people. And you wouldn't think that you would need that when you -- when -- to say that oh, you shouldn't tell people something that's not true and then charge them more than you said you were going to tell them.
567 I mean, how do you deal with that? I don't know.
568 COMMISSIONER LEVY: How did you find out about the CCTS?
569 MR. WACHESKI: Well, I'd like to congratulate CBC on all the great stories they've done on this topic in the last year because whenever I see a story I say, "Oh, yeah, that happened to me. Oh, that happened to me, too", and then they would give us the link to do it.
570 So I mean, I raised an issue with my TekSavvy issue back in the 2017 -- one of the other things that you guys have had here, and then when CBC told me about the CCTS, that's the only way I found out about it.
571 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Okay. Thank you.
572 THE CHAIRPERSON: Are there any other questions, Members? No.
573 I thank you very much for taking the time to come and see us and for sharing your experience. Much appreciated.
574 MR. WACHESKI: You're welcome.
575 I mean -- yeah, and I don't want -- I didn't want to have to spend this time, but I'm the type of person who's very stubborn when it comes to things like this. If someone's going to do me wrong, they're doing a lot of other people wrong and it should really -- you should really help it stop.
576 THE CHAIRPERSON: Understood.
577 MR. WACHESKI: Thank you.
578 THE CHAIRPERSON: Mme la secrétaire.
579 MS. ROY: Thank you.
580 We'll now connect via Skype.
581 Hi, Mr. Smith. Can you hear me well?
582 MR. SMITH: I can hear you well.
583 MS. ROY: We cannot hear you clearly. Can you speak a little bit so ---
584 MR. SMITH: Can you hear me loud and clear?
585 Can you hear me loud and clear?
586 MS. ROY: It's better.
587 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes, that's much better. Thank you, and welcome.
588 MS. ROY: Thank you.
589 MR. SMITH: Sorry about that.
590 MS. ROY: It's okay. You can start your presentation. You have five minutes.
591 Thank you.
592 MR. SMITH: Thank you.
593 (Inaudible - technical difficulties) and like I was -- my parents and I, we were with TekSavvy, and we left TekSavvy and then went with -- we were also with Bell. We left Bell, then went to TekSavvy, then left there and went with Cogeco.
594 MS. ROY: I'm sorry, Mr. Smith. Can you just wait one minute because our court reporter is having an issue hearing you on her machine and we want your transcription, so can you just wait one minute?
595 MR. SMITH: Okay, yeah.
596 MS. ROY: Mr. Smith, can you just -- let's talk a little bit. We need to know if we hear you properly in the machine.
597 MR. SMITH: Okay. Can you hear me loud and clear?
598 MS. ROY: Yes, we can.
599 So can you start over, please?
600 MR. SMITH: Yeah, no problem. No problem at all.
601 MS. ROY: Because we want to make sure -- we want to make sure we have everything on the transcript.
602 MR. SMITH: That's okay.
603 MS. ROY: Thank you.
604 MR. SMITH: No problem at all.
605 MS. ROY: Sorry about that.
606 MR. SMITH: No problem at all. That's okay. That's all right.
607 So like I said at the beginning, Tony, with his report, I was surprised because, like I said, I've been a Rogers customer for a while, and I have nothing against Rogers, nothing against any other company. But there needs to be more practices in place that they need to watch how they treat their customers and do good customer service.
608 There has been times where when we've had problems with our internet or our phone. My father has a hard time handling the issue, so I usually do the phone-ins and help him out. And I'm more patient with technical than my father is, unfortunately.
609 But when I get in there with them and talk with them, they're very helpful and they fix the problem. And there's been times where we've had techs come to our house to fix an issue.
610 When we switched to Cogeco back in April of this year, we waited about four days. I had to scramble to phone Bell and get our services back online because Cogeco -- one technician refused to actually install our services, and then when I put the call in I had another technician show up and our services were installed on Easter weekend, so literally we had services on Easter weekend that day.
611 But when I've been with Rogers, I've had a few issues with Rogers in terms of phone problems and I've had those issues fixed, but I think there should be more stuff put in place to protect customers and prevent higher tactic sale prices, that they need to think, okay, this is -- we need to treat this person correctly, respectfully, and not price gouge them because then they'll lose that customer and then they try everything to get that customer back.
612 We've had mail coming from Bell to get us back on, and we've refused to go back to Bell because their prices are so gosh-darn high.
613 So I'm hoping that you guys, CRTC, can do something and get something in place to fix this because eventually people are not going to -- are not going to want to go with anybody unless this is fixed.
614 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
615 Does that complete your remarks?
616 MR. SMITH: Yes, it does.
617 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.
618 Commissioner Dupras, do you have some questions?
619 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: Yes, I may have a question.
620 There are some telecom providers that told us that the best protection measure is the ability for the consumer to switch providers. From what I hear from you today, it seems to be generalized, the problem.
621 MR. SMITH: Yeah.
622 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: So do you agree with that statement that I just mentioned?
623 MR. SMITH: Yeah, I agree. Yeah, I agree with that statement 100 percent.
624 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: Well, you find that they all have the same problem or certain providers in particular?
625 MR. SMITH: They all have the same problem. They all have the same problem.
626 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: And it relates -- I heard you talking about customer service and difficulty on that end, but in terms of sales practice, you have the same comments?
627 MR. SMITH: Yeah, I do. I have the exact same comments.
628 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: Okay. As you know, we had IPSOS survey added on the record last week where it was noted that one out of four Canadians report having experienced aggressive or misleading practices.
629 Is that a number that match what you would expect?
630 MR. SMITH: Yes.
631 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: Okay. Well, then, thank you very much. This is all I have to ask.
632 MR. SMITH: Thank you.
633 THE CHAIRPERSON: Other questions, Members?
635 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: Hello. I just have a quick question about your remarks about Cogeco. It wasn't entirely clear to me what transpired there.
636 You waited four days, a technician refused, and then you had another company you switched, or -- can you just clarify what transpired there, please?
637 MR. SMITH: Yeah. Yeah, of course.
638 The technician we had was a Cogeco technician, and he refused to install services because a line we had connecting to our house to the power pole was an old, old line and he said, "Well, it's not going to carry your services", and he refused to install our services.
639 So then I got on the phone with Cogeco and said, "This technician just refused to do our services", so then they put the call in and they had a company that they contracted out, NHH Communications, came out and within that day on the Easter weekend we had our services installed.
640 He came out and installed our services, our internet, our home phone and television.
641 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: And that was an agent of Cogeco that came to do it. It was ---
642 MR. SMITH: Yeah, it was -- it was an agent that was contracted by Cogeco.
643 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: All right. Thank you.
644 THE CHAIRPERSON: Just one last question, if you would.
645 So you've raised a number of issues, I guess, price, certainly customer service and then also, to a certain extent, behaviour.
646 If you had to say, you know, what, in your view, is the core problem?
647 MR. SMITH: In my view, the core problem essentially would be the -- like, the customer sales tactics and, essentially, price gouging. Like, basically, the whole root is the entire problem. It’s the entire problem because they’re just -- they’re finding a way around and they’re not following proper protocol.
648 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
649 Well, other questions? No?
650 Thank you very much for your submission. Thank you for taking the time for being with us and sharing your concern.
651 MR. SMITH: No problem. Thank you so much.
652 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
653 Madam la secrétaire.
654 MS. ROY: Thank you.
655 I will now ask Ryan Adams to come to presentation table.
656 (SHORT PAUSE)
657 MR. ADAMS: Good afternoon.
658 Ladies and gentlemen of the Commission, I firstly wish to thank you for this opportunity to present to you as part of the public record.
659 In each of my three written submissions I cover the topics of cancellation issues, potential violations of the Wireless code, and disadvantageous service provisions.
660 In my first submission regarding my experience with the cancellation of service, I will offer a partial solution to cancellation issues that others have highlighted as a negative experience.
661 I will note that the only way to cancel services through many telecommunications providers is through a call centre with a human. Perhaps the Commission consider that subscribers are owed an additional method of cancelling services without the interaction of a human that earns or loses bonus points or other money by swaying a customer decision in favour of a corporation's interests.
662 In my second submission regarding potential violations of the Wireless Code, I urge the Commission to examine the written evidence I have submitted regarding Xplornet, and its cancellation fees.
663 It is my belief that Xplornet's present terms of service may violate some parts of the Wireless Code if, indeed, Xplornet is considered a wireless service provider under the Code.
664 In my third submission, I highlighted the serious issue of the provision of disadvantageous service where a corporation offers, say, landline voice or TV services to a household, and then fails provide broadband for “technical” or “other” reasons, similar broadband service.
665 The same corporation then has an advantageous position to offer a more expensive monthly wireless solution that doesn't features such as unlimited usage, and far more expensive bandwidth with lessened bandwidth caps.
666 It's my belief that when a corporation provides advantageous communication -- telecommunications services to some within a community, and then offers more expensive one to others, it is contrary to the Telecommunications Act to include the objectives of, and subsection 27.
667 Could you imagine that some within a few kilometres or less will be charged a sharply increased rate, perhaps double or triple the rate for, say, long-distance calling or landline service monthly rate?
668 Further compounding the disadvantageous circumstances, I have documented is the halving of service plans from Bell for wireless subscribers as compared to the most present, recent review of the telecom services.
669 My written submission has further details on the astounding costs of wireless broadband-only plans, and the breakeven point of $540 monthly for 180 gigabytes of data, where the newer plan becomes more advantageous than the old plan.
670 Corporations should not have the ability to selectively implement disadvantageous technologies such as wireless, at their will, where it is their own doing and their will that they are denying less expensive services in the first place as part of their existing service footprint.
671 I’d also like to address the term of "technological neutrality" on the public record with regards to broadband implementation.
672 For corporations that offer both wireless and wireline services within a community, or differing forms of wireless, I’d like to emphasize that technological neutrality cannot exist without price, offering, and service plan parity between members of the community. Right now, there is no parity for wireline and wireless, even those within Bell Deferral communities.
673 Lastly, as this report will be sent to the Federal Government, it’s my belief that it’s time to recommend the updating of the Weights and Measures Act, as part of your report. Curiously, said Act covers everything from watts to grays to cords of firewood and bushels of apples.
674 Minutes, as a unit of measurement used for long distance is covered.
675 While I set aside the consideration that there is no bandwidth factory producing bandwidth or bytes, and the debate of a byte as a consumable good is arguable, I don't quite see how a byte is consumed, converted, or destroyed by a subscriber. Nor do I understand how in a market-forces economy that using more of a supposedly consumable resource means that your overall unit of price per measure goes up.
676 Normally, in the case of, say, a dozen bananas versus, say, 10 dozen bananas, the overall price per unit goes down with a bulk purchase.
677 The proposed definition of a byte within the Weights and Measures Act should take into account that billions of dollars are billed monthly on the consumption of byte, despite the consideration that the byte is not a legal, standard unit of measurement.
678 To close out my presentation, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to present to you, and welcome any questions you may have.
679 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much for your submission and for taking the time to be with us. Commissioner Vennard?
680 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Good afternoon, and thank you for coming to share your viewpoints with us.
681 MR. ADAMS: Yes.
682 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: I have a couple of questions for you, but first I would like to make one clarification, and that is that the Wireless Code is applicable to mobile wireless services, and not fixed wireless Internet services.
683 MR. ADAMS: So overall, fixed wireless and mobile wireless is often used interchangeably. For example, Bell does offer a fixed wireless within some communities; however, at $90 for 10 gigabytes per month, and then a $10 a gigabyte beyond that 10 gigabytes, it’s a little disadvantageous.
684 So often, homeowners that are unable to get wireline access, such as DSL, are forced to the plans that I detailed in my third submission.
685 So overall what I detailed in there was I took a submission from 2016 where it’s 100 gigabytes for $145, and then I looked up one of the most recent plans, for example if my hub had, say, fails and I have to get a new plan. Well, now, 50 gigabytes is $150. So this plan has doubled in cost. So they have cut the plans.
686 Also note that in the Commission Monitoring Report, now these plans, which many come to rely on, the max bandwidth you can have before heading into overage is 50 gigabytes.
687 Well, in CRTC 2015 134, the transcripts, Mr. Daniels said -- the Commission’s Monitoring Report he said, “Yeah, it reduces to 66.5 gigabytes.” So we don’t even have access to a service plan that meets the Commission Monitoring Report of 2016.
688 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. Well, thank you for the detailed submission that you gave to us. It was a number of pages long, and you certainly contributed to providing a very fulsome description of your challenges and your issues on this topic.
689 I have just two very short questions that I would like to get your opinion on.
690 MR. ADAMS: Yes, ma’am.
691 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay? And this has been mentioned by a couple of other Commissioners. In the IPSOS survey report that the CRTC added on the record last week, it is noted that 40 percent of Canadians report having experienced aggressive or misleading sales practices. Does that number match what you would expect, or would you expect a larger or smaller portion?
692 MR. ADAMS: I would actually like to experience aggressive sales tactics. I would actually like them to provide me service other than wireless, cellular and -- cellular and satellite-dependent community; 6.5 kilometres from a Starbucks, moving on from multiple stores, two Tim Horton’s that’s seven kilometres away, multiple pizza shops, 7.5 kilometres to a McDonald’s, and the list goes on.
693 I can go to the Marriott and search the Internet -- correction; the Quality -- the Marriot’s under Construction -- search the Internet; I can go to the KFC, Wendy’s, McDonald’s and all that, yet, curiously, cellular and satellite-dependent at increased cost.
694 I’ll note in my submission I once qualified for DSL. I elected to subscribe through a third party, and then I was denied service for technical reasons. I noted the cost that I was paying yearly in 2014 when I was denied service -- and that’s detailed in there -- approximately $280-plus a month for 30 gigabytes. My cost had I been given DSL at the time would have been approximately $40 monthly.
695 So the disadvantageous aspect is, is that the corporation is denying DSL or wireline service, and then, since I have few other options, other than Bell wireless or satellite, which is far more disadvantageous, how is it they can deny me and then provide a far more expensive rate?
696 And how does that fit in with subsection 27 of the Telecommunications Act where I am being disadvantaged as compared to others within a few kilometres of me in my community? And also, the objectives of the Telecommunications Act which includes both high quality services to both rural remote and urban households.
697 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: Okay. Well, I have no further questions for you. And I thank you once again for your submission and for taking the time to come and speak to us today.
698 MR. ADAMS: Thank you, Ma’am.
699 THE CHAIRPERSON: Just one maybe point of clarification.
700 When you say the service was no longer technically available or you were, to use your description, denied the service, did they provide an explanation? Was it the copper plant was no longer being used to provide DSL, or what was the explanation for ---
701 MR. ADAMS: That denial in 2014, they provided me no explanation. However, I did elect to go with a third-party service provider; that would be Tech Savvy, as per my submission. You can see in there that basically I provided the full receipts of the email communication with them. And I was signed.
702 I also qualified on the Bell Web site, so I confirmed that. And in my choice, I chose the lowest costs of DSL, which was Tech Savvy at the time, as service provider.
703 So I’m unsure if it was denied for technical reasons or for financial reasons. Taking a look at what I paid monthly, well, let’s just say it would be an order of magnitude lower, going from -- and as per the submission, my average was $393 monthly in 2014; 437.33 monthly gigabytes of data. That’s what I paid in 2014. That was submitted -- that was submitted on the public record as part of CRTC 2015-134.
704 I do pay significantly less right now. I’m on the 145 for 100 plan; however, if that hub goes down, my costs now double. A hundred (100) gigabytes goes from 145 to $300, as per the scale that I provided you.
705 Now, the Commissioner brought up an interesting point with regards to, well, find somebody else. Well, Rogers doesn’t provide high-quality cellular service. However, if they did, I find it curious that Rogers also reduced their offerings in lockstep at the same point. Although I’ve not submitted that on the public record I did a recent verification. And now Rogers, instead of offering 100 gigabyte plans, is offering 50 gigabyte plans.
706 Now, this is easy to state, obviously, for all the people who have wireline service. Yeah, they don’t have to deal with that fire and the cable and all that. But Bell has failed to provide new wireline service. Rogers doesn’t serve me. Cogeco doesn’t serve me. What choice do I have? Yet I’m an R1 residential.
707 I can go to satellite; however, I've highlighted some problems with Xplornet in my second submission where I’m not quite sure if the Wireless Code applies for them. However, Xplornet is -- without any subsidized hardware is charging cancellation fees as high -- well, they don’t call it cancellation fees; they call it a different term -- $450 without any subsidized hardware.
708 Now, in the Wireless Code it states two different versions; you’ve got subsidized hardware and non-subsidized hardware. Xplornet has rental hardware. That would make their max cancellation fee they can do at $50. So that’s a problem, to me.
709 THE CHAIRPERSON: Understood. As Commissioner Vennard mentioned at the outset, Xplornet services aren’t mobile services.
710 MR. ADAMS: M’hm.
711 THE CHAIRPERSON: And those provisions that you described do apply to ---
712 MR. ADAMS: So is does not apply?
713 THE CHAIRPERSON: It does not apply to their products ---
714 MR. ADAMS: Does it apply -- I looked at the definition of wireless services and it was -- overall it was part of my submission, I cut that out. If it doesn’t apply, that’s how the Commission wants to look at it. But maybe you should because I don’t know of any landline services that charge over $450 for cancellation. Do you know of any? Does Rogers or Bell charge $450?
715 THE CHAIRPERSON: Understood.
716 MR. ADAMS: Yeah.
717 THE CHAIRPERSON: There are no other questions. I thank you very much again for taking the time to share your views and concerns with us. I appreciate your input.
718 MR. ADAMS: Thank you.
719 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
720 Madam la secrétaire.
721 MS. ROY: Thank you.
722 We’ll now connect via phone; Mr. Wright, can you hear me?
723 MR. WRIGHT: Yes, I can.
724 MR. ROY: Welcome.
725 MR. WRIGHT: Can you hear me?
726 MS. ROY: I’m Jade, and you may start your presentation when you are ready. You have five minutes.
727 MR. WRIGHT: Okay. Just to introduce, this is going to be very different from the people you’ve heard from so far, but I want to clarify that a strata, in B.C. terms, could be an apartment building, what you might call a condo, it could be a bare land strata, or it could be a townhouse strata. So I think the terms in the east are a little bit different.
728 In any case, I am an experienced strata property manager, full-time for 12 years; I had my RCM designation, which is more advanced for property managers, and I’ve been on our strata council for 15 years.
729 Point 2: Very few strata contracts are for more than one year, even the contract for property management can be cancelled by an owner’s vote and 60 days’ notice.
730 Landscaping contracts, in stratas in B.C. anyway, are typically for one year, sometimes two. The contract we’re talking about from Telus has no expiry, cannot be cancelled by the strata, and Telus can pass it on to any third party, without restriction, at any time.
731 Point 3: This contract has been tried to be negotiated with the majority of the stratas in our area, probably 60 to 70 percent of stratas in the area. The notice of CRTC hearing did not get much media coverage in B.C., so I don’t know if anyone else is speaking about this issue; perhaps not.
732 I’d also like to state that there are minor variations in the contract that’s provided to different stratas, but the main points are consistent, and it’s the main points that I’m challenging here.
733 So the physical area of our strata, 131 town units, is about 64,000 square metres. To find 131 single-family homes in the neighbourhood is approximately 125,000 square metres; double the area. So, to me, it would be much more expensive to install in equivalent number of single family homes than it is in our strata due to cost of the fibre connection lines and also labour.
734 The fifth point is really related to Telus’s marketing strategy. Soliciting, or door-to-door sales, are not “fundamental” to strata [sic] sales as Telus has suggested in some of their submissions to the CRTC. This is the electronic age; it’s not the Fuller Brush age, as many of you might have heard some history on.
735 Personally, I am strongly in favour of Telus fibre, it’s faster than any other service around, much faster than the coax available, and I would take it today if it weren’t for this specific contract.
736 The only issue a strata owner has in our strata, for example, is the speed advantage. No trench is required; Telus already has conduit into our units, and the fibre can be run in easily. Even if a trench was required to our townhouse, this is a Strata Council issue, nothing to do with the owner. So there’s very little need for face-to-face negotiation except for I want to be able to knock on your door any time and try to sell you.
737 There’s many people on our strata would take it today; no marketing, no door-to-door, if only Telus would get rid of this outrageous contract. Marketing alternatives to Telus include the ones you probably think of: Email; newspaper, TV, or internet ads; phone calls to market; or perhaps make appointments over the phone for in-the-home-sales; trailers in shopping centres, Telus does this now for reality video push; flyers in your telephone bill; direct mail; social media; invitations to special or public events; and many others. These are used by other telcos, as well as Telus.
738 Contracts that are unacceptable to many stratas are actually restricting fibre sales in those stratas. We have many people who’d like to do it, yet we can’t have fibre unless we convince 75 percent of the owners in here to vote for an outrageous contract.
739 Because of this contract, some of our owners have already converted from Telus to Shaw coax. I was talking to one yesterday about -- that has done that and is happy with it. This stops the spread of fibre. These contracts also harm Telus' reputation, which is really quite good out in the west. And they certainly have harmed Telus' reputation and the strata based on the town hall meetings that we've had.
740 So I have two recommendations. There's two issues that the CRT -- the CRTC wants to eliminate aggressive sales practices and also says that services should be made available throughout Canada by the most appropriate and efficient means. This contract is contrary to both of these approaches. Telus should be required to invalidate or cancel all the existing contracts they've signed and to notify in writing each strata they have contracted to tell them that a contract is no longer required for fibre services.
741 Telus should also offer to install, on a priority basis, all strata residents that want fibre since they have been severely restricted in the past.
742 In closing, I guess I just have one other comment. Why is there no Commissioner representing B.C. on your panel?
743 Anyway, any questions?
744 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes, thank you very much for your submission and for taking the time to appear with us. Commissioner Lafontaine has some questions. I will just quickly respond to your last point before she begins, however.
745 You may be aware that the term of the Regional Commissioner for British Columbia expired at the end of June. My understanding is the government is in process, but that is not something that is in the hands of the Commission, but rather the government. They are ordering counsel appointees. And as I said ---
746 MR. WRIGHT: Okay.
747 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- my understanding is that work that is underway.
748 MR. WRIGHT: Good. Good information. Thank you.
749 THE CHAIRPERSON: You're welcome.
750 Commissioner Lafontaine.
751 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: Thank you.
752 And thank you for your presentation today, Mr. Wright, and for your written submission. Just a couple of questions for you.
753 Just in terms of your presentation over the phone today, you talked about the door-to-door marketing approach and how that's not appropriate for stratas. If you could just provide a little bit more information about that, just elaborate a bit on that, please?
754 MR. WRIGHT: Sure. Most stratas, whether they're apartment buildings or townhouse stratas, have a -- you need either a key or a combination to get into the property. Most stratas have policies and rules and by-laws saying no solicitation, which we have. Many of them have and our no solicitation is posted on our front gate. So what we're trying to stop is everyone and his dog from going door-to-door and marketing to us. No problem if Telus or anyone wants to phone up and say, "I want to come at 10 o'clock tomorrow and talk to you about fibre." That's quite acceptable. It's the door-to-door solicitation that we're -- that is the issue here.
755 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: Okay, thank you. My next question relates to this -- the draft agreement that you submitted and that agreement with Telus that you filed with your written submission ---
756 MR. WRIGHT: M'hm.
757 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: --- and to which you referred today. I believe I know the answer, but I would just like for you to clarify and to confirm.
758 So, this agreement that was filed has not yet been entered into between the strata and Telus; is it correct?
759 MR. WRIGHT: Correct. We haven't signed it. Some stratas have.
760 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: And thank you. And you note in your written submission that you're no longer able to deal with Telus. Can you please elaborate a little bit on that for us?
761 MR. WRIGHT: Yes, Telus is dealing through Ledcor, which is a contractor that they use and a contractor that installs a lot of their services and does a great job. We have asked Ledcor and, well, I've asked Telus as well, can we talk to the Telus person? And the answer is no.
762 For example, one of the suggestions we had to modify the contract actually came from Ledcor. Ledcor said, "Look, how about this? Would this help the issue?" And we said, "Sure, it would." And I personally submitted the draft of what the contract language would be. Completely refused. So, Ledcor doesn't really know what Telus will buy either, and they're misleading us.
763 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: Thank you. And so therefore there's a draft agreement on the table and Telus does not want to further negotiate the provisions of the agreement?
764 MR. WRIGHT: Yes, and we've had, oh, probably four emails and three or four presentations from them. And the last time around they sent a message through our property manager saying, "Sorry, we won't deal with you for at least another year because you won't sign our contract."
765 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: Thank you. And has your strata entered into an agreement with another service provider or with others? It's not -- I wasn't clear.
766 MR. WRIGHT: Not for communication services. I mean, any, either Telus or any of the contractors are -- or sorry, suppliers are free to provide their service anytime they want. You know, the conduit is there going to each unit from our central closets. A lot of us have Shaw. I think there's some that have others. So, there's no restrictions in Telus installing fibre today or any of the competitors.
767 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: Thank you. I just have one last question for you, Mr. Wright. And it relates to a study, a survey by Ipsos that was commissioned and filed on the CRTC website, and it -- this study ---
768 MR. WRIGHT: Yeah.
769 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: --- showed that about 40 per cent of Canadians report having experienced aggressive or misleading sales practices. Does that number match what you might expect in terms of experiences by Canadians?
770 MR. WRIGHT: Well, that's a good question. I would certainly classify this contract as an aggressive sales tactic. For them to say to me, no, I'm sorry, you can't have fibre unless you get 75 per cent of your neighbours to agree to it, that's aggressive.
771 In terms of dealing with them -- dealing with Telus about, you know, upgrading our service or changing our service, I would say they've been great to work with. We've had three different communication suppliers in the last 12 years and we've had no problems compared to some of the other problems that I've heard on the -- listening to your submissions today. They've been fine.
772 And we go down to the Telus store and ask for, you know, a new phone or change this or change that, they've been great. Even their installation of twisted pair TV service, which actually gives us the ability to record three HD TV signals at the same time, that's great. It was installed by Ledcor. They were very professional. I really haven't heard of many of the problems that you appear to have in the eastern townships, if you pardon the expression.
773 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: Thank you very much, Mr. Wright. Those are all of my questions.
774 MR. WRIGHT: Okay. Could I ask one thing?
775 THE CHAIRPERSON: Oh, please, go ahead.
776 MR. WRIGHT: The survey that you're talking about that -- with the high percentage of people dissatisfied, could you break that down by province and was B.C. happier or less happy than Ontario, for example?
777 THE CHAIRPERSON: I think there were regional differences. We won't -- it did not -- I'll just say that I don't think B.C. stood out as a problem area, but it is on the public record and you can see it in its entirety on the record.
778 MR. WRIGHT: Okay, I will look for it. Thank you.
779 THE CHAIRPERSON: And I take this opportunity to once again thank you for taking the time to share your views with us and concerns and we appreciate your contribution.
780 MR. WRIGHT: Well, thank you for listening to me and when will we hear or see a result from this study session?
781 THE CHAIRPERSON: The Commission has been asked to report to the government by February 28th, 2019 and we will do so.
782 MR. WRIGHT: And will that be publicly available?
783 THE CHAIRPERSON: It will indeed.
784 MR. WRIGHT: Great. Thank you very much.
785 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
786 Madame la secrétaire.
787 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.
788 MR. WRIGHT: Thank you.
789 THE SECRETARY: Thank you. I will now ask MVS Remote Video System Inc. to come to the presentation table.
790 Oh, sorry. Please introduce yourself and you have five minutes and you may open your mic pushing the big button right there. Yes.
791 MR. BAILEY: Is that okay?
792 THE SECRETARY: Perfect.
793 MR. BAILEY: Much better. Okay.
794 THE CHAIRPERSON: It is. And welcome.
795 MR. BAILEY: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Stephen Bailey. I'm with a company called MVS Remote Video Systems. We've had a couple of issues that kind of brought me here to this I guess what might turn into a bit of a telecom reality show. This is a hot topic and I think it's going to get a little hotter as we move on.
796 We've had quite a bit of experience dealing with numerous telecos across Canada and they’re not all bad. What we’ve noticed is that a lot of it relates to the system that’s in place. And so, what I want to do here today is just go over how we see the system and what some of the resolutions would be that you guys could consider, in terms of your deliberations and implementation. So I know I have a very short time frame, so I’ll just get right at it.
797 We currently have accounts with Bell, Rogers, COGECO, Videotron, Eastlink, Sasktel, NWtel, SHAW, Access, MTS, and Telus. We find that there’s a fairly significant difference between the very, very best, and the very, worst, with as usually, some of them in between. Where we find the big exceptions is that problems occur when there’s an exception to normal business practice, something that just doesn’t fit in to all the different categories the different telecoms have.
798 A real problem, and I think this is a real problem that has sort of come up under the surface, the resolution process in the big telcos is focussed on maximizing the financial return to the telcos. It’s not focussed on solving the problem. And that’s why you have a lot of frustration out there. You have to go through these huge call centres, layer after layer.
799 That’s compounded by the sales process. The sales process is driven by corporate numbers targets and commission-based incentives for sales reps. That’s key. The sales reps that are out there, they want to churn product, churn plans, and get their commission and then they’re gone. There’s no follow up with the sales rep that you had. It’s a real numbers game.
800 At the corporate level, what we’ve noticed is that the guys in the senior executive suite -- and I interviewed some of the Bell, sort of, middle managers, the Telus middle manager, Rogers people. And they all had that view inside the companies, that the guys right at that top are focussed on the numbers. In other words, we do a marketing campaign, we go out, we target the audience, and we get a good return. And if we had -- if they came down and got in to the bowels of their organizations, these are the big telcos, they’d see where this frustration is generated.
801 And the problem here is the system works. It maximizes returns for shareholders and so this is where there’s a kind of, disjoint that I think you should really look at quite carefully. Because you can fix it, I think quite simply, with a few tweak -- you know just tweaking the system.
802 What I also picked up is that the franchise sales reps have fewer controls than the corporate reps. The corporate reps that I talked to said it’s a wild west out there with regards to franchisees. So the franchisees are in a different situation. They’re generally small businesses. They’re -- you know, they have to produce revenue to pay the rent, pay the salaries, everything else. They have to sell.
803 At the corporate level, there’s more financial stability and security, and they can whether the storm. And so, what the large telcos do when these guys get in trouble, is they’ll tend to buy them up and turn them into corporate stores. But customers coming in from the outside can’t tell the difference between a corporate store and a customer -- or a franchised store, and they don’t know they might be walking into two separate environments. So there is a difference there that you -- well, I’m sure you’re aware of it and you know all the differences that go on there.
804 We’ve noticed wireless and cellular phones seem to have far more issues than any of the other services. So what happens is that this combination of sales incentives will lead sales people to promise what sometimes can’t be delivered. And when it’s coupled with a resolution process just to get you off the phone without addressing the issue in detail, that causes a high level of complaints.
805 So what’s happening is we see the frustration building up and it gets very high, so that people like me come here to talk to you. And that’s all it is, and it’s because of past experiences with one or two telcos. Some of the telcos out there are absolutely excellent. They have much, much, much better service than even in regular standard business. So this isn’t about all telcos.
806 It seems to me that it’s in larger telcos that have these silos where you have a sales silo, and it’s just focussed on getting sales. You have a service -- customer service silo which is just focussed on, you know, minimizing the financial loss to the company of losing the contract. And this can be fixed, we think, fairly simply. So the customers that are caught in this are extremely frustrated and that’s why we’re here today.
807 All right. Another thing that I want to bring through here is, this is a big country. We have 37 million people spread across a huge geography, and that costs a lot of money to build the infrastructure. So the companies have to be making money.
808 There’s no pitch here that we have to get into competition and everything else. I’m actually making an argument the other way, is that we don’t need more competition. There’s enough competition in the market already. The market is almost saturated. It’s a mature market and people are just going to be moving around. So we’re going to shift more and more towards customer service. So I think that’s a very important point.
809 A really big one is we do not need American competition, because what will happen there is if they’re allowed to come in, they’ll focus on the big markets, the GTA, Montreal, Vancouver. They’ll cherry pick that. You have to serve the whole country on a uniform basis. So I’m going to make a strong pitch in favour of a solid telcom sector where all of these companies can actually make money and you can build the, you know, the pricing, and controls, and service offerings into that.
810 I do want to give one shout out to Shaw. They’re an excellent company. I mean, we’ve been dealing with them for years. Their service is incredible. Their back-end processes are fantastic, and the sales people are honest. I mean, they’re right at the top. Up there are little ones like Access Communications in Northern Saskatchewan, which is a co-op. So all the money goes back to the community and very, very, very easy to deal with. And if you’re looking at how to deal with people, talk to Access, talk to Shaw.
811 Telus actually does quite a good job. They’ve got a loyalty program, they work hard on customer service. You always have a few issues. Some of the issues that came up before like, you know, lines not being installed and things, this happens at all of them. When you go up north, you want to get an installation done, they just tell you, we have to wait for Bob. Bob’s gone fishing. He’s the only guy around who can install and he comes back in two weeks and you get an installation, and that’s just the way it is.
812 When you’re putting in new fibre, Telus did have a few problems with their fibre when they initially started it, because they made a new division. And it’s like anything else that’s brand new, they’re just getting it going and they have issues and they have numbers they have to fit and everything else. So a couple of comments there.
813 The big point is that the large telcos have three tier dispute resolution systems. These don’t work, okay? They’re not working internally. When a client has a problem, he goes to the call centre. He gets into level one. As I have been told by these people inside, they have an incentive system where, you know, the more they give up, the more it penalizes them.
814 So at level one, if it can’t be solved with, say a 10 percent or 15 percent discount, or a little giveaway -- they have a low level -- it goes to level two and then level three, which is what you get to when it’s a cancellation type level.
815 The problem is that system is not working because it’s designed to frustrate people and they’re coming away, as one person told me, I phone them up, I’m going to get fleeced. And this is where the frustration is coming from. We can fix that, or you can fix that, with some changes.
816 And I’ll just go over those speedy. Canada has an oligopoly in telecom. I think that’s a good thing, because we have a small population base, we have a large country. So the first suggestion we need here, and this is for the egregious cases. I’m talking about the really bad -- the really bad ones. I’m not talking about differences in billing that are minor, where it’s 10, or 20, or 30, or $40 a month or something like that. I'm talking about the really egregious ones.
817 You need an independent telecom arbitration centre which will provide arbitration. I've put in there non-binding. If you put it in as binding arbitration, that would be even better.
818 This needs to be independent. It's a quasi-legal structure, what the concept is.
819 Set up some call centres across Canada. Start in St. John's Newfoundland. It opens at 7:00 a.m., and the last one in Vancouver or Victoria closing at 11:00 p.m. Have it work full-time dealing with the issues.
820 People should be able to access it by a 1-800 number, by email, by chat line, by telephone. And the arbitrators can get right on it. They can go to the telco and then you have to be able to haul in the data, haul in the documentation.
821 And you have telecom arbitrators who used to work in the telecom industry, but not for the company they are arbitrating, okay. You have to be very clear here.
822 And you get these young guys that will come in. They can arbitrate very quickly and decide in favour of a client. You can't have a huge long process.
823 When we phone to order a line, we get on the line, we talk to a rep, everything's recorded. We all know that. That's a good thing.
824 You can get on the line and do an arbitration just as quickly. That's very important. And then people get instant service within two or three days, and they get justice.
825 Now, the argument I would make to the companies that are the subject of this is you have these expensive call centres, and this would take, you know, quite a bit of that load off.
826 One of the issues that I don't think was discussed in great detail, but a lot of it is just education. A lot of people buy plans. They're not aware of all the terms and conditions, and you have this big conflict.
827 And this is where the mass volume of problems is. And you have to get that down by changing the pricing structure and the competitive structure, which I get into in the next -- the next bit.
828 The way it would be paid for is that clients who have egregious cases could come forward and they would pay a fee equal to one month of their cell phone bill. They have to have some skin in the game, okay, where they can bring that forward.
829 And again, they should just be able to do it on the phone. If you can order a telephone service on the phone, you should be able to complain about it on the phone instead of writing out all kinds of documents.
830 Now, that's just to deal with the egregious service issues, you know, the one where there's $500, $1,000, $2,000 of overages, that type of thing.
831 What I would suggest on the sales plans, sales reps are highly incented on a commission basis. They're quite -- I was given some of the sales plans, and some of them can do quite well. And it's a majority commission if you're a top-notch sales performer.
832 Customer care reps also get incentivized to keep the money in the company, and this feeds into the marketing and the -- you know, the return to the company. And there's nothing wrong with that. I mean, these companies all have to make money and they have to be solid and they have to do well. We have to fix this customer care issue, which is the topic today.
833 So I propose four simple changes.
834 Number one, decouple the equipment and data plans. What happens is you buy a cell phone. For many of the young people, this is the biggest purchase they make in the first, you know, early years of their life out of college, university, high school and so on. And they're on a 24-month plan for the equipment, but decouple it.
835 If you bought a phone from Bell or Rogers or Telus, that's fine. It can be ported anywhere because what happens is once they get in, they're tied in on the data and that's where the -- you know, the problems start and so on and so forth.
836 Number two, and this is a big one, eliminate term plans. Make all basic data plans month to month.
837 Now, the problem that you'll have if you do that is that the competitive landscape will go up and down fairly quickly, and you have to flatten that out because the businesses need predictability, the customers need predictability.
838 So what you do there is telcos have to publish their plans and their packages and their rate changes 30 days before they take effect. That gives everybody a chance to react, if you see what I'm saying there. You have to give the 30 days' notice.
839 And then all these issues about fighting over terms and conditions and an extra $50 a month here or there, if they don't like it, they can move and go to somebody else.
840 The second thing is, require that standard rate data charges be implemented. In other words, why is it that you get your five gigabyte level or whatever it is and you get into that and then if you go over five gigabytes, the amount you pay goes way up.
841 To use your gas station analogy this morning, if you go into the gas station but you're only allowed to buy 50 litres of gas and then you've gone five litres over to 55 litres, instead of paying $1.18 a litre you have to pay $12 a litre for the last five litres, you'd say this is crazy. But this is what happens.
842 So make a standard rate, and maybe the basic rates will be a little higher, but we'll get away from all of the confusion and everything else that is around that.
843 By selling the equipment separately and the benefits of this -- the benefit is it'll dramatically improve customer satisfaction. This will eliminate most of your complaints because it's when people are locked in, the circumstances change, they're not aware of it, they complain.
844 By selling the equipment separately where they can move and go to anybody else, they still have to pay for the phone, they still have to stay with their original carrier. What that's going to do is that's going to turn the focus around to customer service.
845 Now, there's another problem on the incentive packages for the sales guys. That's a big hole because they're commissioned based. You have to now turn it into a profit-sharing type arrangement.
846 So in other words, if you have a store and somebody comes in right now under the existing model, the sales person is on them to sell a phone or a package or whatever, or both, and they get a commission, and that's it.
847 Under this proposal, you decouple the equipment and you shorten it to 30 days, so they've signed up a new customer.
848 It's now up to that telco to keep that customer, and they're going to keep it through good service. They're not going to put the guy through three levels of a call centre. Everybody who sat here said it was two hours to get through to get somewhere.
849 And that's a huge waste of money for the telcos as well. They put a lot of money into these call centres.
850 So what that does is now, all of a sudden, customers become gold. You can incent the sales guys on profit-sharing and say, okay, well, if they stay with us for 24 months, every month you'll get X dollars or X percent.
851 That's it, in a nutshell. I just wanted to bring those ideas to your attention.
852 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.
853 You've obviously spent a great deal of time thinking about it, and we appreciate the input.
854 Commissioner Laizner, you have some questions?
855 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Good afternoon, MR. Bailey.
856 Just to educate me a little bit, could you tell me, do you operate in all provinces across Canada with your company?
857 MR. BAILEY: We operate right now in Northwest Territories, Yukon, B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec. We are not in the east.
858 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: So you’re not in eastern Canada?
859 MR. BAILEY: We’re not in eastern Canada, we’re not in Newfoundland or any of the Atlantic provinces.
860 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Some of the comments you’ve made about experiences that you’ve had with your company, those would be experiences in the territories that you do business in?
861 MR. BAILEY: That’s right, anywhere from Quebec to the west.
862 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: What kind of business do you with these companies? Can you just, give us a short synopsis.
863 MR. BAILEY: What we do, we put in remote servers in different locations and then we download data, we bring the data in, so we use it entirely for data streaming. So we use pretty much every telco around and put in dsl systems and put in our servers in remote locations and stream data and analyze it.
864 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: And the comments that you’re making with respect to the practices, are they with respect to the business practices or also personal experiences of yourself with family plans or that sort of thing?
865 MR. BAILEY: Both.
866 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Okay.
867 MR. BAILEY: Yeah, both.
868 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Okay.
869 MR. BAILEY: Yeah.
870 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: I notice that in your intervention you talked about upselling and contract creep.
871 MR. BAILEY: Yes.
872 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: And I just wanted to have a better understanding of what you mean by that, what kind of practices you consider to be upselling or contract creep, what you've experienced.
873 MR. BAILEY: Well, to give you an example, we contacted a major teleco to put services into Toronto, Ontario, probably three years ago. So we went to one sales rep at 1 time and we put in 2 services: 1 in downtown Toronto, and 1 about 12 blocks to the west, so both in the GTA area. We got the exact same service, the exact same price, the exact same terms. It was the exact same contract, but there was just two of them for two different locations, so it had two contract numbers.
874 We buy it on a month-to-month basis. And then what happens is they get changed. And what's interesting is they get changed differently. You have two exact same services, identical on everything we buy, but one of them creeps up and it's 10, $15 more than another, and the terms change and everything else, and it's the sort of negative marketing. We'll send you an email and you have to acknowledge and we've -- even though this is what you had said and ordered. Now, that doesn't bother me because it's minor. I mean, it, you know, goes up 40, $50 a month. I think one of them is about 10 or $12 a month now different than another.
875 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: It ---
876 MR. BAILEY: And from a business point ---
877 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: --- with the same company.
878 MR. BAILEY: Same company.
879 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: But different areas.
880 MR. BAILEY: Same sales rep.
881 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Okay.
882 MR. BAILEY: Okay. But what happens is it goes into the, you know, the follow-up process. That's what I'm saying. We were just in silos. And they're in IT silos in the different companies; right? And all they're doing is we do a contract review internally. That's standard telecom practice. And one guy will do it and he can add this on and, you know, upgrade these things and so on, but this is minor. This is not the stuff that would ---
883 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Right.
884 MR. BAILEY: --- go into, say, a telecom arbitration centre. That's just the normal back and forth and business. And if you can get in where the contracts can be changed on a monthly basis, it'll turn around and they'll focus on the customers instead of on their process; okay? And I honestly believe the guys at the top don't know how bad it can be inside that process. And I've talked to enough people inside there. They're not happy with the process. And I know that if the salespeople are happy and the employees are happy and the customers are happy, the company's going to make money; okay? I know that. And they'll all figure it out.
885 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: But in those -- in that experience where there was the increase in pricing, did you consider that to be part of the contract terms at the time? Were you surprised by it? Did you think it was a misleading practice where it occurred, or was that something that ---
886 MR. BAILEY: Well ---
887 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: --- was your understanding of the contract?
888 MR. BAILEY: Well, the contract was very clear. It was something different. But, I mean, that's all minor. To me it was not an issue.
889 I mean, I'll give you another issue that's real. I went and bought a wireless unit, just a small wireless cellular unit to access the internet. We went into the sales department at a corporate store, said we need this for about 5 to 10 emails a month -- sorry, a week, 40 or 50 emails. Very, very small volume, knowing it's a very high price when you get into overages. We're worried about security. We're worried about -- that's the big thing, because if somebody gets your identifier, they can log on. You don't know, and then they run up huge data charges.
890 So we had that detailed discussion with the salesperson at the corporate store. We were told that they can put caps on it all the way up. Guaranteed they would call us if it goes over.
891 Now, I was still feeling a little queasy about that. That's in your telecom code of conduct. You know, the $1500 level and so on.
892 So we got it. We just put it on a credit card and every month it comes off and we use it for the, you know, the 40 or so odd emails a month. And then we came in one day and it was turned off. And the bill had just been paid automatically by credit card sort of five days before, but somebody had gotten the, you know, the code to get in in the area, in the building, because there's all kinds of people around in the different buildings. And they'd run up -- I think there was $920 of data on the charge and there was another sort of $200 and they -- the company had not contacted us.
893 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: M'hm.
894 MR. BAILEY: Okay. So it was about an 11 or $1200 bill. This was one of the things that got me here; right? I've got many of these. I've got another one with another company out west, a little one, but I'm not mad at them because they're working on it. We're working through it. And it's, like, if it's our fault we pay. If it's your fault you pay. And, you know, it was easy.
895 But when we hit this telecom customer service centre, we get into the first level and they say, "It's not a billing issue. That's a service issue." Because, I mean, the bill ---
896 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Right.
897 MR. BAILEY: --- went to $1200 from a hundred or whatever, about 10 times as much. I said, "Look, we weren't even there. There was nobody there. It was empty. And somebody else did this." And they said, "Well, there's nothing we can do." That's the first thing. And, you know, you push. You go to level two. And then you have to push again. And then you have to explain. These are the computers we have. Each computer has a Mac address, so you can identify everyone who accesses it. So all you have to do is go to technical support. These are our Mac addresses and we can see that it was from somebody outside. You guys had guaranteed that the bills would not exceed the 50 and $100 and you give us a bill for 1200.
898 And technical support ---
899 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Without giving you notice in advance ---
900 MR BAILEY: They gave us no notice.
901 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: --- that there was a problem.
902 MR. BAILEY: And we gave ---
903 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Yeah.
904 MR. BAILEY: --- the cell phone number, the text, everything else. Just text us and we'll say yes or no and you can turn it off; right?
905 So, it wasn't so much that. I mean, it's only $1200; right? It's -- I mean, for all the time and everything else you have to go through, it's the way you get treated on the other side.
906 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: On the complaint side.
907 MR. BAILEY: Oh, yeah.
908 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Right.
909 MR. BAILEY: And you can see the process. Like, it's almost comical really, because billing didn't want to give up $1200 of revenue, okay. And so, technical support says, "Well, it's a billing issue." Billing says, "No, no, it's technical support." So then I get passed back and by chance I get the same lady. You know, "Hi, Sue, how are you? It's me. Dah dah dah." Whatever. She says, "No, can't do anything." So we go all the way up. And then you have to threaten them, okay, and, you know, do the old no, whatever. We'll take you to small claims court and -- or, you know, all that stuff and then you get to level three and they still say no because there's revenue here, but it's above their ---
910 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: M'hm.
911 MR. BAILEY: --- you know, their level that they are willing to give up because it ruins their incentive for the day; okay? This is the issue in a nutshell.
912 So, you do that. You go through. That's what got me annoyed. It was just the way you get treated. And then the collections guy calls and I just explained it to him. I just, "I'm not paying the bill." And he laughed. And he said, "You didn't yell loud enough." Right?
913 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: M'hm.
914 MR. BAILEY: So this is a very interesting point that I think you should take notice of. If you're really aggressive and you're one of these guys that just gets in there and you like the fight and you can -- you can get your issues solved. If you're elderly ---
915 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Right.
916 MR. BAILEY: --- you can't. The elderly can't do that, the people who do not speak English or French fluently, all that kind of stuff. And the process when they come away, they really don't feel good.
917 Now, I talked to a manager in a Rogers centre and he said, "Well, when these kind of things happen, we don't feel good either." You know, and you can fix this process with some simple changes here. By putting it on a month-to-month basis all of a sudden the customers become king. Like, really think about that. And also, think about the elderly.
918 Let me give you two examples. I mean, just going around talking, you keep mentioning this Angus Reid study. I think that's bang on at 4 out of 10, but there's a big difference between I'm mad because they jacked it up $15 a month or $20 a month and some of the more egregious sales issues.
919 So I just mentioned it to a few people that I -- I'm going to come down and join the telecom party that we're having to resolve this issue and I'm going to put my stuff through that. I mean, I'm not mad at them -- well, I was, but I'll fight it through. And, by the way, if there's anybody from Bell here, I'm willing to settle any time as long as you wipe out all those data charges.
920 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: We're not in arbitration yet.
921 MR. BAILEY: But I met this -- well, she's a neighbour. Go over for tea. And she's an immigrant from Australia and she said, "Oh, I've just come back." She said, "My friend's husband, she's 75 years old -- my friend’s husband just passed away, and her husband had a cell phone, a smart phone, and he had a two or three-year plan and he’d had it about three months before he died, so she took it back to the store and they said, “Oh, you can't get a refund, you have to pay the whole plan all the way through.” Okay. And she was just in tears. And so she left and she got her friend and they went back to the store and convinced them, but I mean to go through that type of process. And she came back and said, “Well, they told us that we can't in any way show condolence or anything like that, it just has to be business.” And that's what I call “egregious”, and this is for the Telecom ---
922 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Right.
923 MR. BAILEY: --- Arbitration Centre.
924 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Right.
925 MR. BAILEY: I'm not talking about the $10-15 stuff. I have another one ---
926 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Do you think ---
927 MR. BAILEY: --- where a lady had a thousand dollar credit and she knew she was passing away, she gave it to her goddaughter. So, she wanted to give it to her goddaughter, her goddaughter wanted it, her goddaughter took the credit and got it in the will and they went down to the telecom company. And initially they said, “Yes, we can do that.” And then as it got up and they saw that, “No, we can't do that, we can transfer it.” So they spent hours and hours fighting and came away saying, “We’re never dealing with that company again.” So, that's what I call “egregious”.
928 Now, there are a lot out there ---
929 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Right.
930 MR. BAILEY: --- that significantly raises the sort of tension level. That's one of the reasons you're here, there's enough of those stories. So I’d make a distinction between the -- just a number of 40 percent, four out of 10, and say that there's some really egregious behaviour that's going on that has to be stopped for these people that can't get out there and fight. You know, not everybody is a boxer.
931 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: As a first, you know, the first level is the sales level where you're entering into the contract before you get to the point where you may have a complaint. Do you think that if as a consumer, the service provider had to submit a written summary of the changes you’d have to agree to before you sign a contract, do you think that that would be helpful or you think that the problems would still arise?
932 MR. BAILEY: They're still going to be there.
933 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Okay.
934 MR. BAILEY: You need a fundamental change and simple fundamental changes. I was talking ---
935 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: And are you -- are you aware of the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications and Television Services?
936 MR. BAILEY: M'hm.
937 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Yeah. So, you in your solutions you talk about an arbitration model.
938 MR. BAILEY: Yeah.
939 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: What is your impression of the work that the CCTS does and where do you think that...?
940 MR. BAILEY: Honestly? They're funded by the telcos; it’s a public relations operation for the telcos. You were asking them questions earlier today, they were kind of saying, “Well, we can't answer that, sir, until we check with the telcos.” For the egregious ones that I mentioned -- of the type I mentioned, there's quite a few out there, you need a Telecom Arbitration Centre that's independent, completely independent.
941 It also can't be tied to consumer groups, because then they start lobbying for consumers. It has to be quasi-legal, quasi-judicial, but it can be just an Arbitration Centre. We talk about arbitration all the time, it works. Okay. And you've got to have a formal centre where they go in, we’re not lobbying on behalf of customers, we’re not lobbying on behalf of the telcos. Okay.
942 I think what the Telecommunications Complaint Service can do is modify their mandate and work on things like, “What kind of plans can we put together?” Like you had the deaf group come up next; right? If you turn this around and the telcos are now focused on getting and keeping business, they’ll set up little groups inside the telcos, because if they know -- the sales guys know they're going to get a little fee every month for the people they look after.
943 Just -- you did Skype up here with these fellows all across Canada? I mean you can just do that and have a little centre set up in the telco and they’ll just be selling them and giving these guys great services. They can work with the telecommunications group you had this morning to resolve the little complaints, you know, the -- it’s a $15 difference or a $20 difference. But for the really egregious stuff, you need a -- you need a Telecom Arbitration Centre, you know, that's open from 7 in the morning till 11 at night ---
944 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Right.
945 MR. BAILEY: --- right across the country.
946 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Right. So ---
947 MR. BAILEY: And you just do it.
948 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: And in your experience, do you think that the practices that cause problems, whether it be up selling contract, misleading information, do you think that those are more of a problem when you're dealing with those franchisee, third party sellers, as opposed to employees of companies?
949 MR. BAILEY: That hasn’t been my personal experience, but it’s -- I guess I would say it’s industry knowledge, you know, certainly the people in the telcos or corporate sales -- I spent some time with a fellow who spent a good deal of his career as a senior manager -- sales manager -- regional manager at Bell, and he filled me out on all the different things, it’s the system.
950 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: M'hm.
951 MR. BAILEY: And I'm not putting blame on the system. I mean systems just -- they grow up and you get processes that grow up, and then there's a bit of a disjoint. And the thing is marketing works, and when you have a marketing driven organization that's out there to get sales -- ever since I’ve started watching TV we have wrinkle cream and you lose weight and everything else and the stuff keeps selling and it’s all marketing; right? Sometimes it works a little bit, but ---
952 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: And ---
953 MR. BAILEY: --- the marketing works, it brings in the sales. And then, unfortunately, because they're chasing the corporate numbers, the customer service or the resolution ---
954 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Right.
955 MR. BAILEY: --- systems are broken and you need to fix them, that's what needs to be fixed.
956 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: You also talked about the fact that you think in a lot of cases education is key and people don't really know what they're contracting for, they just -- they haven’t read the fine print.
957 MR. BAILEY: That -- that's correct, that's a big issue.
958 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Do you think that it would be useful to have a trial period for communication services for the customer so that they -- they get to try out the product, they get to look ---
959 MR. BAILEY: Oh, absolutely.
960 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: --- at the ---
961 MR. BAILEY: That's a great idea.
962 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Okay.
963 MR. BAILEY: That's kind of the same idea, just into like a three-month trial, that's a fantastic idea because ---
964 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: And ---
965 MR. BAILEY: --- if they're go three months and get to try it out and decide whether they like it, that's going to start changing this whole customer focus around.
966 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: And what about some -- the CCTS when they were here they talked about the different codes that exist. And one of the discussions was about having more simplified codes or summaries of contracts. What do you think of that?
967 MR. BAILEY: Well, you go in some stores, your code is right there on the wall, that didn’t change anything, certainly in the situation I gave you that I'm -- I’m involved in, and it didn’t have to do with the sales guys. I mean, I think in a lot of cases the sales guys are pretty good, they give a bona fide sales issue, but the problem comes in the follow-up when you have an issue; right? Because they're these great big call centres at the back with somebody that wasn’t, you know, facing the client, they're not face to face and so on and so forth. And when I talk to the people in the stores -- I remember talking to a Telus manager, they're saying, “We’re not allowed to do a lot of things in the stores. It’s all pushed to the call centres.”
968 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: So, would it be fair to say that what you see is that when a problem arises that could just be through a simple mistake or whatever, the hurdles that the consumer has to leap over in getting their problem addressed, that complaint’s process is really problematic from your perspective?
969 MR. BAILEY: Oh yeah, it’s in ---
970 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: So the whole ---
971 MR. BAILEY: It’s in ---
972 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: --- complaint’s process is ---
973 MR. BAILEY: No, but this is not for all telcos; okay? And as I said in my presentation, I’m just going to keep names out of it unless I’m saying nice things about them, but it’s these big -- these big call centres -- and these guys are focused on maximizing revenue, now there's nothing wrong with that, but they've just gone too far. And I think the guys in the executive suite don't realize how far it’s gone. I mean, I just told you a story about a woman ---
974 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Right.
975 MR. BAILEY: --- you know, whose husband died and I think they’d be appalled if they heard that. But when it gets down into the bowels of an organization, it’s just, “This is my job, I have to do it. There's nothing I can do because I have to meet my numbers.” Okay. So it’s a process thing.
976 And the idea you just presented, having a three-month trial, that is a fantastic idea, because what that does for the telcos, is it forces them back into customer service. Okay. And if you can have another trial period for three months after that, another one two-three months after that, and they can -- in other words, they can get out of a bad deal, you're going to turn it around to it’s customer focused. And then they’re going to be really nice to the customer, because they require the customer to provide the revenue. That said, we can't get into a huge competitive battle where it becomes this race to the bottom in prices. And I know you've had some people who complain about that because we need to build the infrastructure in the country and that the telecos have to be healthy and they have to be generating profits.
977 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Right.
978 MR. BAILEY: So put in the 30-day notice period on any changes so that one teleco can react to another and then, you know, they'll work it out in the market.
979 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: And you've provided us with your thoughts on solutions, but you've also said that you thought that solutions could be targeted. But I'm sort of seeing that you have some systemic solutions here. Are you suggesting that, you know, in terms of what kind of contracts can be provided, whether people can buy their mobile with their data or they have to be decoupled, are you suggesting these types of solutions just where there are problems or as a systemic issue?
980 MR. BAILEY: No, I'm suggesting it actually is a systemic issue.
981 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: And are they modelled after anything you've seen elsewhere, or these are proposals that you've made based on your own experience?
982 MR. BAILEY: I'd have to say they're just based on my own experience, but, for example, tying back to the conversation earlier this morning.
983 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Okay.
984 MR. BAILEY: You had the two groups that came in.
985 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Right.
986 MR. BAILEY: So the first group came in and made their presentation. The second group came in talking about accessibility for people who are blind and hearing impaired and so on. The type of thing that I think would work beautifully is they get together and they say, this is a package that people who are hearing impaired or, you know, blind or whatever, need. This is the standard teleco package; right? You can put it out with a list of service that they need, you know. They said we need more gigabytes because we do so much more video than the average person. So, put that together as a package. And have the -- sorry, the TTNS? Is that what it is or CS? The ---
987 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: CCTS.
988 MR. BAILEY: CCTS, sorry. Okay. And have them put together a full package. Put the package out there. Give 30 days notice. And say this is our standard package. The telecos can come. They can set up internal centres where you can access it on the screen and it's easy to set up screens in all the different shops and you can just have one person that they're just specialised in that and work with them. And then you have your -- you know, they can compete on price, the different telecos. You have to do that. You can't regulate price. And you've got a standard package for that.
989 Have a standard package for the elderly; okay? A lot of them have trouble running these smart phones. I have trouble running these smart phones. I use 15 or 20 per cent of the capacity. My teenage daughters, they use everything, just zoom, zoom, zoom. And have the standard package for them and say this is a standard -- put five or six or seven of them and just say, "This is what we want you to price for the general public in the different areas." And you have the standard terms and conditions that are there for everybody.
990 Because what's happening is when you have this commission-based incentive structure, they've got this whole smorgasbord that's out there.
991 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Right.
992 MR. BAILEY: And all the sales guys I talk to and sales managers, I ask them all. I said, "Do you guys know all these plans?" They said, "No, we don't even know how many we have. We have a plan for everything. But it's worked out that we can upsell."
993 Now what's going to happen is the revenue will start to drop as you do that, from all these extras, but it removes the conflict. So you're going to see the rates rise a bit and you can model that statistically.
994 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: So you're not an advocate of choice in the matter. It would just be ---
995 MR. BAILEY: No.
996 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: --- certain kinds of plans.
997 MR. BAILEY: You've got to keep choice.
998 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Okay.
999 MR. BAILEY: But you have to have five or six basic packages to cover all the key areas, you know, and the young teenager that has no money that wants lots of texting with her friends and his friends and, you know, that kind of stuff. And have five or six basic packages. You can't take away choice. You can't regulate the market. They can sell whatever they want. But when you have that that provides point to point comparisons for competition.
1000 So the telecom group that was here could put together these packages because they're basically funded by the telecos and say, "This is what we're going to do for the hearing impaired. This is our package." And then they can come out with their different prices. And these guys, they'll decide on who has the best video and who has the best service; okay?
1001 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Right.
1002 MR. BAILEY: They're not going to be coming here next year and the year after and everything else saying, "I went into the store and I couldn't get service and I was frustrated and they didn't hear it." This is the issue we have to solve. We need a healthy telecommunications sector. We've got to simplify.
1003 It's so complex that not even the sales guys know what they have. You can't put it back on the sales guys ---
1004 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Right.
1005 MR. BAILEY: --- either because they're under stress to sell; okay? And they're only there for another three months or six months. This is a very high turnover industry. So if you have the standard packages ---
1006 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: I think, yeah.
1007 MR. BAILEY: --- and you cut it off or like ---
1008 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: I think we understand your ---
1009 MR. BAILEY: --- that great idea of three-month trial, all that kind of stuff, that forces the telecos to come around, but you got to let them compete with the understanding it's an oligopoly as well. And they have to make money. But we have to get away from this ---
1010 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Okay.
1011 MR. BAILEY: --- you know, this kind of stuff. And you need an outlet for the really egregious stuff ---
1012 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Right.
1013 MR. BAILEY: --- where, you know, because ---
1014 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Understood.
1015 MR. BAILEY: Because that's the stuff that ---
1016 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Yeah.
1017 MR. BAILEY: --- brings CBC's go public and all these kind of ---
1018 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Bailey.
1019 MR. BAILEY: Yeah.
1020 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: We've really appreciated your coming here today and your thoughtful comments, proposals.
1021 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Levy?
1022 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Hello.
1023 MR. BAILEY: Hi.
1024 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Just a couple of follow-ups. One has to do with your suggestion for an arbitration process.
1025 MR. BAILEY: Yes.
1026 COMMISSIONER LEVY: What is beyond arbitration? If arbitration does not, for one reason or another, work in this example, what's beyond that? And, in particular, do you -- are you proposing monetary penalties perhaps?
1027 MR. BAILEY: Now, that's a great question. The answer to that depends on the province that you're in. That's one factor. And it also depends on what you end up deciding in your February report; right? But there's really two options there. You start -- and I put in the soft option, which is you start with non-binding arbitration. In other words, you go through. They make a quick decision. And they say that we are ruling in favour of the complainant against the teleco in an egregious case. You know, so that's non-binding. So the teleco can accept or reject.
1028 If the teleco rejects, there is the court, small claims court. None of these will be over $10,000. They can go and file and say, "I went to the arbitration centre. They didn't do it" and so on and so forth. And there's the public relations issues and there's all of that.
1029 If you have binding arbitration, which is your decision in terms of how you set it up, the telecos have to abide by it. They also have a public relations issue, because even if the agreement goes in their favour, right, they still have a client who's not happy; right? And so they can say, "Well, it went in our favour, but we're willing to come back and, you know, help you on this side."
1030 Binding arbitration would be more effective in terms of resolving it quickly, but non-binding arbitration is more palatable to the telecos that are going through it. And that's an internal decision you guys have to make, but those are really the two options that I see.
1031 I know it can be done quickly. If you can phone up, go through all those menus, decide what you need and buy it on the phone, okay, you can phone up and they have all the menus there and have a really good arbitration consultant who spent a couple years working in the teleco industry, knows all the plans and can say, "Yeah, got it, got it, got it." It's arbitration. It's not I'm on your side. It's not I'm on the teleco side and it's not I'm part of a consumer's association that will fight for you no matter what. It has to be independent. That's the key.
1032 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Okay. Thank you very much.
1033 MR. BAILEY: Yeah, okay.
1034 COMMISSIONER LEVY: I really appreciate it.
1035 THE CHAIRPERSON: Anything? Sorry, Commissioner Lafontaine?
1036 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: Just one quick question about the situation you discussed where you had this bill for overages, the 1200 ---
1037 MR. BAILEY: Yeah.
1038 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: --- ish bill. Can you just clarify what happened in terms of you had an agreement in place and there were limits on I guess what the number of emails or that you could do and then the cap got removed somehow and then the bill came in. So can you just clarify what happened there?
1039 MR. BAILEY: Sure. Basically it was just for occasional use. We used it once a week for about 3 hours to send 5 or 6, 10 emails. That was it. I was very worried because it's wireless.
1040 It’s a wireless Internet, so if it’s on and people figure out how to get through -- the problem with these wireless units is when -- they have a reset button and when you push it, anybody in the room who happens to be there has a couple of minutes where they can push and log on. That’s probably what happened.
1041 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: But just in terms of the agreement, you had an agreement that -- did they ---
1042 MR. BAILEY: Oh, a very clear agreement.
1043 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: Is it still ---
1044 MR. BAILEY: I went in with the issue and said, “This is an issue, we know about it, we’re worried about it.” The sales guy said, “Not a problem at all, sir. We can put a cap, so we freeze everything at $50, and then at $100,” and then whatever.
1045 And each time they would contact us and we would let it go. And that didn’t happen. And somebody else got on it because we were gone for a few days and they watched a couple of movies.
1046 The other issue is you get all of these overage charges, and that’s something you should really consider, okay?
1047 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: But your agreement was still in place? Just in terms of your arrangement, so you had an agreement in place ---
1048 MR. BAILEY: Yeah.
1049 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: --- on the limits. And then the agreement was still in place but you were billed this $1,200, despite the fact that the agreement said that there were limits on it.
1050 MR. BAILEY: Oh, it’s worse than that.
1051 They billed us the $1,200. We went through the whole argument, didn’t get anywhere. So then they cancelled the account and said, “Okay, we’re closing your account.” Well, that’s fine. You know, it had been shut off already.
1052 And then they started billing us again. They put another $341 charge on the account for I don’t know what. And then they put another charge on for cancelling it. And then it was cancelled. And then they kept adding the monthly bill on top of it, okay?
1053 So then I filed to come in here and was coming in here and they sent a collection agency after me. So whatever. I mean, these things happen. We’ll get it worked out through another ---
1054 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: Thank you very much.
1055 MR. BAILEY: --- process.
1056 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: Thank you. Merci.
1057 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.
1058 Counsel, did you have anything?
1059 Well, I thank you. Then I thank you very much for taking the time to come and see us and to share your views.
1060 MR. BAILEY: Okay.
1061 THE CHAIRPERSON: Much appreciated.
1062 MR. BAILEY: Thank you very much.
1063 THE CHAIRPERSON: We have one more intervenor before we take our break.
1064 Madam la secrétaire.
1065 MS. ROY: Thank you.
1066 Mr. Michael Hordo, can you hear me well?
1067 MR. HORDO: Yes, I can.
1068 MS. ROY: Perfect. We will now hear the presentation of ISC Environmental Assessment Inc.
1069 Mr. Hordo, you may begin. You have five minutes for your presentation.
1070 MR. HORDO: Thank you.
1071 MR. HORDO: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
1072 My wife and I are retired. I’m the Chair of the intervenor, and a corporate client of Rogers Telecommunications.
1073 My family and I have Rogers home service, home phone, internet, TV. We have firsthand experience with Rogers’ secret criminal activity. We learned and we share this dirty secret criminal policy of Rogers to destroy the creditworthiness of all CCTS complaint filers. We recorded their admissions and delivered the audiotapes to this hearing.
1074 On those audio files Rogers’ office of the President staff make admissions of premeditated crimes. Rogers knowingly filed false credit reports and done this every month from September 2017 to this date, and admitted on tape that this is their policy against all CCTS CRTC complaints.
1075 Rogers as a policy ignores CCTS Procedural Code Section 7. Such wanton criminality identifies Rogers as a RICO criminal organization.
1076 Such egregious premeditated harm and damager to all CCTS complainants is impossible to understand. How is it to be repaired and removed? The total extent of the horrendous crime is unknown. I demand on behalf of all CCTS complainants here today, and for all unaware complainants at home, immediate suspension of Rogers as a provider; intervention by the Minister to remove the taint on credit ratings -- credit cards and banking, and immediate compensation for the breach of privacy, breach of trust, and threat and theft of after-tax monies by secret criminal mans; that is, the immediate payment of $1 million for each person affected, and the same addition for each incident event Rogers created or made upon them as a deterrent, and that immediate criminal investigation be commenced.
1077 We demand the Minister and the Chair of CRTC confirm or deny pre-knowledge of Rogers’ nefarious activity. We must know how high up this goes.
1078 Our audiotapes are in the public files and attached to my intervention, 931, with a link to YouTube. Our CCTS complaints are ongoing.
1079 I’m going to skip a couple of details there because they’re in my submission.
1080 The harm and damage continues to this day. Robo calls on our corporate account, circumventing our registration on the Federal No-Call List. Rogers has breached the settlement agreement in the corporate account by forgery and uttering that forged document, a false invoice to extort money, and did so. CCTS was powerless to stop it.
1081 On the home front, Rogers, from September 2017, filed monthly false reports with credit reporting agencies to destroy my family’s financial credibility after a complaint was filed with CCTS 797490 September 2017.
1082 They continue to do the nefarious activities today. Recently they took to personally calling our banks and credit card issue and utilities to make false statements. Rogers has since terminated, over a two-day period, our home phone, Internet, and TV service, without notice, and in breach of, CCTS policy.
1083 These horrendous crimes were committed on the Minister’s and on CCTV’s watch. I demand immediate investigation through RCMP, OPP, and FINTRAC so justice may be done.
1084 Individuals have a right to swear and file informations under the Criminal Code, but this is a Ministerial and CRTC travesty. The Minister and CRTC abandoned CCTS staff by denying them the power of sanction enforcement. Simply put, you allowed a rabid fox into your henhouse and they secretly destroyed your mandate to protect consumers by financing and controlling every aspect of CCTS.
1085 CRTC, with all its inherent conflict, failed completely to investigate and to oversight CCTS. Rogers has made a mockery and laughingstock of the Minister and CRTC.
1086 Now you have created a staged public inquiry. RICO Rogers laughed, and has ample time to spin and to note intervenors to destroy. All the harmed consumers, fearlessly laying bare their concerns before the rabid fox, unaware that they are about to face destruction of their credit, reputation, and banking.
1087 The government and its minions they believe by law are protecting them, are conflicted, complicit and toothless. I have real concerns for all intervenors, and even more for those retirees working folk at home who complained to CCTS, who are trusting in the Minister and CRTC to enforce the law protecting them. Will they instead find their innocent sheep being led to a slaughter?
1088 The regulated, with their enormous imbalance of power, being the executioners, secretly destroying lives built for years upon creditworthiness. How can this process of hearing therefore be fair, protective, and transparent? How do you intend to protect whistleblowing, harm consumers like my family and others from such malicious retribution?
1089 Consider the CRTC selling of the no-call list that scammers and those regulated under their watch, issuing toothless orders to cease and desist, and yet it continues today.
1090 I do need to correct the record and apologize to the CRTC Chairman. I wrongly attributed the Ontario Attorney-General status to him.
1091 I believe fully that the system from the CRTC down is fatally flawed.
1092 Thank you.
1093 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Thank you very much for taking the time to share your comments with us.
1094 Commissioners, do you have any questions? No?
1095 Then I thank you very much for your contribution to the proceeding, and with that we will take a 10-minute break, returning at 3:10.
1096 Thank you.
1097 MR. HORDO: Thank you.
--- Upon recessing at 2:58 p.m.
--- Upon resuming at 3:14 p.m.
1098 MS. ROY: We will now connect via Skype.
1099 Hi, Mr. Ahmed. Can you hear me well?
1100 MR. AHMED: I can. Thank you very much.
1101 MS. ROY: Perfect. Thank you.
1102 You may begin. You have five minutes for your presentation.
1103 MR. AHMED: Thank you.
1104 I want to thank the Members of this hearing for allowing me to speak and in particular to the CRTC staff members, so many of them that made it possible for me to speak to you remotely here today.
1105 It's a bit of an interesting act to follow after the previous one -- previous intervention. I have to say from my experience with Rogers, they don't strike me as a criminal cabal, for what it's worth.
1106 They just -- in fact, everyone I've dealt with has been very professional and some of the nicest people I've ever dealt with in a business, actually.
1107 The reason I want to speak is there is one assumption I want to dispel in this hearing, and it is this. Canadians like me aren’t asking for the government to step in because we’re a bunch of consumers who didn’t read the fine print and we're annoyed we have to pay a few dollars extra to stream Netflix and YouTube.
1108 Internet access, and in particular broadband home internet access, is an essential service to many Canadians, and you need only ask marginalized Canadians for this to be self-evident.
1109 For example, my parents, currently living north of Toronto and customers of Rogers, are immigrants from Bangladesh. For them, especially now that they're elderly, retired and on fixed income, the internet is a way for them not just stay in touch with family around the world back home, but also even around town.
1110 And as for me personally as a gay man who's a gay Muslim and I've received death threats and, in fact, a few weeks ago I was attacked on the streets by a white person and the police had to intervene to save me, I know firsthand that sometimes accessing community support and my support network is better done through online means than in person.
1111 In fact, sometimes that can be a life or death situation.
1112 Last year, my friend reached out to me online while he was in the middle of a suicide attempt. I was able to stay with them online with him as I contacted Toronto Police. He was -- his life was saved.
1113 There are literally friends and people in my life alive today because of internet access.
1114 Finding affordable internet access for Canadians like me is difficult because we use the internet as a means of communication, and not merely media consumption. We need broadband speeds, in particular upstream speeds, far higher than what the CRTC considers to be the acceptable minimum.
1115 Moreover, companies like Rogers and Bell rarely, if ever, offer symmetrical connections, that is, where the upload speed is anywhere as fast as the download speeds. As such, we must often seek some of the highest and most expensive internet packages available and provided by these companies.
1116 So finding a deal is very important to Canadians like us, and the problem is companies like Rogers don't operate in good faith. Rather, they operate in whatever they can get away with. And I know this firsthand.
1117 Earlier this year, my parents saw a deal advertised by Rogers which offered a promotion offering a certain speed at a set price for the first year. My parents, who are on a fixed income, jumped on the deal.
1118 They were really satisfied with everything from the support and the speeds so, a few weeks later, given how happy my parents were, I, myself, signed up for Rogers. And I so after seeing an ad on Facebook promoting gigabit internet for one year at $74.99 for the first -- for every month for 12 months.
1119 I apologize if I stumble over my words.
1120 It’s important to note that at both at my address here in downtown Toronto and my parents' address, Rogers essentially has a monopoly on what our needs are as -- for our family.
1121 Bell, for example, doesn't offer anything higher than their minimum of what the CRTC considers minimum broadband.
1122 Similarly, resellers like TekSavvy and other sellers that use Rogers’ lines are unable to use -- are unable to offer either the speeds or the price that Rogers offers.
1123 For comparison, like this gigabit promotion was not only four times as fast as TekSavvy's highest offering, but it was also way cheaper. So for many people like myself, the choice to switch to Rogers is really no choice at all.
1124 When I was on the phone with Rogers' team and the Rogers staff when I was signing up, they were very articulate and they explained everything that I would be signing up for.
1125 They said that I would be paying 74.99, there would be tax, of course, on each month, and the first month would be a bit more expensive because of pro rating.
1126 It took less than 90 days for Rogers to bait and switch this.
1127 By the third bill, Rogers had raised the price of my internet. And although some staff that I talked to offered to credit for a handful of months to bring it down back to what I was paying, I was trying to get them to just honour what they were advertising, and so I escalated this to the office of the President of Rogers.
1128 When I asked my bill had been raised, they said they were well within their rights because all the promotions had a tiny asterisk on them that said terms and conditions apply and may be subject to change.
1129 When I asked Rogers what ads -- why then, one ad clearly displayed 74.99 per month for 12 months, Rogers staff explained what I really didn't sign up for a rate but, rather, “guaranteed savings” which, at that rate, would maybe mean 74.99 per month.
1130 When I asked if that distinction means that they could then offer a discount one day, I sign up, and then the next day they raise the price basically so high that it negates the discount, they said yes, they could. I just -- I want to repeat that. They said yes, they could do that.
1131 When I asked why my parents’ bill was raised -- or rather why my parents’ bill wasn't raised but mine was, they said that my parents might have cellphone plan charges, which truth be told they do, which might have preserved that discount.
1132 When I asked them if raising my bill was effectively and essentially a penalty for not bundling on my services with Rogers and doing instead business with their competitors, they said yes. They of course clarified it later on but I want to be clear with this Commission that the staff at the Office of the President at Rogers said yes to that question.
1133 When asked if there's anything I could do, if I should take this to the CRTC or CCTS, I will never forget how clear and unambiguous Rogers staff were. You will never see that rate again they told me. There's nothing I can do.
1134 If the CRTC wants to know the disposition of companies like Rogers and why Canadians like me are upset, you need not look any further. In fact, even before my parents’ 12-month promotion was over, they too experienced a price increase, but unfortunately unlike me, they didn’t have the strength as elderly retired people to go and take this to the CCTS, to take this to the Office of the President.
1135 So right now, even though they have a lower package and not unlimited internet, they pay more than me because they didn’t have the strength to fight this as far as I did.
1136 I'm asking for your help because this is an essential service to many Canadians and Rogers thinks that you will do nothing and so what you decide in this hearing will determine whether that's true or not.
1137 Thank you for your time and if you have any questions, I'm available.
1138 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much for your submission.
1139 Commissioner Levy, I think you have some questions?
1140 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Thank you very much, Mr. Ahmed.
1141 As you might be aware if you were listening earlier, we have referenced the IPSOS survey report that has been uploaded that suggests that 40 percent of Canadians have had what they consider aggressive or misleading tactics used on them by TSPs.
1142 Does that surprise you that proportion?
1143 MR. AHMED: Not at all. Not at all. I would say actually it's a bit higher. Sorry, I'm hearing myself. I would say I'm not surprised at all because amongst my friends it's quite common and so in an informal survey, I'd actually say it's higher.
1144 COMMISSIONER LEVY: If service providers were required to provide a written document before signing a contract that more clearly disclosed the facts and took out the asterisks so to speak, would that help your issue?
1145 MR. AHMED: Truth be told, no, because Rogers and companies like them have excellent lawyers and so this very -- they've since changed their ads too. They must have had the legal team vet it. They've since changed their ads. So no longer are we seeing an ad adverting price, you will see guaranteed savings and I'm sure it passes all the legal checkmarks and it's completely -- you know, if they were going to give me a contract, it would say exactly what they're behind and I wouldn't say that would solve the problem.
1146 The problem is we, as Canadians, need to be able to budget and plan our essential services. So me saying I'm being told that I'm getting $50 of savings means nothing but if you tell me I'm getting “x” amount and this is how much I have to pay for “x” months, “x” dollars every month for 12, 14, 36 months, that allows me to budget, allows me to plan, allows me to competitively shop. But if I'm on a rollercoaster where $50 savings can mean I'm paying this much one month, another month I'm paying this, it means nothing to me even if it were in a contract.
1147 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Are there any other solutions that you would like to propose?
1148 MR. AHMED: You have done an excellent job with the wireless code. I have a cellphone with TELUS which may have been the reason why Rogers didn’t bundle any -- I didn’t get the bundle discount but TELUS has been superb. I pay $69 and the only time it ever goes more than that is if it's my fault. I text a foreign number by accident or I call a long-distance number that's charging, but what they told me I pay is what I pay. And I'll keep paying that until I want to change plans and I love that. It makes it easy for me to budget my essential services.
1149 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Do you think the process for resolving your dispute through the CCTS was efficient and effective?
1150 MR. AHMED: Not at all. I would say that the problem -- sorry again, echo, sorry -- I would say that CCTS was trying their best to pass the buck. They had asked me repeatedly are you sure it wasn't in the fine print of the contract? Are you sure it was in the fine print of the contract? They really wanted to short their responsibility on this and I, having been -- made sure that I didn’t -- you know, I myself going through all the paperwork, I knew for certain that I had a verbal agreement and this was the agreement. The CCTS finally stepped in and actually bothered to look into it.
1151 But even then, when I had a concern that's saying I'm approaching you as the CCTS because I believe this is anti-competitive, could you please look into this, they said this is not our department. It's not our job. Go off to the Competition Bureau.
1152 And so there's a lot of buck-passing and with the CCTS there's a lot of not interested in actually helping customers.
1153 COMMISSIONER LEVY: How long have you been sort of in the market so to speak, a consumer of telecom products?
1154 MR. AHMED: Oh, it will show my age but I was using the internet when we had a little modem that made those noises and the internet would come line by line in a black screen with green text. So I have been around a while on the internet.
1155 COMMISSIONER LEVY: You've seen a whole trend of ---
1156 MR. AHMED: Yeah.
1157 COMMISSIONER LEVY: --- of usage and you've had experience with various telecom providers.
1158 MR. AHMED: Yes, I have.
1159 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Thank you very much.
1160 MR. AHMED: My pleasure.
1161 THE CHAIRPERSON: I see no other questions from the other members. I'd like to thank you again for taking the time to share your concerns and observations with us. Much appreciated and good afternoon.
1162 MR. AHMED: It's my pleasure. You have a good day.
1163 MS. ROY: Thank you. I would now ask Mr. Peter Derek Hughes to come to the presentation table.
1164 THE CHAIRPERSON: Good afternoon.
1165 MR. HUGHES: Good afternoon.
1166 MS. ROY: When you are ready, you may begin. You have five minutes.
1167 MR. HUGHES: Thank you.
1168 In the interest of full disclosure, I will mention that the Secretary General of the CRTC, Claude Doucet, is my brother-in-law. I did not discuss with him at any time my appearance here today, so he had no input, of course, on my decision to appear or anything I'm about to say.
1169 THE CHAIRPERSON: We won't hold that against you.
1170 MR. HUGHES: Thank you, thank you. I'd like to hold that against my sister.
1172 THE CHAIRPERSON: That is, you know, it's keeping it in the family.
1173 MR. HUGHES: Very good, thank you.
1174 First, I’d like to thank the Commission for the opportunity to summarize my experience with Rogers Communications.
1175 In 2010 and again in 2014, the prices agreed to over the phone were not honoured when it came to the paperwork. We've heard that a lot today.
1176 My experiences in both instances were eerily similar. Over the course of several months, I had to fight Rogers repeatedly to correct the issue. In each case, I escalated the issue from front line staff, to managers, to the Office of the President, to the Ombudsperson.
1177 In 2014, I kept a tally of the number of exchanges it took to resolve the issue: 41. The time elapsed between me raising the issue and having it fully resolved was nearly six months. The repeated errors by Rogers and the active resistance to fix those errors clearly represent unfair business practices.
1178 I don’t have time today to go through each step of my experiences in 2010 and 2014, so let me summarize them by speaking to four key points.
1179 The first is complete duplicity. Every time I spoke to someone at Rogers, they said they understood my concerns, would address the issue, but it was never addressed. At each step, Rogers staff said one thing and subsequently did another. They were either unable or unwilling to follow through on what was agreed.
1180 The second is a lack of ownership. Rogers responded to their errors as if they were my problem. I repeatedly had to approach Rogers to detail how they continued to overcharge me. Rogers staff at all points up the hierarchy took no ownership of the issue. Rather when they failed to fix the problem, they simply passed me on to the next person up the ladder.
1181 Third was a lack of accountability. Even when Rogers admitted that the invoices contained overcharges, they refused to issue me corrected invoices. Rather they demanded that I payed the invoices with the overcharges in them. They promised to rectify the situation through credits to my account on following invoices. The problem was the following invoices were no better. They also created issues. They had overcharges in them as well. Rogers hid behind the math in a kind of a shell game.
1182 In 2014, after this occurred with three successive invoices, I refused to pay the incorrect invoices and asked that the Office of the President issue me a clear accounting of the charges to my account. The Office of the President could not provide a clear accounting of the charges and yet still demanded that I pay them.
1183 As I tried in good faith to resolve their errors, Rogers repeatedly left phone messages, wrote threatening letters, clawed back my services, suspended my account and charged me further administrative and interest fees. In short, when confronted with the fact that they were repeatedly overcharging me, Rogers attempted to bully me into paying the incorrect amounts.
1184 Finally, a lack of transparency. Rogers collected information about me, put up barriers to limit my access to that information, and then used that information to put me at a disadvantage. Namely, they recorded our conversations without my knowledge or consent. When I asked to get a copy of the recordings, the Office of the President refused. They told me that I could submit a request in writing for a transcript; which I did, and which took valuable time. In the meantime, the pressure tactics continued.
1185 During one conversation with the Office of the President, I asked, "Is this conversation being recorded?" There was a pause. The advisor admitted it was. I asked, "Well, can I record the conversation for my own purposes?" That request was declined.
1186 At that time, I ended the call, asking that all future correspondence occur in writing. Rogers acknowledged that the request in writing -- they acknowledged that request in writing and yet continued to make threatening automated calls about unpaid balances.
1187 Rogers attempted to overcharge me. And when I raised those overcharges with the company, it applied unfair business practices to pressure me into paying them regardless. I have never experienced such unprofessional conduct.
1188 The fact that it happened twice is truly damning. With a second occurrence that played out exactly the same as the first, 2014 the same as 2010, the probable cause of my experience moves from mere incompetence towards intent. Rogers' business practices were deliberate. In fact, it could be argued that Rogers attempted to criminally defraud me.
1189 In both cases the Ombudsperson found in my favour. After fighting Rogers for months, all overcharged amounts were successfully credited to my account.
1190 I am here demanding not a dime from Rogers. My concern is that there are likely many Canadians out there that are unable to chase after Rogers as I had to. Would seniors, youth, those whose first language is neither English nor French, or people with lower levels of literacy or numeracy be able to understand what was happening and force Rogers to address the matter?
1191 Based on my experiences, I firmly believe that an untold number of vulnerable Canadians are being charged -- overcharged month over month, and likely have been for years. I encourage the Commission to hold the service providers accountable. I hope relating my experience has been helpful to the Commission in this regard.
1192 Thank you.
1193 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with us.
1194 Commissioner Vennard?
1195 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Well, good afternoon.
1196 MR. HUGHES: Good afternoon.
1197 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: I have a few questions for you and then perhaps some of my fellow Commissioners do as well.
1198 Your intervention states that you were offered and agreed to services from Rogers. What services were these?
1199 MR. HUGHES: They were a bundle of telephone internet services.
1200 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: So it was a phone and internet.
1201 MR. HUGHES: Yes.
1202 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. Your comments indicate that getting Rogers to correct errors that you noted on your bill required that you approach them directly about the errors on multiple occasions.
1203 MR. HUGHES: Correct.
1204 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: I think you mentioned 41 ---
1205 MR. HUGHES: M'hm.
1206 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: --- times to get everything resolved. In these conversations, did the agents explain to you various ways of resolving these types of disputes, for instance, by contacting the Ombudsman or CCTS?
1207 MR. HUGHES: They did not offer it without me asking to speak to their manager. I asked to escalate it and they said, "Well, the next piece of action for you at this point would be go to this person or that person." So I do take those channels when they were offered to me.
1208 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. So they didn't offer you alternate ways to resolve things. You had to actually seek them out yourself?
1209 MR. HUGHES: Well, no, I wouldn't say that. I think the manager, for instance, I spoke to at -- within the Office of the President said, "You know, if you're not happy with my service and my resolution" -- which I wasn't ---
1210 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: M'hm.
1211 MR. HUGHES: --- I believe they said the next option available to you was the ombudsperson or the CCTS.
1212 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. So they did mention it. Okay.
1213 MR. HUGHES: I believe so, when I said can I speak to someone higher up.
1214 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Sure. Okay.
1215 If service providers were required to provide a written summary of what you agreed to before you signed your contract, would that have prevented your issues?
1216 MR. HUGHES: Yes, I mean, ultimately they provided a written statement of what was agreed to within 48 hours of the telephone conversations. The problem was that those -- that documentation was incorrect. So if it's possible to get that documentation correct, then it might help.
1217 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. And then I just have one final question for you -- actually, two final questions ---
1218 MR. HUGHES: M'hm.
1219 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: --- for you. And you've heard both of these before from different commissioners to different ---
1220 MR. HUGHES: M'hm.
1221 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: --- people talking to us today. And it has to do with the survey that we ---
1222 MR. HUGHES: M'hm.
1223 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: --- published on our website last week.
1224 In the Ipsos survey report the CRTC -- that the CRTC added on their record last week, it is noted that 40 per cent of Canadians report having experienced aggressive or misleading sales practices. Does that number match what you would expect or would you have expected a smaller or larger proportion?
1225 MR. HUGHES: I'll answer that question in a couple of ways. First I'll just say anecdotally that when I bring up my experiences with my friends and colleagues, they all nod their head. They have all had similar experiences, maybe not to the level that I've had with going up to the ombudsperson and that kind of thing, but everyone can relate a story where they've been unsatisfied with a service.
1226 My own personal experience is that I went down this road with them all the way up to the ombudsman, 6 months, multiple, multiple contacts twice, in 2010 and 2014. It was two completely separate incidents.
1227 Lightning striking twice is hard to understand if it really is that rare.
1228 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay.
1229 MR. HUGHES: So 40 per cent I can't really speak to that number, but I think based on my experience and those of the people I know and have spoken to, I'm not surprised to hear that.
1230 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. And then I have just a final question for you to comment on if you would like to.
1231 What practices would you consider to be misleading or aggressive that we should be looking at here?
1232 MR. HUGHES: Well, thank you for that. I would say that my experience included both. I think that getting it wrong and issuing the invoices that were incorrect could be fraudulent, but also could be misleading. That's a grey area.
1233 But when it comes to issuing me invoices that are incorrect and demanding me to pay them even knowing that they have errors, that's aggressive. Issuing me letters that state that if I don't pay them that it could affect my credit rating, that's aggressive. Recording conversations without my consent and then refusing for me to do the same, that's aggressive.
1234 So, for me, my experiences had both I would say. Interesting thing is those practices I just mentioned that I feel were aggressive were not actually the frontline staff. They actually were with the Office of the President at Rogers. So it was kind of higher up I went the more aggressive the tactics became.
1235 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. Thank you.
1236 Do you have any -- I have no questions. Do you have any final comments that you would like to make on this?
1237 MR. HUGHES: I'll say a couple further things if I'm allowed ---
1238 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Sure.
1239 MR. HUGHES: --- just a few more seconds.
1240 Four things I would recommend. Beyond -- well, you have to tell people you're recording the conversation. That's basic. But beyond that, you have to be able to reissue invoices that are with an error. That's basic business practice and I'm quite -- sorry, Rogers, get a sense of professionalism.
1241 Two, when things come up like that and you know that there's invoices out there that are incorrect, you can't chase after them for payment. You have to suspend that kind of -- that function within the organisation. People come forward with legitimate concerns. You can't demand payment of them. And when they're holding back payment because they're trying to figure out what happened to that invoice, you can't come after them like that.
1242 The third thing I'll mention is that there is a clause in everyone's contract that says you have 90 days to come forward with issues with your invoice. If you don't come forward within the 90 days, you've accepted everything within that invoice. That's a real protection for the service providers and leaves consumers quite vulnerable.
1243 There was one other thing I think I'll -- I think I wrote something down here. Oh, right, of course. In terms of making things transparent, my case should have been open and shut. There was a telephone recording of the conversation where I agreed to the services for a price. That's the transparency.
1244 If you're talking about issuing something to someone that says you agree to this, there is already a recording of it, of us agreeing to it over the phone. The next day or 48 hours later or whatever it was, when I got that documentation, it would have been great to get the recording too or access to it. I could log in to some sort of system and hear it, because that was clearly wrong and I could have just logged into it and said, "Yeah, that's wrong." That's transparency to my mind.
1245 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. Thank you. I have no further questions. Thanks for speaking to us today.
1246 MR. HUGHES: Thank you.
1247 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Laizner?
1248 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: You indicated that you had to keep calling to ---
1249 MR. HUGHES: M'hm.
1250 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: --- to discuss your issue. And I'm just wondering, Rogers has filed some comments on the record, which they detail their process for handling complaints dealing with the initial salesperson, then the level of manager, then the Office of the President and then the Ombudsman. So my question to you is, did you have to deal with different levels within the designation of manager? Do you have to -- like, was it really just four people or four tiers?
1251 MR. HUGHES: Manager probably was the call centre manager and I think after that point I went through a complaint system to get to the Office of the President. Within the Office of the President I spoke to only one person. I was not able to go up higher than that person, despite my request to do so.
1252 They said, “After me, the next opportunity for you to refer the situation is to the Ombudsperson.”
1253 In 2010, I know I spoke to two people -- two levels of people within the Office of the Ombudsperson. In 2014, I only dealt with one level.
1254 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: So you had to initiate the complaint process; what does that mean exactly?
1255 MR. HUGHES: I think the complaint process began with me going online through the website in order to say, you know, file a complaint and there was a mechanism there, and I believe that referred to the Office of the President.
1256 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Okay.
1257 MR. HUGHES: So there was a whole bunch of interactions that led to that point. I mean that was not the first incident of course, but I tried to address the situation through the call centres to begin with. And of course, when that failed then I said, “I have to take this higher.” And then I used those means and that accessed me to the Office of the President, which as I mentioned before, I don't think provided any better service than the frontline staff.
1258 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Because you indicated that you had 41 exchanges ---
1259 MR. HUGHES: That's right.
1260 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: --- on the second issue.
1261 MR. HUGHES: M'hm.
1262 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: So -- and where those all initiated by yourself?
1263 MR. HUGHES: So those 41 exchanges included all sorts of back and forth. So for instance, an email back and forth between myself and the officer within the Office of the President, you know, might have been five or six back and forth exchanges through email, that was five or six exchanges.
1264 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Okay.
1265 MR. HUGHES: Forty-one (41) actually does not include -- the 41 actually started counting when I made that submission through the online form. So the telephone conversations before that actually are not counted in the 41. After that point, I started to build a log and the log got to 41.
1266 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Okay. Thank you.
1267 MR. HUGHES: Thank you.
1268 THE CHAIRPERSON: I have one perhaps more follow-up question. Do you have other service providers available to you where you reside?
1269 MR. HUGHES: Of course, of course.
1270 THE CHAIRPERSON: And have you -- I guess it’s a simple question ---
1271 MR. HUGHES: It is.
1272 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- why have you remained with Rogers if you're fundamentally dissatisfied---
1273 MR. HUGHES: Great question.
1274 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- with the services?
1275 MR. HUGHES: Great question. I’m proud that I was able to resolve the issues to my satisfaction in 2010 and 2014, what I’m not proud of is the fact I’m still with Rogers. But I think that speaks to a greater issue here, there -- the perception that this is widespread across the industry is such that I have no comfort in moving to another supplier, it actually has a chilling effect on competition.
1276 The problem that I had wasn’t in my ongoing Rogers account, it was whenever I tried to make changes to the account. When I got the changes finally worked out to my satisfaction, Rogers has been billing fine for the past four years. But it really puts me in a situation where I know that I’m comfortable now in Rogers, they're billing me successfully, I have to check them every month, which I do, but four years they've done it successfully.
1277 But I have all expectation that if I were to make a move to Bell or anyone else, and I had a conversation on the phone with them and said, “Okay, what can you offer me?”, I’ve no confidence that they would actually live up to what they agree to over the phone or online or any of their mechanisms.
1278 THE CHAIRPERSON: So your view is that it is a systemic problem and you have no confidence that other ---
1279 MR. HUGHES: Correct.
1280 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- suppliers are any different?
1281 MR. HUGHES: Correct. I’d have to ---
1282 THE CHAIRPERSON: And last quick question just ---
1283 MR. HUGHES: M'hm.
1284 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- did Rogers ever explain to you why they prefer the approach of you paying the incorrect amount and credit you in the future? Was there some kind of IT system reason? Did they offer you ---
1285 MR. HUGHES: No, they never explained it, but ---
1286 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- any explanation?
1287 MR. HUGHES: Sorry to cut you off. They never explained it, but basically the impression I got -- I don't know if this was actually what they said explicitly -- but my impression was that, you know, “We have such a big system, as soon as it’s entered in the system we can't possibly change it.” At that point, I was talking to the Office of the President and I said, “You -- if you guys are the Office of the President, you have the power to fix this, so fix it.” And they said, “No, we refuse.”
1288 THE CHAIRPERSON: Understood. Thank you very much. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with us and to give us your suggestions.
1289 MR. HUGHES: Thank you.
1290 THE CHAIRPERSON: Good afternoon.
1291 Madame secrétaire.
1292 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.
1293 I would now ask Canquest Communications Online to come to presentation table. When you are ready, please introduce yourself for the record and you have five minutes for your presentation.
1294 MR. SMITH: Thank you. I’d like to start off by thanking Jade, she made this trip from Chatham a very unnervous one for me, because that's the first time I’ve ever appeared in front of a tribunal or board and I appreciate the opportunity very much.
1295 THE CHAIRPERSON: We’ll try not to be too scary.
1296 MR. SMITH: It’s getting close to Halloween.
1297 MR. SMITH: Thanks for the opportunity to participate, I really do sincerely appreciate it. My name is John Smith, I'm the co -- I’m the real John Smith by the way -- I’m the co-owner of Canquest Communications in Chatham, Ontario. We’re a small independent VOIP provider.
1298 I’ve been in the telecom industry since 1981, though it might not look like it. I've witnessed throughout the various regulatory changes numerous anticompetitive behaviour from the large telcos. These actions negatively impact potential cost savings -- cost savings opportunities for small businesses that might realize and surely need some economic break.
1299 A certain aspect of the current regulatory framework fails the public interest. I’m referring to Section 37 of the CRTC Telecom Decision 2003-85 referring to automatic contract renewals. Why this is important is because 70 percent of Canadians work for small business, so when small business doesn’t work, we have a real problem and I have a passion for small business.
1300 In particular, I will be discussing Bell Canada’s failure to clearly and definitively inform business customers regarding all renewal contracts. This has significant financial consequences on customers, not only significant financial consequences, but it has created an unacceptable amount of stress on customers.
1301 To see fledgling entrepreneurs trying to make a go of a new business and to see the negative impact that Bell’s marketing -- market manipulation is deflating to say the least. I’m at a real loss to understand why a company such as Bell with such a rich history in this country stoops to these new lows.
1302 This is an example of how the misuse of Section 37 actually occurs. Bell typically offers customers a multi-year contracted rate for their phone lines. Bell has crafted rate scheme whereby their contracted and non-contracted rates are so significantly different, that it effectively removes the ability of a potential customer to make any other choice except the contracted rate.
1303 A simple example might be a one-line flat rate basic phone line, a 1FL in the business, is $84 a month on a month-to-month uncontracted rate, conversely, on a three-year contract rate is $46 a month. Likewise, the contracted long distance rate within Ontario is five cents a minute. Their uncontracted rate for calls within Ontario is 40 cents a minute, that's 800 percent higher. Canquest customers enjoy unlimited Canada/U.S. calling for free.
1304 At the end of any term contract, the contract is automatically renewed for another three, five or even 10-year period depending on what the original contract was, with a built-in rate increase annually of 10 percent. I believe this -- the maximum term should never exceed two years.
1305 We literally have hundreds of small business customers that would select an alternative supplier like Canquest in a moment. However, when we attempt to port the lines, we have found that Bell has ported -- has auto renewed them. Customers typically have absolutely no recollection that this has happened or should happen.
1306 In order for the customer to get out of this contract, Bell applies a charging formula which cannot be described as anything but exorbitantly punitive. For small business customers with four to five lines, this can amount to thousands of dollars. Small business customers simply don't have the capacity to pay these penalties, and thus their competitive choice is eliminated for years. Why is this happening with such frequency?
1307 The CRTC -- excuse me, the CRTC Telecom Decision 2003-85, Section 37 clearly states:
1308 “This reminder notice is to be prominently displayed on customers' monthly bills, or in a separate letter, so that it can be brought to the attention of the appropriate personnel authorized to make telecommunications purchasing decisions.”
1309 In our submission we’ve shown a typical example of Bell’s Notice of Renewal process, which clearly does not meet the intent of Section 37. And it’s purposely designed to visually mislead the reader into believing that the written information has no relevance. Let me explain.
1310 Bell’s method to provide the required Section 37 Renewal Notice is to print the information usually on the last page of two of the phone bill. Bell titles this section, “Other Charges and Credits.” They further subtitle it with “Miscellaneous Charges and Credits” in order to visually and psychologically disguise this notice. Bell goes on to print in an “Amount Column” immediately to the right of this description “Other Charges and Credits”, and then populates it with zero charges, leaving the reader to quickly conclude that this is not anything they need to be concerned with, thus the notice is missed and the contract gets renewed.
1311 Some potential solutions. Early in the deregulation process in the U.S., the FCC recognized that the companies such as AT&T needed to be handled differently from the new entrants. They realized that AT&T’s sure market presence and with their virtually unlimited budgets, if left to conduct business as they wished would have resulted in practically no competition in the U.S.
1312 As a result of the FCC oversight of AT&T, today in the U.S. there are healthy competitive offerings in all areas of communications, providing quality products and services at a fraction of the cost Canadians pay. Why not here?
1313 Bell and the large incumbents need to be more tightly regulated to ensure their dominant carrier position does not enable them to destroy any competitive opportunities they see as a threat.
1314 If the CRTC does not rein them in, we will never have real competition in Canada. In actual fact, virtually every form of telecom transmission in Canada somewhere transits one of the incumbent's networks, providing them with revenue in any case.
1315 With regards to compliance of Section 37, I believe Section 37 should be amended and strengthened, requiring a much more detailed delivery notice to the customer. Further, I believe that any telecom supplier with this type of all or renewal clause must be required to submit their notice of renewal process to the CRTC for approval. This will ensure the intent of Section 37.
1316 These notices must also include a clear explanation in lay terms what the consequences will be if the contract is not renewed and what the contract -- excuse me -- and what the consequences would be if the customer decides to cancel at any time during the existing contract.
1317 A separate letter or notice enclosed with the contractor's invoice printed in red, bold ink, in a readable font size, I might add, that highlights importance notice, "Your automatic, multi-year contract renewal details are enclosed." It must, of course, provide all the details of the renewal.
1318 It should require customer acceptance, either by phone or email. This notice must also include a clear statement that provides notice to the customer that failure by the customer to respond to this renewal notice will result in the customer's rates defaulting to the higher non-contracted rates.
1319 This situation is very, very critical, because at least 60 per cent of the customers that we deal with, the business customers deal with, are facing this situation.
1320 We have businesses and we have -- as an example, we have a crisis centre back home. It's a women's crisis centre that, you know, all these folks are scraping to get the dollars they need together to provide the services that are so critical for our communities, especially the smaller communities where we don't have the resources.
1321 And, for example, this one I was thinking about or talking about, they can save $6,000 a year on their telecom costs, but they don't have -- and Bell wants $5,500 to get out of the contract, which they don't have. I mean, they hardly have enough to buy the coffee for the coffee room this month. So they're going to be in this contract for another two or three years or whatever the balance is, and the customer has absolutely no choice. There's no way out. There's nothing they can do.
1322 And, you know, we all live busy lives. We all look at, you know, what's printed in front of us. I mean, I get the -- we all get these flyers from these companies, Xplornet, Bell and so forth. And I honestly believe that they must hire people that can decide what is the most difficult colour of ink to print this on, how small could we possibly print it and how could we jam the words together so no one would possibly read this unless they were, you know, bored. And it's very -- we have a lot of old folks come into our office. They're just shaking. They're so upset because they don't understand what's happening and these promises and so forth that are made to these customers just don't materialise.
1323 So I have a lot of faith in the CRTC. I've been in this business since '81. I've been through deregulation in the terminal attachment business, in the long-distance part of it and so forth. I love it and I love our country, but I really -- I'm disgusted to see the way that these companies get away with these things.
1324 And I wish I had 10 minutes because I got a couple more things I'd like to say, but anyway. Thank you very much. I appreciate that.
1325 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Thank you for your comments and you probably can work them into your answers to some of our questions.
1326 MR. SMITH: Good man. Thank you.
1327 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner MacDonald.
1328 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Good afternoon and thank you very much for being here and for your presentation this afternoon. It actually helped address a number of questions that I had planned to ask you today that originally came up when I was reading your initial intervention. But I think you have something really valuable to be able to offer to this proceeding because you are not just a customer of telecom services. Because of the nature of your work you're also a provider to, you know, various small businesses. You kind of get to see the challenges from a couple of angles.
1329 And we were talking about earlier, you know, the challenges with defining what is misleading. And I think, you know, we will be able to land somewhere on that. I think the more challenging aspect is going to try to be to define what is aggressive selling, because largely that is in the eye of the beholder. And what I may view as very aggressive you may not and vice versa.
1330 So, can you enlighten us just to, you know, what falls into the bucket of aggressive sales practices to you?
1331 MR. SMITH: Yes, from a business perspective, the model that's -- at least Bell has created where, as I said, that the difference in the rates are so dramatic. And new business, I mean, I've been in -- lots of new business people don't pay themselves for years. So you have to make every cent count. And when you're faced with -- we say $46 a month and that's just 1 line, but if they have obviously multiple lines, it's that times the number of lines. So the aggressiveness really doesn't come so much in a physical forceful way, it's just the model that they've created is, you know, I mean, it's pointless.
1332 And the other thing too is that a lot of people, a lot of businesses don't know that we exist. I mean, we spend as much money as we can. We're a very small company in a very small city, but there's people that live down the street from us don't even know what we do. They think we're a travel bureau, which might not be a bad idea. But in any case, so it -- we can't afford -- we don't have the resources to advertise at the level that Bell Canada does or anyone else.
1333 So these businesses don't often know there is any other alternative, so they just have to accept it. And it's -- so I'm -- it's not -- if I may, Mr. MacDonald, it's not so much of an aggressive on the phone process. It's a contrived process where they get you in, in with a lower price, and then they just keep auto-renewing, auto-renewing. Some of these companies have been auto-renewed 10 times and not have a clue they ever did it, plus they have a rate increase of 10 per cent every year. So -- and which I don't understand when you have a contract how one of the parties can do what they want and the other can't, but whatever.
1334 So I don't know if I answered your question or not, Mr. MacDonald, but that's ---
1335 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Well, that's actually interesting. So, from your standpoint, the aggressive aspect is the re-pricing of services or the auto-renewals or pricing increases after the first three or six months of the contract. Your area of concern isn't with -- please don't let me put words in your mouth, but you're more concerned with that aspect versus, you know, aggressive things being said when a door-to-door salesperson is knocking on your door or persistent calls. Am I understanding you correctly?
1336 MR. SMITH: Absolutely. It's a different kind of aggression, from my perspective.
1337 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay.
1338 MR. SMITH: Subtle, but still as damaging.
1339 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So given that you obviously have relationships with your customers and presumably they're coming to you -- well, they fall into a couple of buckets. The people that you can save money or the people that are annoyed with another service provider and would sooner deal with you versus perhaps one of the biggest providers, can you shed any light on whether you think the results of the survey that we had commissioned showing that 40 per cent of Canadians feel that they've been misled or have been pushed in to buying certain services, does that seem like an overly high or an overly low number to you?
1340 MR. SMITH: I think that you have -- when you take a look at that 40 per cent you have to say what constitutes that 40 per cent. My own kids, which are in their 20s and 30s and so forth, I don't think they pay attention to any of it, but the older folks do. So 40 per cent, that may certainly be the number, but it's really, really much higher I believe with the older folks, because they just -- they're just completely perplexed. They've trusted Bell for all these years.
1341 They used to be Ma Bell. I remember when Bob Bell said, "We don't want to be called Ma Bell anymore." And I thought, great, that's my opportunity right there. And they don't. They want to do business. They want to do business the way they do business. And the older folks, they just fall under the same routine. They get the same stories that you heard from all these interveners where they've been promised this.
1342 We've had a number of folks that have gone to say -- said, "We're sorry. We have to switch over to Bell because they give us such a good deal or Cogeco, whatever." And we're saying, "Goodbye, we appreciate that." They said, "Nothing wrong with your service." And a few months later they're back and they're saying, "Here's the bills. Here's what happened to us."
1343 And it's really a shame because we have to charge them again for another installation charge because we have to send people out. What's really a shame is they have to go through that in the first place. I think that it's part of our collective responsibility to look after people after they get -- you know, get up and they're seniors.
1344 I mean this is really maybe not pertinent but I remember a banner at the back of a sporting goods store that my brother-in-law owned that said “Hundred years, all new people”. None of us are going to be here in 100 years, none of us.
1345 So we've got to look after each other and help each other. These poor folks come in, they're stressed, they're shaking and it's really upsetting to them. You know, if they miss a doctor appointment by 10 minutes, they're upset. So you can imagine if they're getting bills for 100 or $200 what effect it's having on them.
1346 So that's why I'm here. That's why I spend the time and energy to come here and voice my opinion on their behalf.
1347 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And that gets to another interesting point. You know, there's a certain complexity that goes along with the services that are offered in this industry and the complexity of bundles and different solutions that providers will put into the marketplace and that complexity may be particularly challenging for older Canadians or vulnerable Canadians.
1348 So I'm left wondering whatever the outcome of this process is, if new rules are put into place, should they be blanket rules that uniformly apply to all Canadians, or do you think additional precautions or safeguards may need to be put in place for older and more vulnerable Canadians?
1349 MR. SMITH: That's a good question but then you would say, well, do we have to protect the people that are under age or whatever and I think that unfortunately I think we need to all be ruled by the same rule. I just think the rules need to be fair and equitable and I think that these companies have to stop with the voodoo math where they're moving stuff around and they're giving people rates and they're only good for three months.
1350 Many, many customers come in to us and they'll say, well, this rate you're offering us, when will it go up? How good is it? It's really disheartening to see that these people have been so abused by these marketing machines that have sucked them into these deals that it's really I think -- I'm sorry, I didn't directly answer that question but I guess to answer that question, I think we should all have the same rules.
1351 I think those rules should be well thought out and, you know, this isn't that complicated. Here we are talking about communications and the biggest problem we have is communicating. We're selling simple services. You know, we have no contracts in our business. You use the service, you pay the bill. It's really simple.
1352 You know, if I don’t give you the service that -- you know, and obviously we have to describe the service and so forth but it doesn't need to have such complexity. We're not selling, you know, parts for a rocket ship. We're selling telecom services. It's pretty basic.
1353 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And on the topic of rules, do you think that they should be -- they should apply to all service providers offering these types of services to Canadians, or do you think that perhaps if we only applied them to the larger operators, the ones we've compelled to be part of this process, that that addresses the problem because that's where the majority of the complaints are coming from?
1354 MR. SMITH: That's a really good question. As I said in my presentation, the U.S. experience has said that AT&T was so powerful that smaller companies like us -- I mean, really, we have a hard time competing in this market as it is. You know, there's things that we want to do. There's things that I really want to do but I have a fear of doing them because we can't afford to be shut down. We don’t really have anybody we can actually talk to because I'm suspecting most of the good lawyers work for Bell and those companies, so we certainly don’t have those resources back home.
1355 So I do think that there needs to be some differentiation between what's applied to the dominant carriers and what's applied to a general level of consumers and carriers. Yeah, I absolutely do.
1356 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And in your intervention, you know, you mentioned auto-renewals being in place suggesting that perhaps they are to a certain extent placed in and on customers’ bills in such a way that they may not be overly visible. Others have suggested that providers, you know, before any contract is signed or any service installation happens that there's a full rundown of everything that the customer has agreed to, you know, before they get on the hook financially.
1357 Do you think that is an effective measure or is it just one more piece of paper in front of a consumer that they may or may not choose to read?
1358 MR. SMITH: No. I believe as I was saying that they need to have it absolutely clearly notice on that envelope when someone gets an envelope inside are the details of an auto-renewal contract or multi contract that you need to read. You know, I don’t know what the exact wording would be but it's important.
1359 And I also believe -- as I said, I believe the consumer needs to respond and has to have a responsibility to respond to that, either positively or negatively respond. If you don’t respond, then I believe the telco should adjust your rates to the non-contracted rates. And then the customer will come alive no doubt and they'll either look for a competitive offering or they'll renegotiate with Bell or whoever the carrier is and get back on the program.
1360 But I think there's -- it's just too easy in our life today, there's too many things happening, there's too much documentation, there's too much information that passes us by. I mean who can read all that stuff? I mean I know it's legal. This isn't a case for me of anything that's legal. Of course, it's going to be legal. The lawyers are going to make it legal. It's ethical. It's moral.
1361 What are you doing to these businesses? What are you doing to these people? You know, just be upfront. Can't they offer products and services at a competitive price? We can and we're not near as big as Bell Canada or any of these other companies. Just be honest. Just be the way we all expect these companies to be. We need to hold them to account and we don’t. They get away with a lot.
1362 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Just one final question before I hand you over to others who may have questions as well, but I think it was a couple of intervenors ago, the presentation from Mr. Bailey and he was talking about that, you know, 40 percent that was identified in the Ipsos poll as having experienced these practices in the past. Those interactions fall on potentially a spectrum of severity where, you know, a cross section of people it might just have been a mild annoyance but -- or a mild irritant but wasn't overly harmful, all the way up to much more egregious activity.
1363 When your customers are coming to you or you're having discussions with individuals, do you get any sense as to where these complaints fall on that spectrum? Is it really a small number of really, really egregious situations that we're looking at or is the -- I guess the breakdown on that spectrum more uniform?
1364 MR. SMITH: No. By the time they find out what's happening, they're very, very, very upset and it's not a casual thing. I mean business, small business, we're talking thousands of dollars and thousands of dollars to most of the companies don’t mean anything but to a small business, that means a lot. And the folks that come in on the personal side, they're very, very upset and it happens a lot.
1365 I would say that out of 10 businesses that we quote, at least six of them are in the auto-renewal wheel and don’t know it. And when they find out, you know, we get everything from “I'm not paying that” to whatever, and as much as I encourage them not to pay it, which I probably shouldn't do, I don’t believe it's presented to them in an honest way.
1366 I don’t believe that option has been there and obviously if someone wants to renew their contract, it's not my business, so do it. But if they're not notified properly, if people -- if people have to go digging for something which is intentionally buried, in my presentation I gave you a copy of what a typical Bell notice looks like in the printed copy that you should have. And it's really obvious the font is smaller. It's on the back page. It's got a zero beside it.
1367 I mean, come on, this is definitely contrived and put together so that somebody who looks at that page, they go that's irrelevant, nothing there. I mean who goes through a 10-page phone bill if the face amount of the bill is the same every month? You just don’t do it. People just don’t sit and read the stuff that's on those bills. Let's be realistic.
1368 So it may be legal but I don’t think it's ethical from any perspective.
1369 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Well thank you very much actually for mentioning that invoice from that service provider and I have it highlighted right in front of me.
1370 MR. SMITH: Thank you.
1371 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So in your response to my questions and in your opening comments, you did, like I said, a very good job of anticipating what my questions would be. So I will leave you in the hands of the Chairman.
1372 MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. MacDonald.
1373 THE CHAIRPERSON: Other questions, Members? No.
1374 Then I thank you very much again for taking the time to come and share your experience and views with us. Good afternoon.
1375 MR. SMITH: Thank you very much for having me.
1376 LE PRÉSIDENT: Madame la secrétaire?
1377 MS. ROY: Thank you. We’ll now connect by Skype
1378 Hi, Ms. Lazo, can you hear me well?
1379 MS. LAZO: I can.
1380 THE SECRETARY: Perfect, thank you. You may begin your presentation. You have five minutes.
1381 MS. LAZO: Okay. So my name is Laura Lazo. I am in Manitoba and I'm here to talk about fraudulent and harassment practices by Bell MTS.
1382 I was an MTS customer for eight years and then continue on when it was bought by Bell. And then I found that Bell MTS does not honour their own agreements and engaged in fraudulent and harassment practices.
1383 At the end of May this year I -- so that you know, I'm self-employed. I have a company. I needed a web hosting site to put my webpage, so I phoned them and I told them that I wanted to purchase a internet for service and requested a cheaper service category, which is called Pro. They told me that they would send me an agreement for three years, which they did, but when it arrived it was for the more expensive service called Pro Match.
1384 So I called and corrected the mistake and they said they had no information prior to that. They send me another agreement and again it was for the more expensive service.
1385 So I called again and I escalated a complaint. They sent me again the same agreement.
1386 So I said that I had enough of that. They transfer me to the business department lead, whose name is Joshua, who said he'd solve all my problems.
1387 So we went back and forth trying to figure -- they went back and forth trying to figure out where the problems were. Finally the agreement was signed and that took a month.
1388 That should have taken maybe hours or perhaps from a Friday to a Monday at the most. It's a very simple form to do.
1389 So in addition to that, it took me many, many calls. I went through maybe over 20 people. They would transfer me to the wrong numbers. They will say that I have no information on prior activity. They would not reply emails, et cetera. I had to threaten them with contacting their CEO.
1390 And so finally the agreement was signed and Joshua told me that I had access to the web hosting service, but then when I tried to do it I found that it was not possible. So, I had no access. I tried, I tried. I had to call again, complain, get in touch with Joshua. He was saying, "No problem. This should work. It's all fine." And then he tried to do it on his own on his side and found that he could not do it either.
1391 So then he consulted with the techs around him and they couldn't solve the problems either. So the problem wasn't me or what I was doing, it was their setup.
1392 So if they're selling you a web hosting service, they should be ready for the customer to use and not expect that the customer is going to bring up problems.
1393 So they sent techs to my house. They changed the modem. They told me that they would not charge me for the modem because of all these annoyances. They also told me they had men working in a green box outside the house to make sure that the speed of the internet service was high. And they left and then all that process took a few weeks.
1394 And then again if they are sending you a service they should be ready for it and they should provide a service that is ready.
1395 So, okay, finally I was able just to log in. And then the fraudulent billing started.
1396 So they sent me these bills that are very difficult to understand. And, by the way, I had a PhD in science, so a probably smart person. At least I can understand those basic things. And they charged me for TV services, which I never requested. They changed my landline residential phone to a business service, which, of course, was more expensive.
1397 Once again, I called, I emailed Joshua and I asked him to explain the charges and he chose not to address the questions. So then I was really irritated. I said, "You need to answer my questions explaining the items in the bill, or else I'll go to your CEO." Only then he addressed the questions. And, of course, he could not find specification for the change of my phone from residential to business because it had never been requested.
1398 And then he said that the charge for TV services were because I had not returned the modem, which was false as well, because when they came to my house they changed the equipment and they took the old equipment with them, plus, they had said that they would not charge me for the modem anyway due to the delays and annoyances.
1399 So until recently I've been experiencing problems with the internet service. My work relies almost exclusively on video meetings. They know that. The internet service is faulty and my meetings sometimes get interrupted, which have a direct impact on my business.
1400 So apparently -- so what I did was to phone them to reinstate me -- my pre-authorized payment at one account on the phone service. So then I start -- right now I'm getting more fraudulent bills. So they are charging me -- I get the phone bill under my company name, which Joshua told me that he had appeared, and it has charges that are not right and my account has a zero balance. It's paid.
1401 Same thing with the internet. After they told me everything has been solved, all the errors have been cleared, they are sending me bills for -- with charges for domain transfer, which they have said that they were waiving due to all these problems.
1402 So again I had to call and they transferred me to the business department and they never answered.
1403 So I got tired of it. I called the general number. I paid again. And even though I don't have to pay for the domain transfer, and that was the end of it, but after that I still get overdue notices for both my phone and my internet services.
1404 And I emailed Joshua asking them to stop this harassment practices and to correct the mistakes and he chose to do nothing. So I'm still getting those letters.
1405 In addition to that and what really worries me is that Bell MTS has all my passwords for wi-fi, web page and my mail, which means that they have full access to my business transactions and personal information.
1406 So to end, I would like to ask that this committee to instruct Bell MTS to stop their fraudulent harassment practices toward me, to bill me for phone services under my name and not my company, stop billing for things I already paid and provide privacy for my passwords. That's it. Thank you.
1407 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Thank you very much.
1408 Commissioner Levy?
1409 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Thank you very much for your intervention. A couple of questions, as you have heard before, a number of us have referred to the Ipsos survey that suggests that 40 per cent of Canadians feel that they've been subject to misleading or aggressive sales practices by telecom providers. How do you judge that? Is that -- do you feel that that is surprising, either because it's too small or too large a proportion, or do you think it's about right?
1410 MS. LAZO: No, it's not surprising at all. I would have thought that it would be higher though. I also had problems with Rogers. I also had to escalate my complaints all the way to the President Office because of undue charges, which there were always on their side. I mean, the mistakes were always on their side. People around me talk about problems. But one thing that prevails here in Manitoba is complaints against MTS after it was taken over by Bell. Without a doubt, there is a lot -- many problems with this company.
1411 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Did you have a history with MTS before it was taken over by Bell?
1412 MS. LAZO: No, the service wasn't perfect.
1413 From time to time there was an interruption in the Internet service. Really, I would call them very few times in the year.
1414 In this particular case, over a period of, roughly speaking, two to three months, I called Bell 17 times. And that’s not counting calls for technical support. This is calls to deal with their billing practices.
1415 So I never had (indiscernible) with NPS.
1416 COMMISSIONER LEVY: So you’ve been a consumer of telecom product for some time. And have you run a business from your -- sort of home-based business for quite a period of time?
1417 MS. LAZO: Yes, that’s right. When I was with -- just with NPS I did my video meetings and they were working all right. It’s just in May I decided to finally do a Webpage. Other businesses with more money, they can do this much more quickly than me but I am very, very small business. This is also a new business so I need to have my services ready and faultless.
1418 And so I thought that NPS was going to be a good option for me because they are in Winnipeg. When the services are, say, in Asia, then those companies are not really accountable for the services that they promise to you. But here in Canada and in Manitoba, I would have an office to go and complain.
1419 But as it turned out, they have very, very poor practices.
1420 COMMISSIONER LEVY: So you’ve gone through a lot of the steps that you took to try to fix the problem, and obviously you’re still having some issues. And you’ve described the various discussions that you had with sales agents in order to address your complaint.
1421 In these discussions, did the sales agents explain to you the various ways that you could resolve your concerns? For instance, did anyone explain to you the role of the CCTS, or are you otherwise unaware of it?
1422 MS. LAZO: No, they never explained anything. They’re largely ignorant of -- their answer was basically, “I have no idea what went on before. There is no prior information. I will do this,” and they don’t do it. So it doesn’t ever get past that.
1423 So I didn’t know anything about the CCTS; I’m sorry, I forgot the name that you mentioned. I don’t know what that is.
1424 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Okay. Did your service provider offer either to come to your residence or to have you come into a retail store to discuss the issue in person?
1425 MS. LAZO: No. I did request the in-person meeting but then when I -- the second-last time when I spoke with Josh, and he said, “No because we are in an enclosed environment. You cannot come in here.” I said, “How about one of the stores?” And that was not an option. So we had to do it over the phone, yeah.
1426 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Do you have any suggestions for solutions to these types of issues?
1427 MS. LAZO: Well, somehow the public should be aware of the options for complaining. But overall, the real issue is that there are no options for the public. So it doesn’t -- yes, I thought about going with another provider but I have no hope that the other providers will be any better because whenever I speak with people around me, they always tell me the same thing; “I have a problem with Shaw.” Or, “I have a problem with Telus,” whatever their provider is.
1428 Also, this is a Canadian company settled here in Manitoba, and they have a responsibility, and they have an agreement in place that is signed. So if I have to respect my cell agreement, they have to respect theirs. It’s not that for me to go away so that they can go and do -- mistreat somebody else.
1429 And I am able to deal with this even though it has an economic cost to my work time. But what about all those people that cannot? So I have intelligence to do it; I can write, I can read, I can understand. What about all those other people that can’t? All those people that say, “Oh, well, you know, if they treated me this way it’s probably because that’s the way things are.” And they don’t realize that they are being mistreated.
1430 So I personally feel that I have a social responsibility to try to fix this problem a little bit.
1431 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Thank you very much.
1432 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. I don’t believe we have any other questions for this afternoon. But, again, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to be here with us by Skype, and for sharing your concerns, and propose solutions with us.
1433 MS. LAZO: Thank you very much.
1434 THE CHAIRPERSON: Good afternoon.
1435 Madam la secrétaire.
1436 MS. ROY: Thank you.
1437 We’ll now hear the last intervenor of the day. I would ask Mr. Mark Loebach to come to presentation table.
1438 (SHORT PAUSE)
1439 MR. LOEBACH: Good afternoon.
1440 There we go. Hi, how are you doing?
1441 THE CHAIRPERSON: I’m good. How are you?
1442 MR. LOEBACH: Good.
1443 MR. LOEBACH: Well, thank you very much for having me here; I appreciate it.
1444 This will be an abridged presentation. The complete report is with Jade Roy on PDF.
1445 Good afternoon members of the CBC and Special Members of the Hearing Commission; thank you for the opportunity to voice my concerns.
1446 Most people keep their cells phones very close to themselves. If we’re having a problem with sales or service, we are constantly reminded of it. A shirt can be changed, but most people do not have a closet full of cell phones.
1447 Progress has been made: Reduced contract lock-ins; better clarity on bills; and the development of the CCTS. A great start but I think we have a little bit -- not a lot -- more to go.
1448 In personal experience, I have been assigned a contract even when I did not agree to one. My provider, Fido, denied the problem. Even when the CRTC CCTS acknowledged the problem, they could not do anything because it had not caused direct harm.
1449 Imagine someone taking a child without permission, bringing the child to a sixth-floor balcony and dangling the child over the ledge, then when you catch up with them, they give you the child back and say, “Hey, no harm, no foul”; that’s how they approached me being assigned an incorrect contract.
1450 I have taken a Fido phone that was overheating, during the Samsung Sony problems when the Samsungs were bursting into flames, to a Fido store in a mall where I was told I could not return it to that Fido store.
1451 In another example, I’ve been sold a service plan after explaining I use my phone for business. The plan I was sold included a voice mail service that could only accept two messages before becoming full.
1452 In another example, I have been charged $55 per gigabyte of data used even though I had a data plan.
1453 To improve the situation, I think we can see improvement from all sides. Customers need to understand that Bell, Rogers, Telus are businesses. As such, their only concern is increasing profit for their shareholders. They are not a charity; they’re not a non-profit corporation providing anything out of the goodness of their heart. If there is a way for them to get more money while providing less service, it is their sole directive to do so.
1454 When it comes to the CCTS, I believe its creation was a very sound idea. However, in my firsthand experience, it is still extremely limited at this point in its scope and unable to provide more than severely limited help in very specific situations.
1455 Here are a few ideas that could help down the road:
1456 Public acknowledgement. Well-placed public statements in the short term that say that the government, CRTC understands that Canadians have concerns about Canadian providers of cell service and that they’re going to work on it could go a long way. This will obviously only work in the long-term if adjustments are actually made.
1457 Keep complaint records. The cell phone providers have these records in numbers, track them as well. Even better, post the aggregate numbers without personal data. This will help overseers gather an understanding, as well as offer help to Canadians making decisions about their next provider.
1458 A Fido is a Fido is a Fido. Providers should not be able to use third parties as a way of engaging in fraud, avoiding responsibility, or shifting blame.
1459 Planning. The government can decide on a set of three to six standard plans. Every provider must offer these plans, and the costs must be posted clearly on their Web site and be posted on a government site together, in perhaps a chart form.
1460 Providers can offer any other plans they wish; however, this would allow Canadians to clearly understand what is out there and maybe help them in selecting their next provider.
1461 Checking your cells. Cell phone providers are worth billions of dollars and the government, through regulation such as the CRTC’s influence, has massive sway over the provider’s business costs and practices. A few thousand dollars to make everyone in your department think they provide great prices and service is much less expensive than actually doing to so to all Canadians. Maybe check to make sure that you're receiving the same phone offers and service as everybody else.
1462 Over the line. If you go over your data or voice minutes, you should not be subject to aha pricing. I do not know any farmer that charges me $4 for a dozen for the first 5 dozen farm fresh eggs and then for the 6 dozen charges me 25 bucks. It's not even.
1463 Untie. No plan or phone tied contracts. If you want to finance, purchase a cell phone, fine, but the cost is for the phone. If you want to purchase a two-year contract for service and get a discount, fine, but a two-month's maximum penalty to get out.
1464 This would mean you could switch from Rogers to Bell and conceivably make six more payments to Rogers for the phone, which they financed, and still have a service bill from Bell.
1465 A little bit of help. Perhaps we can get even a little bit more assistance for the smaller guy mobile companies and others -- and any other of the little guys that are trying to grow.
1466 Warnings. A few personal lawsuits made very public that are aimed at specific representatives of the third party providers for fraud or misrepresentation may change personal sales tactics and personal behaviours when selling cell phone services.
1467 A couple larger ideas include the ombudsman. Providers as part of their privilege to operate in Canada and maintain their license would have to agree to ombudsman rulings as legally binding. The ombudsman would have the power to assess fines up to $100,000 per customer or business problem. The office of the ombudsman would also track and could assess fines for repeated abuses. These fines could go up to $100 million for multiple offences. Smaller fines to start, but if the problem persisted, larger fines could be used.
1468 Remember, at the end of 2017 Rogers had a net worth of 24 billion and BCE had a net worth of 37 million.
1469 The final 911. If there is a failure to improve cell phone service through customer, government and providers coming together, perhaps scrap the system. Again, last resort.
1470 The government could buy out all cell providers and start a government-supervised public/private partnership or a national phone service. Again, last resort, but it's still better than most Canadians feel that every time they deal with a cell phone company provider they have a feeling they're being ripped off.
1471 I am optimistic. I believe most Canadians would be happy if just a few practices were ended, a few changed and we could believe that we had a reasonable chance of being treated fairly. However, most of us cannot take on $20 billion plus companies ourselves. We need a little bit of help.
1472 Thank you for taking the time to listen. I appreciate you took the opportunity to give me to voice a few concerns and ideas and vent.
1473 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
1474 MR. LOEBACH: Did I get under five?
1475 THE CHAIRPERSON: And thank you for voicing your ideas and concerns.
1476 Commissioner Lafontaine.
1477 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: Thank you for your presentation today and for writing in to the Commission. Just a couple of questions for you, just first of all in terms of your presentation this afternoon, one of your recommendations was for records of complaints to be kept and then to post aggregate numbers. Can you just talk a little bit more about that? Would you suggest complaints with regard to all service providers or just the large ones? What's your thinking on that?
1478 MR. LOEBACH: The larger, the Bells, the Telus and the Rogers are currently recording those and they've probably broken them down into, if not exact same categories to compare off each other, the same categories. Those aggregate numbers I think would be very easy to find and pull. I mean, when I say "aggregates", the reason I say that is you don't want your person's -- the person's name being put on a public website, for obvious reasons.
1479 I would suspect the smaller carriers, obviously Fido's controlled by Rogers so they have the same sort of numbers as well. SaskTel I think was mentioned and a couple of the others. I can't speak to what they keep in terms of tracking their complaints, but in order from the CCTS -- or from the CRTC that they must contain or must track these and submit them, would force them.
1480 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: They would submit the numbers to the Commission and then the Commission would issue the report; is that what you're suggesting? Or they would each do it separately?
1481 MR. LOEBACH: Well, the numbers would need to be put together so that you could look at them. For example, if I'm going to buy a new cell phone and I want to see what the service is like, I can see that the service for a hundred thousand -- or the complaints per 10,000 on Bell, on Rogers, and on Telus is X, and kind of determine that, you know, I can expect or I'm more likely to expect these sort of problems with Bell and maybe I'm more likely to expect billing nightmares from Rogers.
1482 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: Thank you. Another item that you discussed was an ombudsman or the office of an ombudsman. Are you suggesting one specific ombudsman for the industry or each company should have an ombudsman in the sense that Rogers has one? Or what ---
1483 MR. LOEBACH: I think one of them does. The reason for the ombudsman is this is the sort of thing that you have the brunch discussion about. And when it comes up, I had one associate who's from the UK. And their ombudsman is near God in some cases. That ombudsman comes up with a ruling. It might be followed up or must be followed through. It's binding -- I think there was an earlier presenter who mentioned non-binding and binding. It's binding in the situation that I see.
1484 I would think if anything non-binding occurred, all that would happen is anything they didn't like or anything over a certain number they would have a sub-routine wrote into the sales program or into their sales activities that says the minute it crosses this we take you to court. And then you've basically taken probably 80 per cent of consumers out of play because they won't fight it that way.
1485 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: Thank you. But just also to clarify, you're suggesting or proposing one ombudsman to be appointed within each company and then?
1486 MR. LOEBACH: No, one overall ---
1487 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: No, so it'd be one overall.
1488 MR. LOEBACH: --- for cell phones -- or for services. I mean, we didn't really tap into the bundling between the tele -- sorry, television or satellite cable services as well, but fewer is better. And independent, obviously.
1489 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: Thank you.
1490 And then just another question for you in terms of the Ipsos research, which has been discussed here today, as you've heard and you may have seen, there are about 40 per cent of Canadians who have reported having experienced aggressive or misleading sales practices. Does that number sort of surprise you in any way or do you think that that's consistent with what you would have expected from the market?
1491 MR. LOEBACH: Amongst my friends it would probably be between 75 and 80 per cent. But even the aggressive practices -- and I think this came up with the person two ahead of me, aren't so much the problem. It's the minute you have to call to do anything, your blood pressure jumps by about 30 points because you know you're starting into an Olympic event.
1492 Personally I found one of the best ways to deal with cell phone companies to get things fixed is to wait until something absolutely horrible has happened to me that day and then call then and throw a hissy fit. And that seems to work the best, for some reason. So, if nothing else, it allows me to vent something off that day, but it's a horrible, horrible process.
1493 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: Just actually one -- another final question, my second final, just in terms of the CCTS, you had said that you found this to be very limited and therefore you're suggesting this ombudsman. And why do you find -- can you tell us just a little bit more about your issue with the CCTS?
1494 MR. LOEBACH: I got very lucky in terms of timing in finding a couple of things out in terms of how Fido runs some of its processes and then the CCTS. I had -- or when I contacted Fido to correct the problem, I had somebody on their first day and they were very forthcoming and honest. And they told me a lot about the processes that they probably would never tell anybody after day two.
1495 When I eventually got over to CCTS, the person I was dealing with I think was finishing their term or finishing -- or going on for a promotion. And I could almost hear that they wanted me to do -- they wanted more for me, but they could not do it and then they would recite a specific rule or guideline, I guess would be the word, but you could almost hear it in their voice that they wanted more than what was being happened -- or than what was being provided to me for somebody signing me up for a contract without my permission and owning that they did it at the same time.
1496 COMMISSIONER LAFONTAINE: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate that.
1497 MR. LOEBACH: Thank you.
1498 THE CHAIRPERSON: Perhaps I can just follow up on that for a second. And perhaps I'm repeating Commissioner Lafontaine's question, but I'm curious, recognising your state of concern about the CCTS, why not improve the CCTS? What would be the advantage of having another ombudsman rather than addressing some of the concern you're raising with the current organisation?
1499 MR. LOEBACH: Nothing. I don't care what hat is worn, as long as the person underneath the hat is doing the job.
1500 THE CHAIRPERSON: Fair enough.
1501 MR. LOEBACH: It's just a case of getting it -- improving the process, you know. I heard I think eight of the presentations here today. And it seems the case that they understand that Bell or -- they understand the providers don't care that much, they're out for profit. They're frustrated with the process. They don't have the power to change the process themselves. They're hoping they can get some sort of intervention from within the government somehow, whether it's an improvement or a modification to the CCTS by expanding limits and scope and further compensating people for -- in some of these cases it was 41 calls, I think it was the one gentleman said -- some sort of compensation should be coming into that gentleman for time at that point. You know, one or two calls you got to get the right guy, that's one thing, but when they're doing things like running you through a corn maze to try and make you solve -- solve a problem, some sort of snapback has to come -- come down.
1502 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Thank you.
1503 Colleagues, any other questions?
1504 Commissioner Laizner.
1505 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: So when you mention the running through a corn maze to get a problem solved; was that your experience with Fido?
1506 MR. LOEBACH: That has been my experience multiple of times with Fido.
1507 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: And by that you mean you had to go through many people before your complaint was -- well, actually you went to the CCTS; right?
1508 MR. LOEBACH: At one point -- well, I've had times where I've had to drive 45 minutes to go to a specific store. I've had situations where I've had to call and speak with different levels. I've had the thing where I’ll call and I’ll speak to somebody and they’ll get back to you, and then you don't hear anything and you try another -- start going up another tree and then that person finally gets back to you. I don't think any of these stories are any new -- are anything new.
1509 If I can interject one bit to you ---
1510 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Sure.
1511 MR. LOEBACH: --- Commissioner Laizner?
1512 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Yes.
1513 MR. LOEBACH: Your idea about the 90 days, I had never thought of that, but a 90-day trial period is a great idea. I think that was a wonderful idea. The only concern I would have or the only concern I can see them having, would be some -- there's always going to be one or two people that just keep going 89 days and flipping.
1514 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Oh!
1515 MR. LOEBACH: There -- there would have to be some sort of counter balance.
1516 COMMISSIONER LAIZNER: Okay. Thank you very much for your comments.
1517 MR. LOEBACH: Thank you, Commissioner.
1518 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes, thank you. If there are no other questions, then we will -- I thank you again your contribution and we will recess for the day.
1519 Madame la secrétaire.
1520 THE SECRETARY: And come back tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.
1521 Thank you very much.
1522 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you everyone. Good afternoon.
--- Upon adjourning at 4:41 p.m.
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