Bell Canada ranks first in cell phone complaints tally

The Commission for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS), an organization funded by the telecom industry to resolve complaints against companies in the space, released a report last week indicating that billing errors and contract disputes where the top two grievances by customers against their telecom service providers.

The CCTS’s report for the year also named Bell Canada, Telus Mobility and Rogers Wireless as the top three companies with the largest number of complaints received.

“The incumbents registered the largest number of complaints because they account for the larger share of telecom customers,” said Howard Maker, CCTS commissioner.

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Of the 3,747 complaints received by the CCTS, 1,428 were addressed to Bell Canada, 657 concerned Telus and 540 were for Rogers.

Virgin Mobile, which is owned partly by Bell, registered 227 complaints; Solo Mobile, also owned by Bell, had six complaints. Fido, which is owned by Rogers, had 242 complaints. Koodo, a subsidiary of Telus had 59 complaints.

The rest of the complaints were distributed among other wireless service, local exchange, Voice over IP, Internet access, long distance and other telecom service providers including new entrants to the mobile wireless space.

Numbers don’t mean our customers are unhappy – Bell

The report numbers are not an indication that Bell customers are unhappy with the company, according to Jacqueline Michelis, spokesperson for Bell. She pointed out that when viewed in light of Bell’s customers base the number of complaints are small.

“I think the numbers do reflect Bell’s sheer size, we’re Canada’s biggest telecom company with about 20 million wireless, landline and Internet customer connections,” she said.

Michelis also said the company is continually improving service. “We’re executing new investments of approximately $3 billion in 2010 in new service programs and in broadband network expansion,” she said.

ITBusiness.ca sent a request for interview to Rogers, but the company has not replied.

Validation of new entrant strategies

Ken Campbell, CEO for new wireless market entrant Wind Mobile, sees it differently. His company, which entered the Canadian wireless market in 2009, only has one complaint against it. But then again, Wind, which is owned by Globalive Communications, has only about 100,000 subscribers.

“I think the results of the study is a validation of our strategy,” Campbell told ITBusiness.ca

The findings reflect the frustration of wireless consumers with the services that incumbents provide, he added.

“Complaints over restrictive and complicated contracts, and arbitrary billing increases are turning away customers,” he said.

Wind and other new entrants such as Mobilicty and Public Mobile have concentrated on offering users cheaper pay-as-you go services, or non-contract subscriptions.

Legalese and unclear contracts

According to the report, billing errors accounted for 44 per cent of the overall complaints received for the period; contract disputes, 33 per cent; service delivery (installation, repair and maintenance), 18 per cent; and unauthorized transfer of service (also known as slamming), 3 per cent.

“Billing and contract disputes continue to be a sore point as they account for nearly 80 per cent of the complaints,” said Maker. “This could often be traced to misunderstanding brought about by contracts that are unclear.”

Maker said, mobile service contracts for instance are often written with heavy legal oversight “and are hard to understand for the typical layman.”

CCTS has limited authority

“However, the CCTS has no authority to compel service providers to alter their contract wordings. We can only make recommendations and try to resolve problems when they arise,” he said.

When a complaint is brought to the CCTS, the body investigates the matter, then CCTS attempts to resolve the matter between the complainant and the telecom company. The CCTS can also put forward recommendations for the company to follow to resolve the matter. If parties cannot agree, the CCTS renders a decision.

The 160 or so telecom companies that have signed up to take part in the CCTS process can either agree or disagree with the industry body’s recommendations.

The CCTS, Make said, can “publicize” a company’s refusal to take up the recommendations. But CCTS does not fine or penalize companies that refuse to mend its ways. “We are not a regulator we only provide dispute resolution.”

Still, Maker said 2010 was a good year for the CCTS because consumer contact has gone up by 16 per cent indicated that more people are aware of the organization.

As much as 94 per cent of the complaints CCTS received were fully processed. More than 64 per cent were resolved within 30 days. Off the 22 formal recommendations it made, 18 per cent were accepted by both parties and the CCTS only had to render four decisions.

Nestor Arellano is a Senior Writer at ITBusiness.ca. Follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and join the IT Business Facebook Page.

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  • Micheal kennedy

    These are almost never billing errors on the part of companies…just pure theft, plain and simple, disguised as mistakes, and the consumer is a sitting duck here. Witness all the class action suits filed against Bell.

  • rada

    I had the worse experience ever with Bell. It is the worst
    thing it can happen to somebody that tries to get decent internet services.
    Bell is ripping people off. The staff is trained to hook you up by selling you
    good deals that turn out to be the worse deals ever the longer you stay with
    bell. They harass you to get unlimited internet after they charge you triple
    then what you suppose to pay, just out of the blue blaming you went over you
    limit even though you did nothing different than before. They harass you to get
    unlimited but mind you, they trick you that you only have to pay 10$ extra for
    unlimited internet, but no, it can be that good, you have to pay 30$ extra for
    cable even though you don’t want cable. It still sounds like e better deal than
    paying 141$ a month, but wait a minute, this is a promotion and you can only
    get it for 3 months, after that you pay 130$ a month. What a cheap scam, what a
    vicious circle. It’s also outrageous not being told that I had the option of
    receiving emails when I reach X% of the usage to help me better organize my
    internet usage and not actually go over so much. And trying to cancel the
    service is a pain. I waited in line for 15 minutes until someone answered
    , what did you think, that I was going to change my mind while waiting? Or call
    another time? And use more space and pay more money for an extra day because
    you need to give 30 days notice and the longer they can make you wait, the more
    money they get out of your pocket? I had to hang up and call again but not choosing
    the cancel service extension. How stupid is that? I forgot to mention how
    aggressive the guy was on the phone, when I finally reached somebody,
    when he realized he can’t fool me no more with another “great deal”.
    I am going to make sure I will spread the word on how Bell rules and I
    honestly hope enough people complain and some rule gets put in place by the
    government to prevent them from charging people over a certain amount, to allow
    competition and other companies to be able provide honest and good services
    without having to go through bell. I hope I can post this on o blog as well so
    people can read it.

    Ohh, I forgot to mention that the last lady I spoke with on
    the phone hang up on me when I started to complain.

  • Michelle Klimchuk

    Bell has the W O R S T Customer cares / Billing Team I have ever enc…ounter. For an entire year I have requested a copy of a letter that said FINAL notice on top. I have requested it over 9 6 2 Times. To date 350 days later I have not received it. Your team is rude, obstinate, non compliant and just plain useless if they can not do one simple thing. I also send you 595 faxes and 785 email and not received 1 call back. I really do not appreciate being called a B I T C H when the Bell Mobility team can not do their job. To add to the disgusting mess your team can’t even properly do a transfer of responsibility correct. I not only talked to a live person back in 2 0 1 3, but I also faxed, emailed and send in a letter by post to find out it was never done properly. Blaming the customer for it not being done is just plain rude and tacky. You should just eliminate all live people (especially the farmed out overseas people) and hire M O N K E Y S. Not only your consumers would probably get way better service but we will be entertained as well. ACCOUNT #522830979