Quick: Name the independent body responsible for resolving complaints with telephone, wireless, and internet service providers in Canada.
If you answered “the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services,” or CCTS, congratulations – you’re in rare company: According to a survey commissioned by the CCTS itself and released today, only 20 per cent of Canadians have heard of the organization.
That’s also the number of Canadians who reported having an unresolved dispute or complaint with their telecommunications service provider, according to the survey, which was conducted on CCTS’s behalf by Environics Research. Even among the 20 per cent of respondents with an unresolved complaint, only 27 per cent were aware of the CCTS.
In general, only 49 per cent of respondents were aware they could lodge an official complaint with their telecommunications provider to begin with, Environics found; 28 per cent were unsure, and 23 per cent believed they had no recourse at all.
In a June 29 press release announcing the survey results, CCTS commissioner Howard Maker said that his organization’s level of awareness among the general public was similar to the awareness levels of many public advocacy organizations, and even higher than some – only eight per cent of British citizens have heard of the CCTS’s U.K. equivalent, Ofcom, for example.
“All ombudsmen report challenges in achieving high levels of public awareness,” Maker said in the release. “There is no consensus, either in the ombudsman community or among academics, as to the appropriate level.”
To conduct the survey, Environics researchers asked around 2000 Canadians about their awareness and use of the CCTS, half online and half by phone.
Overall, the researchers discovered little clarity among consumers regarding where they could go to resolve issues with their telecommunications providers: When asked who they would approach, the 1460 respondents who believed they had recourse or were unsure of their options suggested everything from their service provider’s head office, to the CRTC, to the media. Only two per cent said they would approach the CCTS.
Another problem highlighted by the report is that only four per cent of the 401 consumers who had heard of the CCTS had been told about it by their service providers; instead, the majority had learned from media reports or online searches.
“CCTS’ approach to developing public awareness includes requiring its participating service providers to engage in various activities intended to bring information about CCTS to the attention of their customers,” the company said.
In response to the survey, CCTS staff said the organization will be increasing its efforts to make sure service providers comply with their obligation to notify customers of its existence, among other steps – including future polls to identify which initiatives are most successful, Maker said.
The organization also released an editorial placing its survey results within the context of public awareness levels for other advocacy organizations, which you can read here.
Turns out, the ombud with the highest rate of public awareness is in Australia, where 57 per cent of residents were aware of the country’s Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) in 2012. The CCTS attributed this difference to Australians’ long history of approaching ombud offices for complaints with a variety of industries, a history it notes is absent in Canada.