CRTC Urged to Hold Public Inquiry into High-Pressure Telecom Sales Tactics

Ottawa-based advocacy group, The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), formally asked the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) yesterday to hold a public inquiry into aggressive telecom sales tactics, based on recent media reports.

John Lawford, PIAC’s Executive Director and General Counsel, penned the three-page letter, which noted “The nature of these allegations is so serious that a formal inquiry into the entire industry’s sales practices is required.”

Lawford further added: “We are concerned that such aggressive and potentially misleading sales practices are endemic in retail Internet, wireless, subscription TV and wireline telephone markets, in particular in relation to bundles offered by the major providers. We are therefore calling on the CRTC to publicly inquire into these practices to restore consumer trust and to craft any necessary rules to prevent further harm to consumers.”

The PIAC letter references the Ageing, Communication, Technologies (ACT Project), which noted how “Older adults expressed frustration with needing to involve their children or younger friends or relatives in negotiations with service providers to ensure they are treated fairly, can access the same pricing than their younger counterparts, and reach an agreement that is commensurate with their needs.”

These older adults acknowledged they are not savvy with telecom providers and risk being taken advantage, resulting in a fear to change providers, as they may end up paying more for fewer services.

Lawford argues these alleged practices should be dealt with by the CRTC instead of the Competition Bureau, because “the CRTC has a specific statutory power to inquire into matters such as the fairness of communications sales practices, under s. 48 of the Telecommunications Act and under s. 12 and 20 of the Broadcasting Act.”

This would result in a transparent public inquiry, unlike a Competition Bureau investigation, writes Lawford, who refers to similar allegations in the banking industry, which have resulted in similar investigations.

Back in November, Bell customers and employees spoke out about alleged high-pressure sales tactics at the company, sparked by a CBC News investigation.

The PIAC also recently asked the public for donations to keep the non-profit operating, as it was cash-strapped and required about $200,000 to be deficit free. Just prior to Christmas, the PIAC emailed supporters it had raised $20,000 out of its $50,000 goal. Users can click here to donate.

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