CRTC to Use ‘Secret Shoppers’ to Combat Misleading or Aggressive Sales by Telecoms [u]

The CRTC has released their report to the federal government to conclude some telecoms did indeed use misleading or aggressive sales tactics.

The commission’s findings, titled Report on misleading or aggressive communications retail sales practices, concludes “even with the existing measures put in place by service providers and governments, misleading or aggressive sales practices occur to an unacceptable degree.”

The CRTC says it will launch “new measures” to protect Canadians, with solutions including a “mandatory Internet Code of Conduct and the creation of a secret shopper program to monitor sales practices.”

In regards to deploying secret shoppers, or undercover customers, the report states:

Given the importance of monitoring all service providers’ retail sales practices through research and reporting initiatives, and the impartial evidence that secret shopper programs can provide for that purpose, the CRTC will develop its own secret shopper program in the future, periodically targeting specific sales channels or locations across Canada. This program will provide insights into Canadians’ experiences with communications service providers. The CRTC intends to publish the results of the secret shopper program for consumers to use as another piece of information when making decisions about their communications services.

Ian Scott, Chairperson and CEO of the CRTC, said in a statement, “During our public consultation, it became apparent that while service providers have many tools at their disposal to ensure misleading or aggressive sale practices don’t happen, they still do. These sales practices are harmful to Canadians and unacceptable.”

The report says vulnerable Canadians were also affected by unsavoury sales practices and more needs to be done. The CRTC proposes it will consider implementing some of the following measures:

  • requiring service providers to provide pre-sales quotes to better inform customers
  • requiring service providers to offer trial periods to allow customers to cancel a service that did not match what they were offered
  • requiring service providers to ensure their offers and promotions match the customer’s needs and means, and
  • expanding the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services’ mandate to include handling complaints of misleading or aggressive retail sales practices.

“We are taking steps to address this situation and intend to explore additional solutions to ensure Canadians’ interactions with their service providers are carried out in a fair and respectful way,” added Scott.

Ottawa launched the investigation last summer after concerns over misleading sales tactics by some of the country’s largest telecoms, including Rogers and Bell.

The CRTC had a deadline of February 28, 2019, to submit its report to the federal government.

What do you think of the CRTC’s final report? Will a secret shopper program–as one solution–curb aggressive and misleading sales tactics by telecoms?

Update: Telus President of Home and Small Business Solutions, Zainul Mawji, told iPhone in Canada the following statement in reaction to today’s CRTC report:

At TELUS, we’ve been putting our customers first for more than a decade, and our approach has resulted in the best customer loyalty and the fewest customer complaints to the CCTS. We work very hard to earn our customers’ trust, and do not tolerate unethical or aggressive sales practices, period. We are always listening to and learning from our customers, and on the rare occasions where we don’t meet their expectations, we work with them to make it right.

Although it was clear during the hearing that some Canadian providers have engaged in misleading or aggressive sales practices, there is no basis to conclude that all providers engage in this type of conduct on a widespread basis. We are disappointed that the CRTC did not differentiate between those carriers who appear to frequently engage in these aggressive and misleading sales practices and those, like TELUS, who do not.

In its report, the Commission largely agrees with TELUS’ recommendation that the solution is likely improved clarity and enforcement of the existing rules to better educate and protect customers, and in turn to discipline providers who continue to engage is misleading or aggressive sales practices. We are still reviewing the report and will participate fully in any subsequent proceedings.


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