Sierra Wireless Compass 597 by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Sierra Wireless Compass 597 by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


The CCTS Report on Wireless Code Violations: When Is Data on a Data Stick an “Add On”?

The Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services released his annual report yesterday resulting in a wide range of interpretations with some citing improved customer service due to an overall decline in complaints, others focusing on declining customer service owing to an increase in complaints from misleading contractual terms, and yet others pointing to the CRTC Wireless Code as the reason behind the overall decline in complaints.

Despite some improvement in service, the most notable aspect of the report is a review of compliance with the wireless code. With the code now fully operational, there is simply no excuse for carrier non-compliance. Yet the data suggests that there are numerous confirmed breaches. Bell is easily the most notable company when it comes to failure to comply with the code: when you combine Bell Canada, Virgin Mobile (which it owns), and Northern Tel (which it now also owns), 2/3 of the confirmed breaches all come from the same source. In other words, every few weeks, Bell Canada or one of its companies had a confirmed breach of the wireless code.

Moreover, some of the CCTS case studies are astonishing for the reluctance of the carriers to address relatively minor customer concerns or by the adoption of clearly untenable positions.  For example, the report cites a customer who subscribed to an unlimited data package for a wireless data stick. The carrier switched the customer to a 10 GB usage cap without obtaining express consent. When confronted on the issue, carrier argued that the data plan was not a “key term and condition” in the contract but rather an “add on.” As the CCTS notes, “we found this odd since the customer was using a data stick and the only service he required for this purpose was data.”

The report also highlights how some carriers are still reluctant to unlock devices (as required by the wireless code). One case study notes that a carrier refused to unlock a device, arguing that the customer was not subject to the wireless code. The CCTS ruled in favour of the customer and the carrier ultimately provided an unlock code. From a customer service perspective, however, it is hard to understand why a carrier would force a consumer to complain to the CCTS in order to unlock their phone. Complaints may be declining, but the CCTS report makes it clear that there is still room for improvement.

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