CRTC Enforces Mandatory Telcom Complaints Commission Membership: One Step Forward Or Two Steps Back?

by Gaurav Kheterpal on December 3, 2010

In a completely unprecedented move, CRTC on Wednesday issued a ruling mandating all telecom service providers to join the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) for a five-year period starting in January 2011. Till now, the “mandatory CCTS membership” clause was only applicable to the biggies ($10 million revenue or more).

Telecom complaints have climbed to frightening heights this year and this announcement from CRTC will surely lighten up the public mood just in time for the holiday season. While the Globe projects it as a positive move for consumers which “promises that you’ll soon have someone to complain to about your cellphone service”, industry players say that they should be the ones in charge of developing their own complaints code of conduct.

So, is this announcement a significant step forward or two-steps back as far as Canadian telecom reform is concerned? As a consumer, I believe it’s definitely a giant step in the right direction but there’s more to be done.

Interestingly, this is the first ever ruling CRTC issued at the end of a regulatory hearing. Whether it’s the looming holiday season or a precedent to shorten the decision cycle for future hearings, it’s refreshing not to wait for the “normal” 120 days for impending CRTC decisions.

Operating since 2007, the CCTS exists to provide consumers with “an independent mechanism for resolution of complaints about deregulated local and long distance telephone services, as well as wireless service and internet access”. Though more than 40,000 Canadians contacted the CCTS with telecom complaints this past year, the independent body processed only 3,522 complaints as a majority of others were related to non-member telecom carriers.

Though the “Big Three” – Rogers, Bell and Telus are already CCTS members, they have always questioned the rationale behind an independent body enforcing a complaints code of conduct on them. While the consumer fraternity would largely see this as a step forward, some industry players believe that it’s actually going two steps back. And that’s expected, as all three biggies have been on the CCTS hit list notching up several complaints – Bell (1,428), Telus (657) and Rogers (540). And just to re-iterate that I’ve nothing against the Big Three, others such as Virgin Mobile haven’t fared any better.

CCTS draws its funding from member companies and the ruling is expected to boost its financial position as well. The CRTC is expected to release its full rationale for the decision in January.

IMO, it’s a welcome move to make CCTS membership mandatory for all carriers. If you’ve signed up for one of the new carriers such as Wind Mobile, Public Mobile, Mobilicity or any other, it provides you with an opportunity to raise your voice to the CCTS for any legitimate complaints. Further, it is another significant step in creating a so-called “level playing field” amongst the challengers and incumbents in the Canadian wireless industry. Of course, the impact of this ruling will only be known next year.

What’s your opinion on the CRTC ruling to make CCTS membership mandatory for all carriers? Do you see it as a progressive move for the Canadian wireless industry? Or would you rather prefer the telecom service provider community create its own code of conduct? Your thoughts are welcome.

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Written by: Gaurav Kheterpal. >. Follow > by: RSS>, Twitter >, >, or Friendfeed >

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CRTC decides everyone needs to hear about its complaints | Cellular Inc.
December 6, 2010 at 9:53 am

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