According to the latest annual report by the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services (CCTS), the number of complaints from small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) rose 15 per cent over the past year, to the point where they now represent 10 per cent of all complaints against the telecommunications industry
“Telecom services are the lifeblood of so many businesses now,” CCTS commissioner Howard Maker said,“To just take that for granted is certainly a risk for sure.”
The majority of small business complaints, Maker said, were related to contract disputes and local phone services, with business owners more likely to focus on contractually-based services than consumers – understandable, he noted, since small businesses tend to rely on fixed-term contracts, which are more likely to incorporate early cancellation fees and auto renewal clauses into their terms.
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For example, many small business owners will enter a contract and fail to notice when it expires and is automatically renewed, he said.
“The customer complains and cancels it, and then you get an early cancellation fee,” he said. “That’s a big source of complaints.”
Though Maker said he couldn’t speak to the different practices of the more than 300 service providers surveyed by CCTS, he said the organization has observed many of them inserting a note into bills three months before they expire saying that if they don’t hear back from the customer the contract will be automatically renewed.
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“Often the business owner doesn’t see the bill,” he said. “The bookkeeper is dealing with it and sometimes there’s gaps in the process there.”
Though CCTS has encouraged service providers to reach out in multiple ways, including direct phone calls to an SMB’s registered owner, which Maker noted “goes a long way to generating good will and avoiding disputes,” the onus is partly on customers, who should know when the end of their contract is coming up.
“It can be tough to keep track of these things, but it’s not rocket science to make a diary entry down the road that you have to look into it,” he said.
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Awareness of contract terms is critical for any business owner, Maker said, but SMB owners especially should know when they have entered a two-year contract which expires on a certain date.
Nearly half (8543, or 46.3 per cent) of the 18,448 complaints registered related to wireless service, while another 5763, or 31 per cent, related to Internet service.
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Among Canada’s big three wireless service providers, Bell Canada once again took the top spot by a wide margin, representing 3247, or 35.7 per cent of 9097 accepted complaints, a 10.4 per cent increase over last year. In second place, Rogers Communications Inc. received 1078 complaints – 11.9 per cent of the accepted total and a 25.2 per cent increase over last year – while Telus Corp.received 631 complaints – 6.9 per cent of the total and a 10.7 per cent increase over last year.
Number of complaints:
- Bell – 3,247
- Rogers – 1,078
- Telus – 631
- Virgin (owned by Bell) – 608
- Fido (owned by Rogers) – 455
- Videotron (owned by Quebecor Inc.) – 346
- Freedom Mobile (owned by Shaw Communications Inc.) – 298
- Koodo (owned by Telus) – 263
- Xplornet – 256
- Comwave – 224