CBC investigation into sales practices at major telcos prompts growing calls for public inquiry


The postpone a summon to hold a public inquiry into sales practices at Canada’s primary telecommunications service providers is growing, on the heels of more allegations of wrongdoing interior the industry.

Two consumer groups — OpenMedia and the Consumer Council of Canada — say they pillar a call earlier this month by the Public Interest Advocacy Nave (PIAC), which urged the federal telecom regulator to investigate high-pressure white sales tactics by telecom employees.

“Telecoms have a big budget,” says Katy Anderson, a digital justices activist with OpenMedia.

“They’ve got a lot of lawyers who go and make their happening every day to government officials, to the CRTC. An inquiry is a great chance to hark to from Canadians who depend on these services.”

Katy Anderson

OpenMedia’s Katy Anderson says the federal telecom regulator indigences to hear from frustrated Canadians who say they’ve been pressured into offerings and services they don’t need. (Jenn Blair/CBC)

More than 300 Canadians have in the offing contacted Go Public — many saying they don’t receive what a car-boot sales agent promised, or are charged higher prices than what was rounded over the phone, or their bills are so complicated they can’t figure them out.

“We have knowledge of when people call in to their providers they’re caught [negotiation] with people that are trying to reach a sales target, degree than trying to help them out,” says Anderson.

Funding ebbs for consumer protection

The Consumers Council of Canada’s executive director Ken Whitehurst commands a public inquiry into telecom sales practices is necessary because Canadians fundamental a platform to voice their concerns.

Part of the problem, Whitehurst explains, is that consumer protection organizations are chronically underfunded, sharing annual staking of $1.69 million from the federal government.

“We’re all very resource strapped,” hints Whitehurst. “Support from business has been declining and federal prosperous for consumer research hasn’t moved up a dollar in 20 years.”

CRTC claims inquiry not their mandate

When Go Public asked the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to react to to calls for a public inquiry, spokesperson Patricia Valladao said that cross-examining sales practices at Canada’s telecoms doesn’t fall under the regulator’s mandate, a upon disputed by PIAC.

“We don’t regulate how they treat their employees,” said Valladao, uniting that it wasn’t the regulator’s place to hold hearings about assumed sales tactics that harm consumers.

Valladao acknowledged be subjected to a formal letter from PIAC calling for a public inquiry and weighted a response would be “forthcoming.”  

More employees speak out

Since Go Viewable first reported on sales pressures inside Bell Canada, we’ve considered from more than 200 past and present employees — mostly begetting for Bell and Rogers Communications — describing intense pressure to mislead, lie and prank consumers in order to hit unrealistic sales targets.

A current sales rep by nature Rogers’ Ottawa call centre writes, “A manager…literally told me he didn’t regard what I told a customer as long as he doesn’t hear about it and come bies paid.”

CBC has confirmed his employment, but is not revealing his identity because he worries he last will and testament be fired.  Recent company emails obtained by Go Public instruct Rogers wage-earners not to speak to the media about our investigation.

A “technical support” employee contriving for Bell at a third party call centre in Orillia, Ont., that’s owned by Nordia send a lettered to say he’s frustrated that he’s expected to push a service called “Bell Tech Xpert” just to customers who need help fixing something as simple as connecting to their make clear Wi-Fi.

“A lot of individuals misrepresent the cost of the service, as it requires a yearly commitment and has a $35 advanced termination fee if cancelled before that time,” he writes. “We’re just assumed to shove BTE [Bell Tech Xpert] down their throats in group to meet sales goals.”

Bell spokesperson Nathan Gibson expressed Go Public in an email, “Our agents aren’t required to offer the service but wishes do so if they think it’s right for the customer. Tech Expert sales purpose account for well under one per cent of our total technical support commands.”

Michael Menegaldo worked for a Rogers’ third party call centre, S&P Text in Hamilton, until 18 months ago.  He writes that his managers pass on sometimes ignore a report showing that a customer is in debt and approve the trade of a cellphone.

“There’d be times where [a customer’s] bills could be in the thousands, but our supervisor would want the sale — so they’ll do what is best for them.”

Hands at retail stores also pressured

Employees from both Bell and Rogers retail retailers have also contacted Go Public, describing managers’ unscrupulous design manoeuvres they say are used to get them to push products that customers don’t prerequisite and often can’t afford.  

They write about being encouraged to conceal fees attached to products, tack on services that aren’t requested, and to eat on people who seem vulnerable — including low-income and older people — to hit on offers targets.  

The store employees’ sales numbers are often posted in the uphold room, some write, to shame those who aren’t selling sufficient per shift.

Customers call for public inquiry, too

Richard Aviv of Thornhill, Ont., is one of the hundreds of consumers who reached Go Public to say they feel they’ve been the victims of underhanded sales orchestrations.

He says last fall, a Bell sales agent convinced him to reject up his grandfathered cable plan in exchange for a new plan with a better worth.

‘I feel betrayed by an operator.’ – Bell customer Richard Aviv

When he be paid his bill, though, it was higher than what he’d been paying, so he wrote Bell’s president and CEO George Make do.

“As a customer of over 12 years, I feel betrayed by an operator who effectively in need of to remove me from a grandfathered plan with a promise that did not real,” wrote Aviv.

“I believe…rogue operators should be held to account,” belittle deleted Aviv.

Aviv says it took four phone calls and dissimilar emails before Bell issued a credit, but says he will be tarry paying much more when a promo ends.  

A Bell spokesperson replies Aviv now has superior services and that Bell credited the account, used some “additional loyalty credits” and apologized.

  • Been wronged?  Correspond with Erica and the Go Public team at gopublic@cbc.ca

Bert Reket of Owen Resemble, Ont., wrote to voice his complaints about Rogers.

“I recently renewed my internet/rope with Rogers,” writes Reket. “And wound up spending over three hours on the phone — most of which was on persevere — and came away with a higher cost, more TV channels and a stabler internet connection, none of which I wanted.”

He also says he was guarantied he wouldn’t be locked in to a contract, but says when he received the confirmation email he expert he was in fact in another two-year deal with additional fees that were not under any condition mentioned on the phone.

In a statement, Rogers spokesperson Paula Lash scribbled, “Whenever a customer’s promotion period ends, we work with them to notice the right plan to fit their needs that delivers the best value,” uniting that Rogers strives “to be clear and transparent with our customers, that’s why we send a confirmation email outlining the metamorphoses made and encourage customers to reach out if they have any questions.”

Susan Eckersley of Whitby, Ont., divulges she’s been hoodwinked by slick sales agents too, and thinks a public inquisition is needed to expose the high pressure sales environment she believes is duping customers.

“The CRTC should look into both Rogers and Bell’s manoeuvres,” writes Eckersley. “Just wish they [CRTC] would send their own people private into these two — and do a more thorough investigation into both companies’ exercising and employment practices! I am a senior and feel I was taken advantage of.”

Telcos react to

Go Public asked Canada’s largest telecom service providers to sympathize with to calls for a public inquiry — in their statements, Rogers, Telus and Shaw hinted they would be open to participating.

Bell declined to comment on a influential inquiry.  Instead, spokesperson Nathan Gibson sent a statement suggesting Bell has made significant investments in training and technology, and that the players continues “to see significant and ongoing improvements in customer satisfaction and retention.”

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