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Complaints for wireless down for first time while Internet issues rise: watchdog

TORONTO – Canadians are making fewer official complaints about their mobile phone plans but more about their Internet service, says a report released Wednesday from the telecommunication industry’s consumer watchdog.

The Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services says the number of complaints it accepted fell to 9,988 in the year ending July 31 from 11,340 in the previous year.

Wireless complaints make up 52.9 per cent of those complaints, but that fell from more than 60 per cent.

Internet complaints, meanwhile, now account for 26.1 per cent of the total, up by nearly nine percentage points.

The top three complaints about Internet service were for incorrect charges, misleading or non-disclosure of contract terms, and poor quality of service.

Telecom analyst Gerry Wall said the increase in Internet complaints is due in part to the aggressive expansion of BCE, the biggest target of complaints in the CCTS report. The company has been on a push to add more Internet customers.

“Their share of the total volume is going up, so that means that they’re going to have more complaints,” he said.

BCE accounted for 36 per cent of all complaints but their total number fell 1.4 per cent from last year. Rogers Communications Inc. had the next highest number of complaints, making up 18.2 per cent, down 23.7 per cent from the year before.

Bell spokesman Jason Laszlo said in an email that the company tends to have more service complaints because it has more customers than its competitors.

Laszlo said the company’s own data shows a 17 per cent reduction in complaints escalated to the CCTS so far this year as it works to deal with its customer growth.

“We’re continuing to reduce service complaints even as customer growth accelerates,” he said.

Commissioner Howard Maker said most of Canada’s big telecom conglomerates have become serious about improving their numbers on the wireless side, but the rise in Internet complaints show that improvement hasn’t applied to all of their services.

“We see when we talk to executives that the people who run the wireless business are different from the people who run the Internet business,” he said.

“Each of these businesses has different approaches and different cultures, even within the same company.”

This year marks the first time since the industry-funded consumer agency began collecting records in July 2007 that the proportion of complaints about wireless services has fallen, and the second year in a row where the total number of complaints has dropped.

In 2013, the CRTC implemented a new wireless code of conduct for telecom providers. The CCTS said in this latest report that it found 582 violations of the code, up from 30 the year before.

One company, Wind Mobile, accounted for 422 of those breaches, most of which were related to its unlimited roaming plan between Canada and the United States.

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