12/02/2015 08:23 EST | Updated 12/02/2016 05:12 EST

Misleading Wireless, Internet Contract Complaints Concern Telco Watchdog

Couple, Man angry and upset after looking at credit card statement.
IuriiSokolov via Getty Images
Couple, Man angry and upset after looking at credit card statement.
Misleading wireless and internet contracts have become the most common complaints to Canada's telecom complaints watchdog.

The latest annual report from Canada's Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services shows that, overall, complaints have fallen 12 per cent, to 9,988.

In general, the top type of complaint was about misleading or missing information in customer contracts — the watchdog received 2,475 of those. Last year, the top complaint was about billing.

Complaints commissioner Howard Maker said in a statement that the agency was concerned about the rise in "issues of non-disclosure across all lines of business."

A major complaint was from customers who said their service provider had changed something significant in their contract without providing notice. The commission said it saw a 72 per cent increase in this type of complaint for wireless services and more than 400 per cent for internet services.

Small carrier Wind experienced a surge of complaints after it suspended customers from its unlimited U.S. roaming package because of what it called "excessive usage." 

The complaints watchdog said it was also concerned about an increase in complaints about internet service, which made up 26.1 per cent of the complaints this year, up from 20 per cent last year.

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Wireless code breaches 

Meanwhile, for the first time, complaints about wireless service have declined — down eight per cent to the current 52 per cent of all issues.

But among those complaints, the number of violations of Canada's Wireless Code of Conduct, introduced to protect customers in late 2013, jumped from 30 last year to over 500 this year.

"However, it's important to note that two-thirds of those breaches are related to a single plan offered by one provider, which generated many complaints," the commission said in a news release.

That provider was Wind, which had 422 confirmed breaches of the code, mainly relating to contracts, changes to contracts and disconnection of service.

The commission said it "ultimately engaged the company in a dialogue that achieved positive adjustments to the offering."

Complaints about Wind jumped 37.6 per cent to 702 this year, even though the company has only around 800,000 customers.

In a statement explaining its poor record, Wind said 80 per cent of the complaints arose from its imposition of a cap on its unlimited U.S. roaming plan in July 2014. 

"This became necessary because of extreme usage by a small number of customers on this plan," Wind said in its statement.

Fewer than 50 customers were involved, but the commission received multiple complaints from each customer, the wireless carrier said. Ultimately the commission upheld the complaints, saying the Wind contract needed to be more explicit about its conditions.

As usual, Bell and Rogers topped the list of companies that customers complained about. But while the number of complaints about Bell have held relatively steady at 3,599, those about Rogers have dropped 24 per cent to 1,814. Bell has more than eight million subscribers and Rogers more than nine million.