ARCHIVED - Transcript, Hearing 29 November 2010
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Volume 1, 29 November 2010
TRANSCRIPT OF PROCEEDINGS BEFORE
THE CANADIAN RADIO-TELEVISION AND
Review of the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services Telecom Notice of Consultation
140 Promenade du Portage
In order to meet the requirements of the Official Languages
Act, transcripts of proceedings before the Commission will be
bilingual as to their covers, the listing of the CRTC members
and staff attending the public hearings, and the Table of
However, the aforementioned publication is the recorded
verbatim transcript and, as such, is taped and transcribed in
either of the official languages, depending on the language
spoken by the participant at the public hearing.
Canadian Radio-television and
Review of the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services Telecom Notice of Consultation
Len Katz Chairperson
Timothy Denton Commissioner
Elizabeth Duncan Commissioner
Peter Menzies Commissioner
Michel Morin Commissioner
Marc Patrone Commissioner
Stephen Simpson Commissioner
Lynda Roy Secretary
Anthony McIntyre Legal Counsel
Celia Millay Hearing coordinator
140 Promenade du Portage
November 29, 2010
- iv -
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PAGE / PARA
Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services Inc. 5 / 27
Public Interest Advocacy Centre, on behalf of Consumers’ Association of Canada and Canada Without Poverty 104 / 574
Bell Aliant Regional Communications, Limited Partnership and Bell Canada 166 / 887
- iv -
Undertakings can be found at the following paragraphs:
259, 743 and 778
--- Upon commencing on Monday, November 29, 2010 at 0932
1 THE SECRETARY: Order, please. À l'ordre, s'il vous plaît.
2 THE CHAIRPERSON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen and welcome to this public hearing.
3 The panel for this hearing consists of Timothy Denton, National Commissioner; Elizabeth Duncan, Commissioner of the Atlantic Region and Nunavut; Peter Menzies, Commissioner of Alberta and Northwest Territories; Michel Morin, National Commissioner; Marc Patrone, National Commissioner; Stephen Simpson, Commissioner for British Columbia and the Yukon; and myself, Len Katz, Vice-Chairman of Telecom the CRTC and I will be presiding over the hearing.
4 The Commission team assisting us includes Celia Millay, Hearing Manager and Senior Analyst, Social and Consumer Policy; Anthony McIntyre, Legal Counsel; and Lynda Roy, Hearing Secretary.
5 Au cours de cette audience publique, nous examinerons la structure et le mandat du Commissaire aux plaintes relatives aux services de télécommunications.
6 In response to the government's request, the CCTS was created to resolve complaints from consumers and small businesses regarding unregulated telecommunications services.
7 In December 2007, the CRTC approved its structure and mandate following a public proceeding. The agency assists consumers with complaints involving such issues as: compliance with contract terms and commitments, billing disputes and errors, service delivery, credit management and unauthorized transfer of service.
8 Three years after its launch, the Commission is now reviewing the CCTS.
9 Le comité se penchera sur l'indépendance de l'organisme et l'efficacité de ce dernier à remplir son mandat.
10 Among the issues that we will explore is the agency's role in developing and implementing industry codes and standards as part of its mandate.
11 We will also examine whether or not all telecommunications service providers should be required to be members of the CCTS. Currently, membership is only required for service providers with revenues over $10 million in the previous year.
12 I will now invite the Hearing Secretary, Lynda Roy, to explain the procedures we will be following.
13 Madam Secretary...?
14 LA SECRÉTAIRE : Merci, Monsieur le Président. Good morning to all.
15 I would now like to go over a few housekeeping matters to ensure the proper conduct of the hearing.
16 Please note that the Commission Members may ask questions in either English or French. Simultaneous interpretation is available during the hearing. The English interpretation is on Channel "1". You can obtain an interpretation receiver from the technicians at the back of the room.
17 We would like to remind participants that during their oral presentation they should provide for a reasonable delay for the interpretation while respecting their allocated presentation time.
18 Veuillez noter que les membres du Conseil peuvent poser des questions en français ou en anglais. Le service d'interprétation simultanée est disponible durant l'audience. L'interprétation en français se trouve au canal 2. Vous pouvez vous procurer des récepteurs auprès du technicien à l'entrée de la salle.
19 When you are in the hearing room we would please ask that you turn off your cell phones and BlackBerry and not only put on vibration mode as they cause interference on the internal communications systems used by our translators and by the interpreters.
20 The hearing is expected to last approximately three days. The Commission will likely sit half a day tomorrow and half a day on Wednesday.
21 There is a verbatim transcript of the hearing being taken by the court reporter, sitting at the table to my right, which will be posted daily on the Commission's website. If you have any questions on how to obtain all or part of this transcript, please approach the court reporter during a break.
22 The hearing process will be similar to the one used in the hearing that took place in October 2010 on the obligation to serve and other matters.
23 For the record, please note that Union des Consommateurs has indicated to the Commission that it will not be appearing at this hearing.
24 Now, Mr. Chairman, we will now proceed with the presentations in the order of appearance set in the Agenda.
25 We will begin with the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services.
26 Please introduce yourselves for the record and you have 20 minutes to make your presentation.
27 MR. LÉGER: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Commission staff.
28 Let me first introduce our panel. My name is Jean-François Léger and I'm acting as regulatory counsel to CCTS in this proceeding.
29 With me is the CCTS panel, composed of Ms Mary Gusella, Chair of the Board of Directors of CCTS, and Mr. Howard Maker, who is Commissioner. Your written copy of our panel's presentation includes a brief description of Ms Gusella and Mr. Maker's professional background.
30 At the outset, we would like to emphasize that because of the stakeholder nature of CCTS's Board of Directors, the panel before you today is not able to provide consensus positions of CCTS' Board with respect to many of the issues the Commission has identified for consideration at the hearing.
31 CCTS' panel is not here to advocate particular positions or outcomes. Instead, as was the case when CCTS filed written comments on 12 July, the panel is here to assist the Commission by providing it information and offering perspective based on CCTS' experience since the permanent Board was put in place in June 2008.
32 I would first ask Ms Gusella to address Governance and voting structure and then Mr. Maker will address the remaining issues.
33 MS GUSELLA: Thank you and good morning. Bonjour.
34 In the directions on procedure it issued the Commission invited parties to comment on whether CCTS' governance and voting structure ensure its effectiveness and independence. The Commission also invited parties to comment on whether the constating documents should continue to require Board approval of certain matters by special or extraordinary resolution.
35 Regarding independence and effectiveness: ensuring the Commissioner's independence in the performance of his complaint resolution duties has been a key principle underlying the governance of CCTS and its daily operations from the beginning.
36 There are extensive safeguards in the CCTS procedures and in the organization's governance structure to preserve the Commissioner's independence in relation to dispute resolution.
37 Safeguards that ensure his independence begin with the criteria and process for the appointment of the Commissioner.
38 Furthermore, in the exercise of his authority in relation to inquiries and complaints, the Commissioner is completely autonomous from the Board. Our By-law prohibits participation or interference by the Board or any member thereof in the disposition of any complaint. The Board and its members are further prohibited from making any representations relating to a complaint or from hearing any request for an appeal from any recommendation or decision of the Commissioner.
39 Les modifications apportées au Code de procédure qui sont entrées en vigueur plus tôt cette année, dont M. Maker discutera plus tard, ont permis à l'organisme de réaliser des gains aux plans de l'efficacité ainsi que de l'indépendance.
40 Le dossier de cette instance, y compris les commentaires déposés par un éventail d'intervenants, confirme que le CPRST est généralement perçu comme un organisme qui fournit un service de résolution des plaintes efficace et indépendant.
41 With respect to the Commission's question whether the constating documents should continue to require Board approval of certain matters by special or extraordinary resolution, it is important to recognize that CCTS is a uniquely designed and structured organization to permit a balancing of and a responsiveness to, the interests of a wide range of stakeholders.
42 While there is no evidence that this governing structure undermines the Commissioner's independence or effectiveness in relation to complaint resolution, the need to achieve large majorities in order to move forward places considerable emphasis on consensus building, accommodation and compromise.
43 As Chair of the Board of Directors I can confirm that the need to reach consensus, to accept accommodation and compromise in order to move forward does place on the Board, on the voting members, as well as on the Commissioner, a heavier procedural burden than might otherwise be the case if decisions were reached based on simple majorities.
45 MR. MAKER: Thank you.
46 On the subject of membership, as the Commission is aware, our industry and consumer group stakeholders have expressed a range of views in the course of this proceeding. There is no consensus on the issue of whether TSP membership should be mandatory or voluntary.
47 From an operational standpoint, it is reasonable to expect that voluntary membership would add significant uncertainty in relation to management and planning.
48 Our ability to operate is dependent on the funding provided, in particular, by the largest TSPs. The withdrawal of one or two of these could have a material impact not only upon the overall funding available to the organization, but also on the funding burden for the remaining members, potentially leading to further membership losses.
49 It is also reasonable to expect that voluntary membership could pose a challenge to our independence, since the threat of withdrawal itself could potentially constitute a strong point of leverage for a TSP.
50 Our operational experience to date is that we have, to the best of our knowledge, managed to achieve a high incidence of compliance with the Commission's current membership requirements, but it is clear that a significant number of TSPs -- in particular smaller providers -- are not members.
51 This issue is not a new one for CCTS as it gave rise to considerable debate when the Commission last considered membership requirements. If the Commission determines that mandatory membership should continue, among the considerations it should address are the following:
52 First, consistency with the April 2007 Order in Council in which the Governor in Council expressed an expectation that all TSPs should participate in and contribute to the financing of the consumer agency; and
53 Second, whether it is appropriate that a consumer's recourse to the industry's complaint-resolution scheme should be dependent upon the revenues earned by the service provider from which he or she receives service.
54 The benefit of full TSP membership is to broaden consumer protection and to spread out the cost of funding CCTS more broadly among its TSP membership. However, extending membership to an additional large number of small TSPs would likely present a challenge and require additional resources. Merely identifying the TSPs in question could be a substantial component of that challenge.
55 I do not know whether there is an administratively simple way to ensure membership of each and every Canadian TSP. The Commission may wish to consider whether the cost of broadening membership would exceed the potential benefit.
56 The Commission may also wish to consider that in 2009-10 only approximately 3.5 percent of the contacts we received were about non-participating service providers. If the Commission intends to expand CCTS membership we would ask that it do so in a manner that ensures that CCTS resources are not diverted from the agency's core functions and, in particular, that the process does not cause complaint handling to be delayed.
57 Les coûts reliés à la participation des fournisseurs de service ont été invoqués par certains participants aux instances précédentes du Conseil et encore une fois dans la présente instance comme un obstacle possible à l'adhésion au CPRST par les plus petites entreprises.
58 Je crois que la formule de financement du CPRST en place maintenant règle ce problème. Comme le démontre la facturation émise en novembre par le CPRST pour le deuxième trimestre de 2010, le coût d'entrée initial pour une entreprise dont les revenus sont de moins de 10 millions de dollars se chiffrerait à 1 000 dollars, et les frais fondés sur les revenus n'excéderaient pas 130 dollars par trimestre.
59 In my view, the funding mechanism is a matter best addressed between CCTS and its members based on their mutual needs. The funding mechanism is also sufficiently flexible that it could be modified if necessary to address any unmet concerns.
60 In any event, however, we wish to emphasize the importance of ensuring that membership rules and criteria are straightforward for CCTS to implement and simple and clear for TSPs to understand. Whether the Commission maintains current membership rules or alters them, in a scheme that relies upon TSP revenue information for both its membership criteria and ongoing funding requirements, it is essential that we be able to obtain TSP revenue information promptly and independently.
61 At present we must approach each TSP and request that it provide us with the relevant data. In addition to the significant resources required to do this, TSP compliance with revenue reporting requirements has been, in some case, spotty.
62 The result of all this is that we waste time and resources pursuing revenue information. Moreover we do not always get it, and when we do we have no independent way of verifying its accuracy.
63 From year to year TSP revenues change. We currently have no independent way of determining whether a non-member TSP's revenues have grown such that the criterion triggering a membership requirement has been met.
64 I believe that TSPs would support CCTS having the ability to ensure that each TSP member is paying its fair share of the CCTS cost. Being able to make use of data held by the Commission would simplify the management of membership and fees for CCTS and TSPs, and would also ensure consistency between revenue data provided to the Commission and that relied upon by CCTS.
65 We appreciate that the Commission may be concerned about protecting the confidentiality of this information and we suggest that these concerns regarding disclosure of confidential TSP revenue information could be addressed through a non-disclosure agreement between the Commission and CCTS.
66 Additionally, in some cases TSPs have requested exemptions from membership from Commission staff and been granted it. CCTS has not been privy to the process, nor have we been directly informed of the outcome.
67 In summary, in the event that mandatory membership is continued, CCTS requests:
68 One, a decision that clearly identifies which TSPs are intended to be Members; and
69 Two, access to whatever financial or other data may be necessary:
70 a) to identify who those TSPs are;
71 b) to facilitate equitable billing of our costs, and
72 c) to permit us to make membership decisions of our own accord without the need for reliance on the TSPs themselves or a process run by Commission staff.
73 Regarding the scope of CCTS' mandate, the April 2007 Order in Council enumerated the elements thereof. Regarding the first item in the Order in Council, namely resolution of complaints, our statistics clearly show that we are resolving complaints.
74 As public awareness of our services CCTS provides have grown our complaint volumes have increased significantly. Last year we fully processed over 3500 complaints. We are proud of the fact that 84 percent of the complaints handled were resolved to the satisfaction of both the consumer and the TSP. We are also proud of the fact that in a very large number of cases we have been able to resolve the complaint at the very first stage of our process, generally within 30 days.
75 Of all the complaints handled, only 22 required a recommendation. Of these 22, 18 were deemed satisfactory by both sides. Only 4 required a formal Decision.
76 Our ability to resolve complaints at an early stage in the process in such a large number of cases speaks highly of the effectiveness of the organization and the level of skill displayed by our staff.
77 We also believe, however, that we can further enhance our performance. We are currently in the initial stages of a project to rebuild our electronic case management system which was put in place on an interim basis when the organization was established in 2007.
78 The new system will provide us with substantially greater capacity to measure and track our performance, both broadly and on a case-by-case basis. We also expect the new system will provide us greater ability to assess the effectiveness of our systems and processes on a much more granular basis than is currently possible.
79 We are aiming to have the new system in place before the end of our current fiscal year, although we also expect that it will be some months before the new system delivers sufficient data to enable us to identify areas for improvement and implement solutions.
80 Regarding the development of industry codes or standards, CCTS has had limited experience in this area. Our one effort to date, further to the Commission's request in TRP 2009-424, did not lead to a successful outcome.
81 Now, some parties have challenged our or the Commission's legal authority to develop mandatory codes. It is not, in my view, for CCTS to offer a legal opinion on the scope of its or the Commission's legal authority.
82 In an increasingly deregulated telecom environment, codes of conduct can set minimum standards for market conduct of service providers and help define reasonable expectations for consumers. For CCTS, codes can provide useful benchmarks against which we can measure the conduct of a provider in any given fact situation, in order to determine the appropriate resolution of a complaint. For these reasons, I'm supportive of the development of appropriate industry codes.
83 During the course of our efforts to develop the code several industry representatives suggested that the task of developing a code or standard should rest primarily, or at least begin with, the industry itself.
84 In my respectful view, if the industry is to develop a code or standard, on its own initiative or at the request of the Commission, the CCTS' role could include providing comments or advice to assist the drafters, or perhaps conducting or participating in a review of the industry's draft code.
85 However, the requirement that such code or standard should be subject to CCTS's approval is potentially problematic.
86 Under our by-law the approval of a code or standard requires an extraordinary resolution -- two-thirds of the independent directors and two-thirds of the industry directors. Trying to obtain the necessary support for such a resolution from a stakeholder board on a highly contentious issue presents a significant challenge.
87 I also have concerns about how the approval of industry codes by CCTS might impact our ability to maintain both the fact and appearance of independence and impartiality in carrying out our main mandate -- complaint resolution.
88 To the extent that we approve an industry code, the code becomes the "CCTS Industry Code". Such close connection between the independent dispute resolution body and the industry may potentially raise the appearance of partiality in the eyes of consumers, particularly when CCTS is subsequently responsible for resolving complaints that deal with an alleged breach of that very code.
89 The Order in Council also directed that CCTS publish an annual report on the nature, number and resolution of complaints received for each TSP and, as appropriate, to identify issues or trends that may warrant further attention.
90 On October 28, 2010 we published our third annual report. With each generation of our Annual Report we have improved the quality of the product by adding to the quantity and quality of the information provided.
91 In our most recent Annual Report we have specifically identified concerns related to certain industry practices that impact consumers. As our new case management system is implemented, we expect to be able to provide greater granularity regarding statistics, issues and trends in the complaints that we see.
92 On a technical matter, in Decision 2007-130 the Commission directed that CCTS should publish its Annual Report within 90 days of it's fiscal year end. Given that we deploy as much of our resources as possible to complaint resolution activities we find it challenging to develop all of the necessary data and to produce the report within 90 days. We would thus ask that the Commission consider adding an extra 90 days to the timeline. With our July 31 year end, this would require delivery of the Annual Report by January 31 of the following year.
93 The Commission has asked whether the current scope of our mandate is appropriate.
94 A committee of the Board of Directors recently concluded a detailed review of our Procedural Code, including the scope of the mandate and, in particular, the list of matters excluded from the mandate. Changes were made to the list of exclusions, which now limits these to services that are not telecom services, services that remain regulated, pricing, equipment and related issues and issues for which more specifically expert tribunals or agencies are available.
95 In addition, changes were made to the code designed to make access to our services easier for consumers. These changes were intended to bring the code into line with our policy of interpreting the code liberally in favour of the consumer so as to permit inclusion of a complaint wherever possible.
96 We believe that these changes have made CCTS more accessible to consumers and reinforced our independence. Our operational statistics confirm this. In the two quarters since the introduction of the changes in June 2010 our rate of acceptance of complaints increased by 6 percent and then by another 9 percent.
97 The Commission has invited comments on whether the remedies offered by CCTS are appropriate and effective. Based on the complaints we have processed to date, the remedies available to us appear to be sufficient at this time to deal with the types of complaints that we receive.
98 With respect to other matters the Commission identified:
99 Regarding overall effectiveness, as we have previously discussed, our experience is that CCTS is proving effective in dealing with customer complaints. We are pleased that the submissions of a number of the other parties to this proceeding acknowledge this.
100 On the subject of awareness and outreach, as described in our response to the Commission's interrogatories, we have taken a number of steps to increase public awareness of our organization and the service we provide.
101 The details of our 2009-10 activities are included in our response to the Commission's interrogatories and we have adopted new measures for 2010-11. We believe that increasing awareness is an ongoing requirement and we view our commitment to do so as a continuing undertaking.
102 Among the initiatives taken, the biannual notices that member TSPs have been including in their bills have resulted in noticeable increases in contacts, demonstrating their particular effectiveness in raising awareness.
103 The Commission has invited comments regarding transparency and accountability of our reporting. As mentioned earlier, we provide a substantial and growing quantity of information regarding our performance in our annual report. As previously mentioned, our new case management system is also expected to enable us to provide an even greater degree of detail.
104 On the subject of accessibility of our services, as we have noted in our written submissions, our website exceeds the highest level of conformance with the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, the AAA level. We can accept complaints by e-mail, by letter, by telephone or by TTY. We can speak to consumers in both official languages.
105 We are not aware of any complaints from users regarding accessibility.
106 Comments submitted by parties in the proceeding also do not appear to suggest that accessibility is a problem. However we always remain open to suggestions for improvement.
107 Finally, the issue is whether a further review period should be established and parties in this proceeding have expressed a range of opinions.
108 If the Commission does set a review period, an important factor to consider should be to ensure that CCTS has sufficient time, first, to implement and then, second, to develop experience with any changes the Commission may decide to order as a result of this proceeding.
109 Additionally, as mentioned earlier, we are rebuilding our case management system and we expect that rebuild may also give rise to operational changes. Several months will be required before the new system provides us with sufficient data to better assess our operations.
110 We expect that the Commission would want to see data over a substantially longer interval before conducting another review of CCTS. In light of the above, if the Commission decides to conduct another public proceeding to review CCTS, the Commission may wish to contemplate a five-year interval between the conclusion of this proceeding and the next review.
111 We thank you for providing us with this opportunity to participate in the review of CCTS's structure and mandate and we welcome your questions.
112 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Thank you very much for your opening remarks.
113 We appreciate all the work you are doing and continue to do in identifying issues that need to be resolved, both from the consumer perspective as well as from an industry perspective.
114 I do have a number of questions that I want to pose to you this morning and maybe the best way to start, notwithstanding the fact that you have addressed a number of situations, your role in being an effective consumer advocate and industry representative, as well as your independence.
115 If I take you to the Order in Council dated May 26, 2007 and the opening clause, and I'm just quoting here:
"Whereas the Governor in Council considers that an independent agency with a mandate to resolve complaints from individual and small business retail customers ...should be an integral component of a deregulated telecommunications market;"
116 Couple that with the second to last: "Whereas the Governor in Council considers that the mandate of an effective Consumer Agency should include (...resolving complaints)..."
117 Amongst other things as well.
118 I'm just wondering how you would respond to the government in terms of a report card. Where are you right now in the continuum of being a fully effective agency under this mandate? We will come back later on to other jurisdictions.
119 I think, Mr. Maker, you have appeared before a committee of government representatives where you said CCTS is in its formulary stages right now, it would be great to have something like what Australia has, and we will get into that later on, but where are you in the continuum as to what you feel you need in the way of tools and capabilities in order to fully execute and say we are "A" in terms of a report card pursuant to what the government was looking for in the way of an agency?
120 MR. MAKER: That's a very broad question, Mr. Chair.
121 In terms of the report card I guess, in my view we are really only two years into this exercise. As you know, the decision was in July 2007, but the permanent board took over in June 2008 with a long-term view and I was brought in in August 2008. So we are really working with two years of experience.
122 Having said that, we have been slowly but surely taking efforts to enhance public awareness of our activities. The fruit of those efforts is just beginning to ripen. We are just beginning to see what the volumes may begin to look like.
123 We really don't know going forward what the complaint volumes and what the needs of telecom consumers, simply in terms of complaint resolution, are going to be. So we are still, I would say, at a very early stage of operations, and certainly nowhere like the Australian ombudsman, by comparison.
124 I would say, given where a young organization is at an early stage, that we have put in place the processes to deal with complaints very effectively. We are dealing with them promptly, we are dealing with a great many of them, and given the satisfaction rates of both parties with the way we are dealing with them, to me, that is the best measure of effectiveness, and we are doing it efficiently within the allocations that we have.
125 So, overall, I think we have done a very good job to date.
126 THE CHAIRPERSON: You caveat it with the resources that you have. I am not suggesting that you necessarily need to over-investigate, but if you had --
127 What resources are you missing -- let's put it this way -- that would allow you to be more effective, and optimally effective?
128 If I use the work "optimally", maybe we can get to the targeted issues and balancing the issues.
129 MR. MAKER: My comment about resources is not about the availability or inadequacy of resources, it's about, really, the timing and accessibility of those resources.
130 We do not know what we are going to need from day to day. We see peaks that we think represent what is likely to be the high point of consumer demand, and quite often, after that, those peaks go higher.
131 So our challenge around resources is actually trying to accurately project and plan for what we expect those peaks to be, and to then staff-up and acquire the necessary resources to manage what we expect those peaks to be.
132 For example, in our first quarter of this year, which concluded at the end of October, we accepted just under 1,600 complaints. That is double -- that is more than we accepted in Q1 and Q2 of our previous year, combined. If that pace continues through the year, that would be a 70 percent increase in the number of complaints that we dealt with last year.
133 I can't tell you what specifically is the cause of that, although we could all suggest a number of factors, but when I speak to resources, I am describing the difficulty in projecting what we are going to be expected to do, and getting the resources in, in order to meet those requirements.
134 THE CHAIRPERSON: Is there a correlation with the fact that the number of complaints you are accepting is increasing and perhaps there is a lag by the industry in trying to address them?
135 Because, presumably, they would like to see them go down, as well, before they get to the CCTS, because it's an issue related to their brand, their costs, amongst other things.
136 Is there a timing issue here that, as these things grow -- are they looking to the CCTS to identify, en banc, what the big issues are, the industry trends, and trying to address those trends, so that they can deal with them before they get to you, and to the satisfaction of the consumer?
137 MR. MAKER: I am not sure that the relationship between CCTS and its TSPs has matured sufficiently to get to that point yet.
138 THE CHAIRPERSON: What has to happen for that maturity to take place?
139 MR. MAKER: I think comfort level and experience.
140 I agree with you, I think that the TSPs have the same objective, which is that complaints should be resolved, and ideally they would like to resolve complaints in-house whenever they can.
141 All of the research shows that it's a lot cheaper for them to keep a customer than it is to go out and find a new one.
142 We share that objective, too, and I always say to my friends and colleagues that our objective, really, is to develop a relationship with the industry, so that, by the end of the day, we put ourselves out of business, that there is no more need for an independent organization like this.
143 But we never really lose sleep at night thinking that it's likely to happen. That is a humorous sort of way to indicate that we all have the shared objective of managing those complaints, and, of course, in February of this year we put in place a funding system that causes the TSPs to incur a cost each time a complaint comes to us. We think that, as they become more familiar with that and with that experience, that will also impact and cause a reduction in the number of complaints coming to us. At least it's intended to try to do that.
144 But we are in the very, very early stages of launching an organization and spreading the word. We are waving the flag about CCTS. We have taken lots of measures to go out and enhance the visibility of the organization, and if I had to guess, I would say that that's the primary reason, right now, that people are coming to the CCTS in greater numbers.
145 THE CHAIRPERSON: If I could take you to page 14 of your Annual Report of 2009-2010, I just want to try to understand the data that is on here, and I am not sure which end to start at, the top or the bottom.
146 You have identified the number of new contacts in `09-10, which has more than doubled, to 43,000, and yet you have only opened up 3,747 complaints.
147 Now, I notice on the next page that you actually identify that there are 9,320 contacts that were deemed to be outside of your mandate, and another 1,620 that were non-members of the CCTS.
148 So that's about 11,000 out of the 43,000, which gets you down to 32,000.
149 What happens between the 32,000 and the 3,747 that you have accepted? What are they, exactly?
150 MR. MAKER: At the CCTS we record any communication that comes into our office, be it in writing or by phone, and we call it a contact. So the number of 43,609 that you see there for contacts is everything that comes in the front door, in whatever form.
151 What you see on page 15 is data that describes communications to us that may or may not have intended to set out a complaint, but if they had intended to complain, would have been out of our mandate.
152 You will see that the table at the top of page 15 lists a number of services that are not within our mandate -- customer service, misleading advertising and so on.
153 So, for consumers who contacted us and said, "I have an inquiry about a customer service issue, I had to wait on the phone too long when I called them," for example, we don't know whether they intended to make a complaint from these stats, whether they wanted to find out whether there were any rules about customer services, whether they wanted to know who, at their TSP, they could talk to about customer service.
154 But they called about customer service, and since we know that that's something that is outside of our mandate, we have reflected here that we had 610 calls, some of which may have been people desiring to complain, others not, but 610 people called about customer service, and that's a matter we wouldn't have been able to help with if they were expressing a complaint and if it had, otherwise, been in mandate.
155 So while there is a large number at the bottom, the total of 9,320, those are really the number of matters that would not have been in our mandate, but it should not be interpreted to mean that there were 9,320 people who actually wanted to file a complaint and who weren't able to.
156 THE CHAIRPERSON: Before we move on from there, the other category, 6,232, represents fully two-thirds of what you call "Total Out of Mandate". Do you not break those down any further?
157 I mean, you identify 30 percent by seven categories, and then you have lumped 67 percent into one category called "Other".
158 MR. MAKER: In the early part of the year we did have a training issue with some of the staff who were recording these in our case management system. There was a training issue in which many of them were not aware that, despite the fact that a contact may have been out of complaint, they needed to record the details of what it was about.
159 So, regretfully, we cannot tell you with any specificity how those numbers line up. We can tell you that in there there are lots of different things.
160 Of course, in some cases the agents neglected to capture the issue, so it might have been otherwise recorded above.
161 In some cases, the customer didn't tell us what the issue was. The conversation didn't get that far.
162 Some of them may have wanted to complain but hadn't yet approached their own service provider. That would be an "Other" typically.
163 Perhaps a complaint was over a year old and outside of our mandate -- for that reason -- and other reasons where complaints might be out of mandate beyond the services that are listed above.
164 So it's a really broad catch-all, if you will.
165 THE CHAIRPERSON: As you build your new database, which we will talk about shortly, will you be able to capture some of those?
166 The point you made just a minute ago about the fact that they have contacted the CCTS, but have yet to contact the carrier, is probably an interesting one, from a statistical perspective, to understand as well, because it could be that the message out there hasn't gotten through, where consumers should know that before they contact the CCTS, they would have had to have made a legitimate contact with their carrier as well.
167 That is an awareness issue and a messaging issue that we can talk about, as well, at some point.
168 But I think there is an awful lot of value in providing as complete a dataset as possible, and I notice that you are building an infrastructure to be able to capture, and I would just hope that what you are capturing is fully as broad as possible, so that not only you would know what the issues are, but we in the public would know as well.
169 MR. MAKER: I don't disagree with you, Mr. Chair. I can't commit to you right now that we are going to report on this particular statistic or that particular one.
170 One of our elements of frustration is the very limited capacity to pull data out of our current case management system, and it is the kind of data that would inform our ability to identify trends more promptly and give numbers around them.
171 This particular glitch was, more likely, a training issue than anything else, unfortunately. But, you are right, having the new system should enable us to provide all sorts of data of whatever sort we are looking for. That is the intention of the way we plan to build the system, and certainly the objective of doing it that way is to try to learn lessons from the data that you have in your database.
172 THE CHAIRPERSON: So one could expect, in the next year or two years, that your design and build-out of the new case management system will have the specs comprehensive enough to be able to gather that information and report on it.
173 MR. MAKER: Yes, there is a substantial portion of the RFP that we did around this related to reporting on stats and other data.
174 THE CHAIRPERSON: What is the timeline for this case management system to be operational and to start reporting information?
175 MR. MAKER: Our expectation, from the time we get the project going -- and we are currently negotiating the contract with the vendor -- from the time we get it going, they are saying about seven months.
176 So we are hopeful that, for the beginning of the next fiscal year, we would have it in place. That would be August 1.
177 THE CHAIRPERSON: Below the identification of the 9,320 contacts that were out of scope, you have 1,621 contacts that were with regard to service providers that are not members of the CCTS.
178 Again, these are contacts as well. You would have no idea as to how many would have manifested themselves into complaints, if in fact they were members of the CCTS?
179 MR. MAKER: That's correct. All I can tell you is how many of them identified a subject matter that would have been within the mandate.
180 Or, at least, I can give you a subset of those, because there is a portion that -- you will see that there is the number of 620. When customers find out that their provider is not a member, they often don't want to engage in any more conversation, so we are not able to get that data from them.
181 But we know that the 177 that you see at the top, those issues would have been within mandate if this customer was making a complaint, and some portion of the ones not provided, the 620, might also have been customers desiring to make a complaint, but unable to because the provider was not a member.
182 THE CHAIRPERSON: So when we take the sum total of those two numbers, 1,621 and 9,320, we get to 11,000, roughly, and if we take it off the 43,000, we are at 32,000. Are you suggesting that roughly 90 percent -- the 32,000 vis-à-vis the 3,747 complaints you have opened -- is purely contacts that were made of an inquisitive nature, that had no relevance to complaints by the customer?
183 MR. MAKER: First, just a point on the math. You would have to deduct from the 43,000 the 3,747 complaints, because they start off as contacts before we accept them as complaints.
184 This year, in the 2009-10 year, we started with the TSPs putting in a prescribed notice about the CCTS on customer bills. That led to enormous increases in the peaks that we received in calls from customers.
185 In fact, we couldn't handle them all at a point.
186 We had a huge number of people calling because they saw our phone number on their bill. They didn't know who we were. They didn't know what we did. Many of them had not read carefully and thought that we were, you know, a department of their own TSP.
187 So certainly in this 43,609 there is a huge number of folks who contacted us because of those bill messages, in the thousands.
188 THE CHAIRPERSON: And they simply called to commend you on the fact that the CCTS exists, or they called you to ask a question, or...
189 MR. MAKER: That would be nice.
190 No, primarily: Who are you? Why are you on my bill? What do you do? How can you help me?
191 So we took the opportunity, as we anticipated that this would happen, to inform them about our service and how we might help them, and we wanted to let them know that if they have a problem, there is recourse available to them, and now they know how to reach us.
192 THE CHAIRPERSON: How often does that information go on the customer bill?
193 MR. MAKER: Twice yearly, by each provider.
194 THE CHAIRPERSON: And they have been on now just once or twice?
195 MR. MAKER: We are in the second series of bill messages now.
196 THE CHAIRPERSON: Do you measure the spikes as a result of it, or do the TSPs put it on their bill randomly, so that there are no spikes?
197 MR. MAKER: We have managed to separate the bill schedule such that the larger providers do not issue their bills at the same time, because that has the capacity to overwhelm our fairly small call centre.
198 So, yes, we know when the largest providers bill, because we get the calls. Even if we didn't have a schedule we would know, because the calls would start to come in in such numbers that it would be very clear.
199 With respect to the smaller providers, obviously not as much.
200 THE CHAIRPERSON: So you are saying that, roughly, 30,000 out of the 43,000 contacts were as a result of pure inquiries, without leading to anything specific.
201 MR. MAKIER: I really can't say that. That is more specific than I can say.
202 I can't give you a specific number, but I can tell you that a substantial proportion of that number relates to communications arising from the bill messages.
203 THE CHAIRPERSON: But you do agree that there were 43,609 contacts, that 9,320 were outside your mandate, that there were 1,621 that were non-members, and that there were 3,747 that you opened a complaint on, which leaves 30,000 unresolved. They are out there, and we don't know what they are.
204 MR. MAKER: Correct.
205 THE CHAIRPERSON: And you are saying that your new case management system will be able to identify what they are?
206 MR. MAKER: The objective would be to be able to identify: Was this a general inquiry? Was this a consultation? Was this somebody that we had to send back to the TSP because they had a complaint but hadn't been there yet?
207 Yes, we are looking to develop much more detail around that.
208 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Let's move below the line now and let's analyze the 3,747 complaints that were opened, or in the previous year, the 3,214.
209 I am trying to understand where these numbers don't add up and what I should add in order to get the sum total of 3,747.
210 If we start from the bottom, for example, "Decisions", there were four issued and four accepted. And then, when you move up to the recommendation stage, there were four that were rejected, which obviously went into the "Decisions" area, and there are four there.
211 But if you move up one more, to "Recommendations Accepted", you have 18, which add to 22, yet there were 25 recommendations issued.
212 Is there a timing issue here? Is there something that needs to be put in as a fudge factor or something, in order for these numbers to add?
213 I spent a lot of time trying to add these numbers up, and they don't add.
214 MR. MAKER: I am sorry for the confusion. We have gone back and forth internally many times to decide what is the best way to display the statistics, and this is where we have landed.
215 And, no, the numbers are not intended to tally, and perhaps I could help you by walking you through it.
216 THE CHAIRPERSON: That would be great.
217 MR. MAKER: We did open 3,747 complaints, and you are right that there is a timing issue here, because in 2009, starting August 1, 2009 to July 31, 2010, we accepted 3,747 complaints. It is important to recognize, though, that we had an inventory -- we had an opening inventory on August 1st of some number of complaints, as well, that were to be handled by our office.
218 You will see in the Annual Report that I use the number of -- I believe it's 3,522, roughly, complaints that we actually processed in the year, and I did that from adding up the appropriate columns.
219 So you will see that in 2009-2010 there is a heading for "Pre-Investigation Dispositions". This is where the complaints come in, we determine whether they are in mandate; if so, we accept the complaint. We inform the consumer, and we send a copy of the complaint to a senior person at the TSP, with a demand that they get back in touch with the customer and try to resolve the complaint.
220 They have 30 days within which to get back to us to indicate whether the complaint is resolved or not.
221 At that stage -- in 2009-10, 2,297 complaints were resolved at that stage, in that manner.
222 That's a huge success, because these are the ones that are being dealt with at the very front end, within 30 days. They couldn't be resolved before they came to us because this customer had already been at the TSP. But when we send it to the provider, to a more senior level, to someone with knowledge and authority, and within the context of our process, they get resolved very promptly.
223 Up to two-thirds of our complaints, historically, get resolved at that stage.
224 So we have 2,300, roughly, that get resolved there, and there is another number of 225 that we closed at that stage -- complaints that didn't go further, complaints that were withdrawn by a complainant, complaints that we concluded we might have accepted in error.
225 There is also a process for TSPs to object to us accepting a complaint. I don't think that those are factored in there.
226 But, again, if you are looking to see how many complaints we processed in the year, those numbers display what we did at the pre-investigation stage in `09-10.
227 Complaints that don't get resolved at that stage move to what we call the investigations stage, and you will see at the first line there that 1,051 complaints moved to the investigation stage; presumably some portion of the difference between 3,747 and the pre-investigation dispositions, but also some that had been sitting in our filing cabinets before August 1st.
228 So 1,051 files, of which 663 were resolved and 312 closed.
229 And, of course, it doesn't add up -- it doesn't come to zero, because at the end of 2009-10 we still had an inventory. We hadn't completed all of the files.
230 So of the files that aren't resolved or closed at that stage, the next stage of the process is for the CCTS to write a written recommendation to the parties. If the parties cannot agree on a resolution we write to them and we say -- we describe the complaint. We describe our analysis of the complaint and we make a recommendation for what we think is a reasonable resolution based on the facts and circumstances.
231 We did that 25 times and in 18 of those cases, the customer -- both parties actually accepted that as a reasonable outcome. Only four of them were objected to by one of the parties.
232 Of course, again, 18 and 4 do not add up to 25 because, at the end of 2010, there were still three that had been issued but the timeline for response had not expired. So we didn't have the responses yet for these statistics.
233 THE CHAIRPERSON: Or it could be more than three if you are carrying forward some, as well.
234 MR. MAKER: Potentially.
235 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
236 MR. MAKER: So of the four that the recommendation was rejected by one or both parties, we are required to issue a decision. This is another -- this is a review of the recommendation based on the written objection of the party who made the objection which we analyzed to determine whether it raises sufficient issue to doubt the correctness of our regional recommendation.
237 We issued those four decisions. And each one of them was accepted in 2009-10 by the consumer. The decisions are binding on the service provider at that stage but they were all accepted by the consumer.
238 So the message, Mr. Chair, about our success is we see how many of these complaints we are getting resolved and that to us is the end game. 84 percent of the files we dealt with this year, both sides went away content with the outcome. We think that's a huge success.
239 And likewise the small number of complaints that we have to take through the more formal and lengthier process again, indicate that the process is working really well.
240 THE CHAIRPERSON: I noticed in reviewing some aspects of the file that there is a 30-day clock from when a complaint comes in to you, to when a TSP has to respond or you follow up with investigation, I guess.
241 So there is a clock running on those cases.
242 Once you open up the investigation are there timelines for its ultimate resolution?
243 MR. MAKER: As you will know, we have published performance standards for our organization. The Board approved them, I believe, in December 2008 and they are available on our website.
244 They may well have been filed with the Commission, if I'm not mistaken, but I apologize for my failure of recollection on that point.
245 The performance standards deal with a variety of issues that are modelled on the work of the International Organization for Standards and, in particular Standard ISO-1003. And they deal with all sorts of performance standard issues.
246 One of them, the one you are talking about is timelines or timeliness, as they call it in the standard.
247 We have a timeliness standard for the work of our contact centre, essentially in the pre-investigation stage. And our current standard describes in a more vague way our expectations of ourselves around the actual investigations work.
248 We don't have a formal requirement to complete complaints in a certain number of days. And I don't know any organization that is required -- any investigative organization that is required to complete a file within x-number of days, but we do think that we should have performance standards so that consumers can know what to expect, TSPs can know what to expect and we can monitor our own effectiveness.
249 We are in the process of trying to develop those as we speak. We have done one series of discussions about that issue at our Board. We have gone back to trying to recalibrate what we think is appropriate.
250 Part of the issue for us is we are not entirely sure what is reasonable because we have had difficulty projecting the anticipated number of complaints and how much use our service would receive because we want the standards to be reasonable not only for third parties but also for our own staff.
251 So we have -- and as you know, we are also working on this rebuild of our case management system. Right now to track this, we would have to do that manually and it's potentially fraught with uncertainty.
252 So our objective is to come to the Board with a more detailed performance standard on the investigations piece prior to the completion of our rebuild of our case management system so that once that case management system is in place, we will be able to plug in the appropriate standards and be comfortable that we are measuring our people, our staff fairly and our overall performance properly.
253 THE CHAIRPERSON: Standards aside, do you have any indication of how your complaints have aged? What is the oldest complaint that is still before you today, for example, and how many are greater than six months?
254 Do you measure that? Do you have that internally? I didn't see it in your reporting here at all.
255 MR. MAKER: No, it is not in our reporting. We would have that internally. We would watch that in an informal way. We don't have a formal reporting or aging of files.
256 THE CHAIRPERSON: Do you not think that would be a useful tool to have for the public to know how long some of these files have sort of hung out there without resolution one way or the other?
257 MR. MAKER: I don't know that we have contemplated providing that information publicly. You know, as I say, that's certainly something we could take under advisement.
258 THE CHAIRPERSON: Could you consider that and perhaps in the final Phase II two days from now, come back with your thoughts on that?
259 MR. MAKER: Certainly.
260 THE CHAIRPERSON: With regard to the international scope of other regulators and bodies that deal with this issue, as I said in the early stages of our discussion, I have got a quote here with the Heritage Committee. You said you envied the Australian system "and we have ways to get there yet".
261 What is it that has to be -- is it purely a matter of time and effort or is there something else holding you up from being able to leapfrog, if I can call it that, the number of years that Australia has been offering this type of capability and skill set?
262 MR. MAKER: Well, I would like to put that comment in the context of the fact that I personally am a big fan of what the Australians do in terms of consumer redress. They are pretty much the world leaders in providing ombudsman service, in you know code drafting, in providing technical documentation for industry, for consumers. So I admire the time and effort that they have put into all of those structures.
263 That's really the light in which that comment should be seen. I think that you can't compare an organization that is really at age two with an organization that's been in place since 1993.
264 So I think there is -- I don't know if we are ever going to get to the stage where the Aussies are at in terms of the number of providers that are members in terms of the number of complaints, the numbers of staff.
265 I'm not a telecom expert and so I really couldn't opine on the difference in the telecom marketplace in Australia versus the one in Canada. I do know they are experts on code writing and code development and they formalize that in a very careful way.
266 So I don't think -- when I say that you know they are the envy, what I mean is they have a very -- they have formalized structures in place and they have an operation that runs tickety-boo and we are still at the beginning stages of trying to put it all together.
267 That's the light in which I would like those comments to be seen.
268 THE CHAIRPERSON: So there is nothing more that either the CRTC can do or any other body to get you into the 22nd Century faster than the clock?
269 MR. MAKR: Well, I think that you have heard some of the things in our opening that, you know, we have identified as things that the Commission may wish to consider in terms of how if it intends to make any adjustments to our structure or mandate or processes, we have identified some of the issues for concern or issues to consider.
270 Beyond that I don't have anything to add, Mr. Chair.
271 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Currently, your membership is limited to those with annual revenues greater than $10 million and you commented in your opening remarks about the fact that you don't know who they are and you don't know when they crossed that magic line as well. And I accept that and I appreciate that comment.
272 I guess we don't know on the other side who those folks are in the 1,621 complaints or contacts that we talked about earlier, would legitimately cause concern to us and to the general public with regard to try and incent them to become members as well. If there are a couple of players out there that should be perhaps, then we have no way of knowing that as well.
273 Is there some way of you providing to the Commission as a minimum, a synopsis as to who those players might be, because it would be important for us to understand whether there really are one or two or a handful of players that perhaps need to, perhaps, focus on the issue.
274 MR. MAKER: If I may, Mr. Chair, I believe that at a staff level we do or at least we have been providing that information on a regular basis about -- from the identities of the service providers. I'm not sure they were all service providers -- about whom we receive inquiries.
275 But in our interrogs, in response to Interrogatory 2 at Table 4, we provide a breakdown of the complaints or the contacts, really, that we received in 2008-2009 by non-member. So we have filed some reasonably up to date information about that for you.
276 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. It would be interesting to follow up with some of the other members over the next two days and get their views on that as well.
277 You did not take a position on the obligation of members to be formally committed to CCTS. You sort of said "if the Commission so chooses" then whatever. And I'm trying to understand why you are not prepared to take a view based on the Order in Council that was issued by the Government in Parliament.
278 MR. MAKER: Well, we have noted in our comments what the wording of the Order in Council is. It does indeed say "all".
279 We have -- I intend here to speak for the Board of Directors of CCTS and I have to say to you that there is no consensus at our board level, a stakeholder board, about whether membership should be voluntary or mandatory and which TSPs should be required to be members or should not be required to be members, if mandatory membership is the way you choose to go.
280 So I'm really not in a position to be able to advocate for either position.
281 THE CHAIRPERSON: So, let us, for hypothesis' sake suggest that it's non-voluntary -- it's voluntary and you get up one morning and you get a call from one of your members, one of your large members saying, "Guess what, Mr. Maker, we have made a decision as a corporation to leave CCTS".
282 How do you deal with it?
283 MR. MAKER: Well, there is no question that the elimination of mandatory membership would be a sea change for CCTS. It would change everything about what we do, particularly if the departing member was one of our larger members. Indeed, over 90 percent of the revenue-based fees that we collect from our members come from the seven largest TSP members.
284 So certainly, if you were to choose for voluntary membership, the ability of a member to come and go, even with plenty of notice, would certainly impose on us a degree of uncertainty that we do not now have to deal with and with that, you know, the various planning and budgeting and resourcing issues.
285 As we said in our opening comments also, we would be very concerned if we were dealing with a TSP on a contentious complaint or a series of complaints, perhaps one involving a substantial amount of money in which the threat of departure might very well be used as a point of leverage to assist in the resolution of a complaint in a particular way.
286 But I think from -- our panel's view, Mr. Chair, is that we cannot advocate here for positions which our board do not have consensus. So we see our role as to provide you with whatever information, statistics, assistance and discussion of options that we can but we can't advocate for either side.
287 THE CHAIRPERSON: If that inevitability would happen and if the Commission chose to allow voluntary membership, and if you got up one morning and one or two members decided to leave, to what extent would you still be able to fulfil the mandate in the Order in Council which I said earlier, whereas the Governor in Council considers the mandate of an effective consumer agency should include resolving complaints.
288 Could you still meet that obligation through this Order in Council if you didn't have some of the members there?
289 MR. MAKER: With respect, I think that that is a question that would require me to do some speculation. It would depend on who leaves. It would depend on whether it's one or whether it's 15. It would depend on a lot of factors.
290 THE CHAIRPERSON: I said if it is one or two of the biggest players. If seven of them collectively contribute 90 percent of your budget, assuming it's evenly proportioned, so two of them leaving would be two-sevenths, 30 percent of 90 percent, 30 percent of your budget will be gone.
291 MR. MAKER: Well, certainly, as I said, we would have to do some quick changes to our planning.
292 I would like to think that we would still be in a position to provide effective complaint resolution for whichever TSPs continue to be members. Certainly, there would be financial consequences that would be spread out among a smaller number of members which could incent them to depart too if they thought the cost was too high.
293 And you know there are other sectors where providers have left the industry ombuds services and those services continue. But there are not the same.
294 THE CHAIRPERSON: You mentioned this morning in your opening remarks that you have made some changes to your membership whereby the smaller players can actually join for what might be deemed to be a nominal cost.
295 Can you expand upon that at all as to how that came to be?
296 MR. MAKER: Yes, Mr. Chair, although it doesn't arise as a result of any recent changes. It's simply the mechanics of our membership agreement under which there are three levels of initial membership fee depending on the size of the provider or the size of revenues of the provider, compared to the total revenues of the membership.
297 So members who fall under the $10 million mark would pay the lowest membership fee which is $1,000. Then as far as ongoing revenue-based fees, which are presently two-thirds of what we collect, the other third of our budgeted amount we collect from complaint-based fees.
298 With regard to the revenue-based fees, I looked up the spreadsheet which we maintain on a quarterly basis and how much we are billing, and I looked at the provider which is closest to $10 million and I figured that they are paying about $130 a quarter, so smaller providers would pay proportionately less. It's as simple as that.
299 The membership agreement itself is flexible enough that the industry directors have the ability to -- in consultation with the members and with the board, to make adjustments as they see fit, to the way in which they spread out the costing responsibility amongst themselves.
300 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. When you looked at the data that you have before you and the complaints by some of the smaller TSPs, have you been able to analyze the data to the extent that you can sort of draw a line perhaps different than the $10 million cut-off line that we have today in terms of what is the balance between a negative return on bringing everybody in, including the last person who has got half a million dollars of revenue, up to those that have got $10 million?
301 Is there a different line we can draw from your analysis and your investigation of the data?
302 MR. MAKER: We haven't formally looked at the data in that way so I can't provide you with that assistance.
303 The number of complaints that we are likely to see from a smaller provider, I would speculate, would not be a function so much of the amount of its revenues as it would be a function of how it chooses to do business and how it deals with its customers.
304 You know, I don't know how to answer that question with respect to any particular provider. But there is no magic number that I am aware of below or above which you can say this is a provider that deserves to be exempted or this is a provider that must be in.
305 I think if you look at the data in the interrogatory that we have provided, related to non-member contacts, Interrogatory 2, I believe I said -- you will see a few providers with larger numbers, let's say, than the rest which are typically in the single digits.
306 I really don't have any way of knowing who these providers are. I don't even know if they are necessarily Canadian provider. I certainly don't know what their revenues are.
307 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
308 THE CHAIRPERSON: One of the issues that came up in the file, and you touched upon it, was the issue of industry codes. One of the proposals that I read about was something that SaskTel proposed which was more of a CISC-type approach. CISC is an industry body that the CRTC has accepted as an industry-wide opportunity to almost self-regulate, if I can call it that, and come up with their own solutions to some of these problems as well.
309 And SaskTel hypothesized that it might be a compromise solution that allows the industry to actually create some of those codes and then, I guess, the CCTS would adopt those codes and manage against them as well.
310 What are the views of CCTS in that regard?
311 MR. MAKER: We have identified, in our opening remarks, some of the lessons that we feel we learned from the initial effort to respond to the Commission's request in the context of a stakeholder board with widely diverging issues around the table.
312 With regard to SaskTel's comments, all I can say without disclosing boardroom conversations, was that the process that we undertook -- let me go back, if I may?
313 The first requirement for CCTS after the Commission's request was made was to review it and decide whether to take it on. Indeed, the voting members agreed to take it on.
314 Part of that discussion was the process to be used to try and get it done and that was a process that was subject to a great deal of discussion. The voting members in the end decided to adopt the process that we did use.
315 In hindsight, I can't say whether a different process would have been more effective or not.
316 THE CHAIRPERSON: If that process was used would you envision any problem with you taking that process and the ultimate standards and operating against them?
317 MR. MAKER: I think it makes a lot of sense for the industry to have the lead role in drafting these codes in the sense that they have the expertise that CCTS doesn't have in terms of how they do business.
318 There is a reason that the Commission wanted CCTS to have this piece and perhaps why the Governor in Council did as well.
319 To me, the issue will be the challenge around approval. You know we have a variety of stakeholders around the boardroom table. We also have a lot of different interests among the various stakeholder groups as well.
320 And we require an extraordinary resolution of two-thirds of the industry directors and two-thirds of the independent directors to accomplish the approval. I see that as being challenging.
321 THE CHAIRPERSON: How does the special resolution approval process in CCTS for these types of issues compare to say Australia? Does the Australian consumer complaints organization, TIO, or whatever they are called, do they set standards and industry codes and, if so, why can they do it and we can't?
322 MR. MAKER: I have limited knowledge about this, so I will share it with you somewhat reluctantly. I bet my friend Mr. Lawford knows more about this and perhaps you can ask him.
323 But my understanding is that it is an objective of the Australian Telecommunications Act for the industry to self-regulate using code-making processes. And there is an industry body, the Communications Alliance, which is devoted to doing exactly that. So the industry as I understand it, goes out and drafts these codes and must follow a prescribed process in order to -- which includes consultations with the ombudsman, other potential public interest groups, depending on the nature of the code, and with consumer groups.
324 And once those consultations are done, the industry can submit those regulations or those codes to the regulator which has an obligation to register them. And the TIO, the Telecom Industry Ombudsman, uses them in the course of their complaint handling activities.
325 So as I understand it, and I apologize if I have misspoken, but to my understanding it is really the regulator that sends this out to the industry on the basis of a statutory direction and it's the regulator that has the ultimate signoff as to whether this is a code that has met the requirements for registration as an industry code.
326 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. And the cost of developing that code is borne by who in Australia, do you know?
327 MR. MAKER: I don't know the details, I am sorry.
328 THE CHAIRPERSON: Maybe Mr. Lawford can help us, you are right.
329 My last set of questions is with regard to awareness, consumer awareness. We spent sometime earlier talking about the program that you have and the fact that now I guess twice a year bill inserts or bills carry the recognition of the fact that CCTS does exist. Do you measure in any way the audience reach of these bills and whether this is the best way, the most effective way of informing all consumers of the existence of CCTS, its role, and the process under which consumers can actually benefit by the CCTS?
330 MR. MAKER: No, Mr. Chair, we haven't done any formal measurement of that particular aspect primarily because I think we have all of the informal information we need. When we know that one of our large providers is scheduled to do a bill run with our message on it we know that within a few days the phones will start ringing off the hook, and historically that is what has happened.
331 So we know that that is by far the most effective tool to get the name of CCTS in front of consumers. And, of course, considering the large proportion of our complaints that come from billing issues, it's the perfect place to do that. But of course, it is not the only awareness initiative that we have partnered with our TSP members on. They have also put our prescribed message in the white pages that they publish and, more importantly, we have identified, you know, their websites as a key place for consumers to go.
332 And so the TSP members all have agreed to put on their websites the details of their internal complaint handling process as well as a prescribed notice about CCTS and a link to our website. And it's required that these be located in a spot, and I forget the exact language, but reasonably prominent location on the site that consumers should be able to find in a relatively simple way.
333 THE CHAIRPERSON: Does CCTS have its own budget dollars for awareness or is everything filtered through the individual members?
334 MR. MAKER: No. We did have a budget line last year and we -- actually, sorry, in the three budgets since I have been with CCTS we have had a budget line specifically devoted to this each year.
335 THE CHAIRPERSON: And where do you spend your money?
336 MR. MAKER: Well, last year we spent part of it of on the rebuild of our website. We spent part of it on the creation of an electronic brochure. We spent part of it on the cost of mailing those brochures. We sent material to Office of Consumer Affairs. What we tried to do is target key referral points.
337 Where do consumers go when they don't know where to go? So places like Office of Consumer Affairs, Service Canada, Provincial Consumer Affairs organizations, parts of the ministries and their MPs, MPPs. So we targeted those organizations and we sent hard copies of our brochure to all of those organizations.
338 This year, as part of our initiatives for 2010/2011, we have done a variety of other things. First thing we did was try to -- historically, we have been reactive to media. When somebody wanted a story and contacted us, we are more than happy to talk to them.
339 In conjunction with the issuance of our annual report, that really is our key communications piece. And so we actually engaged a third-party public relations firm that assisted us by going out and targeting media, trying to create stories for the issuance of the annual report and the issues raised in it. And we understand that we had over 100 media articles in English Canada and at least a doze in Quebec that we are aware of as a result of these efforts.
340 We have also retained a firm to go out and do a pilot project for us, to monitor social media. We think that with the growth of social media these days, that that might be an effective way to reach out to consumers, especially in a particular demographic. We don't know for sure, so we have asked for this provider to do an audit and report back to us on whether they think there's good value there and, if so, what the best approach for working in the social media would be.
341 And of course, on top of that we are continuing all of our stakeholder outreach with all the usual, as we say, with consumer organizations, with provincial consumer affairs departments and ministries, with the CRTC, although not since this proceeding was initiated. So yes, and there's a budget for all of those activities.
342 THE CHAIRPERSON: Have you contemplated or looked at public service announcements as a vehicle to broaden information?
343 MR. MAKER: Yes, we have actually. It is one element of the report that was provided to the Board in the course of adopting the 2010/2011 initiatives, and so it is something that is in our minds. Subject to how much of our budget we spend on doing other things, we may actually do that as well or at least try to do that. We are keeping that, you know, on the sort of -- not on the front burner yet, but it is certainly an option as well.
344 THE CHAIRPERSON: Most of your members are broadcasters as well and they have obligations for public service announcements, which are relatively inexpensive. And so it is, I would think, a reasonably cost-effective way of extending reach broadly across the country through either radio or television or other sources of media.
345 MR. MAKER: Your point is well taken, Mr. Chair.
346 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Those are all my questions at this time. I thought it might be opportune to break for 15 minutes because I am sure my colleagues would have some questions as well.
347 So let's break until 11:10, thank you.
--- Upon recessing at 1057
--- Upon resuming at 1114
348 THE SECRETARY: Order please, a l'ordre s'il vous plait.
349 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, I thought I would start with my far left and work through each one of our commissioners who have questions.
350 So, Mr. Denton, you are on.
351 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Thanks for the warning, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, hi, this won't hurt at all.
352 COMMISSIONER DENTON: One of the things that interests me about this is that when I looked at your foundational order in council they ask you to establish codes of conduct. And for various reasons, which seem to be quite reasonable in your circumstances, you haven't been able to come up with them.
353 So I have two questions relating to that. One is is there some magic in codes of conduct that we don't -- I mean, are they absolutely necessary, are they necessary, are they useful, would it be better, would your functioning be better if you had one? That is one bundle of questions. And the second one to go on from there is if you people are not the appropriate -- if you don't have the appropriate forum in which to develop it, what might be the appropriate forum in which to develop one?
354 So the first one is, given that you are required to establish such codes of conduct and given the fact that you haven't been able to, is this really a problem or is it imaginary or is it real and to what extent?
355 MR. MAKER: That is another broad question.
356 COMMISSIONER DENTON: You have 15 minutes, neatness counts.
357 MR. MAKER: I will be a little less than that. The first part of your question was about codes in general. And in our opening we attempted to make it very clear how important we think codes are in a due regulated marketplace. We think that they set minimum standards for TSPs in terms of their own market conduct, they provide consumers with reasonable expectations. And for CCTS they are terrific, because they really assist us in our complaint resolution activities.
358 So we get a complaint about something that isn't strictly speaking within the confines of the contract and we have to decide what to do with it. What should the provider have done?
359 If there is a code of conduct in place, we know what the minimum standard is. This should not be about what CCTS, of its own volition, thinks. It is much better if there is some sort of independent, maybe standard is not the right word, but standard or code or provision that would allow us to measure how this TSP treated this customer in comparison to some understood benchmark, even if it is a minimum standard.
360 COMMISSIONER DENTON: So the answer is they would be useful?
361 MR. MAKER: Very useful.
362 COMMISSIONER DENTON: The next part of the question is, since you haven't been able to develop one, is there or can you envisage a forum in which they might be developed and what would be its characteristics?
363 MR. MAKER: I think there are any number of potential models. We have had just one attempt, so in fairness to CCTS -- and I think it was an attempt on a topic that was a controversial one in and of itself perhaps. And if we had to choose which one would be our first attempt, maybe we would have bitten off something different.
364 But in any event there are lots of potential models for doing this. And certainly, there is a role for CCTS to play in any of them. Certainly, we have the complaint information, we understand what the issues are, and we understand how they are impacting consumers.
365 Where we are short really I suppose is on the industry expertise. I mean, we can go out and retain a consultant to come on board and advise us as to how the consultant thinks we should go about doing this. But in the end of the day it is really, in my view, the industry's role to identify those areas of expertise.
366 I think that the desire, as I understand it, is to have a code making process that balances the product that comes out as among the competing interests that will be involved in using the code. And I understand that and I do agree that it is important, the question is where should that be situated and in what way?
367 And in response to that, I again repeat that we can approve industry codes, but it requires an extraordinary resolution of our voting members and, for the reasons we have described, I think that is challenging.
368 COMMISSIONER DENTON: So would something like the CRTC's CISC process, which is industry and consumers and whoever wishes to show up, is that a candidate in your mind for where such a thing might be developed?
369 MR. MAKER: I am not that familiar with the CISC process other than in general terms. Certainly to the extent that what you are talking about is a collaborative effort as among those who have in interest in the subject matter that is being debated. That is certainly one approach, yes.
370 COMMISSIONER DENTON: The second range of questions I have is that -- I come at this from a bias, my first job in government was in machinery, a government PCO back in the stone age. And as I look at your foundational documents, I am a little concerned about them.
371 Do you feel that your foundational documents are adequate for your tasks or do you think that it might be necessary to seek either confirmation, expansion or expansion of your powers by some act of another order in council?
372 MR. MAKER: The board of directors has undertaken to do a review of all of our foundational documents, our constating document and, as you know, recently started with the procedural code as the primary customer-facing document and did a lengthy and detailed review of the procedural code and, as a result of that, a substantial number of amendments were made.
373 So that is a process that this committee of the board intends to continue, with the bylaw and with the membership agreement. And there is no indication so far that there has been a need to go elsewhere for additional authority.
374 COMMISSIONER DENTON: So you feel comfortable then that the basis of your authority to act and to resolve complaints is satisfactory for you at the time being?
375 MR. MAKER: Yes, I would say so.
376 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Okay, thank you.
377 Mr. Chairman, those are my questions for the time being.
378 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Mr. Denton.
379 I just have a follow-up question on that issue. The Commission approved your constating documents three years ago. As you go about modifying them and getting board resolutions to make them altered, do you believe you need the Commission's approval for that?
380 MR. MAKER: The constating documents that were created as a result of the original proceedings contain provisions for their amendment, so they speak directly into how those are to be amended and they don't contain any requirement of CRTC approval.
381 THE CHAIRPERSON: So you are saying that the board, in their wisdom, can affect changes perhaps to the detriment of what the public may believe is to their best interest and there will be no recourse at all to the Commission or to another body?
382 I mean, technically, you can vote to dissolve the CCTS. I mean, would you not think you would have to come back before us again to sort of say this is a board resolution, do you approve it?
383 MR. MAKER: Well, as I say, the documentation is quite clear that no approval is required, and so in the case of the recent amendments none was sought. You know, the view of the board has always been, since its inception, that its goal and its purpose is to use its governance, expertise and the operational experience it develops to improve CCTS and what we do.
384 And that is the very purpose of conducting these reviews and making changes. And certainly, those changes require the approval of, in most cases, you know, five out of the seven directors given the various voting thresholds.
385 So I think you have a built-in check and balance in the board structure to make sure that the board doesn't go off and do something like surrender the letters patent or something that's contrary to the public interest objectives that were identified in the Order in Council and in 2007-130.
386 THE CHAIRPERSON: But surely you would believe that if in fact the board did something that was perhaps seen to be not in the public interest, or in a public's interest, there would need to be confirmation by either the CRTC or the government in power to accept those recommendations.
387 MR. MAKER: The view of the board has never been that its objective is to diminish any of the public interest objectives that have been identified for CCTS. That's never happened and I'm not concerned that it's going to happen either.
388 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. We will come back to it, I'm sure.
389 Commissioner Patrone...?
390 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and good morning.
391 In considering the question of voluntary versus mandatory membership I would like you to address the sentiment in some quarters that there is an element of redundancy and inefficiency to what you do, given the discipline on service levels imposed for market forces.
392 In other words, if the industry in most markets can be trusted to impose price discipline due to market forces, ultimately shouldn't it be trusted to process complaints as well?
393 MR. MAKER: Well, the industry indeed does focus on processing its own complaints and I do take the view that the industry wishes to resolve its own consumer complaints.
394 The objective in an organization like ours really is to level the playing field, to give consumers redress for the individual consumer against a larger TSP that really controls the rules of the game in terms of the relationship service and delivery.
395 So I don't see any redundancy there and in fact as our numbers -- as the numbers of complaints that we receive and accept continues to climb I see less and less of it.
396 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: In a monopoly situation, yes, you could make the argument that the rules of the game are dictated by a company, but I mean I guess the direction I'm going in is whether or not competition itself and market forces are in fact the real rules of the game in terms of companies desiring to compete effectively in the market. I don't know if there's an answer to that.
397 But to your answer the first question, do complaints generally come to you after the customer has tried and failed to get satisfaction from the service provider?
398 MR. MAKER: Yes, that's a requirement.
399 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Okay. And going forward, do you see yourself as an avenue of first or second resort?
400 In other words, do you see any of that changing in terms of a role that you would provide for yourself as far as the customer is concerned?
401 MR. MAKER: No, Mr. Commissioner. I think it's important that we not be the first resort. We think it's important to give TSPs the opportunity to satisfy their own customers and solve their own problems before they come to us.
402 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: I ask because I'm interested in the degree to which the messaging -- because of course as you get better known then presumably -- and you are going to be fielding more and more complaints -- and I'm wondering going forward whether or not you may start to be seen as the avenue of first resort. So, in other words, if I'm not happy, for whatever reason, rather than even bother with my service provider I'm just going to -- I have the CCTS on speed dial.
403 MR. MAKER: You make a good point, Mr. Commissioner. In drafting the messages that we are using and the public awareness activities that we are undertaking we have been very careful to try and not send that message. So we have drafted them in a way that attempts to make clear that if you are a customer with a problem, call your provider. And when consumers call us first, which happens, that we refer them right back to the provider. We don't want to get in between the relationship between the consumer and the provider when there is still a very good possibility that that thing might get resolved inter se.
404 So I don't see any risk that we are going to make a choice to prefer to be at the front line there.
405 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: I'm just thinking in terms of measuring success. The more the better isn't it, from your vantage point?
406 I mean, if you get more complaints it shows that the public is more aware of what you do and how you do it, and the more you process you show the degree to which you are relevant in society and in this environment, and how you balance that an offset that with this view that no, you send them back to the service provider and you say "No, really, try to deal with your service provider" rather than trying to, in a sense, show the degree to which you are a successful body and process even more complaints.
407 MR. MAKER: I think we have been very frank in saying that we don't measure our success purely on numbers. So we recognize that when we say -- we trumpet about -- we trumpet how many more complaints we had or more contacts we had than the year before, we don't say that that means we are better.
408 We recognize that there are a whole variety of factors that influence how much work comes in our doors, it's how good a job we are at making ourselves known, it's how good a job the providers do at managing their own complaints, it's about how the providers conduct themselves in the marketplace and the activities that they do or don't undertake that satisfy or don't satisfy consumers. There is a long formula that would include a whole number of those kinds of things.
409 So we certainly don't intend to pump our numbers by asking people to come here first. That's not the intention.
410 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Speaking of conduct, do you think you incent good behaviour on the part of the service providers?
411 MR. MAKER: I'm not sure that I would, with respect, characterize it as good or bad behaviour.
412 I think TSPs know that bringing a complaint to us carries a cost with it, so part of the reason for that structure was to incent them to manage as many of these complaints as possible in-house.
413 In addition to that, you know, I think that when they read our annual report, when we talk to them on a case-by-case basis to discuss the ways we look at complaints and why any particular complaint might he found against them, all those kinds of things are intended to incent their behaviour.
414 Sometimes we can incent their behaviour in the marketplace, although, you know, that -- I guess it remains to be seen because we are still pretty new at that, but we certainly can incent their behaviour at the complaint level, how they look at a complaint, what steps they take to investigate it, how much resources and the seniority of those resources that apply to it. Presumably if we keep making awards against them that's something they have to look at.
415 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: So the fact that you exist may have some impact on the service levels and the way that service providers will be processing complaints.
416 Did I hear you correctly?
417 MR. MAKER: I think the extent to which that can happen will be individual for each TSP. They will have to make their own business decisions about whether they -- what steps they want to take and the way they manage their own businesses, which complaints they are prepared to pay to resolve as opposed to pay to go upstream. I think that's very much going to be an individual decision for each TSP.
418 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: One last question.
419 Is it your understanding that service providers inform a complainant that they have recourse if they are not satisfied with the level of -- you know, with how their complaint is being processed by the TSP.
420 Does that happen?
421 MR. MAKER: One of the commitments undertaken by the TSP is in the '09-10 public awareness initiatives was to insert into their training materials and to train their staff to do so. Now, we don't require them to do that at the frontline, we don't expect the 1-800 call centre person to really know that, but we do expect that in the event there are subsequent levels, higher levels of escalation within the TSP, that that information gets passed on to the customer.
422 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Yes. I guess I'm asking whether it's your understanding that that is in fact happening. I realize that there is an expectation there.
423 MR. MAKER: Right. We have not measured it. We have some informal reason to believe that it's not happening very well yet, but we haven't monitored it in any formal way.
424 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Those are my questions.
425 Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
426 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
427 Commissioner Morin... ?
428 COMMISSIONER MORIN: Thanks, Mr. Chair.
429 I want to talk about the public awareness.
430 This morning the Chair asked many questions, but if you look at the numbers, last year over 40,000 contacts have been made with -- between the public and the CCTS, but the number of complaints were less than 40,000.
431 You said also this morning that the TIO ombudsman in Australia is a world leader. If you look at their numbers it's amazing, because last year there were 260,000 contacts, an increase of over 50 percent over the previous year, and of these contacts 230,000 were complaints in scope.
432 So now the question I will ask you is, you said also this morning that the most effective tool is bill inserts twice a year.
433 Wouldn't it be more easier for everyone if each telecom stakeholder put a standard notation on a bill, on a paper bill or on an electronic bill -- because I think that at least 10 percent of the bills are now provided electronically -- will it be more simple to just put a standard notation? If you look at the different bills you can see that most companies have a huge space to put a standard notation, not twice a year but every month.
434 MR. MAKER: Well, Mr. Commissioner, we had lengthy discussions with our TSP members on this particular issue, as well as around all of the initiatives in which they were going to undertake, and the consensus was that really among the TSP's there was no consensus. In other words, each one does its own billing in its own way -- and actually, as we have learned, some of them don't even do their own billing -- but there was a push obviously to see if we could increase the number of regular mentions on bills and basically the response from the industry was that "We have limited space, we have limited characters", and many of the providers have a limited number of characters and a limited amount of room in which they can put information on a monthly basis and that many of those are reserved for either regulatory or promotional announcements.
435 So the consensus that we achieved following discussion with the members and that the board was that we would start by doing it biannually. That doesn't mean that that's where we will end, but that certainly seemed like a reasonable starting point from zero, from square one.
436 COMMISSIONER MORIN: So will it be printed on the bill or will it be an insert
437 MR. MAKER: The providers have a choice to either put it right on the bill or to provide a bill insert.
438 My understanding is that most of them have chosen to put it right on the bill.
439 COMMISSIONER MORIN: On the bill.
440 Could you give us some names? Because I'm a subscriber of many providers and I didn't see anything over the last six months.
441 MR. MAKER: It's interesting because I do the same thing that you do, I look at my own invoices and I'm a consumer as well and in my house we deal with I think four different TSP members and I have seen it on a number of occasions. Of course I'm looking for it.
442 So I cannot explain why your particular provider may not have placed it on your bill and certainly it's something we could explore, but to the best of my knowledge the TSP members have agreed to do this and there's no evidence that they are not doing it.
443 COMMISSIONER MORIN: Because when you say that there is no space, if I look to one of these -- this one is from Bell -- just at the second page there is a lot of white space available, and if you look at the end, the same. If you look at the fifth page, a lot of space is still available for a straight standard notation.
444 Have you agreed on a standard notation with the phone number and the Internet address?
445 MR. MAKER: Yes. The language is prescribed. It's mandatory language that they are supposed to use.
446 COMMISSIONER MORIN: Those are my questions.
448 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
449 Commissioner Duncan... ?
450 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Thank you, Chairman.
451 I'm just following up on Michel Morin's question because that was my thought as well, but I wasn't going as far as him. I wasn't thinking that it would be every month, I was just thinking could you increase it to more than two.
452 So I understand how the discussion probably would have went, but given that it was so successful in increasing awareness, it certainly seems like something worth exploring and at least increasing more than two.
453 I take it from your comment that that's something that you are considering?
454 MR. MAKER: Well, it's certainly something that the board can consider and discuss, absolutely.
455 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Now, I just wonder, I understand the limited space and limited characters if you want it on the bill itself, but the bill insert, it may be more costly. I can't comment on that of course, but a bill insert I think you could have every month if that was the route you decided to go.
456 MR. MAKER: Really I can't speak to how each provider does this. I'm reporting in general what the feedback was from our industry members and that's about as much insight as I can give you on that.
457 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: But you did say they could either print it on the bill or include an insert?
458 MR. MAKER: Yes, that's right, they have the option.
459 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: So they have the option. It doesn't mean they have the ability to do both I guess is what you are suggesting.
460 MR. MAKER: Right.
461 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: And I was also wondering -- I'm interested because I did want to ask you about the message and I understand that, from what you just said, the language is prescribed, which surprises me taking into account what you said earlier, that you got a lot of calls, people asking questions that I would have thought might have been explained in that message.
462 Your surprise mirrors mine, quite frankly.
463 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Okay
464 MR. MAKER: We did not think that we would get as many, "Who are you? What are you doing on my phone bill" kind of calls, because we did tailor the language specifically to try and prevent that period.
465 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Maybe from the experience you will think of ways to amend it or maybe that's just what's going to happen.
466 I was just wondering, I guess one of the most striking things about your report, and I thought it was a very good report, are the two instances where you set out, for example on page 27:
"It is also expected that industry codes of conducts will be developed to ensure fairness of treatment for customers." (As read)
467 This is where you have identified a specific problem, and you have identified it as unfair I would say based on your comment. And then in another spot:
"We therefore strongly urge the industry to find a solution that does not require consumers to pay two providers for the same period When only one is actually providing the service." (As read)
468 So this is in your report. And the report, does it -- it doesn't require board approval or input or comment.
469 MR. MAKER: Yes, the annual report does require voting member approval.
470 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Does it?
471 MR. MAKER: Yes.
472 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Just a majority vote?
473 It doesn't matter, I can look it up because I have it here.
474 MR. MAKER: Yes, it's just a general normal majority of the board -- or of the voting members actually.
475 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Yes. So I'm wondering, when you wrote that or when it was approved, what's the expectation? Is it a cry for help? Are you saying to the Commission or the government, "Find a solution?", because obviously the members -- if they had a solution you wouldn't have had to put this in here.
476 MR. MAKER: Well, I wouldn't say that there isn't a solution, what I would say is that under the Order in Council part of what we are supposed to be doing is identifying industry trends and issues and so this is an example of CCTS doing so.
477 So we have pointed out the concern to the industry. I suppose you could say the ball is in the industry's court right now.
478 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Okay. And as we know there is -- not that we are aware of at any rate, maybe you are -- any structured approach for handling that at this point?
479 MR. MAKER: At this point in time there is not a structured approach in place for dealing with it.
480 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Okay.
481 Now, if I just go back to some clarification things, if I call and you ask me, I gather, have I already contacted my service provider, does that get registered in the 43,000?
482 MR. MAKER: Yes, that would be considered a contact and it would be part of the 43,000.
483 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: But you don't, until I call back and say, "Yes, I have talked to them", you don't count me as a complaint?
484 MR. MAKER: That's correct.
485 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: All right.
486 MR. MAKER: Once you have spoken to them and if the complaint is unresolved we will look at it, determine whether it falls within our mandate and then, if it does, we will accept it and then it's a complaint number.
487 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Okay. And they have 30 days to resolve it, as you mentioned.
488 So you have a follow-up procedure to make sure that you get the response?
489 MR. MAKER: We don't really follow up with them and say, "Please send us your response." If they don't respond we just escalate the file to the next level for investigations.
490 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Oh, automatically.
491 MR. MAKER: That's right.
492 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Okay.
493 MR. MAKER: Now, there may be a situation in which a TSP has had a staffing issue and they are behind on a number and so --
494 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Certainly.
495 MR. MAKER: -- they will contact us and ask for a little extra time and typically that, you know, is something we can work out. But if it's silence then we will just escalate the file to the next level.
496 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Excellent. Okay.
497 So then how do you confirm that the customer is satisfied, in writing or do you have a formal process for that?
498 MR. MAKER: Yes. My understanding of the process is that when the provider writes back to us with the resolution, they have to demonstrate that they have also written to the customer, that the customer has been copied.
499 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Okay. Does that assume that they have been satisfied?
500 They will come back to a guess if they are not.
501 MR. MAKER: Correct.
502 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Yes, okay.
503 And I notice here in one part you were talking about the participating service providers and at page 8 you say:
"They also have placed on their sites the details of their internal complaint handling process in order that customers can follow the progress of their complaint." (As read)
504 So if I was a customer and I went in and I filed a complaint with a provider, what would I expect to see?
505 MR. MAKER: I'm sorry, I didn't catch the end of your question.
506 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: What would I expect to see? Like you say that in order that customers can follow the progress of their complaint they can go on their Website I guess it is?
507 MR. MAKER: Well, no, maybe we could have framed that a bit more clearly.
508 The objective was for providers to explain to their customers on the website how their internal complaint handling process works, so that customers can know: Okay, I have spoken to the call centre. I am still not satisfied. I have spoken to the supervisor. What is going to happen next?
509 So they don't rush off to some other process if they know there is still another step within their internal provider.
510 It's just so they know where in that process they are and what their reasonable expectation is of the handling of the complaint by the provider.
511 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: So it's a description of the general process, not individualized.
512 MR. MAKER: That's right, exactly.
513 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Not like tracking with the courier companies.
514 MR. MAKER: That's correct, yes.
515 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: That's fine. Thank you very much.
516 MR. MAKER: Thank you.
517 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
518 Commissioner Menzies...
519 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
520 I have, actually, two questions, and the first one should be fairly brief.
521 What is the issue with the filing of the Annual Report in 180 days, as opposed to 90 days, and your request for that?
522 MR. MAKER: As we indicated, most of our resources are on the ground, dealing with complaints, and particularly as our complaint numbers in the first quarter were skyrocketing, and they likely will continue to, it takes us -- and particularly with our current system -- it takes us a long time to develop the statistics, to determine the message, to do all of the writing, and to try and then get this out for design, because we want this to be a professional product. It really requires many of our staff to down their tools from their day job and go to the Annual Report job, and they have to do that because we have such a concise -- a short period of time in which to get this thing done.
523 So part of our wish list, if I may put it that way, is to have more time to do this, and we thought that another 90 days would be a reasonable expectation.
524 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: The other question is in terms of what is in scope and out of scope. Certainly, PIAC's document makes reference to the idea that customer service is something that is out of scope, and I need to understand what the meaning of customer service is, because that, on the face of it, seems a little odd. There must be something that I am missing in terms of what you have kept in scope and out of scope.
525 MR. MAKER: We are obviously careful not to describe something as customer service if it has another in-scope issue attached to it.
526 What we don't do is, we try very hard not to tell providers how to do business. The most common customer service thing is: I call the 1-800 number and I have to sit on hold for 45 minutes waiting for an operator. I don't think that's right. Mr. Commissioner, do something about that.
527 That would be something that we would consider to be a customer service complaint.
528 I think that each provider can decide what resources it needs to apply to the phone queue, and if it wants to annoy its customers by making them wait longer, then their customers, in many cases, have options.
529 That is the kind of complaint that has always been considered outside of mandate.
530 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So the option you would be perhaps making reference to is, if you can phone a competitor and transfer your business to them faster than the incumbent can take your complaint, that is a viable option?
531 MR. MAKER: Not always, but there are a number of things that --
532 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: There are other options, though. I was just trying to clarify what your understanding was of a customer service complaint.
533 When somebody calls, do you actually steer them into an area that is best suited for their complaint?
534 If they phone up and say, "Look, I am upset about the service I am receiving," my inquiry is regarding the nature of the conversation that then takes place with you.
535 Do you say, "Well, if it's about service, we can't help you," click, or is it, "Can you please describe the exact nature of your issue," and then you direct it into a portal that is suitable to it?
536 MR. MAKER: Yes, assuming that the complaint is about one of our members and it raises, for example, an issue of customer service, we don't say, "Too bad," click.
537 What we say is that that particular complaint is not within our mandate, and at each TSP we have a contact person to whom we are to refer in-mandate complaints, and we also refer out-of-mandate complaints to them.
538 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
539 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
540 Commissioner Simpson...
541 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you very much.
542 Mr. Maker, given the full understanding that the desire of the organization has to be indeterminate with respect to whether it wants to grow its membership or not, let alone the methodology by which it would do so, one of the prime driving forces behind the creation of the CCTS was to give the consumer some form of dispute resolution mechanism, and in looking at the 1,600 complaints, or attempts to complain, from a non-member -- or by non-members of the association, you have had to turn those complaints back.
543 Here is my question. Would it be a good idea to look at the CCTS having an opportunity through this Commission's imposition of some kind of measure that members who are in violation on a repeat bases might be forced to join your association, and pay the costs of doing so, to the satisfaction of your association, so that there isn't an administrative burden?
544 It would be sort of like a "three strikes and you're in" policy.
545 MR. MAKER: I have never heard it put quite that way before, Mr. Commissioner.
546 I do have some concerns about how you would operationalize that and how you would plan around it.
547 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: But given that those problems can be solved, because they are usually financially driven first -- and not drawing you into the complexity of stakeholder preference -- is this something that we should be looking at as a mechanism to protect consumers?
548 I am thinking particularly because, with the increased competition in this marketplace, which is being encouraged by the industry and by government to see the consumers getting the options they deserve, that 1,600 number is going to grow, and I am trying to give the consumers, as well as your own association, the opportunity to be able to satisfactorily deal with them.
549 MR. MAKER: Clearly, we are about availability to consumers. There is no question that that's an objective that we share.
550 I am a bit concerned about the possibility that it's just the bad actors that are required to join the CCTS. In fact, being a really good actor, and having really clean hands, is a really good message for your customers, too.
551 Imagine if the CCTS published its annual report with a list of each TSP, and next to you there are a bunch of zeroes. To me, that is a very good message.
552 I almost see that as preferable than requiring membership of a recalcitrant TSP that doesn't play nicely with its customers.
553 Certainly there is a role for that TSP being a member as well, but to identify it as a candidate based on the fact that it may give less than standard customer service alone is something that I think would require a greater degree of thought.
554 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Oh, undoubtedly. But I think from your answer you are saying that people who don't need the court system should have access to it, and those who are repeat offenders do not go to court?
555 MR. MAKER: I didn't say that, or I didn't mean to say that. All I am saying is that the criteria for membership could include, but should not be limited to, I think, capturing those who have offended against some standard of customer service, whatever that might be.
556 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay. Thank you.
557 THE CHAIRPERSON: I just have one follow-up question. You were hypothesizing that maybe a CCTS seal of approval might be something that would be user friendly, industry beneficial.
558 From your understanding of your constating documents, what would it take to create a CCTS seal of approval?
559 MR. MAKER: I certainly didn't mean to imply that the CCTS would issue some sort of gold medal for those providers that meet some defined criteria, nor do I think that we have the authority to do so, although I would query whether we require any specific authority to do that.
560 I think the message I am trying to convey is that, if you have a big provider that has really low complaint numbers in our annual report, that is the seal of approval.
561 THE CHAIRPERSON: But that wasn't the question that I asked.
562 MR. MAKER: I'm sorry.
563 THE CHAIRPERSON: If there was to be a seal of approval, would it take unanimity of your Board, would it take a special resolution, is it a unanimous decision?
564 What would it take?
565 MR. MAKER: It is not a step that is contemplated by our constating documents at present, so...
566 My understanding of the bylaw is that it would be a matter for a simple majority of the Board.
567 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Thank you.
568 Seeing that it is just short of 12 o'clock, let's take a break for lunch and reconvene at 1:30.
569 I would imagine that you folks will be around for the next two days anyway.
570 Thank you very much.
571 MR. MAKER: Thank you.
572 THE CHAIRPERSON: We will break now.
--- Upon recessing at 1159
--- Upon resuming at 1332
573 THE CHAIRPERSON: Good afternoon, Mr. Lawford, Ms Maher. I guess it's over to you.
574 MR. LAWFORD: Thank you.
575 Commissioners and Mr. Chair, my name is John Lawford, and I am counsel to the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, which has engaged me to represent the Consumers' Association of Canada and Canada Without Poverty in this proceeding.
576 With me today is Eden Maher, articling student at PIAC.
577 We will answer your questions in order.
578 First, membership: The CAC/CWP want all telecommunications service providers to become members of the CCTS. There is no convincing reason why this cannot and should not be done, while there are many sound consumer protection reasons why it should.
579 All consumers should benefit from the CCTS. There should not be a group of second-class customers deprived of the rapid, free resolution of complaints that others are able to access. We have two glaring examples right now: two new wireless providers, Public Mobile and Mobilicity, both are not CCTS members. It is simply nonsensical that the government would bend in every direction to allow these players to enter the wireless market, yet not ensure that customers benefit from market entry.
580 It is also -- and I hate to say this -- quite unfair to the established wireless providers. Some of them have pointed out, as did the Commission in Decision 2007-130, that the Order in Council to create the consumer agency spoke of all telecommunications service providers, not just some, and not just the big ones.
581 If the Commission meant to help the CCTS self-organize by having the big players set it up and get it running, that is now, if I may borrow a comment from TELUS, "job done", and it is now time to require that all TSPs become members, as contemplated by Cabinet.
582 Please also take a look at the number of complaints the CCTS had to reject which were in scope but were from non-members, which is found at page 15 of their Annual Report of this year -- 1,621. This represents, had they all been taken, one-quarter of eligible complaints.
583 I will return to what is an eligible complaint later, because that is a problem, but for now, even if we take the lower number of complaints from this group which are said to be within scope -- or those that were "subject matter not recorded" -- somewhere between 200 and 800 -- how can we possibly reject 1 in 10 consumer complaints that are identical to others?
584 Finally, the administrative requirements of CCTS membership are not onerous. For a smaller company, it is obvious from the CCTS statistics that few complaints will come in, likely under 10 a year. Most complaints are resolved in the early stages. This would indicate the need for about one person for CCTS complaints, likely a change to a job description, with no need to hire.
585 The only other real administration in an ongoing way is to pay the fees, which, based on the new structure, and with more members, should be quite minor for these parties, who will also benefit from the CCTS' resolution services.
586 Moving to governance and the voting structure, in our initial comments we suggested two new consumer directors. We still think that this is a good idea, but we can see that the companies are concerned of losing control of an industry-run body. We are content to leave the director structure for now, if the voting thresholds are changed.
587 As demonstrated by the Disconnections and Deposits Code problem, the present extraordinary voting threshold of two-thirds of industry directors for code approval effectively means that the CCTS cannot pass a code that the wireless, wireline, internet industries, or cable, telephone and resellers dislike. This is too high a threshold for any substantive action.
588 A requirement of only a simple majority vote of the Board can solve this dilemma, provided it is the telecommunications industry that actually develops the draft code.
589 In that case, it is unlikely that a majority of Board members would not approve it. However, were the code proposed by the industry not favoured by the sitting industry directors, it could still be passed by a majority of independent directors if it were judged in the best interests of consumers and tolerable to the industry.
590 Codes are not there for the protection of the industry, they are there as substitutes for regulation and to help consumers. Some resistance from TSPs is normal, but it should not amount to an effective veto.
591 Mandate: CAC/CWP have grave problems with the present scope of the CCTS mandate. This is clear from the Annual Report -- 9,320 attempted complaints from consumers were rejected. That's a huge number.
592 Where do they come from? Firstly, the dreaded "Other" category -- 6,232 complaints.
593 What is "Other"? At the very least, the CCTS should be required to publicly report what complaint issues these are. We simply have no idea what makes up this huge swath of potential complaints. We suspect that it has to do with the severely long list of out-of-scope issues in the bylaws; however, it probably also includes many non-forborne issues and cable and satellite TV complaints, but we don't know.
594 The Commission should expand the CCTS' recovery to customers in price-regulated areas. The fact is that customers never use the antiquated Part VI procedure under the Telecommunications Rules of Procedure, and it is not well-suited to dealing with small-amount, high-volume complaints. Simply because a customer's price is regulated does not mean that they will not be double-billed or improperly billed for regulated charges, nor that they will all experience perfect service.
595 The policy direction does not dictate that these non-forborne complaints cannot be included in the CCTS mandate -- if the market has not manifestly delivered the policy objectives -- and it has not. There is no CCTS equivalent provided by the market for non-forborne areas. People using wired telephone in rural and remote areas have no less need of an independent, third party, easy to access complaints mechanism as anyone in cities.
596 Cable or satellite TV services complaints are being rejected, which is why CAC/CWP called upon the CRTC to include cable and satellite TV in the CCTS.
597 We note that once IPTV really takes off, there will be pressure to call it "broadcasting" and it will be excluded from CCTS' scope. But to consumers it will look a lot like an internet connection, and will have similar service and pricing issues.
598 As platform convergence becomes a reality, the rational choice is to include all transmissions, be they telecommunications or broadcasting.
599 The remaining exclusions from scope are mostly from three sources, all of which we believe should be entirely included in the CCTS' scope: customer service -- the 610 complaints rejected; pricing, which was 382; and policies, 848.
600 Let's start first with customer service. We can start with the comment that it is ironic, isn't it, that the complaints body can't take complaints about poor service. What poor service! Seriously, this category covers these problems -- and some others: excessive wait times; disconnection; simple rudeness; lack of familiarity with policies or rules, which is really poor training.
601 At the moment, the CCTS does not track these failings as individual complaint issues. However, we view them as serious, separate failings that deserve to be separate complaints. Most serious to us are failures to know enough of company policies and rules to resolve a complaint, because in those cases a consumer should have a problem resolved by the initial CSR, but is forced to try another CSR. This repetition causes many consumers to just give up their complaint.
602 Likewise, excessive waiting times, disconnections and excessive call transfers externalize the cost of complaints handling to customers. This externalization leads to the abandonment of just complaints.
603 Rudeness is not excusable and can amount to intimidation, which may lead to complaint abandonment.
604 We see no rational basis for the exclusion of these customer service failings from the CCTS' scope, at least those that impede the customer from resolving a just complaint.
605 The Commission should direct the CCTS to take these issues and to deal with them as separate complaint issues.
606 We note that the Australian TIO treats them in this way and has commenced a campaign among members to improve customer service, which they call "connect.resolve".
607 As for pricing, it is not clear to us that such excluded complaints do not include situations where the customer was confused about the operation of pricing in his or her particular case, and that the TSP refuses to correct the misapprehension.
608 At the least, the CCTS should confirm that pricing means only disgruntlement at current pricing levels for telecommunications service. Even if this is the case, this statistic is nonetheless useful to the public and the Commission in assessing the success or failure of price forbearance.
609 Likewise, it would be useful to know what policies of TSPs are causing the most problems for customers, even if they are consistently, fairly and transparently applied. But if TSPs are avoiding CCTS remedies by using policies instead of contracts, this is unfair to consumers.
610 The CCTS should log these policy and pricing complaints in detail and provide the results to the Commission after one year, to determine the exact nature of the complaints that are denied due to these two reasons. Should they be complaints that are really about billing or service, but are being dismissed due to categorization as pricing or policies, this must change.
611 Turning now to remedies, regarding the present remedies that the CCTS can offer, we are now pleased to see that the CCTS appears to make most remedies, including monetary remedies, available for most complaints. However, we still believe that some cases involving fraud or a contractual failing can lead to customer charges in excess of the cap: for example, for data roaming fees or fraud.
612 That is why we suggested, and still do, a higher direct damages cap, doubling the Commissioner's power, up to $10,000. That power will be used and needed sparingly, but will be essential to achieve full indemnity for some.
613 I would just mention that the Australian telecommunications industry ombudsman has just raised their level from 10,000 Australian dollars to 30,000 Australian dollars.
614 One more matter: Customers who report a complaint involving billing or credit issues have complained to PIAC that while their complaint is being considered by the CCTS, the TSP's billing department will refer the disputed charges to collection. This places undue pressure on the customer. It is also contrary to the usual practice, such as in the ILEC tariffs on deposits and disconnections, that disputed amounts should not be sent to collections if legitimately at issue.
615 It may hurt the customer more to pursue their complaint with the CCTS and get an eventual credit or billing corrected if the customer's credit rating and credit score is unjustly lowered on a long-term basis.
616 Therefore, the Commission should direct the CCTS to change its Code of Procedure to require TSPs to suspend collection actions for amounts that are legitimately disputed and are the subject of a complaint to the CCTS, for the period of the complaint process.
617 There are several other matters, and one which you may not have thought of. One crucial matter to us, at least, is to consider if the Commission does wish to charge the CCTS with code development or systemic inquiries. The problem is that since the CCTS is not a CRTC proceeding, the CCTS will not approve funds to facilitate meaningful consumer participation in such activities.
618 The Commission should devise a consumer stakeholder compensation mechanism, or direct the CCTS to support such reasonable work by consumer groups, to provide consumer input on systemic inquiries or code development.
619 We note in this regard that the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments recently created a consumer advisory committee. Perhaps this sort of committee could assist with consumer consultation, should the CCTS, its members and the CRTC see the value in consumer inclusion in these activities.
620 Now for something positive: Turning to the overall effectiveness, when the CCTS actually does take a complaint, our general perception is that, in most cases, consumers receive a timely and satisfactory resolution of their complaint at no cost. This is fantastic.
621 The creation of the CCTS has allowed groups like PIAC, CAC and CWP -- and I think the CRTC as well -- to refer customers to one place, with a real hope of real resolution of complaints. It is invaluable to customers, and in particular low-income customers.
622 The CCTS, due to start-up delays, has only really begun operating at full steam in the past year. For that reason alone, it should be allowed to continue, in order to have time to demonstrate its effectiveness.
623 We suspect that this year's complaint numbers will be greatly increased. If this is so, this is further evidence of the growing value of the CCTS to consumers.
624 As for public awareness and outreach, the CCTS, and especially its members, have not tried hard enough to inform the public of the existence of the CCTS, nor of its role or mandate. As a result, many customers have not benefited from the CCTS who could have.
625 This is despite the Commission's direction in Decision 2007-130 to use a variety of communications methods, such as directories, websites, and a standard notation on all billing statements, to inform consumers about the agency; and to, if an initial attempt by a TSP member to resolve a consumer dispute fails, inform the consumer about the agency.
626 Firstly, there was an extremely long delay between the decision and the CCTS campaign for awareness-raising.
627 TSPs have also been late and have given an uneven presentation of the CCTS' information on their own websites; and, in particular, TSPs' CSRs generally fail to inform consumers who have exhausted the complaints processes of the existence of the CCTS.
628 As for PIAC, we have not performed quantitative research into the public awareness of the CCTS, but we have some qualitative research results, and several anecdotal points of evidence.
629 First, PIAC, in researching mobile premium services, asked participants in six focus groups of six to eight people, in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, in September of this year, if anyone was aware of the CCTS. The majority of consumers had never heard of the CCTS. Of the few who initially thought they had, none were sure if they were remembering the CCTS specifically, or the CRTC, or various ombudsmen or broadcasting associations.
630 In short, no participant actually knew of the CCTS by name or of its mandate.
631 PIAC continues to receive e-mails which confuse it with the CCTS. CAC also reports similar calls.
632 Of the unsolicited e-mails that PIAC receives regarding problems with telecommunications services, about three to five a week, perhaps one in twenty evidences any knowledge of the CCTS.
633 CAC and CWP have always suggested a requirement to print CCTS information on each customer bill. The Commission requested in December 2007-130 that CCTS members should include a standard notation for all TSP member billing statements. The CCTS has stated that such a billing notice generates easily the most complaints and other calls.
634 Therefore, to help remedy the slow start and the general lack of enthusiasm for publicizing the CCTS by TSP members, CAC/CWP request that the Commission direct the CCTS to require TSPs to print standard CCTS contact information on all invoices for a period of one year from the date of the decision in this proceeding. This will at least go some way towards remedying the TSPs' lack of willingness to fully raise awareness of the CCTS as required in Decision 2007-130.
635 Finally, the Commission should direct the CCTS to require members to prominently display a direct hyperlink from the CCTS from their main customer service page or help pages of their websites, rather than require the customer to navigate to many different possible places to find this information and, in fact, oftentimes you have to do a search on the website of the provider to find the CCTS page by word.
636 Transparency and Accountability: Although we are pleased with the present reporting in the annual reports and especially there most recent annual report, there are several areas for potential improvement with regard to complaint and inquiry tracking.
637 First, the CCTS should track complaint issues; that is, if a customer has three issues that could support a complaint, the CCTS should log each as a complaint issue, even if the customer ultimately receives only one resolution of one complaint. In Australia the TIO separately logs complaint "issues" which allows the TIO and the industry to spot increases in problem areas more granularly. I just note there were 500,000 complaint issues before the Australian TIO last year.
638 In particular, it allows the TIO to break out secondary but serious complaints such as those under "customer service" that now are buried by CCTS's recordkeeping.
639 Secondly, the CCTS should be required to develop reporting sub-categories for "customer service", "pricing" or "policies" and we suspect the CCTS could easily establish other sub-categories.
640 Accessibility: The Canadian Association of the Deaf in their submission alleged there were few outreach efforts by the CCTS.
641 The CCTS should develop a broader outreach plan for people with disabilities. And, in addition, the CCTS should study which non-official languages should be supported by the complaints system.
642 Renewal Period: We would just like you to stop reviewing the existence of the CCTS. By that I mean whether it should live or die.
643 Future reviews should only be once every five years and should be limited to matters such as streamlining administration or additional consumer protections, not a constant questioning of the value or the existence of this service. Even with its growing pains, it is fantastic.
644 Those are our comments. We await your questions.
645 Thank you.
646 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. I would ask Commissioner Menzies to lead the questioning.
647 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
648 Just to maybe start at the beginning of your oral comments, and I have some questions going through there.
649 You make reference right off the top on page 4 in paragraph 4 to two glaring examples right now of people aren't included, Public Mobile and/or members and Mobilicity. I can understand a little bit the company that had a tradition as a monopoly might not have a high customer service orientation within its culture.
650 I find it a little harder to get my head wrapped around that for a new company when you would think that in order to survive you would have to build a very strong customer service culture within that.
651 I'm kind of wondering. Your phrase made me wonder why is it necessary to interfere with that this early in their development if they are building a customer service, if you want them to truly build a customer service culture.
652 MR. LAWFORD: I guess at first we might note that because there had been a few players in the wireless industry too now, our experience has been that there hasn't been a wonderful level of customer service for these guys to aspire to. So they can enter at what I think is a fairly low level of customer service, to be honest, and get away with it.
653 The idea behind the CCTS was to raise the bar for the existing providers and we just don't see that if I'm a customer of a new entrant, why I should give any less of a level of service now that we have decided that what was previously in place was not adequate.
654 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. The next question here is in regards to your paragraph 7 when you refer to the number of complaints, the 1,621. You say that represents one-quarter of eligible complaints.
655 The Commission's submission this morning said that in 2009-10 only approximately 3.5 percent of the contacts we received were about non-participating service providers.
656 What am I missing in the difference between those numbers and what we are counting?
657 MR. LAWFORD: Sure. I think we are counting contacts and complaints which are different things.
658 There is a breakdown on page 15 from the CCTS about which contacts they had from non-members. And they have tried to say, well, there were 824 that were definitely outside. And then 620 we don't know and then 177, oh, yeah, definitely we would have taken that one but, you know we couldn't because it was the wrong provider.
659 What we are saying is that the number 3.5 percent, yeah, if you take 1,621 out of 40,000 complaints it's about that much.
660 But if you take the number of complaints they actually received -- if you take them at their word only 824 were for sure, not real complaints they were trying to take. And there is at least another 800 that they should have taken if those people had been members.
661 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Your number is including out of scope and non-participants and their number is including only non-participants. Is that what you --
662 MR. LAWFORD: Their number is including -- is comparing non-participants, complaints actually taken to the number of contacts they had.
663 Our number is comparing the number of people who potentially could have been -- could have had a good complaint but couldn't because their member was not -- their provider was not a member of the CCTS.
664 Maybe I'm not answering your question.
665 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Well, that actually just confused me slightly further.
666 MR. LAWFORD: Okay.
667 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: They are saying here:
"The Commission may also wish to consider only approximately 3.5 percent of the contacts we received were about non-participating service providers."
668 MR. LAWFORD: Right.
669 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And you are in agreement with that?
670 MR. LAWFORD: Overall their contacts, yes, but what we are saying is that their complaint numbers -- if you crunch the numbers and you give the benefit of the doubt to the consumers, sure it looks like some of their complaints -- some percentage of their complaints -- quite a bit higher percentage of their complaints were actually from non-members, because they have said they have only absolutely excluded subject matter outside of mandate as 824 of those 1,621, leaving about 800 more that could have been complaints.
671 So I think that's the important number.
672 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: The number that could have been complaints as to the number that -- as opposed to the number that were complaints but from non-participants?
673 MR. LAWFORD: Yes. I think that's what we are talking about.
674 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. So it is more of a "could have" number.
675 MR. LAWFORD: What we are saying is if you just look at their complaints numbers there is quite a big number which out of their overall complaints that could have come from non-members.
676 And if you just look at contacts, yeah, it's a small amount because they are -- the 10 million and the 10 million threshold weeds out a lot of -- you know, makes the number of contacts quite a bit smaller. But in actual complaints, actual complaints from non-members are higher than 3.5 percent. They are probably more like --
677 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Do you ever have any interaction with them at all in terms of -- because you refer further later in this about how difficult -- what you view as the difficulty of getting information and statistics from them.
678 Do you like have -- do you have conversations with them?
679 MR. LAWFORD: With CCTS?
680 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yes.
681 MR. LAWFORD: Absolutely.
682 We have had conversations to the effect, the same thing, the recordkeeping at CCTS is being improved and they are going to have more categories and once the new computer system comes in they will have that in place and they will have trained their staff properly and everything will be more granular.
683 So we are hopeful that that's going to happen. I'm just saying you can't come here and say, "Well, only 3.5 percent of our contacts are from non-members therefore you guys don't have to make non-members join.
684 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Oh, okay. I see where you are going with that.
685 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Paragraphs 17 and 18, you ask for the inclusion of cable and satellite TV in the CCTS. Do you have any sense of what the financial impact of that would be?
686 MR. LAWFORD: Given that most of the providers of cable and satellite TV are already members because of their telecom activities, I don't think there will be a lot of change.
687 In terms of the amount of volume of complaints they would take of TV and satellite, I can't break it down because the ones that were rejected for being out of scope, I don't know how many are TV or satellite but let's say half of them.
688 Even so what we heard this morning that the worst you could face would be about $130 a quarter at the moment from a big provider, based on a complaint volume. Then, you know, you are maybe looking at more like $200 or $250 a quarter to include also all your cable and satellite TV. I could be wrong. I'm just basing it on what Mr. Maker said.
689 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Don't you think -- I mean just for the sake of argument, wouldn't that sort of expansion of the CCTS in that area, wouldn't -- if you were one of the providers wouldn't that make you less enthusiastic about participating as opposed to more enthusiastic about participating, sort of an expanded role for CCTS like that?
690 MR. LAWFORD: Well, sure. I think I would be less excited if I were a provider but the fact is they bundle all these services together. So we are expecting consumers on the other end to live with the contracts, if you will their bundled contract. But if they have a problem with one service, they are really locked in now.
691 So it's kind of difficult -- I think it's difficult from a consumer point of view to call CCTS and be told, "Yeah, we can deal with your internet part" but you are complaining really about your cable TV part and you want to have a resolution with that. And if you don't, you want to leave, but if you do that that will lower or raise your internet rate now because you have only got three services instead of four. I don't know.
692 We are just thinking that in terms of bundled services from a consumer point of view it's great to have a one-stop shop. The services look at lot the same. They have the same kinds of problems, installation; billing. That's why we are suggesting they should all be covered.
693 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thanks.
694 We were talking about scope. You spoke about this with the Commissioner this morning.
695 In paragraph 19 when you talk about customer service, the categories you list there covers areas like excessive wait times, disconnection, simple rudeness, lack of familiarity with policies or rules, poor training. Those sound like very difficult areas for the CCTS to get involved in, in terms of particularly simple rudeness. I'm not sure how you regulate politeness in terms of that or how you would do that.
696 And the point being that once you get into certain subjective areas like that, isn't it perfectly legitimate for the Commission to want to be able to focus its energies on subjective areas where resolution is relatively uncomplicated as opposed to getting into, yes, you did; no, you didn't type of argument about personal conduct or how the conversation went?
697 Given that from time to time customers -- I expect I have been among them sometimes, are not as polite as they might be to somebody that they have a problem with.
698 MR. LAWFORD: Sure. What I'm trying to say with the comments we made is that, firstly, that kind of customer service level is a consumer issue because it can stop someone from proceeding with a complaint and it is intimidating to some people to call their provider at all.
699 One of the functions I believe of CCTS is, again, yes, we are resolving individual complaints but, yes, there is a raise all boats kind of overall -- you can think of it as regulatory kind of thing or, at least, sort of code of conduct type of result that you get that people are not being treated as really because they know -- the providers know that someone could complain on that as an actual issue.
700 Now, the CCTS has a whole range of remedies. They can give you nothing and they can ask that the provider give you an apology. That might be an appropriate and easy thing for them to do and say write this customer and apologize to them because you were rude to them and they had a complaint that was legitimate and they did not pursue it because you cut them off or you had a conversation that was intimidating to this person. I still see that as completely important and appropriate for CCTS to do.
701 But there are a number of other consumer -- customer service issues that are lurking under that category that we have more concerns with. One of them was CSR doesn't know what the rules are or what their own company policy is and tells the consumer the wrong thing. That should also, you know, be something that's definitely dealt with.
702 I take your point, though, that you are not trying to micromanage.
703 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Because it seems to me there is a built-in -- and I mean I'm not unsympathetic to everything you say here at all but it seems to me there is a bit -- there is an in-built incentive for the companies to serve their consumers well.
704 I mean if somebody is rude you simply ask to talk to a supervisor and file your complaint with the company and it goes from there, as opposed to going straight to an outside bureau, particularly one that, you know, could offer financial penalties which could also be seen as incentives to complaint.
705 MR. LAWFORD: I understand that, and I will say one thing about rudeness and cutting off and transferring excessively. A lot of the times this is also coupled with the problem of a refusal to action someone's complaint or a refusal to escalate their complaint.
706 So hiding behind that rudeness is also oftentimes a failure to allow someone to get to a supervisor. It's all part and parcel.
707 And that, I think, is also underneath customer service and I hope you would agree that failure to escalate something when someone has asked to speak to a supervisor would be something that people should be allowed to complain about.
708 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: You could have also just phoned the other guy too, right?
709 MR. LAWFORD: Yes. I think you could phone the other guy.
710 But I do want to make the point that I think that without CCTS customer service is something that providers in this country just do not compete on.
711 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. I understand your position there.
712 When you mentioned fraud on page 15 I was curious what you were talking about, because when I see the word "fraud" and this might be a lack of familiarity with use of language. It strikes me that that's a matter for the police.
713 MR. LAWFORD: It is a matter for the police, but what we were trying to get at is when -- I will give you an example.
714 A small business customer has their phone system hacked and long distance calls are made out of their account and it happens over a long weekend. They come back in and they end up with a $15,000 bill. Typically what happens is they will go call CCTS. They will say, "Yes, you are a small business customer".
715 You can complain and the CCTS will look at the complaint and say, "Well, you know, I'm afraid your contract says if there is any fraud and stuff, any calls coming out of your area, those aren't -- I mean, the contract says you are responsible for them".
716 If the company didn't make that clear to the customer, they will then go to the TSP and say, "You didn't make it clear. The contract is not clear. Therefore, we want you to pay up" which I think is a fair saw between the two positions.
717 But at the moment, like I said, over a weekend you can come back and it can be a $15,000 bill. It's more than $10,000". That's the fraud I'm talking about.
718 Yes, there is somebody to go after it but you will never catch that fraudster and you will never get a refund. The only place you are going to get it from is the company.
719 And if the company wasn't clear when they were setting up your phone system that that might happen or they didn't take the proper steps or they weren't clear in their contract, CCTS should be able to help these people and the amount might be too low.
720 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. I understand that better now. Thank you.
721 I guess this refers a little bit to both your comments on page 15 about doubling the direct damages cap and requiring TSPs -- this is in paragraph 29 -- to suspend collection actions on amounts that are legitimately disputed.
722 What sort of process would allow the CCTS to determine what is a legitimate dispute and what is an illegitimate dispute if, getting back to what I hinted at earlier -- if I know that there is possibly $20,000 in damages out there for me, that could motivate a person to -- not many, but it could motivate a person to file an illegitimate complaint in the hopes of getting the damages, right?
723 So what sort of process would allow the CCTS to determine the legitimacy of complaints in a way that was fair to both parties?
724 MR. LAWFORD: Okay. Take the example then of the good customer and the bad customer.
725 So the good customer has a true problem with their provider, they got a phone that didn't work. They sent it back and they couldn't cancel their contract. They were told they could, 500 bucks cancellation fee. They refused to pay it. They don't want to pay it.
726 They don't pay it, and they start their CCTS action going and for whatever reason it's a little complicated. It takes a little longer than usual.
727 In the meanwhile the company is sent to collection. They end up eventually with their $500 back from CCTS and a bad credit rating. That's not fair. That's what we are aiming at.
728 You are saying there could be somebody who knows they have got a big bill with a company and they just want to delay having it go to collections so they file a complaint with CCTS.
729 You are right. I think that that would be a rarer situation and I am more interested in the good customer than the bad customer. So I think it's worthwhile making the tradeoff.
730 But even so CCTS, I think, at a certain point in their investigations, will recognize this is a bad customer because they will figure out from the circumstances that it's clearly not legitimate, their complaint. And in that case what happens?
731 Well, there maybe is an extra month that goes by before the TSP can send it to collections. What's the real loss?
732 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I see.
733 OMMISSIONER MENZIES: In paragraph 33 of your oral comments here you said -- you talk about referring customers to one place.
734 How many complaints do you receive on these issues on an annual or monthly or however you record them basis? What are the primary at the top couple of reasons for people calling?
735 MR. LAWFORD: Speaking for PIAC, on behalf of them, I do know that we do not solicit the complaints. We just have an email address on our website and a link to CCTS.
736 But the ones -- the people who are determined to send us a complaint anyway by email -- we get about three to five a week -- we get ones which are mostly to do with cancellations of contracts and, I hate to say it, but the figures in CCTS' annual report are quite accurate. At least half of them are wireless and the rest is telephone and internet with internet maybe winning slightly.
737 The complaints are, as I said before, usually there is no evidence that they know CCTS exists. And as for CAC, I was told by their director that they get a number of calls every week, telephone calls asking if they can help out people and they refer them directly to the CCTS. But I imagine their breakdown is roughly the same.
738 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: You suggest also in here that you want the TSPs to have a hyperlink on these websites to the CCTS. How do you see that happening?
739 A concern might be that rather than deal directly with the company over their concerns which, I think everybody would agree, is the ideal, that when there is an issue between a customer and a provider that it's in the customer's best interests, the provider's best interests, everybody else's best interests that that gets worked out.
740 So how would that be presented on their websites in a manner that wouldn't send people directly to the CCTS rather than to the TSPs? You know, "Do you have a problem? Give us a call" line or whatever.
741 MR. LAWFORD: Sure. I can give you a pretty good way of the way it should work and someone who is almost there.
742 Bell Canada has a web page with how to complain to us and if you will bear with me --
743 Their webpage, which I will undertake to give the Commission the address of, has four steps.
744 Step 1 is call our 1-800 number. Step 2 is, if that doesn't work, can you please ask to speak to a supervisor. Step 3 is if you have spoken to the supervisor you get their number and say what they said, and you contact the executive customer service office by mail or email. And the last step is an email address for a senior Bell executive who is in charge of customer service. Step 5 should be, or CCTS, it is not there.
745 So it is quite easy to put a page on your website that says, compliant, step 1, 2, 3, 4, and after step 4 you may go to step 5.
746 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: An "if all else fails" line at the very end?
747 MR. LAWFORD: Yes, if all else fails. And there are some of the providers in this room who do have that on their webpage. They say, you have to deal with us first, we would like to help you. If we can't help you, however, you do have these rights, you have the right to go and talk to CCTS. The first question they are going to ask you is, did you talk to your TSP? So it is useless for you go to there first because you will just get pushed right back here.
748 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: In the next paragraph there you make mention that CCTS has really only been operating at full steam for the past year which, taken at face value, is -- obviously means that there are a number of things that they haven't been able to deal with or can't get to or are down the road.
749 But isn't this all the more reason for us to sort of let them do what they are doing well and just -- I mean, once you have gone through a start-up period isn't the last thing you need is for somebody to come along and say, oh now that you are up and running, here, take this, and sort of throw an additional burden on them immediately? I mean, isn't that an unrealistic operational expectation?
750 MR. LAWFORD: I don't think what we are asking for is unrealistic operationally. What we said is we want to have everyone become TSP members. I understand that is a big job and we have also --
751 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I guess I am referring more to expansion of scope.
752 MR. LAWFORD: Okay. But, you see, it goes hand in hand with the changes they are making to their computer system anyway. They are saying, well, we will be able to more granularly take these things. Yes, it would increase their complaint volume, but I think their complaint volume is increasing anyway. The GIC direction says they should have adequate resources from the industry. So if they don't have enough resources they should go ask for more.
753 And, you know, how big this is going to be and how well it is going to function it has to be adequate to do the job and we just don't think that at the moment taking -- well, you saw the numbers, 3,700 complaints out of 43,000 contacts, is a good ratio. I mean, they have to do it because otherwise people will come to this thing and say, well, it didn't deal with my complaint, it's not really useful.
754 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Is that happening? Are we getting a lot of people saying -- I mean, you can look at it two ways. You can look at it that way. You can also say, well, the volume that they are having to deal with isn't that high, which means -- I mean, ideally there aren't many complaints, right? In a perfect world, it kind of works itself right out of business.
755 MR. LAWFORD: No, but you have to go through a process. So I will do it from your perspective where, on the curve, should go like this, and we are still going on the hockey stick part where we are going up to having an adequate kind of amount of customer service at CCTS part, that they can take all of the available complaints that are just complaints then, yes, you are right; customers should start getting better service and it should eventually put itself out of business.
756 But I mean, I can see the concern that the providers have. They look at Australia and they see more like this. We are aware of that. And it is not that we want this thing to be growing out of control, but we are not even close to getting to the amount of complaints that are just I think all being taken, and that is the point we are trying to make.
757 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: You heard, just assuming that you were here this morning, the Commissioner talk about the firm that they had engaged to assist with public relations regarding the dissemination of their report and that, and the outcome with a great many articles appearing in newspapers and other media, et cetera.
758 I just wanted to get your response to that, given your comments in paragraph 35, that they haven't tried hard enough. What more do you want them to try?
759 MR. LAWFORD: The efforts, recently, have been good. We continue to think that the place where it works best is on the customer bill, and that is a TSP responsibility. But I mean, sure, you could have endless outreach and so on and so forth, and the CCTS has done a better job with this latest annual report and their latest work of getting it out there.
760 But again, that is a matter of them only having had really one, two years to be functioning and having full board membership and they are just getting there.
761 Now, our beef mostly is just in the way that CCTS is being tolled to the customers by the industry. So I guess I am aiming less at CCTS, more at the industry. But in the early days, I mean, the Commission asked them to report back with a communications plan within three months I think, and it was like a year and a half. And it is not customers' fault that CCTS had trouble self-organizing, it is the industry's fault for not organizing it fast enough.
762 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I have just a couple questions about your written comments.
763 I actually caught one, that in your oral comments you withdrew your position in your written comments regarding the directorship structure?
764 MR. LAWFORD: Yes.
765 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And just to clarify for us one more time, why you did that?
766 MR. LAWFORD: I guess this was sort of a real politic kind of decision on our part. To us, it is more important that CCTS continue, because it is showing some signs of doing a lot of good for consumers.
767 And we thought if we get into a fight, and even if we convince you to add two more consumer directors and make it four consumer directors to three industry directors with two independents, and it is just going to get review and varied or else it is going to go up to cabinet. And we want to have steady as she goes with CCTS, so we are removing if for real politic reasons. We just think that that will cause too much consternation amongst industry members and we are prepared to live with it.
768 But we do want to have the changes to the voting structure to let some things go through when they is a reasonable board support for them.
769 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: In terms of a simple majority as opposed to a..?
770 MR. LAWFORD: Yes, instead of the extraordinary one for codes.
771 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I had a couple more questions here.
772 Your interpretation in your written remarks regarding the order in council, and specific to your position that the word "should" ought to read -- not to be sort of read in as "shall".
773 MR. LAWFORD: M'hmm.
774 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Are there any examples you can cite to us of this being done in terms of orders in council, just like from a legal precedent point of view or..?
775 MR. LAWFORD: My understanding of the way recitals are written is that they are always "should", "would" and "can" not "shall" and that sort of thing. It is just the formality of the language. But the intent, when it comes from that source, is to do it and that is the reason why we took that position in our written comments.
776 If I can find some textbook authority for you, I will.
777 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: That might be helpful, if there is any.
778 MR. LAWFORD: Sure, I will.
779 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And in paragraph 39 of your written remarks, you talk about -- what you are requesting in terms of language seemed perhaps a noble, but considerable undertaking. And I use that in terms of, like you said, people are being served in both official languages, but you want to expand service into additional languages.
780 The facts of today's Canada are that, I mean, in British Columbia alone there are 800,000 people who speak neither English nor French in their home and there is a considerable diversity within that 800,000 of languages spoken there.
781 Is that really a realistic request or isn't it reasonable to simply limit language service to the two official languages, given the size of the non-official language populations, particularly out west?
782 MR LAWFORD: What we said I think or were trying to say was that the CCTS should undertake a study to see what kind of need there is. Because, again, the Australian TIO has another 10 or 11 languages, that what they do is they support them by having, yes, a call person, but they do have information sheets. So here is what TIO does in the other language.
783 I don't think your full service you can go through in Filipino, but if there are enough potential constituents that need it, they will produce the sheet. And we just think it is an access issue, so it could be shorter than it might be as suggested in our comments. CCTS could come up with just an initial description of who they are and what they do and in whichever languages, after they study it, they think might need it. Because, as you point out, there are a lot of folks that don't speak either language and it is just an accessibility issue. They should at least know that this thing exists and what it does.
784 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Are the TSPs not providing third or fourth or fifth language capacities in terms of their complaints division, are people calling in at -- my guess is in places like, and I am just using B.C. as a reference again because it is convenient, the lower mainland, that if you are selling and you are serving and that sort of stuff, that you probably have somebody who can take your call in Cantonese or Punjabi.
785 I don't know the answer, but are you aware of whether they do that or not?
786 MR. LAWFORD: I have heard anecdotally that TELUS, for example, has some Cantonese-speaking reps and I am sure that that is the case with a lot of the other providers too.
787 So in that case perhaps it would be sensible for CCTS to ask those providers to train them on the customer service aspects of it. I don't know if they are just doing sales, for example. But they do have some capacity, perhaps it's being not leveraged for customer service though.
788 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. You have quite a long laundry list of things here in terms of requests, all of which are sincerely held and well articulated. But what are your top three?
789 MR. LAWFORD: Top three? Mandatory membership, the credit suspension, sending matters to credit, and I don't know, I guess the last one is --
790 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: You can leave it at two if you want.
791 MR. LAWFORD: -- well, customer service, the ones that are getting kicked out are a problem. And because of the reporting, I am not sure whether it is a forborne matter, you know, it is areas of the country where people are calling in where they have price forbearance, but they are told they can't complain because they are from a rural area. I don't know if it is coming from customer service. I don't know if it is coming from cable and TV. I don't know.
792 So my last request would be, can CCTS please tell us the biggest area of complaints they are rejecting simply because it doesn't fall in the areas that they feel that they can handle.
793 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thank you. My colleagues may have some questions for you.
794 MR. LAWFORD: Thank you.
795 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. I have a couple questions instead of my colleagues.
796 Let me start by saying that I am really heartened to hear the fact that you used two fantastics in your opening remarks this afternoon. And for an organization that has only been up and running for a little over a year operationally, to have the Public Industry Advocacy Commission comment on the fact that they things are coming along very well, I think is a tribute to the board, the staff at CCTS and the public at large for working so hard to get this working.
797 The questions that I have are more in terms of some of the detail. And I guess my first question is, has anybody contacted PIAC after the fact and said, I was forced to accept this compromise or whatever and I am still not happy? Because I haven't heard you say that. And so I am assuming that, for the most part, every consumer or small business who utilizes services of CCTS has been satisfied with the final resolve.
798 MR. LAWFORD: Sure. I can give you a little bit of help with that. We have had a number of situations where people have said didn't quite workout the way I liked, I wasn't in scope. Those are the most common ones.
799 I have had one situation where someone apparently fell through the cracks. And there was some discussion this morning about whether the CCTS or the provider confirms with the complainant that their complaint has been taken. And it is not 100 per cent clear to me that that's done perfectly. I think at the moment the provider says, yes, resolved, sends a copy to the complainant at whatever contact they have and copies the CCTS.
800 But I don't believe at that time, if the customer does get it, that they are told they have 20 days to say, no, that is not the resolution that I thought I reached. But that happened in one case.
801 The other thing I do is when I send back a here is CCTS, have a go at them, I say at the bottom, if they don't resolve your complaint please get back to us, and I only had two people do that. Again, in those cases, it is usually a matter of my stuff wasn't within scope or my provider wasn't one of the ones covered.
802 THE CHAIRPERSON: So for --
803 MR. LAWFORD: So far, so good.
804 THE CHAIRPERSON: -- vast majority, 9,000 or whatever to date, in scope over three years a handful, one hand?
805 MR. LAWFORD: I can't hazard a guess, because the number that we take at PIAC are so small compared to that 9,000. But of the, you know, 5 a week x 12, we have had only a few where people have said that it didn't work for them.
806 THE CHAIRPERSON: You commented today, and I think in your submission as well, that all TSPs should be members regardless of their size.
807 This morning Commission Simpson tabled a three strikes and you are in philosophy. Do you have any comments on that at all?
808 MR. LAWFORD: It is an interesting thought. It could work. I can see how there is problems with it though in the sense that the complaints that come in, providers sometimes they can't predict them. But I am torn because I would like to say yes, because there is a number of people in the interrogatories answer from the CCTS that we heard about this morning that have problems, and it is obvious.
809 And I will just give you one name, Convergia, who aren't here but they have 26 complaints and they are not in there, and that is a lot higher than a lot of the other companies that are in there that are supposedly over the threshold. Why shouldn't they be in?
810 THE CHAIRPERSON: Why don't you give us some thought between now and our Phase II and see whether --
811 MR. LAWFORD: Sure. But I think from a purity point of view, there is no reason why everybody shouldn't join. It would help spread the cost. And if there were a complaint directed to that in the future, then CCTS wouldn't have to go through the step of stepping back and then including them and saying to that customer who called, oh well sorry, you were the first one to get these people into the system. If your friend calls tomorrow, they are going to get a result, but you won't.
812 THE CHAIRPERSON: I mean, you talk about spreading the costs, but at the end of the day that cost is borne by you and I. And so even the smaller players who have got to pass through those costs -- probably particularly the smaller players have got to pass through the costs.
813 So if you start from the premise that we are being as least intrusive as we can until we see there is a need to actually intrude, maybe one of these models might suffice and provide the impetus for smaller parties to try and deal with these issues on their own without having to form a membership in the CCTS and ultimately get caught up in process and procedures and costs and so on and so forth.
814 So I just put it to you to think about it and we will chat about it over the next two days I would imagine.
815 MR. LAWFORD: Sure. I will just make one quick comment, and that is it might be more efficient, however, once the fixed costs are covered and this thing is up and running to just add somebody and have them pay the minimal membership fee and, as I said, be ready to take complaints. But I take your point.
816 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. One of the things you said in I think it is paragraph 15, that the CCTS should broaden out beyond just unregulated areas and focus on those that are price regulated as well. I mean, currently those complaints come to the CRTC.
817 Are you saying that we don't do as good a job as you would like in addressing those issues and you think the CCTS can do a better job?
818 MR. LAWFORD: I don't think that what you are doing is as formalized and as transparent as CCTS. So you don't have issues that are much different I think that are going through CRTC than are going through CCTS, but they are off the grid if you will, because they are dealt with by staff.
819 But I suspect, without having spoken to staff, and just looking at what goes through your hopper there, that there aren't any part sixes and there may be situations where someone contacts the Commission and perhaps it isn't dealt with because it is too small a matter or if it is a disconnection or a deposit issue, then it probably will be. But I am not certain that every billing mistake for someone in rural Ontario, for example, is being dealt with by the Commission. I am not sure, because I can't tell.
820 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, if they are not coming to you, would you not think that if they come to us we don't pursue it and deal with the carrier, the regulated carrier, and hopefully resolve it as well?
821 MR. LAWFORD: But I don't know that because it is not obvious to us, it is not transparent, so we just can't see that happening. And the nice thing about CCTS is you can see it happening.
822 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, point taken.
823 The issue of co-development we discussed this morning with CCTS. And I asked whether there was any value in the SaskTel proposal where we form sort of a CISC model. Have you got any views on that model?
824 MR. LAWFORD: Sure. That is a very interesting idea and it was one of those ones that I wish I had thought of myself. Because the problem that we have at the moment is, as the TSPs I am sure will say and the CCTS already said, the industry doesn't get buy-in unless they help develop it. If it is top down from you guys it is regulation, if it is top down from CCTS it is not acceptable unless it is really quite anodyne and two-thirds of them will vote for it.
825 The CISC idea is good and it actually sort of parallels what goes on in Australia. So if you will bear with me again, there was a statement by Mr. Maker this morning that I might know something about Australia, and I sort of knew about it.
826 And what he said was part of the answer, the industry in Australia creates codes and, in doing so, the Communications Alliance also includes the TIO and the ACMA in working committees and they come up with a draft code, and that is very much like the CISC model. But again, the TIO and the ACMA and the industry all get to sit in the room and hash it out.
827 That is a very attractive model, because if they don't come up with a code, then the ACMA can then say how come you haven't come up with a code which gives them another chance to really do it this time? And then if they still don't do it, the ACMA can impose a code.
828 So that is something that I think would work in Canada as well, because then you would have the industry charged with coming up with codes, they would involve the CCTS by being part of the working group on it, hopefully they would also include consumer groups and their working groups. And then if they weren't able to come to something, the Commission could call for them to do an actual code. And if they still won't do it and there needs to be regulation, that could be done by the Commission.
829 So it is an interesting model. Maybe the two aren't quite convergent, but I think it is a really interesting area to explore.
830 THE CHAIRPERSON: My last question deals with the issue of mandatory membership. Is there a difference in your mind between the Commission revisiting membership every five years de novo versus a mandatory membership decree, if I can call it that, that every five years when we do review it, because we review all of our policies at a reasonable period of time and five years sounds like a reasonable period of time? And at that time deciding that perhaps it's no longer obligatory and therefore we should remove it?
831 MR. LAWFORD: I see you sort of get us coming and going that way.
832 That is true, the Commission should review all of their policies and I know you have undertaken to do that.
833 I guess just from an optics point of view it would be better to say it's mandatory and then if the Commission is going through reviewing all of their policies that we are going to also review this one, otherwise, I don't know, maybe it makes no difference, but it just feels like -- if you know there is a de novo review coming I think it feels like the CCTS is under the gun, whereas if it were just part of your regular regulatory review, that is the status quo, CCTS exists and if you want to get rid of it you have to justify why.
834 THE CHAIRPERSON: But if hypothetically parties came before us here today and tomorrow and said, "We are in for a couple of years", is there a need for the Commission to deal with the notion of mandatory membership, if we know that all the key players, notwithstanding those that are less than 10,000 -- and I take your point on some of those as well -- but if all the players that are in this room said, "First year only, it's really working well, gee, Mr. Lawford says it's fantastic, let's give it another chance and see how well it does over the next several years as the wireless industry evolves and new players come into the game?"
835 MR. LAWFORD: I guess I would just be concerned that -- it's like anything, right, it looks good now, but in a year and a half, boy, those new wireless entrants are really cutting our throats and we are having trouble with IPTV coming into our business here, and this and that. Suddenly there would you change of heart.
836 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Those are my questions.
837 Michel Morin...?
838 COMMISSIONER MORIN: Thanks, Mr. Chair.
839 I must admit, Mr. Lawford, that I was a little bit surprised by your answer to Commissioner Menzies when the first priority for me I thought will have to be the public awareness, because you said that the consumers right away aren't even aware of the existence of this CCTS thing you know.
840 So my question: You want a standard notation on each consumer bill, but you didn't say where, at the beginning, in the middle, at the end?
841 I think that right now the TSP has the choice of the place, the choice of the month. This morning I said for a TSP member that I haven't seen any standard notation. There was a standard notation in May.
842 So many people right now are switching, as the competition evolves, from one company to the other one and they don't know if -- so I would like to know if it would make more sense to put this standard notation at the beginning, everywhere on the billing statement, or at the end.
843 MR. LAWFORD: I think the most effective place for it is just below the "Here is the amount you pay" part.
844 The companies at the moment have those areas reserved, I believe mostly for promotional areas, so that may take a little negotiation, but that's the most effective place.
845 We could have gone whole hog and asked that the awareness of the CCTS message has to be on all promotional material, that there has to be a separate billing insert that goes in, that there has to be a dedicated Webpage for just CCTS matters on each provider's page, but we don't think we need to go there.
846 As CCTS told you, the most effective place for the message is on the bill. They didn't say where, but I think it's right below, "You pay this amount."
847 COMMISSIONER MORIN: So if this practice will be standardized on each consumer bill, so we presume that every Canadian consumer will be well-informed, will it make sense to launch expensive advertising campaigns on television, radio or newspaper so that the amount dedicated to those campaigns will be put for the service to the consumers?
848 MR. LAWFORD: I believe Union des Consommateurs maybe mentioned that it would be a good idea to have a sensitization campaign. In our view it wasn't a very good use of money and that's why we didn't suggest it.
849 There is an initial period when a body is created, when there is press, when it would make sense to do that. I think that time has passed and the CCTS organically is getting known by people through our efforts, through CCTS' efforts, through the provider's efforts, through word-of-mouth, through the Internet. It's out there now, it's just people need to be reminded at the moment that they have a problem and that is on the bill. I don't think a media spend at this point will help an awful lot.
850 COMMISSIONER MORIN: Thanks.
851 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Simpson...?
852 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: No questions, Mr. Chair.
853 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
854 Commissioner Patrone...?
855 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
856 My question was sort of touched on a little while back, it had to do with paragraph 46 where you talk about the CCTS should track complaint issues. Presumably that would dramatically increase the number of complaints that they were processing.
857 I was wondering why we would do that, just I guess -- and I take your point about Australia doing it, but at the end of the day would that not simply make this whole process more labour intensive, costly and potentially more onerous to process?
858 MR. LAWFORD: Our concern with not tracking complaint issues is, as you mentioned, that there are things going under the radar.
859 The complaint folder, if you will, from each individual will be just one complaint folder, if you will, but there may be three issues that arise. The value in noting them all -- and it would be done at the intake level, so hopefully not too onerous, although I don't know for sure -- would be just to give you, the Commission and the CCTS some grounds to say, "You know, we are having an awful lot of these refuse to escalate to manager problems, can we do something about it?" If it's part and parcel, let's say 50 percent of the time of another complaint, you will never see that.
860 So perhaps I'm making them run before they can walk, I appreciate that, but it's something that when you see a mature body like the Australian TIO this is really important, okay, we are missing out on all these customer service issues because, frankly, there is something wrong in the way that you guys deal with customer complaints, the only reason why they saw that was because they track each individual complaint issue.
861 It's also useful to the Commission to see how well is the industry doing from a quality of service point of view.
862 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: So it would be done with a mind to growing or expanding the scope alternately to include what would normally be, if this suggestion were adopted, peripheral issues and those peripheral issues would then somehow be incorporated into a broadened scope?
863 MR. LAWFORD: It has a link to scope, you're right, because we think the scope should be larger.
864 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Which means that you think the whole process should be -- that resources need to grow, that budgets need to grow.
865 MR. LAWFORD: I don't think we are at the level that CCTS needs to be yet. I kind of have this picture in my mind of them being in a little rowboat and there's a huge wave about to hit them, but perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps I'm wrong. As I said, that's making them run before they walk.
866 The only concern I have is that there are sometimes when you are dealing with someone who is calling in two or three different issues and one of them might seem like the most important issue when you take the call, but it turns out to be the second or third. I just don't want those ones to be not dealt with or we have an assumption that we are dealing with them well and we aren't.
867 But I take your point.
868 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: I'm just wondering at what point the tail begins to wag the dog on the types of complaints. I mean people will always find something to complain about, I mean they may call with something that really bothers them, but they can, "and by the way, the service person was rude", you know. Then I guess then those things under this idea would have to be logged and collated into some kind of report later on.
869 MR. LAWFORD: Yes. And I'm saying -- we are saying there is a value in doing that because it's service to the customer and one of the advantages of having a body like this is you get a pulse of how that's being done.
870 If in the Commission's opinion it's going to distract the CCTS from their core mission, which is solving billing and customer service complaints, then perhaps it should be shelved as an idea, but our view is that those things are important as well.
871 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: But you are saying move towards data collection.
872 MR. LAWFORD: Yes. I mean, the Commissioner still has discretion whether or not to take those secondary complaints as formal -- you know, whether to forward them to the TSP, whether to turn them into a proper investigation or not, and could say "No, it's just not a big enough or important enough matter to bother with."
873 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: The second question I had, and this just speaks to how you would measure success as far as this endeavour is concerned. You have spoken, as the Chairman mentioned, you have used dramatic language to state your views on the success of this organization up to now and how would you measure it going forward numerically?
874 Are more complaints a measurement of success as far as the CCTS is concerned?
875 MR. LAWFORD: I think the metrics that you want to get eventually are the ones that CCTS was trying to trumpet this morning and that is that they resolve most of them right away and they resolve most of them without having to get to a formal investigation.
876 But I do think we are not -- again on the curve, we are just coming up. We are not to the point where we have reached anywhere near the actual complaints that are out there that are just, that are being dealt with, but once there is capacity there in CCTS to deal with those, that I really do have a belief that they will slowly go down and that at some point the metrics that they should be championing are, "Look, we have fewer complaints." I still hope that will happen.
877 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Thank you very much.
878 Mr. Chair...?
879 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, thank you very much. We appreciate you coming in and we will continue to look for your learned counsel over the next two days.
880 MR. LAWFORD: Thank you.
881 THE CHAIRPERSON: It's now 2:45, let's break until 3 o'clock.
--- Upon recessing at 1448
--- Upon resuming at 1502
882 THE SECRETARY: Order, please. À l'ordre, s'il vous plaît.
883 THE CHAIRPERSON: Nothing like seeing different faces in front of you from Bell Canada.
884 THE CHAIRPERSON: Good afternoon. Go ahead.
885 THE SECRETARY: We will now hear the joint presentation by Bell Aliant Regional Communications and Bell Canada. Mrs. Suzanne Morin is appearing for the panel.
886 Please introduce your colleagues, after which you will have 20 minutes for your presentation.
887 MS MORIN: Thank you, Madam Secretary, Mr. Vice-Chairman and Commissioners.
888 My name is Suzanne Morin and I am Assistant General Counsel and Privacy Chief for Bell Canada. Joining me today is William Abbott, Senior Counsel, Regulatory Law. We are also appearing on behalf of Bell Aliant.
889 The Companies want to make it clear from the outset that we are not advocating for the elimination of the CCTS. The companies support its continued operation under its current mandate and structure.
890 The CCTS was created during a period of truly revolutionary change in Canada's telecommunications regulation. As with any revolutionary change, there was an early period of uncertainty. In 2007, the federal government was concerned that market forces might not adequately safeguard all consumer interests, particularly the interests of consumers with complaints about their local wireline service.
891 So it was out of an abundance of caution, and not in response to any demonstrated need at the time, that the federal government issued Order in Council 2007-0533 which called upon the telecommunications industry to create, and I quote:
"...an independent agency with a mandate to resolve complaints from individual and small business retail customers.".
892 The CCTS was created out of a concern about what might happen with the advent of local wireline forbearance, not in response to any actual consumer problems that existed at the time.
893 We now have three years of experience with local forbearance. It is clear that competition works and market forces provide ample safeguards for consumers, including those with complaints.
894 Let me tell you a little bit about our experience in this area.
895 Customer service is a key focus for Bell Canada, Bell Aliant and our employees. Improving customer service is one of the five strategic pillars that guide virtually everything we do.
896 Like many other telecommunications service providers or TSPs -- and contrary to the statements of Mr. Lawford earlier today -- the companies do compete on customer service and spend literally billions of dollars to better service customers.
897 Bell Canada has invested heavily in measures specifically directed to improving customer service. These investments include Bell Canada's Same day/Next day repair service, extended call centre hours and the recent introduction of our "Satisfaction Guarantee" in Ontario and Québec.
898 This allows customers of Bell Canada's eligible Home Phone, Internet and TV services to receive a full refund of all installation, activation and equipment fees if a customer contacts Bell within 30 days of activation to cancel their service. Bell Aliant has implemented similar customer service programs.
899 We are not alone in this focus on customer service. Many of our competitors have a similar focus, making similar investments and developing processes to better address customer complaints.
900 Perhaps the most important safeguard provided by competition in forborne markets is consumer choice. Whether you look at wireline, wireless or Internet access service, most markets have a host of options for consumers.
901 You can also look at the CCTS statistics as reported in their 2010 Annual Report. The CCTS received 1,428 eligible complaints about Bell Canada. To put that number in context, Bell has over 22 million customer connections a year. That means one eligible CCTS complaint for every 15,406 customer connections or a CCTS complaint rate of 0.007 percent.
902 Even at that, we should remember that not every eligible complaint is necessarily well founded and that many of these complaints might have been resolved by the company had the customer escalated their complaint further within the Company rather than going to the CCTS.
903 Any way you slice it, the numbers show that market forces have been extremely effective in safeguarding consumers and addressing customer complaints.
904 We now know that market forces have worked to safeguard consumer interests in forborne markets. The CCTS was created in anticipation of a worst case scenario in forborne local wireline markets that never happened.
905 Although one could argue that the CCTS is not necessary in forborne markets, the Companies do not object to the retention of the CCTS for the time being with its current mandate and structure.
906 Indeed, in light of the fact that the CCTS has only been operating in its current form for a short period of time, the companies question whether there is a sufficient track record to support any changes to the CCTS' operations.
907 The independent Board and independent permanent Commissioner have only been in place since mid 2008. The Public Awareness Plan has been around for even less time and the revised Procedural Code was just implemented in June of this year.
908 Therefore, the companies believe the Commission should review the CCTS' mandate in another three years time.
909 Nevertheless, any consideration of the CCTS' mandate must be guided by the principles set out in the Policy Direction and the Order in Council calling for the creation of the CCTS. These principles can be summarized as a reliance on market forces, symmetry, independence and a focus on complaints-handling.
910 En vertu des instructions en matière de politique, le Conseil doit, dans la plus grande mesure du possible, se fier au libre jeu du marché et intervenir avec les forces de la concurrence que dans la mesure minimale nécessaire pour atteindre les objectifs, et ce, d'une manière symétrique et neutre.
911 Le décret de la gouverneure en conseil réclame un organisme indépendant, financé par l'industrie et ayant pour mandat le traitement des plaintes des consommateurs et des petites entreprises.
912 Le décret lui-même doit être interprété à la lumière des instructions en matière de politique et de la variation du gouvernement du régime d'abstention locale.
913 Le CPRST a été formé dans le cadre d'un plan global visant à réduire le fardeau réglementaire et s'appuyant sur le libre jeu du marché. Le CPRST ne doit pas maintenant être utilisé comme un outil pour re-réglementer les marchés déréglementés.
914 In light of these guiding principles, the CCTS' current structure should be maintained. Its governance and voting structure provide for complete independence of its core responsibility -- complaints handling -- while maintaining the appropriate balance of independence and accountability in all other areas.
915 Its current complaints handling mandate focuses on forborne retail services in a manner to minimize duplication of effort or conflicting decisions with other tribunals.
916 The CCTS' remedial powers are more than adequate to its responsibilities. The revised Procedural Code has streamlined the complaints handling procedure and made it more consumer friendly.
917 The public awareness campaign has significantly increased the profile of the CCTS among consumers.
918 To pick up on Commissioner Morin's comments earlier this morning, and taken up again with PIAC this afternoon, for Bell Canada we do include biannually the notice at the very top of Bell Canada's paper bills and electronic bills. It's also the same location that we use for other regulatory messages, as well as promotional messages.
919 The CCTS has been effective in achieving its objectives as set out in the Order in Council and done remarkably well in its first three years. The companies therefore see no compelling reason to change the CCTS' mandate, governance or operations, with the sole exception of membership.
921 MR. ABBOTT: Thank you, Suzanne and good afternoon, Commissioners.
922 The only change the companies believe is warranted is to extend mandatory membership to all Canadian TSPs offering residential or small business telecommunications services. Universal mandatory membership makes good sense and good policy. There is no valid policy reason for consumers to have different rights and recourse based solely on the size of their TSP.
923 In this respect we find ourselves in agreement with PIAC, that it's odd that companies such as Public Mobile and Mobilicity are not members, as well as other companies such as Teksavvy.
924 The Policy Direction requires the Commission, when it is necessary to impose regulatory measures, to do so in a manner that is symmetrical and competitively neutral. The only membership policy that complies with this requirement is to make CCTS membership mandatory for all TSPs offering residential or small business telecommunications services. The Order in Council that led to the creation of the CCTS states that:
"...all telecommunications service providers should participate in and contribute to the financing of an effective Consumer Agency."
925 Some have argued that membership should be voluntary. Any hybrid approach where membership is mandatory for some TSPs and not for others would be completely unacceptable and contrary to the Policy Direction. If the Commission believes that the CCTS is necessary, universal mandatory membership is the only workable option.
926 Some have also suggested that there may be justification for very limited exemptions to membership for certain TSPs, such as those who serve only large enterprise customers or wholesale customers.
927 The companies are not opposed to such narrow exemptions to universal mandatory membership. However, the companies believe that the criteria for any such exemptions and their application should be handled by the Commission, and not by the CCTS.
928 There has been some discussion about industry codes in the submissions in this proceeding. The companies want to clearly state their views on this important issue.
929 The CCTS is first and foremost a complaints handling body. The CCTS is not a regulator and does not have the resources, expertise or statutory mandate to act as a regulator. Establishing codes without industry buy-in is regulation. If the Commission purported to give the CCTS the power to impose codes without industry consent, that would be an illegal sub-delegation of a statutory power. As a result, there needs to be industry buy-in for the development and implementation of any code by the CCTS. In practice, under the current structure of the CCTS, industry buy-in is represented by two of the three industry directors voting in favour of a code, as part of an Extraordinary Resolution of the Voting Members.
930 Furthermore, during the course of handling various complaints, the Commissioner may come across issues and trends that the Commissioner believes should be reported for further action either through the CCTS or some other entity.
931 To date, the CCTS has reported these issues and trends of concern in its Annual Report. Such reporting is an effective way to bring these issues to light and is well within the CCTS' mandate.
932 The recently revised standard of review also allows the CCTS to consider relevant codes of conduct or practise where the applicable contract is either silent or ambiguous on the issue. The consideration of industry codes as part of the complaint determination is well within the CCTS' mandate.
933 What the CCTS should not, and cannot do, is develop codes and impose them on the industry without the industry's consent.
935 In conclusion, I think we are in agreement that in its short three years of existence, the CCTS has done well in achieving its objectives in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Things can only get better. Processes will continue to evolve to the benefit of consumers and member TSPs.
936 Thank you for your attention and we look forward to your questions.
937 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.
938 I would ask Commissioner Patrone to lead the questioning.
939 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and good afternoon.
940 In your submission -- and I'm talking both written and oral -- you have argued that the CCTS is "unnecessary" and yet you also argued that it should continue operating under the current mandate and structure.
941 I'm having trouble reconciling your apparent opposition and support. Can you help me understand where you are headed with that?
942 MS MORIN: Well, I think it's fair to say that our thinking has evolved. Our initial statements continue to hold true, however the companies today continue to support the CCTS in its current form.
943 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Now, Bell has also said that the CCTS, while not necessary -- I'm just quoting your written now.
944 MS MORIN: Yes.
945 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: You go on to say that the forborne markets are by their nature vigorously competitive.
946 Have you produced any internal analysis that suggests that market forces currently are sufficient to ensure that consumer complaints are processed in a way that they should be as best possible?
947 MS MORIN: The companies don't have specific separate internal analysis for the dealing of complaints for forborne versus regulated services, they are treated the same way. We try to resolve all complaints regardless of whether they are from regulated markets or forborne markets.
948 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: And if a complaint comes in, do you inform the individual making the complaint that they have recourse in the form of a CCTS if that individual perhaps is not aware of it?
949 Would that information be volunteered?
950 MS MORIN: It definitely should be. Part of our front-line training does include awareness of the existence of the CCTS.
951 I think, as you heard earlier this morning from Commissioner Maker, the intent is not to have one of five, eight, 10,000 front-line customer service reps to be recommending to customers at the first stage to be going to the CCTS. We do have an internal escalation process that includes -- and those are followed, speaking to a manager or being escalated to our executive office.
952 Now, ideally the front-line reps shouldn't be, you know, suggesting that customers go to the CCTS, because we are confident, we are hopeful that we can resolve that complaint internally at the next level hopefully.
953 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: So it's part of the training process is what you're saying?
954 MS MORIN: It is, yes.
955 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Do you feel that the overall degree of consumer satisfaction regarding the processing of complaints has changed -- has improved since the CCTS came into being and, if so, would you have any data to support that?
956 MS MORIN: I can't give you specific information about, you know, customer complaints two years ago versus what might be happening right now.
957 There is no doubt an increased focus on customer service as markets become more and more competitive and, as I mentioned for the Bell companies, including Bell Aliant, customer service is one of our five strategic pillars and we have been literally pouring in millions of dollars, changes to IVR systems, get you to the right person, concepts like "one and done", one call resolution.
958 So in parallel I would say with the creation of the CCTS.
959 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Yes. I do want to address that.
960 You talk for instance in paragraph 9 of your oral of investments in improving customer service, which is presumably something that Bell would normally have done. I want to know how you feel that those investments are relevant to this proceeding, if in fact you would have made those investments anyway.
961 The other side of that question of course is: Has the existence of the CCTS spurred Bell to make service improvements that would otherwise have made?
962 MS MORIN: Without any disrespect, as important as this proceeding is and the CCTS is, there is no doubt the Bell companies would have spent the money they are spending on customer service, because if you look at the volume of calls into our call centres, a very small number actually make their way to our executive office, let alone to the CCTS.
963 We get 2.2 million calls into our call centres every month, so a lot of the customer service monies that are being spent are for everything that we do with customers, as well as those when they call into our call centres.
964 So once again, coincidental that the CCTS also exists, but these monies would be spent in any event.
965 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: And your point for raising it here is that you care about customer service whether there is a CCTS or not. I guess that's where you're headed?
966 MS MORIN: Absolutely.
967 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Do you agree with the statement that the CCTS has incented better service?
968 MS MORIN: Competition, for sure upfront, first and foremost, would incent better service, but there is no doubt when you hear complaints from customers companies will often go back and try to determine what the root cause is, because we don't want customers complaining, we want them to be happy with their service, we want them to be able to understand their bills and everything else that goes with an ongoing service relationship, but first and foremost I have to admit that competition is what is driving improved customer service.
969 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: A lot moreso than the CCTS?
970 MS MORIN: I would say yes.
971 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: So I guess I'm just trying to gauge your perception of the value of this organization in terms of being a body that encourages better service by virtue of the fact that there is a recourse for customers who can't get satisfaction by dealing with their provider, or switching.
972 MS MORIN: We are not trying to suggest that all that there is no value in the CCTS. Like I said, we are not advocating any changes to the CCTS other than mandatory membership, as mentioned by Bill earlier.
973 So there is no doubt there is value,. It's not necessarily the driving force behind everything we do, but it has value. There are people who aren't satisfied with the service or the complaint handling resolution that they have obtained and so the CCTS is there today as a backstop.
974 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: So you no longer stand by the suggestion that it's not necessary?
975 MS MORIN: Today we are not suggesting that we do away with the CCTS, that's correct.
976 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: I'm glad you brought up the complaint rate, because that's kind of where I'm headed next.
977 Do you agree with the idea that a public record perhaps should be made available that perhaps could serve as a selling point for TSPs as far as promoting the absence of complaints or the absence of a high rate of complaints.
978 MS MORIN: I'm sorry, I'm not sure I understand the question.
979 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: The suggestion that all complaints are collated at some future point, as they have been, and that there somehow be sort of a gold standard placed on TSPs who have not produced a high number of complaints, that somehow there be some kind of report card produced reflecting data collected through the CCTS that painted a picture of who's naughty and who's nice as far as TSP service providers are concerned relative to the number of complaints.
980 Am I being clear?
981 MS MORIN: I think so. Let me try this.
982 I don't think that the volume of complaints -- and I think, if you even look at the CCTS' 2010 Annual Report, the number of complaints, generally speaking, tends to reflect the size and revenues associated with the organization, and that is fairly consistent in all types of agencies of this sort. It's not unique to the CCTS.
983 If there was an anomaly somewhere, where someone with lesser revenues, for example, might have significantly higher, that might be a red flag.
984 But I think today, with the limited time that the CCTS has had with their existing systems, they are going to be drilling down and getting more granular over time, as they improve their systems.
985 I think, right now, the number of complaints is really reflecting the size of the organizations, the number of customers they have, and the revenues that are generated.
986 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: My question had to do with whether some kind of hierarchy might be useful.
987 MS MORIN: Maybe not.
988 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: You don't want to touch that one. Fair enough.
989 PIAC has just proposed the tracking of complaint issues, rather than simply complaints, and I am wondering if you have any thoughts on that, whereby issues could be captured and noted. Say that a caller might have a number of issues, but only one matter that would qualify as a "complaint".
990 And I know it speaks to scope, but do you want to touch that one?
991 MS MORIN: I guess there is a difference between -- if the purpose is to track issues individually, so that the numbers are simply higher, I don't believe that is what Mr. Lawford was suggesting. I believe what he was trying to get at was, simply, if the systems could be granular enough -- and you do get to the point where you have frontline reps in any call centre having -- you know, if there are too many boxes to tick off, at some point they start ticking off, maybe, the most general one.
992 But to the extent that they can gather additional information about things that customers are calling about, I don't oppose that.
993 However, a complaint is a complaint, and we shouldn't be muddying the waters, so to speak.
994 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: All right. Just so I understand, you are in favour of the idea of collecting data that may not necessarily qualify as a complaint, simply for the process of gauging what the issues are out there, beyond those that might qualify specifically as complaints, despite the fact that resources for that might be higher -- more bodies, it takes more time to collect this stuff, it takes more people. So the mechanisms required for collecting more information, whether they qualify as specific complaints or not, that becomes potentially an issue too, so I am just trying to get --
995 MS MORIN: It's not so much a question of agreeing or disagreeing, I think what it comes down to is that Commissioner Maker will determine with his staff how they use their resources internally, where they direct them, what level of granularity they think their frontline reps can go to.
996 So I don't really think that it's a matter of agreeing or disagreeing. It could even go to identifying issues or trends that could be reflected in an annual report. I don't think they are limited to identifying issues or trends that are just actual complaints that are touched upon.
997 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: You favour mandatory membership. If it was voluntary, would you remain a member of the CCTS?
998 In other words, absent the requirement, would Bell still be part of the mechanism that now forms the CCTS?
999 MS MORIN: Bell's position, and Bell Aliant's position, is that membership should be mandatory, and it should be universal.
1000 So, at this stage, we are not entertaining or recommending in any respect that membership be voluntary. We think that it should continue to be mandatory, and we should fill in the last little gaps and make it universal.
1001 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: So you are not going to speculate.
1002 MS MORIN: I am not going to speculate.
1003 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Can you expand a bit on your statement regarding the financial impact of membership on smaller TSPs?
1004 You say that the CCTS Board could create a fee structure for small TSPs, where they would pay only the fee for service charges and would be excused from paying revenue-based membership fees.
1005 Can you talk a bit about that?
1006 For instance, what do you expect the annual cost of membership, say for a small TSP, might be?
1007 MR. ABBOTT: Perhaps, Commissioner Patrone, we could go back one step.
1008 The Commission started in Decision 2007-130 with the principle that membership should be mandatory and should be as comprehensive as possible.
1009 The Commission in its decision at that time decided to create an exception for TSPs with below $10 million in Canadian telecom revenues, out of concern that the financial administrative burden of being a member of the CCTS would be too great for small TSPs.
1010 In all fairness, no one knew exactly what that burden was going to be.
1011 We do have three years of experience right now, and we know that the financial and administrative burden is really quite slim.
1012 To get to your very specific question, as it is right now, if you are a small TSP, you pay a one-time $1,000 membership fee, and you pay a quarterly fee based on your forborne revenues as a proportion of the whole pot, which, as we have heard from Commissioner Maker, is, likely, $130. Or, if you are smaller than $10 million, something much smaller, basically pocket change.
1013 And then you pay a fee for service, should there be any complaints.
1014 That is kind of a long way of saying that the financial burden on small TSPs is already quite minimal.
1015 There are, potentially, ways to reduce it. You wouldn't want to introduce additional complexity to the administration of the CCTS, but there are possibilities, including saying: Look, very small TSPs don't have to pay the fee related to shared forborne revenues. It is already a small amount. That would remove a small amount of money off the table. It would also remove some of the administrative burden. They wouldn't have to, potentially, file the annual one-page filing, and they wouldn't have the quarterly invoices -- although we are just talking about eliminating five single pages that you have to file, or deal with, from the CCTS. It is a very minimal burden.
1016 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Let's move over to governance and the voting structure. In quoting your written submission, you say that the companies submit that the current CCTS governance and voting structure is appropriate, and agree with those parties who commented that no changes are required at this time.
1017 What would change that going forward, because, of course, you have sort of included this proviso at the end, "at this time".
1018 Do you think that something could happen?
1019 I assume that you put that in for a reason.
1020 MS MORIN: I guess that everything is always done "at this time", and we couldn't think of anything in the future that might require it, so you don't necessarily want to limit your future possibilities.
1021 But other than making membership universal, we don't foresee any changes that are required to the voting structure.
1022 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: PIAC submitted during its presentation that the present extraordinary voting threshold of two-thirds of industry directors for approval of codes effectively means that the CCTS cannot pass a code that the wireless, wireline and internet industries, or cable telephone and resellers dislike, and that this is too high a threshold for any substantive action.
1023 Do you want to address that?
1024 MS MORIN: Definitely.
1025 I think it's fair to say that we disagree.
1026 The extraordinary resolution requirements are very narrow and for very specific items, and when it comes to the development of codes and the implementation of codes that impact industry, industry needs to buy into their development. This is something that will impact our operations and how we do business, so I don't think we think that it is unreasonable that, in that narrow context, a two-thirds vote of both the industry directors, but also a two-thirds vote of the independent directors is required.
1027 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: They go on to say that the requirement of only a simple majority vote of the Board can solve this dilemma, provided that it is the telecommunications industry that actually develops the draft code. In that case, it is unlikely that a majority of Board members of the CCTS would not approve it. However, were the code proposed by industry not favoured by the sitting industry directors, it could still be passed by a majority of independent directors if it were judged in the best interests of consumers.
1028 Do you have any thoughts on that?
1029 MS MORIN: That is definitely a scenario that might exist. There is nothing preventing the industry today from developing a code if there is a need to do so.
1030 The CWTA, for example, created a few years ago a short message code which was needed in response to a very specific problem that was happening in the industry, which helped to clarify expectations from all players when it came to short message codes.
1031 There is nothing preventing the industry from developing similar codes in very targeted areas.
1032 Again, PIAC is recommending a particular change to the voting structure. We still believe that there is only very narrow, explicit -- very explicit circumstances where an extraordinary resolution is required, and we stand by it. We think it's necessary.
1033 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: You have also stated, on the issue of administration and administrative issues like budgets, that it is appropriate that the TSP members have a reasonable amount of input at the governance level over issues such as the budget.
1034 Should TSP members have the ultimate power to approve or disapprove all budgetary matters?
1035 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: And, if not, which matters do you see as particularly relevant?
1036 MR. ABBOTT: I think, given that the industry pays for the CCTS, that there has to be -- quite apart from the complaints handling activities, for all of the other activities, there has to be a balance between independence and accountability, which is manifested at the governance level.
1037 The input that the industry has on the budget tends to be on a fairly global level, for the most part. The budget is prepared by others.
1038 So I think that the level of input and control that the industry has over it right now is entirely appropriate for an entity like the CCTS.
1039 I guess what I am saying is, the status quo works well, and has worked well. The CCTS has been sufficiently funded, has seen a 10 percent and a 15 percent increase in its budget year over year. So it seems to be well funded, and the process works well.
1040 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: On the issue of scope, you say that the companies have serious concerns about the CCTS' activities outside of complaints handling.
1041 Do you mean the CCTS' current activities or what may be involved going forward?
1042 It was part of your submission, and I am just asking for a little bit of clarity around that.
1043 MR. ABBOTT: Actually, I wrote that, so I know what I was talking about at the time.
1044 It was a reference to -- first and foremost, the CCTS is a complaints handling body, and it does that very well.
1045 It's when we are looking at issues, specifically, say, code development, which is a distinct activity -- really, almost a policy-making activity that requires a different skill set -- that is what we are referring to when we talk about regulatory-type activity.
1046 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: So that's where you go on to state that it vigorously opposes any expansion of the CCTS' scope into regulated matters.
1047 MS MORIN: Or to change the structure, so that a code could be developed and approved differently from the voting structure that exists today.
1048 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: What would be the danger in having the CCTS' mandate include a more active role in non-complaints handling activities, such as investigating and reporting on industry trends, which we kind of spoke about earlier?
1049 MS MORIN: I actually think that the CCTS is playing an active role in identifying and reporting on trends, as is evident from the three annual reports that have been filed to date.
1050 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: So you are in favour --
1051 MS MORIN: We are in favour of their ongoing identification of issues and trends, yes.
1052 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: You have stated that the companies do not believe that further public awareness measures are required beyond the campaign currently being implemented by the CCTS.
1053 MS MORIN: We continue to do our biannual bill notifications. The CCTS will continue along the lines of its existing public awareness plan. The public awareness plan is not carved in stone, it is something for Commissioner Maker and his Board to discuss, year over year.
1054 We just have to wait and see what will come up next.
1055 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Okay. Those are my questions. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
1056 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. I think that several of us on the panel have questions. Let me start.
1057 Commissioner Maker this morning, I think, laid out a timeline for the new case management system. If I understand it correctly, they are currently in the contract-letting stage, after which it would take about seven months to build, which leads me to believe that the beginning of this database of wealth of information would only start in their next fiscal year, August 2011, completing in July 2012.
1058 I think, at the same time, the Commissioner in his remarks this morning asked us to extend the three-month period for reporting to six months, which would then take me to January 2013 before which we would see the first bit of data with the broader information that the CCTS has committed to providing the industry.
1059 You have suggested that we come back in three years and re-look the situation, and I am comforted by the fact that you look forward to coming back before the Commission one more time, but at the same time I wonder whether three years is too short a period of time, because we will only have one year's information before us, much like we do today, and we would be looking at making a decision with one year of information, rather than looking at coming back again in five years, thereby having a bit more information to see trends in information.
1060 I guess my question is, your proposal of three years was based on what rationale, given that my rationale is slightly different?
1061 MS MORIN: If we set aside the additional granularity that a new case management system might generate, if we just put that aside for a moment, the CCTS in its current structure -- so with an independent Board, an independent and permanent Commissioner, as well as -- you know, even if you consider the new procedural code -- has only really been at it for a couple of years. So to think of another three years -- and, again, that number is not carved in stone, but to think about another three years, then you would have, approximately -- three, four -- five years of public awareness campaigns, of complaints resolutions, of new members joining, and you would have a better sense of whether or not the CCTS was even being more effective.
1062 I think we all agree -- kudos to the CCTS -- that they have done an excellent job in a short period of time. However, Commissioner Katz, when you say that the additional level of granularity is required, in that context, if that level of granularity is necessary to decide what, if any, changes need to be made -- and I don't think we necessarily agree that that's necessary, just additional time -- some might say that maybe the three years really would be too soon as well.
1063 But, again, the three years is not necessarily carved in stone. They are just off the ground and are making changes. I think they just need a little bit more time.
1064 We don't really take a view on the additional three months that are necessary. That is something that Commissioner Maker has requested, we don't really have a view on that.
1065 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
1066 I would ask Commissioner Denton to put forward his questions.
1067 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Good afternoon, folks.
1068 If membership is to be made mandatory for all telecommunications carriers, by what authority should it be done, and by whom should it be done?
1069 MR. ABBOTT: Good afternoon. I think that it would be done by the same authority, I believe, that you have made membership mandatory for TSPs who have revenues above $10 million in Canadian telecommunications revenues, which would be section 24 of the Telecom Act.
1070 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Remind me of what it says.
1071 MR. ABBOTT: It allows you to impose a condition for -- basically any condition for offering services.
1072 COMMISSIONER DENTON: So you believe that that is sufficient authority for us to do this.
1073 MR. ABBOTT: Yes.
1074 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Okay. That's an answer I can cope with.
1075 Are you, at least, perturbed in any sense that the CRTC's authority to set up, amend or change the conditions of the CCTS is adequate?
1076 Do you have any concerns about the adequacy of our authority to make these kinds of changes?
1077 MR. ABBOTT: I'm sorry, your authority with respect to making changes as to membership?
1078 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Or any other matter -- well, yes, in relation to membership.
1079 MR. ABBOTT: Am I perturbed? I think that clearly --
1080 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Is it a stretch? Don't you find it a stretch that we are engaged here?
1081 Because we have an organization set up by an Order in Council, and as far as I know, it reads that we are supposed to make reports upon it, but I don't quite see the relationship between the Commission and its authority and what the CCTS does.
1082 MR. ABBOT: I think that if we look to the Order in Council, it asked industry to create an independent, industry-funded, complaints handling organization, and it set out a number of requirements for that organization, and it requested that the CRTC approve that organization, all of which has occurred.
1083 And I think, in that sense, it is within the four corners of the document.
1084 If you are now asking what is the ongoing role or oversight role of the Commission with respect to the CCTS and its constating documents --
1085 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Yes.
1086 MR. ABBOTT: -- I would think it would be minimal, given that it's an independent organization, with its own governance body.
1087 And keep in mind that it was just coming into being -- and I would argue that the Order in Council spoke to that situation, not to some sort of ongoing, detailed oversight.
1088 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Exactly.
1089 So our authority is minimal, but apparently, under section 24, it is sufficient that we may determine what its membership is.
1090 MR. ABBOTT: I guess it would indicate two things. First, in Decision 2007-130, you indicated -- or, actually, I suppose that it was, then, again, in the subsequent RNV decision -- that you were going to come back and look at this. So perhaps, in that sense, your authority is extended.
1091 But quite apart from that, you have an independent authority -- quite independent from the CCTS -- over Canadian TSPs under the Telecom Act.
1092 COMMISSIONER DENTON: I understand that, but these are services we have forborne. You are the lawyer, so correct my thinking here.
1093 We forborne -- these are forborne services in relation to which the CCTS is acting. Yet, here we are determining membership and attempting to shape its progress and direction.
1094 MR. ABBOTT: While I am reluctant to stretch the scope of section 24 any farther than absolutely necessary, the Commission has in many cases retained power over forborne services for a number of reasons relating to -- when you think of the conditions of forbearance that are maintained as section 24 conditions relating to 9-1-1 and relating to privacy, similar types of things, I believe this falls into the same basket.
1095 In light of the fact that the Commission would have granted forbearance it needs -- I believe it has to be fairly circumspect in its use of section 24.
1096 It isn't, I believe, a door through which anything can be pushed. But I certainly think this fits through that door.
1097 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Thank you. I realize this is a delicate matter, and I thank you for the precision and delicacy of your answer.
1098 The second question I have relates to the development -- because I go back to the Order in Council and it said that we should -- "the development or approval of related industry codes" -- and I take it -- I take your point that you don't believe that CCTS is the appropriate vehicle for the creation of these codes.
1099 Is there a vehicle or forum that you would think adequate for the creation of codes, first question and; secondly, in relation to codes are codes an answer or are they just -- what is your view about the utility of codes in the service of the work that the CCTS does?
1100 MR. ABBOTT: I think -- so there are two questions there, how and who makes codes and then how useful are they.
1101 Codes can come into being through a number of avenues. My colleague mentioned the CWTA code relating to premium short codes, which was done by an industry organization. There are other codes that have come into being that way.
1102 And I don't want -- to use the same metaphor again, I don't want to completely close the door on the CCTS as an avenue for creating codes. I don't want to overstate that case.
1103 Section 86 of the bylaws of the CCTS clearly gives it the ability to either develop or apply codes, provided that there is industry buy-in into the process. As long as there is industry buy-in and if it's felt that that is an appropriate venue for a particular type of issue, then it's possible to do it through the CCTS.
1104 Now, with respect to the utility of codes, I think that it is very much a case-by-case matter. I think with respect to the premium short code guidelines they were very useful.
1105 With respect to the deposit and disconnection code I think both the venue and perhaps the overall need for that might have been less obvious to some involved.
1106 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Further to my question, is CISC an appropriate forum for the development of codes the industry might choose to adopt?
1107 MR. ABBOTT: The appropriate venue for a code, I think, very much varies with the subject matter. CISC has long been a venue for fairly technical matters or require technical expertise.
1108 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Well, it's a business process working group.
1109 MR. ABBOTT: Yes. That is true, yes. There are a number of working groups. That's definitely one of them.
1110 But, again, I mean I can't claim any extended expertise, but from what I have seen of their documents they do seem awfully technical to me and they are often as between service providers to make things work behind the scenes in the back office, whether it's -- so potentially for technical issues, but when you are talking about policy issues, probably not CISC.
1111 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Well, it is the handling of customer complaints or the standards by which you intend to bind yourself. I don't see that these are policy or highly technical.
1112 What is the issue here, because CISC gathers members of the industry who need a forum in which to discuss common issues?
1113 MS MORIN: Maybe just to pick up on what my colleague was saying, CISC is a tool created by the CRTC to develop technical, operational back-office; you name it, types of processes through a consensus process.
1114 When we think of the establishment of codes that the CCTS might develop and approve, they really are more akin to policy-type codes, things that organizations maybe should be doing as opposed to things TSPs need to be doing so the market can function.
1115 When you get into complaint handling, you know it really is something that comes down to what an individual organization, that the time and effort and resources and money they want to put into their level of customer satisfaction and complaints handling. So you know CISC has its utility.
1116 Should CISC be used to develop codes that the CCTS would then approve and measure TSPs against? I'm not sure CISC is the right place for that.
1117 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Is there such a place, because I just want to get back to -- well, one, is there such a place?
1118 MS MORIN: Well, I guess maybe -- they told me in briefing not to say this but not necessarily codes and -- codes when necessary but not necessarily codes.
1119 And it doesn't mean that -- is there necessarily a market failure in a local wireline or forbearance markets today that requires the development of industry codes that aren't being handled by market forces?
1120 We look at the CWTA and a very narrow specific code was developed because the industry came together and said, "We have a problem that needs some kind of consistent approach to deal with it". And it's working very well.
1121 We are not closing the door on future development potentially by the CCTS of codes. It has been around for three years. They had an attempt at a very contentious issue. Maybe it was a little bit more than they should have gone after now.
1122 So you know it could be the CCTS. It could be the CWTA. It could be another body that doesn't yet exist. It could just be a whole bunch of TSPs getting together and saying and developing a code and then bringing it to the CCTS and see where it goes.
1123 So you know it's not like we need to pinpoint and say that's the body to develop. It will come out of industry needs.
1124 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Well, that is true, but I am also just, you know, adverting to the words of the Order in Council that established this thing in the first place. It talks about "the development of approved or related industry codes of conduct and standards" et cetera, and that basic function has not yet been engaged in.
1125 So you have borrowed the CWTA's. So one is allowed to infer either that codes are, in fact, despite what the Governor in Council thought, not all that relevant, or the venue that we now have which is the CCTS is not the right venue. You haven't exactly waxed enthusiastic about CISC. So I'm, you know, feeling that this idea is going over like a wet noodle.
1126 So I'm trying to get you to say, "Yeah, we don't need codes" or "We only need the codes we need and we haven't found the way to develop them yet".
1127 MS MORIN: I think it is more we are not sure that we need additional codes. It was probably too early in the CCTS' life, so to speak, to be looking at the development and approval of codes.
1128 You know, we are not saying it to be flippant. There is no doubt in the future there may be a perfect storm where an industry code is needed that the CCTS may be the body to play the role. Because it hasn't happened today I don't think there is anything to be read into that.
1129 COMMISSIONER DENTON: Okay, thank you very much. Thank you. Those are honest answers and I can use them.
1130 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
1131 Commissioner Morin...?
1132 CONSEILLER MORIN : Merci, Monsieur le Président.
1133 Je voudrais revenir sur le message normalisé. Ce matin, j'ai fait une faute, je m'en confesse. Je n'ai pas vu le message normalisé au mois de mai, mais, apparemment, vous l'avez fait. Alors, c'est une fois, je pense, depuis, et vous dites que, finalement, vous pourriez faire ça deux fois par année.
1134 Bon, ce message normalisé, j'ai compris que vous l'avez mis, même si je ne l'ai pas vu, en première page. Pourquoi?
1135 MME MORIN : Présentement, nos factures, la façon que nos systèmes fonctionnent... parce qu'on ne change pas les systèmes de facturation à tous les jours là. Ce n'est pas quelque chose qu'on touche tout le temps.
1136 Présentement chez Bell, nous avons un espace tout à fait en haut de nos factures en papier.
1137 CONSEILLER MORIN : On peut le voir.
1138 MME MORIN : Exactement. Et là, il y a une place où est-ce qu'on peut mettre un message limité. L'espace est très limité. On ne peut pas aller plus qu'un certain nombre de caractères.
1139 Mais c'est aussi la même place qu'on utilise pour indiquer d'autres messages du CRTC, par exemple, concernant le 9-1-1 ou bien lorsque... en français, je ne me souviens pas, mais le area code, des fois, ça va changer. On va ajouter un deuxième. C'est là où est-ce qu'on met ces messages-là.
1140 Mais c'est aussi la place où est-ce qu'on peut mettre des messages promotionnels. Alors, chez nous, c'est là où est-ce que ça se trouve. Chez d'autres fournisseurs, c'est possible qu'ils aient un espace ailleurs. Alors, ce n'est pas comme si c'est la meilleure place. C'est notre place, et puis c'est là où est-ce qu'on a mis le message.
1141 CONSEILLER MORIN : Mais en le mettant en première page, tout juste en dessous de la facture mensuelle, vous êtes tout à fait d'accord avec ce que disait PIAC?
1142 MME MORIN : Mais Monsieur Lawford suggérait que ça soit de façon "prominente." Je ne le sais pas si c'est un mot ça, mais que ça soit de façon claire et visible. Mais quand même, ça dépend de la facture. Ça peut être la première chose. Ça pourrait être une petite boîte encadrée qui se trouve au bas de la page. Ça peut être, t'sais... Toutes nos factures sont différentes. On peut regarder tous les fournisseurs qui sont représentés ici. Nos factures ne sont pas pareilles.
1143 Encore une fois, c'est la place que nous avons et que nous avons utilisée, et je crois que ça répond aux demandes de monsieur Lawford que ça soit visible.
1144 CONSEILLER MORIN : Et, dans le fond, même si ça s'est présenté comme ça pour vous, pensez-vous que ça devrait être la place où on devrait mettre le message? Est-ce que vous achetez, autrement dit, les arguments de monsieur Lawford?
1145 MME MORIN : Bien, monsieur Lawford suggérait que ça soit visible, mais je crois aussi qu'il demandait que ça soit de façon permanente, et nous ne sommes pas d'accord que ça soit nécessairement de façon permanente.
1146 CONSEILLER MORIN : Pourquoi? Pourquoi pas tous les mois? Parce qu'on ne sait pas quand est-ce qu'on se plaint, finalement. On ne sait pas quand est-ce qu'il y a motif à se plaindre. Si c'était à tous les mois, bien là, c'est vraiment pour l'usage du consommateur, très utile, très facile, très expéditif. On trouve ça à la même place tous les mois.
1147 MME MORIN : Il y a beaucoup de choses qu'on pourrait dire aux consommateurs, à nos clients à tous les mois.
1148 CONSEILLER MORIN : Mais quelle est votre objection fondamentale pour ne pas le faire à tous les mois?
1149 MME MORIN : Présentement, la place que nous avons sur nos factures, si cette place est occupée par un message pour le -- je ne me souviens pas de l'acronyme en français -- pour le CCTS, là, nous avons perdu une place importante pour d'autres messages que des fois c'est le CRTC qui nous demande, ainsi que pour d'autres messages que nous voulons donner à nos clients.
1150 Alors, nous avons beaucoup d'autres façons pour nos clients pour savoir de l'existence de l'agence : notre site Web; le devant des bottins de téléphone; lorsqu'une plainte est escaladée, on va informer les clients.
1151 Mais deux fois par année, on leur met quelque chose un peu plus devant les yeux, et, comme le commissaire Maker a bien expliqué ce matin, ils voient la preuve lorsque ces messages-là sont inclus.
1152 CONSEILLER MORIN : Je veux vous relancer rapidement. Vous aviez cette place pour le mettre. Vous mettez des messages publicitaires. Mais la deuxième page, elle est pratiquement vide. Est-ce que ce ne serait pas une bonne façon de mettre le message qui n'est pas récurant à tous les mois à la deuxième page?
1153 MME MORIN : Nous avons des factures, dépendant du service, qui peuvent paraître un peu différentes, et je sais aussi que si vous avez plus de services ou bien vous avez utilisé vos services plus pendant le mois que c'est très possible que les choses débordent sur la prochaine page.
1154 Alors, le fait que présentement peut-être il y a une place blanche sur votre facture ne veut pas nécessairement indiquer qu'à tous les mois, pour tous les clients, c'est la même chose.
1155 Alors, encore une fois, au fur et à mesure, c'est possible que les pratiques vont changer, mais présentement, nous trouvons que pour l'existence du CCTS que deux fois par année, une place "prominente," une place visible, que ça semble avoir l'effet que la direction du CCTS veut avoir.
1156 CONSEILLER MORIN : Dans ce message du mois de mai, il y avait quoi, le numéro de téléphone pour le CPRST, il y avait l'adresse Internet?
1157 MME MORIN : Si vous voulez, je ne l'ai pas en français, mais je peux vous lire exactement qu'est-ce qu'on a inclus en anglais.
1158 CONSEILLER MORIN : Oui. Oui.
1159 MME MORIN : Effectivement, c'est le langage que le CCTS a approuvé. Alors, ce n'est pas nous autres qui avons créé ce langage-là. Tout le monde était censé utiliser le même langage.
1160 Alors, dans la petite boîte, on dit :
"Do you have a complaint regarding your telecommunications services? If so, call us at 310-Bell. If we can't resolve your complaint, the independent Commission for Complaints for Telecommunications Services, CCTS, may be able to assist you."
1161 The website address est inclus or the telephone number.
1162 CONSEILLER MORIN : Je comprends parfaitement. Donc, on indiquait carrément qu'on devait appeler la compagnie s'il n'y avait pas accord.
1163 MME MORIN : Oui.
1164 CONSEILLER MORIN : Ensuite, on informait le consommateur qu'il pouvait s'adresser au CPRST. Alors, je pense que ce message-là est clair pour les consommateurs.
1165 Il n'est pas question de modifier ce message, jusqu'ici, ça bien fonctionné?
1166 MME MORIN : Jusqu'ici, ça semble bien fonctionner. Le commissaire Maker nous a expliqué ce matin que beaucoup d'appels qu'ils ont eus, effectivement, c'était des questions de qui êtes-vous, qu'est-ce que vous faites, je n'ai pas une plainte maintenant mais je veux savoir peut-être si jamais j'en ai une. Et nous savons, même sur le côté de la protection de la vie privée, nous avons fait des messages semblables. On met un message avec un numéro de téléphone différent devant le client. Souvent, il appelle parce qu'il veut tout simplement savoir qu'est-ce que c'est. Alors, ils ont tenté d'être très clair pour limiter le nombre d'appels d'information, si je peux les appeler. Mais ce n'est pas comme si c'est une mauvaise chose. Ces clients-là, ils connaissent plus.
1167 CONSEILLER MORIN : Merci.
1168 Ce sont mes questions, Monsieur le Président.
1169 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
1170 Commissioner Duncan...?
1171 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: I have just one question for you and it follows along the line of the question I was asking Mr. Maker this morning.
1172 And that is with regards to the topics and trends section and the two areas that CCTS sets out that would appear to need a code or to be addressed by the industry.
1173 The way I read the report and his response is that they are waiting for something to happen.
1174 So I'm just wondering in your view as TSPs, what you see as the next step and what is being done with respect to those two matters, or if you think they are inconsequential?
1175 MS MORIN: I can't recall both of them. One of them, I think, had to do with wireless --
1176 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: The first one is on page 27 if you have -- 27 if you have the report.
1177 MS MORIN: Yes.
1178 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: This is dealing with the fairness of treatment for consumers.
1179 And this is to do with contracts where the provider is able to change the contract but the consumer is not able to get out of that contract without paying a penalty even if the consumer is not happy with the change.
1180 That's the first one that they set out.
1181 MS MORIN: So maybe just quickly dealing with that one.
1182 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Certainly.
1183 MS MORIN: And whether the industry decides collectively that a code is required.
1184 When a material change is typically made to a contract, customers certainly are allowed to get out of the contract so to speak. There are smaller types of changes, non-material changes that are reserved to be made simply because you can't necessarily foresee everything. So it's to add additional clarity for example but don't go to the materiality of a contract.
1185 In those cases where it's not material you know often contracts if we think of wireless or internet or whatever, often you get discounts upfront on equipment or handsets and that's reflected in the fact that you will be a customer for three years, for customers who decide to pay full price or purchase the equipment rather than renting.
1186 Also, upfront, there could have been a promotion, a six-month promotion as part of a bundle or something. And, again, those are extended based on the understanding that someone will be a customer for the entire length of the contract.
1187 So you know he spoke of fairness. I think bringing those items to customers' attention and everyone tries to bring important conditions to the attention of customers, but they are clearly spelled out in contracts and it might not be fair to allow customers out of contracts, given the benefits they might have obtained upfront.
1188 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: I think probably, not sort of wanting to argue exactly the points that he raises --
1189 MS MORIN: Sure, okay.
1190 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: -- because of that and the other one, but more what's happening now? The report has been produced. They have raised these two points. CCTS has raised these two points.
1191 What's the next step from the TSPs' point of view, individually, collectively, you know?
1192 MS MORIN: Well, individually, I'm assuming TSPs, including ourselves, are looking at these issues and trends that are identified.
1193 It is possible. I'm not personally on the board. It is possible at the board level they might consider these and have a discussion about whether they want to go anywhere.
1194 It's possible an existing trade association, for example, may decide to look at it. I can't tell you exactly today what is happening. But there is no doubt they are not going to go unnoticed what the outcome will be.
1195 I think we are just speculating at this point.
1196 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: So it would seem though, that in order to be sure that all the matters are addressed, at least the CRTC would want to retain the ability to ask that the codes be implemented or be introduced or considered -- developed -- if the industry fails to do it.
1197 Like if the industry doesn't take -- like there is no guarantee in what you are saying that it will be looked at collectively.
1198 MS MORIN: I think we have to remember we are operating in the context of a forborne market. My colleague, Mr. Abbott, explained the delicacies around section 24 and the powers that you have retained to impose conditions.
1199 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Yes.
1200 MS MORIN: That still exists, yes.
1201 COMMISSIONER DUNCAN: Okay, that is fine. Thank you.
1202 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
1203 Commissioner Simpson..?
1204 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you very much.
1205 It's time for some fun with numbers. First of all, I would like clarification, please.
1206 You, in your testimony, had indicated that the companies that you represent had received something like 1,400 complaints that were within the scope of the CCTS. And this has to be put into the context of the fact that you have over 22 million connections within your enterprise.
1207 The obvious question is -- to me -- are all 22 million of those connections also within the scope of the CCTS in terms of their business relationship with you or are these two numbers -- are they apples to apples or apples to oranges numbers?
1208 MR. ABBOTT: The 22-million customer connection is a global number. There would be some that are -- in that 22 million there would be some that are regulated. There may be some that are a larger business.
1209 Even if you carve that out, you are still talking about orders of magnitude between number of customer connections versus number of complaints going to the CCTS.
1210 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Fair enough. I just wanted to understand.
1211 I think the next series of questions -- I've got two or three in total -- have to do with my trying coming to grips with finding the evidence of the right formula for solutions to what is before us.
1212 On one hand we have heard from PIAC who have indicated that more is better, more membership, more code -- these are my words, not theirs. But generally, market forces cannot be entirely relied upon to be able to achieve a satisfactory result for the consumer.
1213 Yet, we also have heard that from CCTS as well as some others in written submissions that the Australian model is something to have a look at, it seems to be fully evolved, somewhat along the PIAC principle. And this is where the fun with numbers comes in, because I really don't know how to tumble these and I am asking for some help.
1214 Now, Australia is a market of about 21.5 million people. You know, Canada is somewhere around 36.5 million. So it is, let's say for sake of argument, three-quarters the size of Canada. And the TIO has a full mandatory membership of about 1,125 member companies and they have at least eight codes that TIO administer.
1215 All of this in absolute terms seems to be producing some interesting results, in that out of 21.5 million Australians TIO has in the last year received something like 230,000 consumer contacts. Now, I don't know how this works, but of the 230,000 this has resulted in something like four hundred and some odd thousand actual consumer files that they have had to deal with.
1216 It seems to me that this is pointing very strongly at the fact that a heavy, I don't want to call it a regulatory hand but, you know, they have drank the Kool-Aid and they have gone right into a full meal deal on codes and participation and this seems to be generating a lot of consumer complaints.
1217 Now, is this because there is that much pent-up demand and that many problems that really are latent within the consumer industry or is this an example of the fact that we are dealing with a fairly light touch in Canada and it is producing and showing the market forces are working?
1218 So help me out here.
1219 MS MORIN: You use the word "interesting" in relation to Australia. I think we would agree, it is interesting indeed. We don't claim to know the telecom industry very well in Australia.
1220 At a high level, our understanding is that built into the legislative scheme is this requirement for industry codes to be developed by industry through certain processes, consultations and things with at the end of the day, no codes, one will be imposed on you. So a very different regulatory environment or approach, if you like, I think than what we have here in Canada.
1221 If we even set that aside, eight codes, wow, you know 1,100 members, wow, you know, lots. I think they have 240 employees at the TIO. Almost looks like a regulator. And then forget about the number of issues, but the number of actual complaints, 230,000.
1222 I don't know, I think from our perspective that is not what we should be driving towards. I think you have heard loud and clear from those who have appeared to date, volume in and of itself is not an indication of success. And I also understand there was a significant increase in the just the last year as well.
1223 There is no doubt, in Canada the volume should be increasing and probably will continue to increase every year, you know, as public awareness and customers get more used to it, as TSPs get their own additional complaints handling, you know, a little bit more focused.
1224 But you will reach a point where it should plateau and then coming down. And then every once in a while you might see peaks because there could be something happening in the industry as a particular time, and that is reflective of what we would have seen in our own internal complaint handling. So interesting, for sure.
1225 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: More fun with numbers. Right now dividing the two numbers into each other, 1,125 member stakeholders it is something like 426 complaints per company compared to Canada which is somewhere in the order of 50.
1226 Now, even if you took -- and that is with 73 members right now. So I would imagine that even if you took all 14,000 consumer complaints that are both in and out of scope, it still would be less than 200 consumer complaints right now of all member companies within CCTS.
1227 So I guess what I am saying here is that I am hearing a lot of I don't knows, I am hearing it from large incumbent organizations like yourself, I am hearing it from CCTS themselves, I am hearing it from PIAC, all of whom have different points of view, but definitely for one thing I am hearing consistently is that no one seems to know.
1228 So it goes back to I think a larger question, which is if mandatory participation and a whole whack of code seems to be producing a lot of numbers to the point where they are quantifiable, but not qualifiable, and perhaps on the other end we should be going a little further into either soliciting more members or understanding better what the sources of complaints are, the question I asked earlier today is is it not conceivable or feasible to look at mandatory inclusion into CCTS based on bad behaviour rather than good behaviour?
1229 It is very similar to what experience rating assessments it the Workers' Compensation Board apply, which is that if you are bad you hurt and you hurt in a form that tries to encourage good behaviour in the future. So that at least we know that there is pressure being applied to offending organizations as a concept, but it still leaves whether or not those offences are going to fall within code or not. But at least we have one end of the problem starting to be meld out.
1230 MS MORIN: You know, it is an interesting concept and one, two, three strikes you're in, you know -- I usually think of it in the copyright context, one, two, three strikes and you're out -- but to begin with, simply because there is a complaint against a non-member TSP or against TSP for that matter doesn't necessarily assume the complaint is well-founded.
1231 And even if it is and the CCTS assists in its resolution, let's say with the first stage, within the first 30 days, you know, you kind of get into this game about well, what is the trigger?
1232 And I think given, and I think Mr. Abbott explained it I think quite clearly in response to another question, that the CCTS is up and running, all the heavy lifting has taken place already. What is left is to bring in the remaining players so that there is a consistent approach across the entire industry, both for TSPs alike from the competitively neutral and symmetrical fashion, but also for consumers. Today I could be a non-TSP member -- customer, tomorrow I could be a member of a -- my service provider could be a member TSP.
1233 So you know, is there really any policy goal for keeping a small subset out, and a small subset who, you have seen the stats in the annual report, aren't going to generate a whole lot of complaints anyway? So both the administrative and the financial burden will likely be quite small.
1234 So I guess maybe we hear what you are saying and we understand you are looking at it to try to have fewer, but there are some very small medium-sized TSPs who have only had a handful of complaints, why should they be treated any differently than a smaller TSP?
1235 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: I understand. But again, the principle is that it is not three strikes and you are out, it is three strikes and you are in.
1236 MS MORIN: Yes.
1237 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: And I accept your argument entirely, which is that the CCTS is going through its maturation process, it is learning. As indicated earlier, it is applying new analytics, new software and new processes so that it will continue to learn by its experience.
1238 And I have been trying to stay away from this, but if we can't even come to consensus on how inclusion should occur with respect to increasing the ranks within CCTS, I can't imagine the difficulty that must go on with respect to code issues. Because what happens if you find out within CCTS, with all this wonderful information that is being gathered, that the thing that the consumer wants to talk to you about is the one thing you don't want to talk about, which is something like disconnects or payment policies?
1239 MS MORIN: I guess, with all due respect, Commissioner Simpson, I see those as two different issues. I think our position is quite clear when it comes to membership, we are in total agreement that we think it should be universal mandatory membership. No exceptions, they should all be included.
1240 You heard earlier about Mobilicity and when One Mobile and TekSavvy, why should those organizations be treated any differently or why should their customers be treated any differently? That I see as a different question than what additional reporting information might the CCTS be able to extract when it introduces its new case management system.
1241 It is quite possible customers want to talk to the CCTS about something that is out of scope, and it could continue to be very legitimate that that area remain out of scope given the mandate of the CCTS.
1242 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay. Just for a point of clarification, did I then hear you say that, to my earlier question about three strikes and you are in as a concept, that you were saying why should a company be penalized into mandatory inclusion, and yet you are --
1243 MS MORIN: No, no, I didn't mean that, sorry.
1244 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay. Would you please go through that again for me? Because I am trying to understand, because I thought I heard you say something about financial burden, and smaller companies would have a financial burden if there was mandatory participation, would they not?
1245 MS MORIN: So let's take it just step by step here. Universal mandatory membership, the CCTS is up and running, a lot of the expense that was required to get it going has been spent by existing TSP members.
1246 The missing members, the smaller members, below the $10 million threshold of forborne revenues -- right, so revenues from somewhere else, this is forborne revenues -- the administrative and financial burden on those non-TSP members today we believe is not significant at all.
1247 You know, you have a form to file, you pay your initial membership fee, you have quarterly payments to be made based on your revenues, which for a small TSP today is $130 a quarter, doesn't look like it is going to break the bank.
1248 If there are issues around identifying those members or better understanding what their actual revenues are, there maybe some administrative issues there that Commissioner Maker mentioned, possibly the CRTC can play a role there. But we definitely do not believe that there is an administrative or financial burden that we be imposed on non-TSP members today, given the existing structure and, you know, just where the CCTS finds itself.
1249 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you.
1250 THE CHAIRPERSON: I think that concludes the examination of your evidence, and I think that concludes today.
1251 Madam Secretary.
1252 THE SECRETARY: Yes, and we will resume tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.
1253 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
--- Whereupon the hearing adjourned at 1626, to resume on Tuesday, November 30, 2010 at 0900
Johanne Morin Jean Desaulniers
Monique Mahoney Sue Villeneuve
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