ARCHIVED - Transcript, Hearing 5 November 2015
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Location: Gatineau, Quebec
Date: 6 November 2015
© Copyright Reserved
Attendees and Location
140 Promenade du Portage
- Chairman: Jean-Pierre Blais
- Members: Linda Vennard, Peter Menzies, Stephen Simpson,
- Legal Counsel: Crystal Hulley, Eric Bowles
- Secretary: Jade Roy
- Hearing Manager:
--- Upon resuming on Friday, November 6, 2015 at 9:00 a.m.
4002 LE PRÉSIDENT: À l'ordre, s'il vous plait.
4003 Madame la secrétaire, s’il vous plait.
4004 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Merci. We’ll now hear the presentation of Bell Canada. Please introduce yourself and your colleagues and you have 20 minutes.
4005 MR. MALCOLMSON: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Commission staff. My name is Rob Malcolmson and I’m Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs for BCE. It’s my pleasure to introduce Bell’s panel, seated immediately to my right is Mike MacInnis, Director of Regulatory Affairs; to Mike’s right is Ruby Barber, Assistant General Counsel, Legal and Regulatory Affairs. To my immediate left is Martin Denault, Director of Customer Service.
4006 Martin is on the frontlines leading the customer service groups in Bell that handle issues and questions from our residential customers, whether they come from voice calls, emails or online chats. A key part of Martin’s mandate is managing the team that handles CCTS complaints. And I’ll ask Martin to begin our presentation.
4007 M. DENAULT: À Bell nous croyons qu’un excellent service à la clientèle est essentiel à notre réussite. C'est pourquoi nous suivons de près le nombre et le type de plaintes qui sont déposées au CPRST. Nous nous efforçons d’améliorer notre service à la clientèle, et nous croyons que nous avançons résolument dans la bonne direction.
4008 Comme l’indiquait le plus récent rapport annuel du CPRST, le nombre de plaintes à l’endroit de BCE a diminué d’environ 6 pourcent pour la période 2013-1014. Et en 2014-2015 le nombre de plaintes a encore diminué dans l’ensemble d’une marge légèrement supérieure à l’année précédente et d’environ 25 pourcent pour notre marque Virgin. Depuis le début du mois d’août le nombre de plaintes diminue deux fois plus rapidement que l’année dernière.
4009 Nous sommes conscients que nos concurrents travaillent fort également à améliorer leur service à la clientèle, telle est la nature d’un marché hautement concurrentiel qui motive tous ses joueurs à s’améliorer.
4010 Améliorer le service à la clientèle est l’un des six impératifs stratégiques de BCE, alors je peux vous assurer que le service à la clientèle reçoit une attention constante de la part de la haute direction.
4011 Nous avons d’ailleurs investi plus de 300 millions de dollars c'est deux dernières années pour améliorer le service à la clientèle. Nous avons entre autre transformer nos centres d’appel de manière à mieux répondre à nos clients dès le premier contact. Nous avons modifié nos factures afin qu’elles soient plus faciles à comprendre. Nous avons augmenté les avis relatifs à l’utilisation sans fil au-delà des exigences du Code sur les services sans fil.
4012 Nous avons construit un outil personnalisé d’explication de la facture pour les clients de Bell Mobilité. Nous avons lancé une application mobile permettant aux abonnés de consulter leur facture, leur utilisation et leur service à partir d’un appareil sans fil. Nous avons repassé les périodes prévues pour les rendez-vous de quatre ou cinq heures à deux heures pour les clients du service Bell Télé Fibe.
4013 Les résultats de ces efforts sont encourageants. En plus de la baisse du nombre de plaintes du CPRST, nos clients apprécient définitivement le fruit de ces investissements comme en témoigne la réduction significative de nos volumes d’appels.
4014 Finalement, nous observons une croissance importante du nombre de nos clients qui nous recommandent à leurs amis, à leur famille.
4016 MR. MALCOLMSON: In our view, the evidence is clear that the CCTS is fulfilling its mandate effectively and efficiently. The CCTS reported that it handles more than 150,000 customer contacts annually. And in 2014 accepted over 11,000 customer complaints, successfully concluding over 99 percent of them.
4017 In processing these complaints, the CCTS met or exceeded its response time targets. As well, customers who submit a complaint to the CCTS are highly satisfied with the services they receive. The most recent client survey shows that satisfaction rates with the complaint resolution process and CCTS representatives range from 75 percent to 90 percent.
4018 Under the current model, the CCTS and PSPs work collaboratively. While we don’t always see eye to eye with the CCTS, we respect the work they do and how it is done. We also recognize that we share the common goal of quickly and effectively resolving customers’ complaints.
4019 Some intervenors have argued that the CCTS is not independent and have insinuated the PSPs have too much control. We disagree with these suggestions. By design, the CCTS is clearly independent. To our knowledge, there is never been an instance where the CCTS has behaved in a way that is not independent. And there's no evidence on the record of such behaviour.
4020 To the contrary, the testimony from CCTS representatives earlier this week confirms that there is a culture of consensus at the Board, and the organization’s governance structure has never impeded the CCTS in independently carrying out its mission.
4021 On two previous occasions, the Commission has considered the issue of the CCTS’s independence. In 2007, the Commission concluded that the governance structure was generally appropriate, but suggested a few changes. The current structure reflects those changes.
4022 In 2011, the Commission confirmed that the structure and governance continue to be appropriate. Since then, in our view, nothing has changed to suggest that this conclusion should be reversed.
4024 MS. BARBER: As in previous review proceedings, some intervenors have proposed a different vision for the CCTS. They would like to transform it from an independent non-partisan industry ombudsman into a consumer advocate that serves as an adversary to PSPs.
4025 Under this alternative vision, the CCTS would expand its mandate and restructure its Board to give more control to consumer agencies. This proposal is contrary to the role of an ombudsman. As the Ombudsman Association states:
4026 “Ombudsmen or ombudspersons are neutral arbiters and not advocates nor consumer champions.”
4027 Turning the CCTS into a consumer advocate could also significantly reduce its effectiveness and efficiency, as an adversarial relationship with PSPs could lead to fewer and slower complaint resolutions.
4028 Moreover, as the CCTS recently concluded after making changes to comply with the Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, governance and structural changes are both time consuming and costly. They should not be undertaken lightly.
4029 Today’s structure and governance has led to an independent, efficient and effective body that is successfully serving the needs of consumers and small businesses. We believe that the CCTS has demonstrated that it can successfully adapt to evolutionary changes in its operating environment.
4030 For example, it accommodated the introduction of the Deposit and Disconnection Code and the Wireless Code. These changes were not without their challenges, but through the efforts of service providers and the CCTS the problems were resolved
4031 The CCTS is now set to take on complaints related to the TVSP Code. This next evolution will bring operational challenges, increased complaint volumes, likely changes to complaint handling tools and procedures, and staff training, to name a few. But the CCTS’s track record demonstrates that the challenges are manageable. The CCTS itself has concluded that the addition of TV would not necessitate any major changes to the mandate or structure.
4032 MR. MacINNIS: While structural changes are not appropriate at this time, there have been several operational refinements proposed in this proceeding that should be carefully considered. I’ll discus two.
4033 First, we would like to see a better process for removing invalid complaints from complaint counts at all steps of the process. For example, the CCTS’s 2013-2014 Annual Report shows there were more than 1,400 closed complaints during that year.
4034 In our view, the majority of these should not be counted as complaints. As explained in the Annual Report, these are issues that were outside the CCTS’s mandate, more appropriately addressed by another agency, did not warrant further investigation, or rejected for several other reasons. In short, they were not valid complaints.
4035 We have two primary concerns. The first is that closed complaints are not removed from individual service providers' complaint counts so reported results are inflated. Second, we believe that more complaints should be classified as "closed".
4036 To address these concerns we've recommended that on an annual basis, the CCTS should analyze a sample of complaints to determine the extent to which invalid complaints have been improperly accepted.
4037 Assuming the analysis shows that improvements could be made, the CCTS should conduct a review of its screening and investigation procedures, in consultation with PSPs.
4038 And when a complaint is found to be invalid, it should be removed from a service provider's complaint count. In such instances, we've recommended that the complaints-based funding mechanism allow the CCTS to recover its costs for investigating invalid complaints, regardless of when in the complaints process this determination is made.
4039 The second operational change we'd like to discuss is the proposal by some interveners to increase awareness of the CCTS among the general population. We believe that the current awareness approaches make the CCTS discoverable to those who wish to make a complaint and that any additional consumer awareness and education initiatives should focus on the CCTS' online presence.
4040 Existing awareness approaches are well designed to reach customers who may have a complaint but are unaware of the CCTS. Whether it is when the customer is talking to a service provider's representative about a problem, reviewing a bill or searching the CRTC's website, information about the CCTS is provided.
4041 In today's digital economy, when more than 90 percent of Canadian adults have home Internet access and 70 percent have smart phones capable of searching the Internet, Canadians who have never heard of the CCTS can simply search the Internet using common terms like "phone complaint" or "wireless complaint" and they will quickly be led to the CCTS' website. The CCTS has confirmed that the Internet is the most common source for its clients to learn about the CCTS. This is an important development in the environment since the last review of the CCTS five years ago.
4042 We disagree with proposals to engage in public service announcements or other mass-market advertising campaigns. These sorts of promotional vehicles can be inefficient and could encourage customers to bypass their service provider and register a complaint directly with the CCTS. Current CCTS procedures, which require customers to first attempt to resolve complaints with their service providers before filing a complaint with the CCTS, benefit consumers and service providers alike.
4043 So if a customer, in response to a public service announcement, contacts the CCTS before their service provider, the CCTS will simply redirect the consumer to the service provider. This could lead to frustration for the customer and additional administrative burden for the CCTS.
4044 The CCTS is already improving its website and expanding its online presence through social media. We believe it should continue to move in this direction. Making its services more easily discoverable to Canadians who wish to make a complaint – online, on their mobile device, on Facebook or Twitter, or in an online chat room – represents the most effective and efficient outreach activities.
4045 MR. MALCOLMSON: In closing, we are highly motivated to reduce our CCTS complaints as part of our strategic priority to improve customer service. We're making progress but recognize that the journey doesn’t end.
4046 We believe that no major changes to the CCTS' mandate and structure are required and additional promotional efforts should focus on enhancing the CCTS' online presence. CCTS funding will inevitably increase with the addition of TVSP complaints but this increase can be accommodated through the existing funding mechanisms.
4047 The evidence demonstrates that the CCTS is meeting its performance targets and satisfying consumer needs. The evidence further shows that the CCTS has effectively accommodated several changes in its operating environment so it is well positioned to successfully accommodate the administration of the TVSP Code.
4048 Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, the CCTS is working well today, and with a few key refinements, can work even better in the future.
4049 Thank you for the opportunity to share our views. We'd be happy to answer any questions you may have.
4050 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you for that presentation.
4051 So Vice-Chair Menzies will start us off.
4052 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you. Thanks for your presentation.
4053 So what is driving this increased focus you point to on customer service and satisfaction?
4054 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well, Commissioner Menzies, what’s driving it is a highly competitive environment and a desire on our part to constantly innovate and find ways to serve our customers better. So that’s what’s the primary driver of it, a competitive environment and an understanding that we can always do better with customer service and we should never be satisfied.
4055 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Does customer retention become a bigger focus as opposed to acquisition?
4056 MR. MALCOLMSON: I don’t think customer -- you know, we’re always trying to acquire customers and we’re always trying to retain them. That’s the perfect storm for any service provider. So there’s no change in emphasis, just an understanding that the way you acquire customers is also a function of how you treat existing customers. So customer service is equally important.
4057 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: On page 9 of your written submission you describe how enforcement of codes should be a CRTC responsibility rather than CCTS.
4058 Are you comfortable, though, with CCTS interpreting these codes for the purpose of addressing customer complaints?
4059 MR. MALCOLMSON: Yes, we are, Commissioner Menzies, and we took a little different approach than the other PSPs who, I think, were drawing a line between interpretation and administration of the codes.
4060 Our view is that inherent within the CCTS’ mandate and day-to-day functioning when it’s entertaining a complaint is it’s going to have to interpret the codes. So we’re comfortable from that perspective.
4061 If and when larger interpretive issues arise that are industry-wide issues, we would think that probably the CCTS would surface them with the regulator or a service provider would come forward with an application to the regulator seeking clarity to the extent that it was needed, but on a day-to-day interpretative front, no issue whatsoever. I think they do a good job.
4062 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Understood, thanks.
4063 What actions -- you’ve listed some actions you’ve taken about consumer satisfaction that you’ve taken. What actions have you taken specifically to promote awareness of CCTS?
4064 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well, I’ll ask Mike to start that off and then Martin may have some additional comments.
4065 MR. MacINNIS: Well, we live up to our obligations of the awareness plan with the CCTS, so our customer service agents inform customers at the second level of escalation. We provide the notices on our bills. Our website includes references to the CCTS in our standard complaints handling process pages. We’ve got it in our telephone directories and any other obligations are all met.
4066 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: You mentioned in your submissions today about the CCTS has good online discoverability in terms of if people need to find complaints, they can Google it or Bing it, or whatever, and find it.
4067 What do you think has driven that discoverability on it because it wasn’t always the case?
4068 MR. MALCOLMSON: I think part of it is evolutionary. I think the last time the CCTS’ mandate was reviewed we were at a different stage in the evolution of usage of online tools. So that’s part of it.
4069 MR. MacINNIS: Yeah, I would just comment that customer behaviour has changed just as people get more familiar with the online vehicles and the increase of mobile internet usage I think has driven that too. So it’s just -- it tends now to be the first place that people look when they’ve got an issue that they don’t know what to do with.
4070 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Do you think the awareness of CCTS will -- put it this way; what improvements in CCTS -- in consumer awareness of CCTS do you anticipate as a result of their investing in a Communications Officer?
4071 MR. MALCOLMSON: I think any effort to invest in communication will improve awareness overall. It’s hard to measure what it will do, but I think it’s a step in the right direction.
4072 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Go ahead.
4073 MR. MacINNIS: Well, I think they’ve mentioned themselves and others have mentioned that improving the mobile formatting of the website would enhance their online presence.
4074 I think they’ve also spoken about looking at search engine optimization techniques and that sort of thing so that the results yields CCTS websites more frequently under more search terms and that sort of thing. So they’ve mentioned all of that and social media as well. So I think all of those are going to be areas that will only improve over time.
4075 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: What level of awareness do you think is appropriate for CCTS and that it should aspire to? Is it prompted, unprompted, 20 percent, 40 percent, 60 percent? Is there a metric that could be applied to it and say this is what you should aspire to? Others have mentioned differences between the subtleties and differences in terms of promotion and awareness levels and those sorts of things.
4076 If you were to pick a number, what do you think would be appropriate?
4077 MR. MacINNIS: I ---
4078 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Well, you don’t have to pick a number; just tell me what you think would be appropriate.
4079 MR. MacINNIS: I would be very reluctant to pick a number. Even I think in the CCTS’ written submissions they seem to have done some investigation into this exact thing in terms of relevant awareness levels for ombudsmen and they couldn’t find any consensus as to what the appropriate number was.
4080 The trick, I guess, is if you set a general awareness level or target, for example, unaided recall, we want -- no matter who we ask we want X percent of people to reply what the acronym CCTS when we ask them a question. I think that’s challenging. The current awareness approaches are designed to target those in need and I think that that’s probably the best way to go.
4081 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: You also suggested a name change for the organisation, and I’m trying to understand how that would perhaps not threaten discoverability. It’s been a few years to get one brand out there and suggesting a name change, some might suggest, makes it more difficult.
4082 MR. MacINNIS: That’s a great point, and that’s the trade-off you have to make, whether you want the name to be more indicative of the range of services that the CCTS handles, or you want to, I guess, continue to build on the name recognition that it’s already got. We don’t feel strongly about it.
4083 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Thank you.
4084 I just wanted you to confirm your position on mandatory participation of all TSPs and TVSPs. Everybody’s in, in your view?
4085 MR. MALCOLMSON: Yes. It’s our view that anyone providing service and having customer relationships should be a member of the CCTS and abide by its processes and codes.
4086 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Are there any particular measures you think should be undertaken to -- or would be the most appropriate to promote compliance? And do you have a view on what tools should be used to enforce that participation?
4087 MR. MALCOLMSON: I think a useful starting point would be to track compliance more formally. So I think the CCTS might want to engage in ongoing tracking as among the PSPs, and then in terms of actual enforcement to ensure compliance, there’s a range of remedies, some of which the CCTS could undertake such as naming and shaming, publishing in their annual report sort of recidivist non-compliers and then the CCTS could also enlist, of course, the assistance of the Commission on various levels if it was required.
4088 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. But nothing -- you don’t have anything, AMPS, anything specific? You would leave that up to us?
4089 MR. MALCOLMSON: Certainly we would leave AMPS up to you.
4090 One other item in your toolkit could be making a condition -- making membership and participation in good standing a condition of being an exempt TVSP or being a reseller. So you could make it a condition of a regulatory status that benefits the service provider.
4091 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay.
4092 PIAC and allies argued that the compensation cap of $5,000 per complaint should rise to 25,000 because they believe it would incent a more conciliatory approach by service providers.
4093 Now, you commented on that in reply, but could you confirm again why you don’t think -- do you think this is a good idea, bad idea and why?
4094 MR. MALCOMSON: Sure. We start from the perspective that the CCTS has been and continues to be a success story. It has resolved -- it has entertained 53,000 complaints, resolved 53,000 complaints, had a success rate of 90 percent where both the service providers and the customers walk away happy or at least satisfied. And we think in large part that success is due to the collaborative nature of the way complaints are approached and resolved by the CCTS.
4095 When you get into increasing financial thresholds, you run the risk perhaps of taking away from that success and creating a more adversarial process, and whenever adversaries get involved or lawyers get involved, things seem to bog down and we think we’ve got a success story on our hands, so why should we tinker with it?
4096 MR. MacINNIS: I guess I would just add that there doesn’t seem to be a need to increase the threshold. I noted that the CCTS itself described the $5,000 cap as ample for what it needs to do and they would seem to be a pretty good judge of what’s required.
4097 And I guess to the consumer groups issue about understanding, is $5,000 really the cap or what if there’s an error that’s occurred? So there is certainly scope within the current cap for additional thousands of dollars above $5,000 if there was an error that occurred that had to be corrected. So it’s not limited in terms of correcting errors to the $5,000 limit.
4098 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: In terms of the governance structure, PIAC also feels quite strongly that the existence of the special majority or super majority vote has the potential to skew things too much in the favour of the service providers and not in favour of the consumer.
4099 You’ve obviously made it clear that you don't think there’s any need for changes for that, but I’d like you to address -- I mean, they’ve raised a concern and I think it deserves to be addressed. So why do you think they’re wrong? What can you say that would reassure them on that?
4100 MR. MALCOLMSON: I’ll provide a number of reasons, starting in -- it’s a different levels of the organisation that you have to look at the independence of the CCTS from its membership.
4101 So I’ll start at the Board level if you’ll permit me. Clearly the Board isn’t controlled by the PSPs. We have a Board of seven, three of which are PSP representatives, and I would point out that even within that group of three they represent three different and distinct constituencies. They represent the -- not all of whom are friends all the time -- they represent the TELCOs, the CABLECOs and then other TSPs. So among the group of three there are distinctions.
4102 And then the group of four consists of two consumer representatives and then two independents, and I would note that the two independents are nominated from a slate of candidates that are recommended by a Nominating Committee. And importantly, the Nominating Committee does not have PSP representation. So it’s clear that a majority of the Board, the four of seven, come from constituencies other than the PSPs. So that’s the Board level.
4103 And I would also note that on two previous occasions the Commission itself has looked at the governance structure and the Board in 2007 and 2011 and concluded that that structure was appropriate at that time.
4104 Then we look at the difference between the organisation, the Commissioner and his staff that are out investigating and resolving complaints, and you ask yourself is the Commissioner independent from the service providers? And again, we think that the governance structure certainly provides structurally for that independence, and I’ll just point out a few examples.
4105 The first one is the Commissioner himself is appointed by the four non-PSP directors.
4106 The CCTS Procedural Code requires the Commissioner to act in and independent and impartial manner. In our experience, we can certainly attest to the fact that he does.
4107 Third, each director has to sign a Code of Conduct and Conflict of Interest Guideline, again reinforcing that duty of independence. And fourth, you know, neither the Board nor any director is permitted to intervene in any complaint.
4108 So I think again structurally, at the Board level, at the organisational level there is complete independence.
4109 And then the question becomes well does the voting structure somehow compromise the inner-workings of the CCTS.
4110 And again I could give you a legal answer but I think a better answer is the testimony that you heard from representatives of the CCTS earlier this week, where they described, among other things, that the structure of the board’s never been an issue, there’s a culture of consensus on the board, there haven’t been acrimonious debates.
4111 So I think Commissioner Menzies that all of those factors together suggest that it’s fully functioning clearly independent and fulfilling its mandate.
4112 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you for that response. I want to refer you to paragraph 54 of your written submission. And you referred to, I believe, this again in your oral presentation today.
4113 You’re recommending CCTS track and report invalid complaints as a separate category of activity and remove all such customer issues from complaint counts or otherwise report them separately.
4114 In terms of that, is there a benefit to consumers of implementing that recommendation?
4115 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well I think there’s a benefit to consumers and to everyone invested in the process to ensure that the actual number of complaints is tracked appropriately.
4116 Obviously as a PSP who receives complaints, we’re sensitive to the numbers of complaints we receive. So if we track complaints and find out at a point along the way a complaint wasn’t valid, because it was out of scope or for some other reason, we think it should not be counted against any PSP as a complaint.
4117 And with that I’ll ask Mike to provide a little more detail and Martin has something to add as well.
4118 MR. MacINNIS: Our suggestions in this area aren’t -- they’re not revolutionary. We’re here to talk about the CCTS and how to improve it and it was in that spirit that we made that recommendation.
4119 What we’re asking for is a dialog between PSPs and the CCTS and looking for ways to improve how complaints are handled, and making sure that both sides, to the extent that we can do that, agree with the treatment of those complaints.
4120 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And that’s a benefit to consumers?
4121 MR. MacINNIS: As Rob said, I think to the extent that -- that that process can be improved such that complaints are handled by the PSP in a more effective and efficient manner, I think that benefits both the consumer and the PSP, because the complaint is resolved on a faster and more efficient basis.
4122 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay thanks. I just want to move now to your suggestions regarding the funding model, that’s sort of section 8 of your -- basically paragraphs 56 through 60 of your written submission, in terms of that.
4123 And probably I expect for the average consumer looking at that, that it’s pretty much inside baseball and it’s okay because that’s sometimes what we do here.
4124 But is there anything in your arguments -- your arguments regarding the revenue based funding mechanism are clear; don’t question that.
4125 But first of all is there something in there that benefits consumers? Is there a benefit to switching -- to making adjustments to the funding model that you suggest that somehow will make the organisation more efficient, more effective, that will have a consumer benefit to it?
4126 MR. MacINNIS: No I don’t think so. I think it’s just simply improving the operation of it and the benefits to the extent there are any, will be to the PSPs and the CCTS itself.
4127 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. And in paragraph 60 -- thanks for the straightforwardness of the answer.
4128 In paragraph 60 you’re asking that service providers be permitted to deduct retail forborne revenues generated from medium and large size businesses from their total re-borne -- total retail forborne revenues for purposes of calculating their share of the RBF. Why? Is that -- on the face of it somebody could say that could be self-serving.
4129 MR. MacINNIS: Sure, the logic there is that the scope of the CCTS is to handle complaints related to consumers and small businesses.
4130 So to the extent that you’re divvying up the budget obligations based on revenues, then we thought that the more appropriate revenue base would be revenues related to consumers and small businesses.
4131 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, so would it be a better idea as suggested by others to raise the balance between -- to increase the revenue that comes from those who generate the most complaints?
4132 To shift it more heavily onto -- shift the burden more heavily onto those with the most complaints as opposed to just -- well it isn’t just revenue now, but to increase that balance?
4133 MR. MacINNIS: I guess I see them as two separate issues.
4134 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yes, they are.
4135 MR. MacINNIS: If there is a revenue based fee, then I think it makes sense to try and refine that calculation.
4136 The percentage of the budget that was recovered from revenue based fees versus complaints based fees --
4137 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right.
4138 MR. MacINNIS: -- I see as a separate issue.
4139 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yes, it is.
4140 MR. MacINNIS: On that issue, things seem to be working, in terms of the CCTS’s performance under the current balance.
4141 I think that form our perspective we’re certainly motivated significantly to reduce our complaints based on the current complaint based funding allocation.
4142 So if the incentive there is to encourage PSPs to lower their complaints then we’re certainly motivated to do that. So at this point we didn’t see that we needed to tinker with it.
4143 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay.
4144 Switching back to -- in your reply you made it very clear that you were really opposed in general to the worldview as presented by the forum for research in policy and communications.
4145 Would you like to expand on why you don’t think their position is in the best interest of consumers?
4146 MR. MALCOLMSON: Just if you could help me out, which position exactly?
4147 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I didn’t have a specific position. In your reply it was -- it was fairly general.
4148 MR. MALCOLMSON: Which paragraphs in our reply?
4149 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I can -- hang on a sec. Shed some light.
4150 MR. MALCOMSON: If it helps, Commissioner Menzies, we can take that one away if it -- if it’s not readily there.
4151 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I was going to suggest that might be helpful, because ---
4152 MR. MacINNIS: Is it perhaps related to the suggestion that the CCTS should be a consumer advocate as opposed to a ---
4153 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yes it was the general advocacy position as opposed to the -- the advocacy position in general, rather than in specific.
4154 MR. MacINNIS: Gotcha.
4155 MR. MALCOLMSON: Okay, now that I know what we’re discussing I can -- I think I can add to that.
4156 Our view is that -- and I think I said this before, the CCTS is a success. It was created as a consumer agency with a mandate to resolve complaints as between service providers and customers.
4157 It’s achieved that balance and that balance has resulted in a very useful agency that does things efficiently and expeditiously.
4158 I think when you transform it into an advocacy group that’s representing one set of stakeholders; you run the risk of tinkering with the success that the organisation’s achieved.
4159 So our view is that it shouldn’t be an advocate, it was never intended to be an advocate for one group of stakeholders and its mandate is to resolve complaints as an independent adjudicator and it does, you know, a very fine job on that and we shouldn’t interfere with that.
4160 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thank you.
4161 Next question relates to promotion again and you’ve suggested CCTS continue to promote itself online, which given the accessibility steps you’ve quoted is not unreasonable but it does leave some people out.
4162 So are -- Does that concern you that people who don’t have the same level -- the same access to the digital marketplace and digital world, that there’s a group of consumers there that might not have awareness of the CCTS and should something be done to address that?
4163 MR. MacINNIS: It’s certainly a concern, and I think it was that concern, which is behind some of the existing awareness initiatives.
4164 So for example, putting the notice in the white pages requiring TSPs customer service representatives, when they’re on the phone, and a complaint can’t be resolved to refer to the CCTS; putting it on printed bills as well.
4165 So I think the current approach is, again, they’re designed for situational awareness as opposed to general awareness, but I think that people that aren’t on the digital media can still sort of find out about the CCTS as required, when they need it.
4166 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: How does it work when people phone in and they have an issue? And you said that your CSRs notify them of access -- customers have access to CCTS at the second level.
4167 MR. MALCOLMSON: I’m going to ask Martin who runs Customer Service ---
4168 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yes, because I want to know if that happens at the beginning of the conversation or at the end of the conversation, if there’s, you know -- does it happen only after screaming and shouting or does it happen -- describe it to me.
4169 MR. DENAULT: So we’re pretty efficient at resolving issues when a customer calls in. So in the frontline, we will do our best and actually our resolution rates are north of 90 percent in the frontlines.
4170 Whenever the customer expresses -- as soon as he says a series of words, “I want to speak to your supervisor. I’m not happy, I want to escalate”, and all that, even if they come in and they say this, we will transfer at the end of the call, regardless of the resolution to that next level of escalation.
4171 So again, frontline will send it to our first level of escalation. They will attempt at resolving. Again, if the customer manifests the need to be escalated, even before the screaming and shouting, even before we -- actually, we try not to scream and shout -- even before the resolution is ---
4172 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I didn’t mean to suggest that you were screaming and shouting.
4173 MR. DENAULT: Very infrequently.
4174 At the second level of escalation, again the resolution rates there are really, really good. But as soon as a customer says these words, and actually I’m pretty sensitive to this because agents have a tendency to -- actually, we’ve empowered them as much as we could and we’ve told them, “you have all the tools. Try and resolve your issues.”
4175 And as we learned, we saw some agents that actually were insisting on keeping the customer. So we’ve made it safe for them as much as we could to send it up to the next level of escalation by telling them, “As soon as the customer mentions these terms and all this, you will send it, and there’s not going to be harm.”
4176 In the second level of escalation again, once the issue hasn’t been resolved or if the customers mention these terms, we will inform about the CCTS.
4177 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And what do they say when they inform about the CCTS?
4178 MR. DENAULT: Well, we tell them unfortunately that we’re saddened that we haven’t been able to resolve. We give them the coordinates. We explain what the CCTS purpose is. It’s a neutral arbitrator and that they will help the two parties to resolve the issues.
4179 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And the contact information is given?
4180 MR. DENAULT: Right, depending on what the customer needs, yes.
4181 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Thank you.
4182 I’m sure you’ve monitored the submissions of the accessibility groups and their presentations here this week.
4183 I would like your comment on why they are so disappointed in the inability of service providers to meet their needs. What has gone wrong there that this can’t seem to be resolved for accessibility groups?
4184 MR. MacINNIS: We did listen in or attended those sessions and it was -- it’s a difficult sort of message to hear but we obviously hear it and in some cases, we don’t do a great job.
4185 I think what has happened, and the Commission has sort of led these efforts in recent years, is that there is much more being done industry-wide in terms of, for example, having a location on our website that provides information that we feel would be of interest or needed in terms of our products and services, as it relates to various disabled communities.
4186 We’ve adopted the standards that are required in the Commission’s determinations in terms of the web content that we provide and the bills and so on and so forth, but there’s certainly -- there’s certainly more to do there.
4187 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And are you going to do something about it?
4188 MR. MALCOLMSON: Yes, we listened very carefully to the accessibility groups and some of the stories they were putting on the record were heart-wrenching and yes, we will.
4189 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So in another area, what is your policy regarding complainants whose account may have gone to a credit agency?
4190 MR. MALCOLMSON: Commissioner Menzies, just before we ask Ruby to answer that, I would let -- I beg your indulgence to ask Martin to comment a little further again on the frontline when he encounters a customer with accessibility issues, what he does ---
4191 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Sure. I’d be happy to have that.
4192 MR. DENAULT: Thank you, Commissioner.
4193 It was really hard to hear. So what we -- we have a group of agents that are trained to support disability customers, and they are -- that’s all they do in life. So they support all types of issues these customers may have.
4194 Now, obviously, we’ve centralized them into one location for efficiency. All of our agents, be it in the stores, be it in the call centres, are informed of what typical things to do there and are instructed to transfer as soon as a customer has a specific request.
4195 Again, a billing issue can be resolved by any one of our agents, but if it’s more specific to their needs or if that disabled customer wishes to be supported by that disability specific agent, they will be able to transfer.
4196 We don’t have robots, so some agents, some store representatives may forget about this, but I for sure get a lot more customers than less from the stores, when they go in the stores. We keep informing, we keep training our agents to make sure that we can support these customers as best we can.
4197 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Do you have a system where you meet with these folks regularly?
4198 MR. DENAULT: The disabled customers?
4199 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: The people with accessibility concerns. Do you have a process where you meet with them regularly where you -- some sort of feedback ---
4200 MR. DENAULT: Not formally.
4201 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- loop or something like that? Because I mean I’m not -- I don’t want to suggest that you’re insincere. You’re very sincere about your statements here today, but it would be really nice sometime to attend one of these hearings and hear from people who have those needs, that people are listening to them.
4202 Because one of the things that people really, really want the most is to know that they are heard, and if you have a -- do you have; do you talk to them? Do you listen to them?
4203 MR. DENAULT: Well, it’s very ---
4204 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Actually, I don’t care so much if you talk to them. I care if you listen to them.
4205 MR. DENAULT: Yeah, I try to listen more than I talk. But it’s too informal to my liking.
4206 So this week, I had my team members participate all week and it’s definitely something we’ve noted down. The team leader who’s responsible for that team has informal links with these groups to make sure we support them correctly but again it’s too informal to my liking.
4207 So we’ll take it away and maybe formalize them a bit more.
4208 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: All right.
4209 MR. MALCOLMSON: Your suggestion is a good one, Commissioner Menzies, and we will take it away.
4210 I think you want to talk about credit issues.
4211 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Let us know.
4212 I wanted to talk about credit agencies.
4213 MS. BARBER: So to the extent that we determine that we’ve made a mistake, in terms of the information we’ve reported to the credit bureau, we correct the mistake and we send them the corrected information.
4214 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And do you make sure there’s no damage from that item to the person’s credit rating?
4215 MS. BARBER: Well, we comply with the rules of the various credit bureaus. So we make the correction. We advise the agency that that report was an error and they make the appropriate adjustment.
4216 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Others have mentioned this week that if something is in dispute that they’re not going to apply interest or something like that during the dispute. Do you take any actions during the dispute?
4217 MS. BARBER: So once an amount is disputed we suspend the collection activities while we investigate the dispute, and if we determine that it’s a correct charge the collection activities continue.
4218 If the ---
4219 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: If you determine if it’s a correct charge or ---
4220 MS. BARBER: The investigation ---
4221 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- CCTS determines if it’s correct?
4222 MS. BARBER: So I was speaking about a complaint that just had come to us. If the complaint has been through us or it’s gone directly to the CCTS while the CCTS process is ongoing we also suspend the collections activity.
4223 And to the extent that the account has gone to a collection agency we take it back from the collection agency. The investigation -- the CCTS process goes on and then we implement whatever the determination is of the CCTS.
4224 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Thank you.
4225 I’m looking at -- so you know, I’m looking at the chart from the CCTS 2013/14 report, the complaints accepted by province. And as it goes across the country every province has a lower percentage of complaints accepted than there population as a percentage of the Canadian population.
4226 British Columbia, for instance, is 10.9 percent in terms of complaints. Its population is 13 percent of Canada. Alberta is 7.4 percent of complaints. It’s 11.6 percent of Canadians. New Brunswick is 1.3 percent and it’s 2.1 percent of the province.
4227 And then we get to Ontario, which is 38.5 percent of the Canadian population and it has 50.8 percent of the complaints. And it’s the only -- I think it’s the only province that is actually over.
4228 What is it about the competitive culture in Ontario that’s produced a number like that?
4229 Like why are service providers -- this would indicate -- a reasonable person might look at this and this would indicate that service providers in Ontario are not doing a very good job and aren’t actually very good at customer service, certainly compared to other parts of the country.
4230 What has happened?
4231 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well, to address your last point first about suggesting that service providers in Ontario and Quebec aren’t necessarily good at customer service, I think when you look at the complaints overall -- and I’ll come to the geographic dispersion in a minute. But when you look at the complaints that come to the CCTS overall you have to consider it in context.
4232 And, you know, Bell has 17 million customer connections, and the fact that 3,640 complaints were entertained by the CCTS is a very small percentage of the overall customer connections that we have and the overall customer contacts that we have.
4233 So, you know, on a percentage basis we’re resolving 99 percent of complaints. That’s still not good enough. We all -- all of the PSPs would like to be in a position to resolve 100 percent of their complaints all the time.
4234 I terms of Ontario and Quebec, I think you hit the nail on the head when you described the markets as intensely competitive. Those markets are highly competitive. Highly competitive markets yield different customer offers, ongoing promotions on almost a daily basis, and from time to time those types of things can create customer confusion and generate traffic and generate complaints.
4235 So that’s the explanation we have. It’s not that we’re not good at customer service.
4236 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Well, do you have the same experience that Rogers referred to where they said they were getting a lot of -- they found that there was a number of customers who had issues who were going to CCTS first.
4237 And they were honest enough about it to sort of say that it’s probably because those people had had a bad experience with their customer service before and had run out of patience with going through phase one and phase two and just wanted to go straight to CCTS but then found out they had to go back, which indicates there’s an issue there.
4238 Do you experience the same thing?
4239 MR. MALCOLMSON: I’ll ask Martin to comment in a minute.
4240 But the -- certainly some complainants do go to the CCTS first. I’m not sure we’ve been able to track the number that do. I think that -- I guess those that do might speak to the fact, as you say, either that we haven’t done our job or the awareness of the CCTS is already high and they know that they have that avenue of recourse. So it’s probably a combination of the two.
4241 Certainly there may be instances where a customer hasn’t been satisfied with us in the past and decided to bypass us. But Martin can shed some more light on that as well.
4242 MR. DENAULT: The changes we’ve made with customer service is starting to bear fruits now. So I would tend to agree with Rogers position that some customers may have felt wronged in the past and prefer to go to CCTS.
4243 The volumes we see of customers that have not exhausted all their avenues is still too high, to my liking, so every one of those cases we investigate and we try and understand why is it that that frontline agent has not been able to identify that this customer would be unsatisfied enough of his service that they reached out to CCTS. Again, that’s why we’ve changed the policy.
4244 I’ve explained earlier we’ve made these CCTS complaints distributed now every day to our top execs. So I can tell you yesterday we have 12 CCTS complaints I’ve already received a few calls on. The execs are trying to understand them.
4245 So yes, there are customers going to CCTS. I don’t really have an issue with that as long as I get the opportunity to try and resolve that customer’s issue at the heart of it. It’s a customer having a problem with us which is the real problem.
4246 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Well, I have -- I mean, looking at your numbers from this report too and the total number of accepted complaints of 11,300 and some -- the Bell company -- Bell is 3,651, Bell Alliant, 160, Virgin, 815. This is from the 2013-14 report. Other Bell’s 86 is 4,116 complaints that were roughly 42, 43 percent of the total. Rogers is next at 2,379, 21 percent of the total.
4247 That’s like, between those two companies, 64 percent of the workload, which -- without which Mr. Maker would be probably be struggling for a job.
4248 So I guess that would be one thing that helps in terms of that.
4249 I understand those numbers are getting better and that you’ve got at them, but I’m still struggling to understand why this is so hard.
4250 Like, I mean, I understand the size of the company and that sort of stuff, but what is it about the focus of your company that has made this customer service issue so difficult for you compared to other companies?
4251 Because people would look at that and say -- and notwithstanding I accept -- I don’t expect you to sit there and say that you’re bad at it, but I do expect that you probably have to sit there and understand that other people might say you’re bad at it, and I want you to address that.
4252 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well, again, I think when you focus on the number of complaints relative to the number of subscriptions, 17 million, that we have and you consider complaints that may come into our customer service group and are resolved by our customer service group -- and I think Martin indicated that, you know, he thinks over 90 percent of the complaints that come in are in fact resolved at first instance between us as the PSP and the customer. That we are resolving consumer complaints and that our record is improving, you know, so -- so really that -- that’s the answer. We have a large number of customers, we’re dedicated to customer service, we’re spending money on it, we’re improving our processes and we’re never happy with -- with any metric that indicates we could do better. We take that metric and we try to do better.
4253 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: What do you think would -- what's your target?
4254 MR. MALCOLMSON: In terms of -- realistically I mean other companies, SaskTel, Shaw, sort of came in -- they had 90-96 complaints and they're trying to get that way down.
4255 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: You’ve -- you’ve obviously made improvements so I’m not -- not dismissing that. But what -- what do you think should be an appropriate volume? Because there will -- we -- I think everybody accepts -- I mean that’s the reason why CCTS exists -- that there will be times when a third party does have to intervene at the end of a long discussion and that.
4256 So what is the target you're working for and what incentives have you put in place for your team, for your executives and your other staff to hit these numbers and improve, to hit the number you're -- you're aiming for?
4257 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well not to be trite, but in the business of customer service our -- our target would be 100 percent customer satisfaction, we’re never going to get there, no one is. But we are -- do we have a target on a wall? No, we don’t. Do we strive every day to make 100 percent of our customers happy? Yes, we do.
4258 And Martin can take you through how people on the frontlines are -- are encouraged and incented to resolve the complaints that come in before they ever get to the CCTS.
4259 MR. DENAULT: Right. And on to your question on why -- why haven’t we moved so much better? The 300 million we’ve invested, that decision was made about two or three years ago to invest that -- actually it’s the -- it’s the sum for the last two years, but to get this money actually benefitting customers, for instance the -- we’ve just redid our bill, that only hit our customer base as of July this year.
4260 A series of improved notifications we’ve made for -- like I said earlier, better than to be -- see what -- are starting to trickle in and customers are starting to see it.
4261 From a -- from a process perspective because I -- because it’s all good and nice to have all this capital, but from a process perspective we actually are now beginning to send our most -- our most fragile customers, those that have had cases of repeat histories or customers that have had a failed -- a failed install or something, in priority to our most tenured agents.
4262 I've heard earlier this week that there was a fear that PSPs would favour buy calls rather than service calls, and actually we don’t. The most tenured people we have are -- are actually receiving the repeat customers or the -- we have different models to identify who’s -- who’s fragile, so we send them directly to them in absolute priority.
4263 We’ve also carved out a team of people that work off all this data we have on customers that may be in a fragile position, to actually proactively call them out. And we -- we actually resolve cases of customers before they -- they actually are even aware that they had an issue.
4264 We’ve -- we centralized also under the same group in my team all of a -- all of the most tenured senior complaints handling people. And actually that’s -- that’s why Virgin was able to improve so much, 25 percent we believe in an upcoming report for CCTS.
4265 So we think -- we think -- what we’re looking ahead is going to be much better, but I can't say I’m satisfied the numbers we see -- we see -- we’ve produced in 2013-14, and I don’t even know if I’ll ever be satisfied or if I should be, so ---
4266 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Do you have a -- do you have targets that you work towards? Do you say, “This year we want our CCTS complaints to go down by 10 percent”, you know, sort of internal metrics that you use that -- so that -- so that you can move towards those things? I mean I’m asking these questions in the broader context of things. We’ve heard a lot of folks ---
4267 MR. DENAULT: M'hm.
4268 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- and you’ve said yourself this week that -- that people are comfortable with the CCTS being a final resolution point and not something that become dependent, and of course the better companies are ---
4269 MR. DENAULT: M'hm.
4270 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- at customer service, the more that image gets reinforced, that that framework is reinforced, that companies are working hard on customer service and CCTS is there to help at the end of the day so nobody -- a lot of the other companies are concerned about that, and so they want -- they have an interest in your improvement as well ---
4271 MR. DENAULT: Definitely, the ---
4272 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- even though that makes you more competitive.
4273 MR. DENAULT: --- the volumes we get -- even though we’re the leader there -- the volumes of complaints we get at CCTS is a -- is not the perfect indicator of whether or not our customers are satisfied. As we’ve said, contextually it’s a small number.
4274 What we do is -- is we survey our own customers after every transactions we’ve done, and that’s -- that’s the main KPI that I actually I have and that my bosses have. The customer survey and the correlation between that ---
4275 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Sorry, “KPI”?
4276 MR. DENAULT: Sorry, key performance indicators, so ---
4277 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Oh, okay, thanks.
4278 MR. DENAULT: --- that’s how ---
4279 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thanks.
4280 MR. DENAULT: --- our bonuses are computed, that’s a main bonus factor we use. That customer survey and it’s -- it’s a correlation of one to one with a customer that will have a CCTS complaint will also have left us a bad survey when they did respond to the survey, and our response rates are pretty high.
4281 Now we know when we survey, customers may not have received their bill yet, I mean -- so we also compute first call resolutions, so the repeat rates of customers that -- that’s another factor that’s pretty heavy in our -- in our measurement.
4282 We also leverage neutral parties, so J.D. Power for instance, we look very attentively at their results. And actually they’ve -- they’ve given Virgin’s purchasing experience the -- the top score last year in Canada. So -- so we have many, many measure -- measurements, but the main ones that we use to gage whether or not we improved customer sa-- is our surveys and our repeat rates from customers.
4283 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thanks for clarifying, that helps my understanding quite a bit.
4284 Those are my questions, Mr. Chairman.
4285 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Simpson.
4286 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Good morning. Just a question or two on your point regarding the CCTS being an ombudsman. I found that point refreshing because it had been often inferred as an ombudsman by other organizations, but not as clearly as it has been from a major participant like -- like Bell.
4287 With respect to your concerns about the CCTS drifting into consumer advocacy, not necessarily because they're wanting to do that, but perhaps because they're being pulled into that role. I’d be interested in hearing your perspective as to what your view is with respect to the codes that this Commission has -- has invoked with respect to wireless and potentially now the BDU Code, as to whether -- do you think that code is -- is a best practices’ code or do you think it -- it’s attempting to advocate on behalf of the consumer? And if so, you know, how do think that’s impacting your concern?
4288 MR. MALCOLMSON: I think the codes are best designed as best practices’ codes to guide what consumer should expect and what service provider should -- should deliver, and we’re perfectly comfortable with the CCTS applying and interpreting those codes on a complaint by complaint basis.
4289 I don’t think that -- that the fact that they're administering those codes is turning them into an advocate. I think there's an appropriate imbalance in the way they apply and administer the codes now. So we don’t -- we don’t have a concern that -- that they're becoming a consumer advocate. We have a concern with the suggestion that they should become a consumer advocate, because I think it’s going to over time interfere with -- with their success.
4290 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: So to take what you just said, regardless of whether they should or could, where do you think the gravity of this pull is coming from that causes this concern that you have?
4291 MR. MALCOLMSON: If I understand your question correctly, I think the consumer groups are advocating that the CCTS should become an advocate, we -- we disagree. I'm not sure I've got your question, but ---
4292 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Again, I’m trying to understand, from your perspective, why you think that these consumer groups or consumers themselves are feeling the need for this additional empowerment for representation other than just in the pure commercial cut and thrust of billing concerns and the like. You know, this seems to be a mounting concern, and it’s obviously reached your level to the extent that you’re actually saying that you have a concerns. So I’m trying to understand where you -- why and where you think this is coming from. Is this a condition of existing practices that our codes are trying to remedy, or is it just empowerment? Where do you think it’s coming from?
4293 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well, I think the consumer groups have been consistent since the inception of the CCTS that they would like to see it take on more of an advocacy role. So I think that’s where the argument is coming from.
4294 Our view is simply that that’s never what it was intended to be. It’s intended to be an independent arbiter. It’s been highly successful. Why try to deconstruct success? I don’t think it’s coming from any environmental factor or marketplace factor.
4295 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay. So you feel that on the whole, given the rate of adoption of new services and products that everyone’s offering in this industry, that you feel that the needle is going down, not up in terms of complaints and that you’re on top of it?
4296 MR. MALCOLMSON: The needle is certainly going down in terms of complaints that come to the CCTS. The competitive dynamic in the marketplace is probably the best governor in terms of how a service provider handles complaints because consumers can walk with their feet.
4297 I think bringing in the TVSP Code is obviously going to increase complaints that come to the CCTS, but that should come as no surprise to anyone.
4298 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Last question. In your ask you were asking that it be considered that in the complaint process, those that are successfully resolved, that that numeric count disappear so that it doesn’t go as a -- it doesn’t become part of the cumulative total if resolution is achieved. Is that correct?
4299 MR. MacINNIS: Yeah, that was a reference to the closed complaints category, and a number of the reasons why a complaint becomes closed seems to us to suggest that the complaint isn’t either appropriately handled within the mandate of the CCTS or the customer changes his mind or he’s not willing to provide information, or it’s out of scope, and so on and so forth.
4300 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: M’hm.
4301 MR. MacINNIS: So we felt that the vast majority of those really aren’t valid complaints within the context of the CCTS.
4302 So they do categorize them on an aggregate basis, and I guess our point was a pretty straightforward one, which is carry that through to the individual service providers and take it out of their accounts as well.
4303 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay. Thanks.
4304 MR. MALCOLMSON: Commissioner Simpson, if you were to do that, I think Commissioner Menzies said we accounted for roughly 40 percent of complaints. If you assume that 40 percent of those 1,400 closed or invalid complaints were attributable to us, if you made that assumption, then obviously we have an interest in accurate reporting and our complaint count coming down. That would make our complaint count come down, and that’s important to us as well.
4305 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yeah. So what you’re saying is that, you know, you’re getting whacked because of market share that’s transferring directly across to the number of complaints?
4306 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well, everyone is getting whacked, as you say, and there would be a proportionate reduction across the service providers, and we think that’s a good thing because it would yield more accurate reporting.
4307 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yes. Good. Thanks. That’s it.
4308 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
4309 Just a few follow-up questions. With your discussions with Vice-Chair Menzies on persons with disabilities, Mr. Denault, you mentioned that you would want more formality around your relationship.
4310 Would you undertake -- not in a formal way but in an informal way -- to get us an update and report back to us on your progress?
4311 MR. MALCOLMSON: Yes.
4312 THE CHAIRPERSON: Under the category of the principle that what gets measured gets done, I was wondering if you could help me understand in your company -- and you might have perhaps started mentioning it to a certain degree -- how in your company are customer service results and complaints performance metrics part of the performance management and incentive remuneration plans?
4313 MR. MALCOLMSON: Mr. Chairman, customer service is one of the six strategic imperatives established by the CEO of our company. Every employee across the company is evaluated every year based on metrics, the six strategic imperative metrics. Senior executives are particularly evaluated against their ability to carry out the six strategic imperatives.
4314 So being one of those kingpins of determining compensation across the company, customer service is an essential element.
4315 THE CHAIRPERSON: If I do the math, six -- are they equally weighted?
4316 MR. MALCOLMSON: I knew you were going to ask that question. Yes, they are six strategic imperatives.
4317 THE CHAIRPERSON: So it’s only one sixth of the overall remuneration incentives that would be linked to these sorts of metrics?
4318 MR. MALCOLMSON: There’s not a direct correlation between the six strategic imperatives and how -- it’s not a one-for-one calculation. So the six strategic imperatives are a fundamental component of how compensation is paid to employees across the company.
4319 THE CHAIRPERSON: So I’m now confused. Tell me what then -- what portion, without getting to a specific number? Is it predominant, part of many factors or is it greater than 50 percent? Because you’ve left me with the impression that it may be more in the 15, 20 percent range.
4320 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well, I left you with the impression that the six strategic imperatives are what is used to evaluate people’s performance and people’s compensation. I’m not going to have a discussion in a public forum about compensation arrangements at our company. I don’t think that that is what we’re here today to discuss. We’re here today to discuss the mandate of the CCTS and its role.
4321 THE CHAIRPERSON: And I want to see how the mandate of the CCTS affects your behaviour. Are you able to provide that information through a confidential undertaking?
4322 MR. MALCOLMSON: I don’t know that we make compensation arrangements available outside of the company apart from ---
4323 THE CHAIRPERSON: Are you saying the CRTC cannot handle this information on a confidential basis?
4324 MR. MALCOLMSON: Why don’t you let us take that away and we will come back to you with an answer?
4325 THE CHAIRPERSON: I find that particularly surprising and shocking that a regulated company refuses to answer a question on metrics of how customer service is important to them and how it is represented in the metrics for performance of their executives and employees when that’s the very essence of why we’ve provided this measure, this hearing. And you, yourself, say excellence in customer service is fundamental. I’m trying to understand what you mean by that.
4326 MR. MALCOLMSON: Excellence is customer service is fundamental, Mr. Chairman.
4327 THE CHAIRPERSON: What gets measured gets done.
4328 MR. MALCOLMSON: I’m not trying to be disrespectful or disingenuous. I’m simply trying to respect the confidentiality of compensation arrangements.
4329 I’ve told you that the six strategic imperatives of the company are a fundamental part of compensation across the company, so I think I’ve answered your question as far as I can go.
4330 THE CHAIRPERSON: And you undertake to respond to my question?
4331 MR. MALCOLMSON: Yes, I will.
4332 THE CHAIRPERSON: For the 12th of November?
4333 MR. MALCOLMSON: Yes.
4335 THE CHAIRPERSON: I take it then that CCTS complaints and results are reported to the most senior executives in your company?
4336 MR. MALCOLMSON: I think Martin, in his evidence earlier, indicated that there are in fact daily reports to certain senior executives of the CCTS complaints that we receive on a daily basis. I think yesterday he said there were 12, and those were reported to the executive responsible for customer service, so yes.
4337 MR. DENAULT: It’s also part of my -- I have to report monthly to our top senior executives on my results and my own metrics heavily weighted towards customer service satisfaction and repeat rates. So I do report on root causes and volumes and all that.
4338 THE CHAIRPERSON: Is this reported on periodically to the Board of Directors?
4339 MR. DENAULT: It’s part of our -- every time we -- twice a year, we provide a report on our results and that’s part of that package.
4340 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
4341 I’m trying to figure out an inconsistency or an apparent inconsistency with your response on credit agencies. So today I understood you to say that while disputes are going on, including the ones referred to the CCTS and maybe others, you don’t refer the account to credit agencies. But when we -- staff at least -- asked for information from you and your response filed on the 15th of October you say:
4342 “For Bell Mobility, including Solo and Virgin Mobile, if our investigations into disputed charges reveal that the charge is in fact valid and correct and the customer’s account is overdue, then the overdue account will typically be reported to a credit agency, whether the customer has filed a complaint with the CCTS or not. Disputed overdue accounts are not reported to a credit agency unless and until we have determined that a disputed charge is in fact valid and correct. Other BCE companies, they don’t report on this.”
4343 Is the remainder of your answer.
4344 But I take it then what you’re saying is in the end, if you believe -- you are found to be correct and the customer incorrect, that customer could be found in arrears even retrospectively of the original complaint; is that correct?
4345 MS. BARBER: I just want to be clear with respect to the question. So we have a complaint at the CCTS, so we’re talking about a complaint that has moved out of our process to the CCTS, and during the CCTS process the service provider -- where it’s determined that we were actually correct -- so that’s part of the recommendation or the decision -- that it was -- that we were correct, so when you say retrospectively it was suspended during that time and as -- it was suspended during that time and then the decision’s made, so at that point in time it becomes new, I guess. During the period of the suspension no action was taken and now, once the decision is made, it’s not a retrospective application but now it becomes -- we were correct -- I mean, I think maybe part of the difficulty here is part of it’s the reporting. So we would have, for example, reported. So we have already reported so we’re reporting on a monthly basis whether the account is current. Am I ---
4346 THE CHAIRPERSON: The problem is, is the clock merely -- is there merely a suspension during a period of time, but once the final outcome is determined you start -- you go back to the original date? In other words, if it took, I don’t know, 60 days to resolve it and in the end the customer was incorrect, although you may not have taken action during that 60 days, whatever action, that 60-day period comes back and kicks into whatever -- 60 days or any other number of days; I’m just using that as hypothesis. Do you understand now?
4347 MS. BARBER: Yeah, I understand. I want to be careful because our reporting -- so the reporting to the Credit Bureau -- is done on a monthly basis. So we report this 30 days, 60 days. So we’re reporting that amount or we’re reporting the account. And then at some point the customer contacts us and says that account or that amount is not due and owing. So we suspend the process, but we would have in that example reported 30 days, 60 days. Like that report is -- has been made. So we’re no longer reporting. We’re not going to report 90 days in respect to that amount, but we would have reported 60 days and it would have been suspended at that point in time.
4348 THE CHAIRPERSON: The position of that customer who legitimately is following up on an issue with the CCTS might be found in an even worse situation than had they -- I mean, it’s not a real making whole because the time, in a sense, will restart kicking in once the resolution has occurred at the CCTS. Is that fair?
4349 MS. BARBER: I guess that’s fair. I mean, the credit reporting -- and we tried to be careful in our answer to make a distinction between the credit reporting and the collection agency because we were uncertain about the reference to the term credit agency, but the credit reporting is matter that would have been done. So the credit report -- I mean, we follow the rules of the credit bureaus and we don’t -- and there’s -- we follow the rules. So we can suspend it and then we can correct it.
4350 But if it was past -- if it was reported past due and it turned out that the CCTS determined that that amount was never owed, that it was a mistake, well, we would report that corrected information and then there would be a corrected report.
4351 And if it -- if the -- if it was determined that it was fraud, then that would also be reported and dealt with on the basis that the Credit Bureau deals with fraudulent cases, and if it was an amount that was settled we would report to the Bureau a note that said this amount was settled.
4352 THE CHAIRPERSON: M’hm.
4353 So would you agree with me that it’s not -- we should be careful in not drawing from your answer that it is a full suspension? Because in fact there are ricochet effects once the unfavourable decision comes out from the CCTS.
4354 MS. BARBER: We suspend the collections activity, but the reporting ---
4355 THE CHAIRPERSON: Continues.
4356 MS. BARBER: We would no longer report, but the reporting would already have been made.
4357 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
4358 And therefore, when the resolution occurs, it has sort of a retrospective aspect to it?
4359 MS. BARBER: An aspect, yes.
4360 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes. Okay. Thank you.
4361 Just a comment, Mr. Malcolmson. You started your answer by saying you expected me to ask that question. I’m not sure you prepared entirely for that question, and I think those are all our comments and questions right now.
4362 So Madame la Secrétaire.
4363 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.
4364 I would now ask ---
4365 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, let’s take a short break instead, a 10-minute break. So we’ll come back at 10:40.
--- Upon recessing at 10:26 a.m.
--- Upon resuming at 10:40 a.m.
4366 THE SECRETARY: Please take your seats.
4367 LE PRÉSIDENT: A l’odre s’il vous plaît.
4368 Madame la secrétaire.
4369 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.
4370 We will now hear the presentation of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic.
4371 Please introduce yourself and you have 20 minutes.
4372 MR. ISRAEL: Thank you, Madam Secretary.
4373 Mr. Chair, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Tamir Israel and I’m staff lawyer with CIPPIC, the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law.
4374 CIPPIC is pleased to appear in this proceeding regarding the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services.
4375 The CCTS provides a critical mechanism for ensuring consumer protection and for maintaining confidence in a deregulated and publicly important service industry.
4376 Our comments will address the CCTS’ mandate, its visibility, its general stakeholder model and its decision making process.
4377 I would like to begin by addressing the need to properly characterize the CCTS’ mandate. From its inception the CCTS was envisioned to be more than a dispute resolution body of last resort whose role is to review unresolved disputes between customers and service providers. Characterizing the CCTS in this manner diminishes its potential and undermines its ability to carry out its important role.
4378 The CCTS was created as an integral component of the general process of deregulation that Canadian communications policy has undertaken in the past decade. To this effect, the role of the CCTS extends beyond assisting service providers to resolve disagreements with customers in a satisfactory manner. It is the primary means by which important baseline customer protections such as those established in the Disconnection and Wireless Codes are secured, in addition to resolving disputes.
4379 More generally the CCTS operates to ensure customers are treated fairly by their service providers.
4380 Its central role is indeed to provide an independent and objective mechanism for assessing and resolving consumer complaints. However, the characterization of the CCTS as an avenue of last resort presumes that there are no consumer protection problems unless and until a service provider fails to address a complaint through its internal process. This is not the case.
4381 To give but one example, a Wireless Code violation is a Wireless Code violation regardless of whether it is addressed internally by the service provider to the customer’s satisfaction or not.
4382 In addition, it must be noted that the CCTS’ mandate includes an equally important obligation to track consumer protection problems in order to identify systemic issues so that these may, where necessary, be addressed by the Commission.
4383 In light of these considerations, we would first caution against the adoption of a mandatory five day reconsideration period as a precondition to the official acceptance of a complaint by the CCTS.
4384 While we acknowledge that service providers should be given an opportunity to resolve disagreements with customers directly, the CCTS is already precluded from adjudicating complaints where the service provider has not yet had an opportunity to do so.
4385 We believe that the pre-investigation stages of the CCTS’ existing process already provide an adequate avenue for achieving this.
4386 Indeed we have heard from some service providers that in many instances these pre-investigation stages are redundant as the service provider has already made all attempts to resolve the issue with the consumer.
4387 The inclusion of a mandatory five day reconsideration period might, in our view, undermine customer trust in the CCTS process. Many customers will already have navigated often extensive internal service provider processes or have had recurring issues with a service provider prior to arriving at the CCTS’ door.
4388 Moreover, to the extent that such a five day reconsideration period would prevent the tracking of customer complaints, it would undermine the CCTS’ systemic issue tracking mandate.
4389 However, we accept that a different accounting system for complaints of this nature, which are ultimately resolved by the service provider, may be appropriate. This can be achieved, for example, by giving service providers a credit for resolving complaints in this manner in the CCTS’ annual reports or by reducing or removing the per complaint fee levied on service providers by the CCTS in such instances.
4390 Second, we would urge the Commission to direct more detailed tracking of currently out of mandate complaints. As noted in our intervention, a significant number of complaints received by the CCTS, almost half in many years, relate to out of mandate issues.
4391 The historic reason for excluding many of these out of mandate issues is to avoid duplication with other regulatory bodies, such as the CRTC, the Competition Bureau and the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. However, the CCTS offers a lightweight dispute resolution mechanism not available through any of these other bodies.
4392 While the nature of these complaints is tracked at a high level of generality we believe that a more detailed record of the nature of these complaints will assist in identifying whether any category of these currently excluded complaint categories should be addressed more comprehensively by the CRTC.
4393 For example, the CCTS receive many out of mandate complaints relating to broadcasting. A more detailed accounting of the nature of these complaints would have greatly informed the substance of the Television Service Provider Code which is now being developed.
4394 Finally, we would expand the CCTS’ mandate to include certain activities of review currently excluded. First, the CCTS should not be prevented from assessing customer harms simply because a third party is the cause of the harm -- of the problem. It is possible, in our view, for such issues to be addressed without intruding into wholesale, resale or rebilling arrangements, and the CCTS should be granted the capacity to address customer harms that arise from such arrangements.
4395 Second, the CCTS should be granted the capacity to review serious customer service deficiencies. This can be addressed either through the imposition of specific customer service metrics, such as guarantees related to service visits, or through a general prohibition on egregious conduct.
4396 Finally, some obligations that have been encoded in the Wireless Code and are addressed in the TVSP Code address basic fairness and should be explicitly adopted in the CCTS’ Procedural Code so that customers of other services can benefit from them as well. These include obligations regarding clarity and plain language, provisions in agreements and offers, the obligation to set out relevant prices, commitment terms and cancellation fees clearly and conspicuously in all agreements, and the obligation to provide customers with a permanent and definitive copy of the service agreement.
4397 In CIPPIC’s view, it is incongruous to obligate service providers to follow these basic rules for wireless and television services but not for internet or telephone and may lead to confused customer expectations in the future.
4398 CIPPIC would like to echo -- additionally would like to echo concerns voiced by other public interest groups regarding deficiencies in awareness of the CCTS. In this regard, we believe that unaided awareness is an important metric in assessing knowledge of CCTS in general. It is not sufficient, in CIPPIC’s view, for awareness of the CCTS to arise only at a late stage of the internal dispute resolution process. Lack of knowledge of recourse to the CCTS may discourage customers from pursuing internal avenues as they may not have confidence that a fair and objective resolution will be within reach.
4399 The ongoing independence and currency of the CCTS is highly dependent on oversight from stakeholders. However, industry stakeholders have access to significant information and advantages that are not available to public interest groups and this can undermine the ability of public interest stakeholders to address such matters.
4400 First, the use of extraordinary resolution for key decisions such as budget approvals should be removed from the CCTS’ operational makeup. The approach provides industry representatives on the CCTS Board extensive control and conflicts with the Order in Council that generated the CCTS which held that its governing body should be composed of a majority of members who are not affiliated with any telecommunication service provider.
4401 Second, while all CCTS directors are currently bound by board secrecy limitations, industry directors are at the same time members of a small number of industry companies. This is not so for public interest directors and creates limits in how much insight public interest groups are able to obtain regarding the adequacy of internal CCTS governing processes.
4402 While board secrecy is a sensible protection in many contexts it is not clear what objective it serves in the context of the CCTS, which is an entity designed to carry out a public role. It does not have trade secrets or liability issues that it needs to protect.
4403 Reducing the confidentiality obligations at least within the stakeholder model would permit industry and public interest directors to more effectively report on CCTS governing activities so as to ensure its ongoing effectiveness.
4404 Finally I will address the application and enforcement of CCTS decisions.
4405 The CCTS cannot carry out its task without interpreting and applying contractual provisions, codes of conducts and other policies to the factual scenarios brought before it. However, CIPPIC agrees with other intervenors that there should be a clear and direct and easily accessible mechanism for contesting such interpretations where these may have far reaching impact.
4406 The ability to gain knowledge of interpretations and decisions should be broadened significantly so that any industry or public interest stakeholder can identify and raise interpretation issues as needed.
4407 Currently the CCTS only publishes details relating to specific complaints reaching the pinnacle of its multi-layered six level dispute resolution process. However, CCTS reasoning is issued but not made public at level five. The publications of these decisions would greatly aid clarity into any generalized interpretations or systemic issues arising from the CCTS decision making.
4408 In addition, high level summaries of outcomes could be issued at level four of the CCTS’ multilayered dispute resolution process. If there are reputational concerns in this regard such decisions could be published without naming the effective service provider.
4409 There should also be a more formalized process for seeking CRTC review of CCTS interpretations. This can be accomplished through the existing part one process but a more direct and formalized path may be more effective at ensuring that the CRTC retains the ultimate control over policy level determinations while retaining to the CCTS the ability to address the problems that come before it.
4410 Additionally, there should be a mechanism that the CCTS can invoke in order to trigger enforcement of its decisions, at minimum against service providers with a record of systemic non-compliance.
4411 Participation in the CCTS as well as compliance with the Codes it oversees is already imposed on service providers. A similar obligation -- on telecommunication service providers. A similar obligation can be imposed on television providers by means of licencing conditions. In our view, this obligation extends to the obligation to comply with CCTS decisions when issued. This would include any damages assessments in those decisions.
4412 It is our view that CRTC findings, mandating compliance with specific CCTS orders along these grounds will assist in instilling respect for the CCTS as a whole.
4413 Where compliance remains an issue, threats of licence suspension can be raised and, with respect to telecommunications providers, administrative monetary penalties can become a factor for particularly egregious conduct.
4414 In conclusion, CIPPIC is of the view that the CCTS has served as a meaningful avenue for protecting consumer interests in an important service sector. With a few modifications along the lines suggested herein, it can continue to do so while inspiring confidence in the industry as a whole.
4415 Those are my comments. I thank you for the opportunity to appear today and welcome any questions you may have.
4416 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much for your presentation.
4417 Commissioner Vennard will start us off.
4418 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Good morning and thank you for your presentation.
4419 Your Written Submission was very thorough and quite clearly sets out your concerns and offers some very useful suggestions. So we thank you for that as well and offering that sort of clarity for us.
4420 Having said that, I have two questions I would like you to make some comments on.
4421 The first one is on public awareness. Many times throughout our hearing, we’ve heard that there’s a basic way to look at it; through general public awareness or timely awareness.
4422 You take the position that a general awareness would be suitable or appropriate, and I would just like you to comment on what you would consider to be an effective way to accomplish that.
4423 MR. ISRAEL: Sure. So I should clarify. I think both metrics are actually important.
4424 So what my comment in my Oral Comments was to say that in addition to the just-in-time notification that is already there to a certain degree, unaided awareness is also an important metric to track.
4425 I know that the -- much like many other intervenors, I don’t have a specific percentage of unaided awareness that is the silver bullet to ensuring adequate notice of the CCTS. My colleagues, PIAC et al, I will say, have pointed to unaided awareness metrics of the Australian Telecommunications Ombudsman and the United Kingdom Telecommunications Ombudsman, which are in the 40 to 50 percent range.
4426 I don’t know if those types of comparative analyses are helpful, but I think that the starting point must be to get that information. So I think step one might be to ensure that that information is being collected through survey data and tracked over time. And that will help -- we’ll see where we are at and then we can compare it.
4427 And then if we’re significantly below where awareness is for other Ombudsmen or in other jurisdictions or even in Canada, then significantly more will need to be done.
4428 And then that would also allow us to address changes in awareness. If awareness lags in the future, you know, more rigorous steps will be taken.
4429 I just want to point out on the importance of unaided awareness. Just pointing to the survey conducted by the Commission on the effectiveness of the Wireless Code, when tracking, one statistic sprung out at me which is when customers, who had gone through a complaints process were asked how satisfied they were and also asked -- were also polled for awareness of the CCTS, among the bottom three most dissatisfied categories of customers, those categories also had the highest levels of unawareness of the CCTS.
4430 So what that -- that’s just one survey, so it’s not enough to maybe draw ultimate conclusions on, but that suggests that a lot of customers are not going through the multiple layers of internal resolutions to the point where they become aware of the CCTS and are leaving dissatisfied.
4431 So that is an area where I suggest that the unaided awareness might be -- more unaided awareness might be useful.
4432 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: In your view, is the internet the appropriate place to focus on for that, to accomplish that?
4433 MR. ISRAEL: I think it helps but I think other avenues should also be explored. There is definitely cost benefit analysis to be done there. It shouldn’t be, you know -- the entire CCTS budget should not be going to public service announcements, but I think it’s feasible to do.
4434 The Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council, I think I got that acronym right, does regular public service announcements regarding its role on broadcasting mediums, and they find that to be a useful way of getting to customers.
4435 So there could be additional things that supplement the internet as the medium of communications.
4436 It could also be something that’s done in the -- I mean the CCTS is gaining more awareness and has been around for a while longer now. But it could be something that’s done, you know, over -- that is done for a couple of years and it may not be required moving forward, once it becomes much more established in the public eye.
4437 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. Thank you for that.
4438 My next question, and this is my final question, is just the future review of the CCTS. What would you consider to be an appropriate time and are there specific metrics that we should try and capture and have on hand before that time?
4439 MR. ISRAEL: I think a modified five years would be good. So five years, I think, for a full review is acceptable, keeping in mind that some sub-issues may need to be addressed in the interim.
4440 I don’t think we need a comprehensive review sooner than that.
4441 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: What would that be? Can you give me an example?
4442 MR. ISRAEL: Well, some of it will depend -- so some of the issues that we flagged as things that we think should…
4443 So for example, we raised concerns of running out-of-mandate complaints and whether some of those should potentially be brought into the CCTS’s fold. Assuming more rigorous tracking of that is undertaken, that might indicate that something needs to be addressed at an earlier stage. That’s one example.
4444 A two-tiered approach to broader public awareness may be undertaken if -- so an information gathering stage with some additional public awareness. And then maybe a more -- another examination, like a year or two down the road, to see if even more rigorous public awareness is good.
4445 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay, so from a methodological point of view, looking for change over time, before hitting the time of the next review.
4446 What specific metrics do you think we should capture?
4447 MR. ISRAEL: I think the Wireless Code survey does a fairly comprehensive job of looking at the effectiveness of that particular code. I think looking at doing something like that a little bit more broadly to capture the other CCTS activities would be useful.
4448 There are the performance metrics that the CCTS itself publishes regularly, and I think they’re fairly good in terms of speed of complaint resolution, et cetera, et cetera. But I mean that’s something that should be kept an eye on and if it begins to degrade, that will be something to keep an eye on. That’s all that I have at the moment.
4449 If we think of other metrics, we will put them in our final comments.
4450 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Thank you.
4451 Those are my questions. Thank you.
4452 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. I don’t know if it’s an advantage or a disadvantage to appear near the end of the hearing, but perhaps there’s a greater clarity -- in issues.
4453 So please, the number of questions we have should not be seen as a reflection of the importance of your perspective on this file. So you’ve been very clear but I do want to encourage you to continue to participate in our proceedings, Mr. Israel. Thank you.
4454 MR. ISRAEL: Thank you.
4455 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. So that completes this phase of the hearing. So we will take a 30-minute break to allow CCTS to prepare for the next phase. So we will come back at 11:30.
4456 Thank you. So we’re adjourned.
4457 Nous sommes ajournés jusqu’à 11h30. Merci.
--- Upon recessing at 11:02 a.m.
--- Upon resuming at 11:33 a.m.
4458 LE PRÉSIDENT: À l’ordre s’il vous plaît.
4459 Madame la Secrétaire.
4460 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Merci.
4461 Just for the record, I would like to mention that Mr. Olafur Arason advised us that he will not be appearing at the hearing.
4462 And now we will proceed with Phase 2, which is the Reply from the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services.
4463 Please reintroduce yourself for the record and you have 20 minutes.
4464 MR. MAKER: Mr. Chair, Mr. Vice-Chair, Commissioners, good afternoon. Bonjour.
4465 I’m Howard Maker, the Commissioner of CCTS. I’m returning today with Marie Bernard-Meunier, the Chair of our Board of Directors on my right, and Josée Thibault, our Assistant Commissioner on my left.
4466 We appreciate this opportunity to respond to some of the questions that you posed to us on Tuesday and to clear up a few of the misconceptions about CCTS that came to light during the various presentations this week.
4467 With regard to matters that we will suggest regarding participation and compliance, we must say that these represent the views of our management as they have not had the opportunity for consideration by our Board.
4468 We are pleased that virtually all the presenters have seen the value of our ombudsman role. There was widespread agreement that having an independent and impartial complaints resolution agency has been highly effective and has been of great benefit to customers and service providers. Ironically, some of the very changes to CCTS that these parties seek, either to increase our mandate or to constrain how we currently discharge it, would dramatically reduce our effectiveness and diminish our success.
4469 We strongly urge the Commission to resist these calls for change, which would take us further from the government’s vision for CCTS as an independent consumer agency with a mandate to quickly and effectively resolve complaints.
4470 We cannot stress enough the importance to our role as an independent and impartial ombudsman the need to refrain from adding to our mandate any role that involves advocacy or setting standards for the industry and its relationship to any particular group or interest.
4471 We heard the submissions from groups representing customers with accessibility issues and we’re sensitive to the unique access needs of those consumers. We provide customer service in a manner that accommodates the needs of persons with disabilities and reflects the principles of independence, dignity, integration and equality of opportunity. Our policies and guidelines are modelled on the Ontario Accessibility Standards for Customer Service.
4472 We provide training on accessible customer service to all our employees, directors, volunteers or others who communicate with the public or third parties on our behalf.
4473 Under our current mandate to resolve complaints and administer codes, we assist persons with disabilities to make their complaints when required.
4474 In analyzing these complaints, we apply the same standard of review as we do to any other complaint. Where there are industry standards that have unique application to persons with disabilities, such as Wireless Code provisions about contracts and alternative formats or extended trial periods, we ensure that those consumers get the benefit of those provisions and the customer’s accessibility issue is taken into account when it bears directly on the facts of the complaint and dictates a particular outcome.
4475 We did hear CNIB’s comments about WCAG issues with our online complaint form, and although we have made efforts to keep up to date, it is possible that we have fallen behind.
4476 I have informed Mr. Greco that we will review his analysis of our online complaint form.
4477 Madame Bernard-Meunier will now briefly clear up a misunderstanding about the confidentiality obligations of our Board members.
4478 MS. BERNARD-MEUNIER: There has been discussion and, I might add, confusion about the confidentiality rules that apply to directors and the extent to which they can disclose information to their constituents.
4479 All rules apply equally to all directors, industry and consumer-appointed directors alike. There are four independent directors, two of whom are appointed by consumer organizations. These consumer-appointed directors and members represent the consumer organizations and their constituents, just as industry members represent the interests of their constituents. And, as is the case with industry and other independent members, to the extent that information is not confidential, the consumer group appointed members are free and encouraged to communicate issues with their constituents.
4480 There has been discussion throughout the proceeding on the issue of our voting thresholds. As we informed you on Tuesday, they have been the subject of some debate about more Board members. For industry directors, these voting thresholds represent essential protections. Among other directors, from the very beginning of our organization, some had believed that they should be eliminated. Some have merely hoped to limit the number of issues to which they apply.
4481 Attempts were made but not agreement could be reached on decision-making processes different from those currently included in our constitution documents.
4482 No bridging of the difference seemed possible and therefore no solution can be found within the Board itself.
4483 MR. MAKER: On the issue of public awareness, not surprisingly, there’s been a great deal of discussion about the level of public awareness and the possibilities for promotion of CCTS.
4484 We know that public awareness is fundamental. After all, in order for us to offer recourse to customers, they have to be aware of us.
4485 Most interveners agree that promotional efforts should be focused on making customers aware of CCTS when they need CCTS. Typically, this is when a customer has a problem with his or her provider.
4486 Our Public Awareness Plan is specifically designed to give customers information about CCTS when they need us and includes a number of PSP requirements in this regard.
4487 Feedback from our customer surveys suggest that the internet is the main resource used by customers to find help when they have a Complaint.
4488 So the Plan includes an explicit requirement for service providers to provide information about and a link to CCTS at logical and easy-to-access locations on their websites. Websites with search engines must return a hit for the page containing the CCTS notice in response to a search using specific key words.
4489 Yet of the 35 percent of PSPs that chose to respond to our survey and, for that matter, for those that responded to your request for information, very few have fully met even this one obligation. This is a component of the Plan that is not only relatively easy to implement but that can be test-checked. The fact that so few providers fully comply raises questions about compliance more broadly, to say nothing of the impact of this non-compliance on public awareness and consumer rights of recourse.
4490 I would like to be clear that our analysis shows that this is a problem that we found for all PSPs, large, medium and small. And I should add that it is not, in my view, the most important and effective provision of our Public Awareness Plan. The requirement to notify customers with unresolved complaints about their recourse to CCTS is, in our view, fundamental.
4491 Most providers tell us that they do it, but our customer survey results appear to indicate otherwise, and we have no window into the PSPs’ processes to determine whether they are actually complying with the requirement.
4492 We believe strongly that full compliance with all aspects of the Plan would increase public awareness of CCTS.
4493 We have certainly observed a direct correlation between the timing of a bill message containing information about CCTS and an increase in our call volumes. It is our view, therefore, that before the effectiveness of the Plan can be properly determined, its provisions must be fully implemented by the PSPs.
4494 The polling we plan to during 2015-16 to establish a baseline for general public awareness will serve as our starting point to measure awareness going forward. If the Plan requirements are properly implemented, subsequent polls will provide information about the effectiveness of these measures and indicate what, if any, modifications or additions may be needed.
4495 MS. THIBAULT: With regard to participation, CCTS’ position is that the eligibility criteria should be determined by the Commission as a matter of public policy. This position will reflect the Commission’s balancing of the desire to provide consumers with recourse to CCTS against the practical challenges involved in requiring broader participation.
4496 When we were here on Tuesday, we described some of the challenges that we have encountered with the current trigger mechanism.
4497 In response to your question, we have since determined that over the last two years, the mean time from the triggering of the participation requirement to participation was 73 days and that, in fact, one service provider did actually become a participant within the requisite five days.
4498 At that time, you asked what could be done to improve the model. CCTS management has given this some consideration, and our thinking at this point is that the participation process would be greatly simplified by the development of a Commission-based process that would oblige TSPs and TVSPs that meet the Commission-established participation criteria to register with the Commission.
4499 The registration process could be initiated by the Commission in the decision in this proceeding. The associated procedures would outline the eligibility criteria and timelines for TSP and TVSP registration in CCTS.
4500 The Commission could provide us with the registration list and we would then project manage the sign-up process. Registration with the Commission should be a mandatory aspect of operation with appropriate consequences for service providers that fail to register.
4501 In addition, there would be an annual process by which the CRTC would disclose to CCTS, in confidence, the revenues of the mandated participants.
4502 With regard to mandate, we identified in our comments on Tuesday three specific process issues about which service providers have expressed concerns. Now that we’ve had the opportunity to hear from them, we would like to come back to a couple of these issues that bear on the way in which we fulfil our mandate.
4503 These issues are, one, the degree to which CCTS interprets code provisions to resolve a complaint and, two, the point in time at which CCTS should be allowed to accept complaints.
4504 What has become clear through the course of the hearing is that all service providers understand the need for CCTS to interpret code provisions when investigating customer complaints.
4505 What is equally clear is that in implementing the codes, PSPs themselves have engaged in code provision interpretations, just like CCTS, and it’s only an issue for PSPs when the CCTS interpretation differs from theirs.
4506 On these occasions, TELUS and Rogers believe CCTS should ask the Commission for its interpretation through a Part I or, as Rogers proposed, a CISC-like process of some sort.
4507 However, what is not well understood is the fact that in order to carry out our mandate, in other words, to resolve customer complaints and to ensure that in doing so consumers get the benefit of the protections of the codes, we spend countless hours every week interpreting the manner in which specific code provisions apply to specific complaint situations.
4508 It is not possible or desirable for us to vet each such interpretation with the Commission, nor for us to initiate a process to resolve a disagreement arising from our interpretation.
4509 If since the introduction of the Wireless Code we had been constrained from exercising our judgment to interpret code provisions in the context of the complaint, the resolution of literally thousands of customers’ complaints would have been unacceptably delayed and to this day many would remain unresolved.
4510 This outcome would be completely disproportionate to the perceived problem given that to date there has been only one Part I application disputing a CCTS interpretation.
4511 MR. MAKER: Having had the opportunity to hear in particular Rogers and Sasktel, it is necessary for us to comment on the topic of the point in time at which CCTS should be entitled to accept a customer complaint.
4512 For an industry ombudsman there are two possible structural approaches. In both, the service provider is offered the first opportunity to resolve a customer complaint, and that’s how it should be.
4513 In our model, CCTS cannot and does not accept a complaint until it is satisfied that the provider has had a reasonable opportunity to resolve the issue directly with their customer. That’s what we do and we require customers to provide us with the details of these efforts, whether they complain online, by email or by phone, before we accept the complaint. And in case the customer does not answer the question truthfully, built into our process is an opportunity for the provider to review the complaint and tell us if they feel that they did not get that opportunity.
4514 The other model is to require the customer to fully exhaust the providers’ internal complaint handling process before having recourse to the industry ombudsman.
4515 We heard Rogers and SaskTel suggest to you that we’re violating our own Procedural Code by accepting complaints before service providers have had the chance to try and resolve them. In fact, SaskTel said something like 21 of 25 complaints they looked at fit this criteria. In fact, to the best of our knowledge, these customers had in fact first tried unsuccessfully to resolve their complaint directly with SaskTel. What they are really telling you is that they want the alternative model put into place. They do not want CCTS to accept the complaint until the provider has had the opportunity to fully exhaust its internal complaint handling process.
4516 When Rogers’ ombudsman discussed with you the deadlock letter she envisioned that this letter would be the trigger for CCTS to know that the provider had exhausted its processes. What you were not told, however, is the many other issues raised by this alternative process, why it does not make sense to model for telecom complaints what OBSI does for financial service complaints, nor any details of the many other protective provisions that would need to be put into place to make that model work properly.
4517 These comments do not provide sufficient time to detail all of these issues for you, but we wish to make it clear that we are not accepting complaints before providers have a reasonable opportunity to resolve them. This distinction is important.
4518 And as for the alternative model of complaint acceptance, we urge the Commission to consider just how many steps customers should have to go through before they can bring their complaints to CCTS.
4519 At the moment there are three levels at SaskTel and four at Rogers. Twenty-eight (28) of the 47 PSPs that responded to our Public Awareness Survey told us that they have three or more levels in their own complaint handling processes.
4520 The Commission should consider whether in this light the alternative model is really appropriate.
4521 In addition, if PSPs wish to ensure that they have a more in-depth review of their customer complaints before they come to CCTS, it is open to them to empower their personnel to do so.
4522 Now, I’d just like to break from my prepared remarks for a moment to respond to something that we heard from Bell this morning, Mr. Chair. Bell said this morning that CCTS is accepting what they call invalid complaints including them in the numbers that we report for each participating service provider in our annual reports, and I wanted to address that briefly. First of all, these are not, in our view, invalid complaints. These are complaints -- these are expressions of customer dissatisfaction that were directed to CCTS that we looked at, that we analyzed as being in scope and that we accepted and sent off to the providers for resolution. If they remain unresolved and we later investigate them and determine that they are without merit, that does not make them out of scope. That does not mean we shouldn’t have accepted them or make them an invalid complaint. And that, I think, is what Bell is really getting at and that’s why we report them, because you can’t un-ring a bell. These are complaints that were legitimately made and the fact that they may have been found in favour of Bell or any other service provider is really not the issue in terms of the number of complaints accepted.
4523 In addition, I just wanted to reply in terms of the context. In 2013-14, if you have access to our annual report, on page 9 we report that we concluded 11,196 complaints. On page 34 of our report we show you that after investigation, only 493 were closed as being without merit. We’re talking about 4 percent of complaints. So this is the preverbal sledgehammer to smash a walnut.
4524 Moving back to our prepared remarks -- and thank you for that -- we’re moving to funding. We’ve said that the overall level of funding must be sufficient to allow us to adequately fulfil our mandate in an independent, timely and professional manner.
4525 You’ve heard many different submissions about the funding formula itself. Many service providers are asking you to increase the proportion of funding that we get from complaint-based fees. Our position is that the funding formula must produce adequate funding and that the members determine amongst themselves the specific details of the formula.
4526 However, in the event that the Commission decides to address this issue in this decision, we ask you to be mindful of the impact on CCTS of changes, in particular of changes of increasing the proportion of funding that comes from CBF.
4527 The CBF is the at-risk portion of our funding for a couple of reasons. First, the CBF rates are based on forecasts of future-year complaint volumes.
4528 Second, CBF is billed in arrears, only in the fiscal quarter following the conclusion of all of our work on the complaint, often many months after the complaint arrives and the work is done.
4529 Appropriate safeguards need to be built in to ensure that we’ll be able to prudently manage our cash flow and other financial obligations of the company.
4530 And finally on to compliance and enforcement. All stakeholders, consumer groups, groups representing persons with accessibility issues, industry groups and even service providers have supported our request for the Commission to establish a process that allows us to ask you to exercise your regulatory authority in cases in which service providers do not adhere to the fundamental obligations of participation in CCTS.
4531 For the purposes our discussion today we’ve attached a table to our comments and it shows the number of PSPs that are currently non-compliant with the sign-up obligation, the certification of revenue requirement, the payment of fees and compliance with the Procedural Code both with regard to responding to complaints within the 30-day window at pre-investigation, as well as, more importantly the implementation of complaint dispositions and the Public Awareness Plan.
4532 As we mentioned on Tuesday, we’ve learned over the last five years that compliance and enforcement appear to be key structural pieces missing from our model.
4533 So what we’re therefore proposing is that as part of the effort to address this problem, the Commission establish an annual process by which an officer of each PSP certifies to you that the PSP is fully compliant with all aspects of our Participation Agreement. We envision a model by which CCTS would refer to the Commission incidents on non-compliance of which it subsequently becomes aware. The Commission would act to enforce compliance using whatever tools it believes appropriate.
4534 As we’ve mentioned, we think that simplification of some existing processes, for example, changes to the participation trigger and the confidential sharing of revenue data will make this easier and more straightforward in future.
4535 We also believe that an unequivocal directive outlining the requirement to comply with all aspects of the Participation Agreement and related Commission determinations is necessary.
4536 We truly believe that a partnership between CCTS and the Commission to administer and enforce compliance with the obligations of participation in CCTS will send a strong message to consumers in the industry.
4537 Thank you and we look forward to your questions.
4538 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.
4539 Your presentation in this phase was very clear, but I might have just a few questions for you and my colleagues may as well.
4540 At paragraph 18 you talk about the -- you came back and provided some information on how long it actually did take for individuals to participate. The 73 days is there and it begs the question of whether our original five days was reasonable.
4541 You know, it's sometimes difficult to figure out what it is.
4542 Sometimes when I go across the MacDonald-Cartier Bridge, for those of you know who the area -- I think the speed limit says 30 kilometres an hour. Sometimes I feel I'm going backwards at that speed, but -- and in fact, anybody going at that speed probably puts public safety at risk because nobody else is.
4543 So is five days, perhaps, unreasonable, based on experience?
4544 MR. MAKER: Based on experience, I would say that it is unreasonable. We've seen that one service provider in the last two years managed to get -- we managed to get them signed up within the five days. Shout out to V Media.
4545 But -- so certainly the timeframe is an issue.
4546 I would point out on the other end that, you know, there's the other extreme of providers that just don't do it. So there ---
4547 THE CHAIRPERSON: So in your view, what would be a reasonable -- because there is a normal paper processing timeframe and information. What would, in your view, be a better ballpark?
4548 MR. MAKER: Well, certainly if we had a list of participants that we were reaching out ahead of time, I think the timelines that we've talked about, 73 is a mean, I think 54 is an average. I think those timelines would be reduced dramatically.
4549 If we were still working within the trigger mechanism, it's hard to say what's reasonable. It depends on how difficult it is to find these folks, and that's really the first part of the problem. And the second part of the problem is how resistant are they to sign up.
4550 The piece that I keep in mind is that, with the trigger mechanism, we've got a customer who's filed a complaint, and the longer time that we leave this process to unfold, the longer time that customer waits with an unresolved problem.
4551 So you know, I respect the need to be practical, but I don't -- I can't offer you a specific number of what I think is reasonable.
4552 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
4553 MS. THIBAULT: And just if I may add, with regard to the consumer perspective which, really, I think is important that we keep in mind here, it's not just on a mean they're waiting 73 days after filling a complaint with us. Let's not forget that they have -- went to their service provider at least one level, perhaps two, perhaps three, perhaps four.
4554 And so from the consumer experience, perspective, this is a very long delay where they're just waiting there to find out if we're even going to be able to help them, much less -- not to count the amount of time that it may actually take to resolve that complaint.
4555 THE CHAIRPERSON: But you aren't willing to express a view what a reasonably efficient telecommunications or television provider -- what should be an acceptable delay. Not people that are fighting, but, you know, a normal processing time based on your processing experience.
4556 MS. THIBAULT: Well, we believe that the answer to that question really depends on the model. If we keep the trigger mechanism, it's very difficult to say. I think you have the statistics in front of you of the real-life experience.
4557 If, however, the Commission were to adopt our suggestions about an order, a list, a requirement to register, we think that it would be more reasonable in the 30-day timeframe.
4558 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Thank you.
4559 There's a number of comments made about transparency, areas that some believed would merit more transparency.
4560 I'll take them one at a time just to get your perspective on if we were to explore more transparency in these areas, which I'll give to you, what impact would it have on operation and governance as you see it?
4561 For instance, there's been a request for more transparency about interpretation of codes and rationale for decisions. How do you feel about that?
4562 MR. MAKER: We agree that there should be greater transparency around how we handle the codes, and that's why we're developing an annotated Code of Conduct that should do exactly that.
4563 THE CHAIRPERSON: So you don't see operational or governance obstacles to that.
4564 MR. MAKER: I see no governance obstacles to that. I see operational obstacles that relate to how quickly we can do it and whether we have the resources.
4565 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. Same question, but with respect to transparency on publishing summaries of complaints you investigate and information in an open and accessible database about those complaints that are still open.
4566 MR. MAKER: So in that respect, Mr. Chair, each year in our annual report we publish a significant number of case studies, and typically they relate to the issues that we've identified as being significant issues that year, so we do make that available.
4567 We're also in the process of working on developing a broader suite of case studies that we can make available on our web site.
4568 THE CHAIRPERSON: So would it be ---
4569 MR. MAKER: So ---
4570 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes?
4571 MR. MAKER: So again, the same -- no governance issue that I'm aware of there. Obviously, the case studies are scrubbed for anonymity.
4572 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
4573 MR. MAKER: Again, the operational issue relates to resourcing to get it done.
4574 THE CHAIRPERSON: And you exercise a certain amount of discretion, I guess, to -- because not all cases might have learning opportunities for the broader communication sector. Is that correct?
4575 MR. MAKER: Well, I would say we want to talk about the things that people see -- that we see routinely so that people can understand, if they have a standard sort of typical complaint, what they might expect. But we also want to report on situations that are unusual or sort of make some sort of -- I mean, nothing makes precedent, but that delivers some important message. So it should be a combination of both, I think.
4576 THE CHAIRPERSON: Tek-Savvy suggests that there should be more transparency around addressing different classes of complaints, so perhaps more granularity about classes of complaints.
4577 MR. MAKER: I'm not sure exactly what they meant. Certainly if you have a look at our annual report, we publish six to eight-page table with eight columns and 70 or 80 rows outlining the number of issues that we've had on every kind of topic that we see in our day-to-day business, so I think we are fairly transparent about that and I'm not sure what more we might do on that front.
4578 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Understood.
4579 Some groups also suggested more transparency and publication of annual budgets and business plans.
4580 MR. MAKER: Well, we -- as you know, we do an annual budget, and we filed a portion of the last few years' financial statements to -- at your request. And I think our Chair, Ms. Bernard-Meunier, she looked favourably upon the likelihood of perhaps providing more financial information in future years, and that's something I would certainly recommend to our Board.
4581 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. But I take note of your original comment. You haven't had a chance, perhaps, to discuss this at the Board level.
4582 MR. MAKER: That's right. But what I'm telling you, sir, is that I would recommend to the Board that we do it.
4583 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
4584 In terms of publishing minutes of Board meetings, what would you say about transparent operations and governance?
4585 I don't know how interesting your minutes are, actually, but some people seem to want to see them.
4586 MR. MAKER: Yeah, I fear they might be highly disappointed. The minutes are rather, you know, tightly drafted and don't contain a lot of to and fro, by design.
4587 I'm not sure what the -- you know, the Directors and officers of the corporation have a duty of confidentiality around Board discussions, and I'm not sure whether publishing minutes is either appropriate or in breach of those obligations, so I'd certainly want to take some advice about that.
4588 THE CHAIRPERSON: You -- thank you for that. I'm going to just have a further area of questions in the area of promotion.
4589 We've talked a lot, and I started off talking about this a moment ago, about the time it takes following a trigger, assuming the current system, for service providers to become participant when they have to. To what extent do you think that that would be alleviated if there was a greater general awareness of the work of the CCTS as opposed to, you know, the sort of just in time awareness that some of the providers mentioned?
4590 MR. MAKER: I'm not sure that -- and if I -- I want to make sure I understand your question properly.
4591 I'm not sure that having broader public awareness of service provider obligations as directed by the Commission is going to move the dial at all. I think service providers, if they are interested in what the Commission has to say, they learn about it, they know what the sources are for finding out about it.
4592 The general public which where, I think, most broad awareness be directed, I don't think they really care, frankly.
4593 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So you don't see it as a factor that could maybe contribute to shortening those delays.
4594 MR. MAKER: I don't think so. And I'm speaking a little off the cuff, but customers that find us they know that they’re entitled to this recourse, but I’m not sure how that convinces their provider that they ought to show up and sign the documents.
4595 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Those are my questions. Let me turn to my colleagues.
4596 Vice-Chair Menzies?
4597 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Can you just clarify the sort of parenthetic comments that you made in response to Bell this morning regarding ---
4598 MR. MAKER: Sure.
4599 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- the management of complaints?
4600 Because I understood, from what you said, and I might have misunderstood, that what they were asking for was that the complaints that were satisfied in their favour be recorded as such.
4601 Is that right?
4602 MR. MAKER: What I took from their comments, and perhaps we didn’t take the same thing, is that if a complaint was “decided in their favour” -- and that’s a challenging issue on its own -- that we would take it out of the overall complaint numbers that we report about them.
4603 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yes, that is what they asked, yes.
4604 MR. MAKER: Okay. So that’s what I was trying to comment on.
4605 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: But would there be any harm in sort of categorizing the ones that were in their favour?
4606 Because you can make a valid complaint and be honest and serious and finds out that, you know, the other side gets upheld.
4607 Would there be any harm in sort of saying okay we received 5,000 complaints about Bell and 40 percent of them they were found not guilty, or words to that effect, wouldn’t that be -- is there anything wrong with that?
4608 MR. MAKER: In principle I’d say there’s nothing wrong with that. It is a bit problematic, though, because this is not the hockey standings. We don’t have wins, losses and ties.
4609 We don’t track files that way, because in some cases you have merit on the side of the provider, in other cases you have merit on the side of the customer, in a third category of cases you have some merit on both sides and some fault on both sides, and then there’s a fourth category of cases in which people say it really doesn’t matter, I’m prepared to offer you something and you’re prepared to take it, and we’re all happy and we go home.
4610 So we don’t categorize wins and losses.
4611 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay.
4612 MR. MAKER: That’s a bit challenging.
4613 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: It seemed yes, doubtful that it would be done that way, because it’s not an adjudication it’s a facilitation, right?
4614 MR. MAKER: There are many aspects to it, and that includes facilitation and trying to bring people together, and that’s why, you know, 86 and 90 percent of complaints get resolved.
4615 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Thanks for clarifying.
4616 The other -- I just had one other question. When you say that the customer has to have a reasonable opportunity, does that mean just level one sometimes?
4617 Like if I phone and complain and I can’t get it satisfied and somebody says “Well, you’ll have to phone this number in order to get that resolved” and I don’t want to, can I just then phone you and -- is that how it’s done, like one level, or two levels, or ---
4618 MR. MAKER: We have over 200 service providers and brands and they all have different processes and different numbers of levels.
4619 In fact, when Bell was presenting before you I was looking at their website and actually they have up to seven levels that you can go through with a complaint.
4620 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: That sounds like something from Dante.
4621 MR. MAKER: I’m not up on my Italian but...
4622 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: You don’t have to comment.
4623 MR. MAKER: But, you know, so our objective -- we share the view of the industry, which is that we want consumers to try and get their complaints resolved directly with their provider. That’s how their relationship will be enhanced. That’s how the provider will get information about what’s going wrong for its customers. And that saves us from having people have to answer phones, increase customer expectations only to tell them sorry we can’t help you yet you’ve got to go back where you started. So we all share that point of view.
4624 From our perspective, because there’s so many different approaches to complaint handling within different service providers, some have one level, some have seven, you know, we can’t make a one size fits all model.
4625 But if a customer writes to us and said “I called them, I sent them an email” whatever the case is, we’ll accept that complaint and we’ll send it to the service provider in the context of our normal process, which is here’s a complaint, it’s in scope, we’ve accepted it, now provider you have 30 days, feel free to try and resolve this with your customer, if you can’t write back to us, tell us your side of the story and give us the documents we need to conclude our investigation of the complaint.
4626 In that process -- built into that window, that process, is an opportunity for them to contact us and say “Look, you know, this customer only called once and hung up two minutes into his call with level one and we didn’t get an opportunity to really deal with it.”
4627 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right.
4628 MR. MAKER: And so if they tell us that by and large I think we’ll give them the opportunity to resolve the case with their customer because, you know, we don’t want to ---
4629 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: But they get the 30 days.
4630 MR. MAKER: They do. They have another opportunity.
4631 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So once you’ve accepted the complaint they have the 30 days in which to retain the customer as they wish, because ---
4632 MR. MAKER: Right.
4633 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I mean, your motivations and their motivations are the same. You want it resolved between the customer and the service provider.
4634 MR. MAKER: Right. And this is ---
4635 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: But I was just trying to ---
4636 MR. MAKER: Sorry.
4637 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Sorry. I was just trying to get at the heart of their complaint that well we don’t really get another chance. But that’s what I wanted you to clarify is that they do. As soon as you accept it they still have another chance to resolve it before you move along.
4638 MR. MAKER: And this is -- I must say, you know, from the first time I read the SaskTel proposal of the five day window, I really didn’t understand it, and I think it’s pretty clear now that they want the first five days of that 30-day window to be another opportunity for them to resolve the complaint, and if they’re successful then we don’t bill for the work we did on it and we don’t count it against them.
4639 And that’s why it strikes us as, you know, extremely artificial, because they have -- they’ve had the opportunity, they’ve had a reasonable opportunity, maybe not -- maybe the customer hasn’t gone through every stage of their internal complaint handling process, but that’s their process, not ours and not the customers, and so now, you know, the complaints comes to us, it goes back to them, but it goes back to them as a CCTS complaint number, whatever, within a process that’s defined within which there are rules, within which there’s no ragging the puck, et cetera, et cetera, and -- you know, so that’s why I struggle with the SaskTel proposal.
4640 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And how much does it cost them?
4641 MR. MAKER: The first level -- so if they resolve the complaint at frontline and if the complainant’s concluded their -- I know the last year’s number -- this is complicated because we set a number at the beginning -- a price at the beginning of the year and I think it was $80-some. At the end of the year when we do a true-up we actually have to reprice it if we didn’t collect enough -- the 40 percent of CFB revenue.
4642 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right.
4643 MR. MAKER: So I think it came out to $90.
4644 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay.
4645 MR. MAKER: Approximately.
4646 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Those are my questions.
4647 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
4648 Commissioner Simpson?
4649 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you.
4650 I just want to revisit the issue of awareness but try and go at it from a different direction.
4651 In looking at your Appendix 4 which was filed here, your focus on data collection is predominately trying to apply efforts to get compliance from the PSP. But I’m curious -- I’m not sure I understood, it may have been said throughout the week, but I’d just like to revisit how you’ve been analyzing the data that you do have with respect to the 57,000 applicants who had a complaint in or out of scope and also talk a little bit about those other 175,000 individuals that contacted you.
4652 I’ve gone through the exercise of a mock complaint on your website and I got to the second level before it looked like I was going to trigger something so I backed off. But in those first two layers of the complaint form I didn’t see anywhere a question that said, you know, how did you come to get to our doorstep. I know the expectation is that it would be an escalation of a PSP but it doesn’t really confirm that.
4653 So starting with complaints, those 57,000, why wouldn’t you do that as a matter of data collection?
4654 MR. MAKER: Well, currently we do it at the end.
4655 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Ah.
4656 MR. MAKER: So you’re proposing that we do it at the beginning, and that’s entirely reasonable, but right now we do it at the end so when we conclude the handling of a customer complaint ---
4657 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: M’hm.
4658 MR. MAKER: --- we ask that question and it gives us the opportunity to get feedback about what the user process was like.
4659 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Right. So on an awareness level -- because you’ve been engaged with those 57,000 you have 100 percent awareness. So let’s move off to the other 175,000.
4660 I know we talked about this earlier in the week, but could you please refresh my memory on what the composition of that 175,000 contacts is comprised of?
4661 MR. MAKER: Right.
4662 So that was just a number taken from our forthcoming annual report. It’s a combination of the number of phone calls to our contact centre and the number of written workload items that our contact centre processed in the year. So we added them together and that’s sort of a rough approximation of the total.
4663 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: M’hm.
4664 I’m going to assume that those calls, any that may not have been from stakeholders or, let’s call it -- let’s say the more wholesaler industrial level of phone calls that there’s a percentage within the 175,000 that are inquiries as to how to perhaps make a complaint? They may not have been a direct complaint, but I’m just trying to get a sense for again how they’re discovering you, particularly if they haven’t gone to the PSP in the first place because there seems to be a general irritant that they’re getting to you too soon, and I’m trying to figure out whether you’ve got something in place that helps you understand what kind of volume of people are coming to you even before engaging in PSP, regardless of whether they have a legitimate complaint or not.
4665 MR. MAKER: Well, let me start with the end which is, you talked about a general irritant, and I just want to make it clear we don’t think that customers are coming to us too soon. That’s not our view. It is the view of some service providers and I just wanted to clarify we think the number of customers we turn away because they haven’t been to their providers yet is fairly small.
4666 We’ve got some data in our 2013 annual report at page 32 that breaks down the details of the phone consultations to the best of the ability of our IT systems. It doesn’t really tell us very much about how they came to learn about us and, you know, we could engage in that conversation with some of them, but most of them, when they find out -- many of them find out they’re not in the right place, you know, we don’t have that opportunity.
4667 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Well, just going back into my own experiences, having been in the research business, you know, awareness -- quantitative and qualitative research is expensive, but if you have a data pile that you can work, it seems to differ an awful lot of the recruiting expenses. We’ve heard a lot of observations from the PSPs this week that they think that undertaking research to find out general levels of awareness might be a time-consuming and resource-consuming exercise, but I know that under the right circumstances, going back into the data that you do have through those contacts, you can find out an awful lot about how they got to your doorstep.
4668 MR. MAKER: Assuming your system is structured so as to record all the data.
4669 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Right. Okay. Those are my questions. Thank you.
4670 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
4671 Commissioner MacDonald.
4672 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Good afternoon. Is this afternoon now?
4673 On paragraph 14, you mention that:
4674 “The Plan includes an explicit requirement for PSPs to provide information about a link to CCTS at a logical and easy to access location on their website. Websites with search engines must return a hit for the page containing the CCTS notice in response to a search using specific keywords. That’s already in place today, correct? That’s not something that you’re looking to do in the future?”
4675 MR. MAKER: No, that’s a fundamental part of the Plan that we’ve had in place since 2009.
4676 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And do you specify what those key search words are and how quickly within sort of how many links?
4677 MR. MAKER: We do specify the keywords.
4678 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay.
4679 MR. MAKER: There’s seven of them.
4680 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. Do you know what they are just sort of off the top of your head?
4681 MR. MAKER: Yes, I have them here. The ones we chose back then were “complaint”, “dispute”, “agency”, “CRTC”, “CCTS”, “Commission” and “ombudsman”.
4682 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And do you ever go back and -- I mean, websites, especially for large service providers, change all the time. Do you ever go back and audit any of these firms to make sur that it is still “easy to find”?
4683 MR. MAKER: Well, we don’t audit in the technical sense of that word where we start a project and we go through them and we analyze them. And, you know, as presenters sat before you this week, I would go on their website sitting over there and just see how easy some of these things are to find. And there’s technical compliance and there’s compliance and the experience varies. And as you said, the sites change all the time.
4684 In fact, there was one major provider that was completely sure that their search engine returned a hit for all these seven, and I told them it was zero of seven, and they blew a gasket and they went back and they checked and they said, “So sorry; we changed something on our website and this part got broken.” So those things happen all the time.
4685 We did look at the websites of all the 47 PSPs that responded to our survey and I think you have the results of our analysis in Appendix 4 here. But we don’t have the mandate or the resourcing to really do formal auditing, which was where your question started.
4686 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Yeah. I guess at least I know we’re sort of on the same page because I was doing exactly the same thing when you were speaking, and I was coming back with a sort of a very mixed bag of results.
4687 MR. MAKER: Correct.
4688 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: With some providers you type in “complaint”, you type in “CCTS”, which are the two words that I used and automatically you popped up, and in other cases it was a little bit more like an Easter egg hunt. So I just wanted to mention that.
4689 MR. MAKER: And if I may, one of the things I try to do is I try to use terminology other than CCTS because if you know the acronym, if you know what our name is, you google us and you find it, no problem. But if you have a complaint or a dispute or a problem and you got to that homepage, where do you go to find it? And, you know, with respect, even to those who -- even those providers who actually comply in terms of having the link and the notice and the search engine that returns the appropriate hits, if you don’t have the experience, the knowledge to know where to look, it’s not easy in many cases to find the link. Maybe they are technically compliant but, you know, it doesn’t do a service to average consumers, I would say.
4690 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Thank you. That was the point I was hoping you would make.
4691 MR. MAKER: Thank you.
4692 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Vennard.
4693 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: I’m just wondering if you could offer a few comments or some insights on something that is very important but we haven’t heard much of during the hearing. In fact, I don’t think we’ve heard of it at all. And here I’m not expecting you to have numbers off the top of your head or anything but more just an overall comment on rural and remote Canadians. What is your experience with them being able to find you, with them being satisfied with the outcome and comments of that nature?
4694 MR. MAKER: We don’t have a great amount of data regarding demographics of our users, particularly in terms of definitions of what’s rural as opposed to urban and what’s remote. I mean, there are some standard concepts of remoteness, I guess. But we do report every year a regional analysis that indicates where complaints are coming form and obviously the percentages of complaints coming from areas we’d normally describe as remote are fairly low, but we don’t have any data that I can use to really answer your question, I’m afraid.
4695 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Were you thinking at all of trying to capture some of that data and some of that information?
4696 MR. MAKER: Well, as I’ve sat here during this proceeding, we’ve -- I’ve heard a lot of asks of CCTS about data and research and so forth, and we’ve often considered what we might be able to do. I don’t think -- I couldn’t tell you that we have any specific plans at this point in terms of how we might do that or go about doing that.
4697 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. Thank you.
4698 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. Those are our questions. Et je tiens, à vous remercier, Monsieur Maker, Madame Thibault et Madame Bernard-Meunier. Je sais que ce genre d’instance met beaucoup de pression sur votre organisation parce que vous avez une job ordinaire à faire aussi pour livrer des résultats pour les Canadiens, et donc je comprends que tout ça devient une très grande pression sur votre organisation, mais néanmoins très appréciée de la part du Conseil.
4699 Avant de conclure cette audience, j’aimerais remercier un certain nombre de personnes qui ont contribué à son bon déroulement.
4700 Tout d’abord, merci à tous les intervenants. Votre participation est toujours appréciée. Votre point de vue nous éclaire grandement.
4701 Ensuite, je voudrais souligner le travail des interprètes et celui de nos nouveaux sténographes qui nous aide à nous comprendre et à nous souvenir de ce qui a été dit pendant l’audience.
4702 As well, not everyone can attend our hearings or participate in them directly, so it’s important that we thank the journalists, bloggers and people in the Twittersphere who bring our hearings to a larger audience.
4703 Je tiens à remercier les gens qui ont pris le temps de participer à l’audience par l’entremise de notre forum de discussion en ligne. D’ailleurs, j’encourage tous les Canadiens à le faire jusqu’au 9 novembre.
4704 Je voudrais aussi reconnaître la contribution des employés du CRTC. Que ce soit à partir de cette salle d’audience, du quartier général et de nos bureaux régionaux, ils fournissent des conseils d’experts afin de soutenir le rôle décisionnel du panel.
4705 I would also like to thank my panel colleagues who put a lot of work and preparation into this hearing.
4706 I remind interveners that undertakings must be provided by November 12th and final submissions by November 20th.
4707 The Commission will carefully look at all the pieces of evidence and submissions before issuing a decision, which we expect to issue within four months of the close of the record.
4708 But before I let you go, I want to send an encouraging and supportive message directly to the hundreds, if not thousands, of customer service employees, the men and women on the frontlines who work for the various communications service providers in Canada. You do very important work, in fact, essential work to ensure that Canadians benefit fully from their communications system. I can only imagine how difficult that work can be at times for those women and men, but it is no less important.
4709 Le CPRST devrait toujours être une solution de dernier recours.
4710 So thank you again. The hearing is now adjourned. Merci.
--- Upon adjourning at 12:26 p.m.
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