Twenty per cent of Canadians are dissatisfied with telecom sales practices, according to the CRTC’s latest secret shopper report.
The report released said 80 per cent of respondents are satisfied on key metrics like appropriate product recommendations and soliciting unwanted services, the number of individuals dissatisfied “is still a significant number.”
“The results of the Secret Shopper Project indicated that the majority of the sales interactions were perceived to be positive, although some shortcomings were also identified,” the CRTC said.
The report said one issue secret shoppers faced was that the Big Three (Bell, Rogers, and Telus) “do not appear to be offering any flexibility in terms of choices.”
It said the lowest-priced postpaid plans were only being offered at $75 a month excluding a mobile device.
“This is the lowest priced plan offered by these service providers to the secret shoppers, even those who are looking for a lower-priced plan, or who don’t use as much data and it would appear that their needs are not being accommodated,” the report said, adding that Shaw Communication’s Freedom Mobile offers plans starting at $50 per month.
In March, the federal government said Bell, Telus, and Rogers have to cut prices by 25 per cent on plans that offer 2GB to 6GB data in the next two years. However, with 5G expected to be fully deployed by 2021, experts in the industry expect consumers to use a lot more data, which will push more Canadians to buy unlimited data plans.
Consumers with disabilities, language barriers face more dissatisfaction
The secret shoppers also identified accessibility issues, noting that customers with disabilities “are facing significant barriers in accessing the appropriate telecommunications products or services that accommodate their accessibility needs.”
The secret shoppers said these customers showed significantly lower satisfaction rates on sales practices that were misleading and aggressive. The report said these customers also faced trouble with the online chat function on websites, which “may not be accessible to all Canadians who are blind or partially sighted, who rely on assistive devices and software that allow them to browse websites.”
While some companies offer services to accommodate deaf shoppers, the report said the “process appears to have proven to be prohibitively difficult for the secret shopper who tried to access this accommodation.” However, the report said it didn’t have a large enough sample to determine if this was a systematic issue.
The report also said the secret shoppers saw 36 per cent of consumers with language barriers felt the salesperson did not make an attempt to accommodate the language barrier.
The research was conducted by Forum Research on behalf of the CRTC in early 2020 and had 422 secret shoppers. The shoppers were paid to shop from Bell, Rogers, Telus, Freedom Mobile, Quebecor’s Vidéotron, and Sasktel.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) released a series of measures in February 2019 that would prevent telecom companies from practicing unsavoury and misleading telecom sales practices. The measures were released after the CRTC conducted an investigation into allegations of high-pressure sales practices in June 2018.
The secret shopper project was created in 2019 to better understand how front-line employees sell products and services to consumers and what consumers’ experiences are like during the process.