Bell acknowledges poor sales practices, says it isn’t pervasive

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Friday saw one of the country’s telecom giants, Bell Canada, admit that it needs to “improve” on certain sales practices related to its TV, internet and wireless offerings. Bell insisted, however, that the reported problems only represent a small portion of their company, which has “its own code of conduct.”

Rob Malcolmson, a Bell representative in discussion with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), said Bell has “a stringent code of conduct for employees and contractors.”

Malcolmson did, however, acknowledge that “more can be done to strengthen the confidence and trust Canadian consumers have in our industry.”

Bell’s parent company, BCE Inc., operates other Bell services including Virgin Mobile and Lucky wireless brands. It was this company named in 346 out of around 1,300 complaints filed in CRTC’s inquiry into company practices and sales tactics.

“We did a deeper dive on those, and 201 fell into the category ‘price not as expected’ ... and 78 fell into the category of potentially aggressive sales tactics,” said Malcolmson.

“So we looked at those and we said, that seems to be the core issue and asked: How do we fix it?”

Bell’s solution to the disparaging reports – which include elderly customers being sold services they don’t or cannot use, door-to-door pressure and miscommunication, plus mishandled service cancellations – is to implement several measures, to be applied to the entire industry and not just them.

Bell’s new plan allows customers to cancel a new service within 30 days of installation without an early termination fee. The company next wants all services to provide order confirmations, written in plain language within 24 hours of an order being placed.

Another Bell representative in charge of Bell Residential Services said that any customers in disagreement after reviewing written sales documents “can walk away” without financial consequence.

Groups advocating for seniors, ethnic and disabled groups and consumers in general have already suggested numerous ways to improve the Canadian telecommunications industry.

Other telecom companies selling similar products don’t believe they should be impacted by the failings of “a few large players because too many rules would stifle legitimate competition.”

Shaw Communications Inc. thinks customers will be best protected if and when telecom companies are barred from using and relying on outside contractors doing door-to-door sales.

Overall, many companies unnamed in the allegations and poor sales practices believe that CRTC commissioners should engage in “targeted, focused actions that don’t penalize small competitors or those that have good practices.”

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