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Ottawa orders investigation into telecom companies’ sales practices

WATCH: Canada orders investigation into telecom companies’ sales practices

The federal government has ordered an investigation into sales practices by Canada’s largest telecommunications companies.

“Canadians have expressed serious concerns about telecommunication companies using misleading and/or aggressive sales tactics,” a statement from the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada read Thursday.

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It added that Minister of Innovation Navdeep Bains has ordered the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to undertake the investigation, and have Canadians’ concerns heard.

“No Canadian should ever be misled or treated unfairly by a telecom corporation, especially those who are most vulnerable,” Bains said in the release.

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The report from the CRTC will be due back Feb. 28, 2019.

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The investigation comes after media reports by the CBC flagged allegations of misleading sales tactics.

Some of the reported tactics included providing incomplete information about contracts, aggressive sales tactics that caused consumers stress and frustration, and targeting of vulnerable customers (such as those with language barriers or disabilities).

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There were also complaints that prices paid by Canadians were “unfair, unpredictable or higher than expected,” a government document on the investigation explained.

The investigation also follows an April report by the CRTC that found complaints against telecommunications providers have increased 73 per cent in the past year.

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In January, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre requested that the CRTC launch an investigation into the “aggressive, inappropriate and potentially misleading” sales tactics employed by Canada’s wireless companies, internet and phone providers.

“Many of these aggressive sales practices appear to have targeted vulnerable consumers, including older Canadians, grieving spouses and blind customers,” an open letter from the consumer group read.

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The request, however, was declined by CRTC chairman Ian Scott at the time.

— With files from The Canadian Press