By Moira Warburton
TORONTO (Reuters) - Complaints against Canadian telecoms operators spiked by more than a third in the year ending July 2019 to a record, with billing issues emerging as the most frequently raised issue, a federal complaints bureau said on Thursday.
Bell Canada, a unit of BCE Inc, was responsible for 30.5% of all complaints, Rogers Telecommunications accounted for 9.5%, and Telus Corp for 8.3%, according to the annual report of the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services (CCTS).
The bureau received a record around 19,300 complaints between August 1, 2018 and July 31, 2019 - up 35% from roughly 14,200 in the previous year, and registering a 145% increase over the past five years. About 91% of the complaints have been resolved.
Howard Maker, commissioner of the CCTS, believes the increase is due to service provider behavior.
"It's a competitive marketplace," he told Reuters. "In that environment, sometimes things go awry."
In addition, the CCTS has been "making strides in public awareness" of the bureau's existence, Maker said, and that 2018-19 is the first year that TV complaints have been included in their mandate - all of which contributed to the increase.
Billing issues represented almost half of all 47,400 issues raised, CCTS said.
The other complaints mainly related to disclosure issues and breach of contractual terms or obligations, the report added.
Canada's telecoms industry was in the spotlight in last month's federal election, with voters complaining about cellphone bills which are among the highest in the world. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's minority Liberal government has promised to cut the phone bills by 25% and the industry is lobbying against the planned move.
BCE, Rogers Communications, Telus Corp, Shaw Communications and Quebecor Media account for 85% of the broadcast and telecommunications industry's C$67.6 billion ($50.8 billion) revenues in 2017 in Canada, the most recent government figures show.
Bell Canada acknowledged that it has further to go but has "invested significantly" in service and is seeing continued improvement, spokesman Nathan Gibson said in an email to Reuters.
Rogers has started to see progress in its plan to improve customer experience, Eric Agius, senior vice president of customer care, said in an email.
Telus admitted there is still work to be done, adding it will continue to improve based upon customer feedback, Tony Geheran, executive vice president and chief customer officer at Telus said.
(This story corrects percentages in second paragraph)
(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto; Editing by Nick Zieminski)