Secret shopper project launched by CRTC in response to report on aggressive or misleading sales practices

Approximately 1 in 5 shoppers perceived they may have faced misleading or aggressive sales practices

THE CRTC on Tuesday outlined the findings of its first-ever secret shopper project, which provides insight into Canadians’ experiences with communications service providers. In 2019, the CRTC found that certain Canadians were subject to misleading or aggressive sales practices, which prompted the creation of the secret shopper project.

The secret shopper report concludes that the vast majority of the enlisted shoppers’ interactions with the providers’ sales staff were perceived as positive. However, approximately 1 in 5 shoppers perceived that they may have faced misleading or aggressive sales practices. The report also indicates that misleading or aggressive sales practices occur at a higher rate for certain vulnerable segments of the Canadian population, such as individuals with disabilities and those whose mother tongue is neither English nor French.

This secret shopper project comes on the heels of the CRTC’s 2019 Report on Misleading or Aggressive Communications Retail Sales Practices, which found that such practices have a harmful impact on Canadians. The report was the result of a public consultation the CRTC held in response to a request made by the Governor in Council in June 2018.

This initial project was conducted by Forum Research Inc. The field work occurred in early 2020 in several locations throughout Canada and measured interactions with sales staff in person, over the phone and online. The CRTC intends to proceed with future iterations of the secret shopper project to assist in its decision-making processes.

Ian Scott, Chairperson and CEO, CRTC, said: “The secret shopper project allowed us to gain on-the-ground insight into the challenges Canadians may face when engaging with communications service providers’ salespeople. While we are encouraged by the results, more needs to be done to stop misleading and aggressive sales practices. This is why the secret shopper project will continue into the future. We look forward to using this information to promote the fair treatment of consumers.”

Consult the Secret Shopper Project Report.

Quick Facts

  • The secret shopper project aims to better understand how front-line employees of the communications service providers sell communications services and how consumers experience the sales process.
  • Through in store, phone and online interactions, 422 secret shoppers took part in evaluating how wireless services are sold by the main brands of the six largest wireless service providers (Bell, Rogers, Telus, SaskTel, Freedom and Videotron).
  • A “secret shopper” is a trained undercover shopper sent to provide unbiased feedback on goods and services.
  • The Commission is examining the offer and promotion of accessible wireless plans by wireless service providers and the extent to which these plans meet the needs of Canadians with disabilities.
  • From June 2018 to February 2019, the Commission conducted a public consultation to inform a report on the use of misleading or aggressive retail sales practices by Canada’s large communications service providers.