Consumer complaints about wireless roaming charges more than tripled during the past year, telecom complaints commissioner Howard Maker said. In an annual report released Wednesday, the Commission for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) said roaming fees, along with wireless data and home Internet bandwidth charges, “remains one of the most-complained about issue” among Canadian telecommunications consumers. Those categories accounted for more than 1,500 of the 13,692 total complaints the commission accepted in the 12-month period that ended July 31, or about 11 per cent of all complaints. Roaming complaints, in particular, accounted for 721 of those grievances, up from 211 in the same period a year earlier. “We’ve determined a 240-per cent increase over roaming complaints from last year,” Maker, who heads the commission, said in an interview Tuesday in advance of the report’s release. “We’re hearing about it more. I think it’s always a sense of frustration when someone comes home and they have a very expensive bill that they didn’t anticipate.” The roaming fees that wireless providers charge customers who leave their network service area have become an increasingly hot topic in recent months after the CRTC launched in August a fact-finding exercise into Canadian carriers’ roaming rates in Canada and the U.S. Incumbent carrier BCE Inc. has since cut the rates of its roaming packages to the U.S. and much of the Caribbean, and the Conservative government said in its throne speech last month that the government would “take steps to reduce roaming costs on networks within Canada.” The CRTC, which included a $100 monthly cap on roaming charges as part of its wireless code released in June, also said last week that it was forming an internal task force to prioritize and “investigate the roaming question further.” BCE and Telus Corp. have questioned whether the commission has the authority to regulate roaming rates. Maker said he believes several factors have contributed to the increase in roaming complaints, including press coverage of the issue, the surprisingly large bills consumers say they receive when they return from foreign vacations, and the fact that roaming charges are not “particularly well understood.” In its report, the CCTS said incumbent carrier Rogers Communications Inc. was the target of 613 complaints relating to roaming, data and bandwidth charges over the last year, the most among all telecom providers with about 40.5 per cent of all complaints relating to one of those charges. Rogers' Fido brand, counted separately, was the target of 209 such complaints, third-most among providers with 13.8 per cent. BCE was the target of the second-most roaming, data and bandwidth charge complaints with 255, or 16.9 per cent of the total, while its Virgin Mobile brand had another 82 complaints. Wind Mobile, whose customers are more likely to incur roaming charges within Canada due to the company's smaller network footprint, was the target of 108 such complaints, or 7.1 per cent of the total. The CCTS said the volume of complaints it accepted increased again in 2012-2013, rising to 13,692 from 10,838 in the same period a year earlier. The complaints commissioner will choose not to accept a complaint if it is outside of the organization's mandate or if it is missing “key information” that it cannot obtain from the customer. The CCTS said that wireless services were again the subject of the majority of the 19,297 total complaints it received, accounting for 11,663 of those objections. Internet access was the second-most complained about service, with 3,758 complaints, followed by home phone and voice-over-IP phone, with 3,172 complaints. The report said 2,224 of the complaints it received in the year related to billing errors, 2,080 related to “loss of service and repair issues” and 1,835 related to providers' policies that require consumers to give 30 days notice before they can cancel their services. Overall, the CCTS said, Bell was the subject of 3,912 of the complaints the commission accepted in 2012-2013, the most among any provider with about 29 per cent of the total. Rogers, which was the target of the most complaints in 2011-2012, was the subject of the second-most complaints in 2012-2013 with 3,803, or about 28 per cent of the total, followed by its Fido subsidiary with 998 complaints, or 7.29 per cent of the total. Telus, which was the subject of 1,387 complaints in 2010-2011 and 1,211 complaints in 2011-2012, was the target of 883 complaints in 2012-2013, the report said, or about 6 per cent of the total. “The total number of complaints to the CCTS has grown year over year, the result of increasing awareness of the service by Canadians, as the CCTS itself notes in its report. Bell has also been strongly promoting CCTS services directly to customers, as have other carriers,” BCE spokeswoman Jacqueline Michelis said in an emailed statement Tuesday. “Bell appreciates the positive contribution the CCTS makes to our business. Improving service is a primary focus for Bell,” she added, noting that complaints that target BCE or one of its mobile subsidiaries increased this year from 31.5 per cent of the total to 35.2 per cent. “We’re working hard to get that number down,” she said. Michelis added that Bell is “by far the largest of Canada's communications companies,” with more than 21 million subscribers across its wireless, TV, Internet and home phone services. —With reporting by Nicholas Kyonka at firstname.lastname@example.org and editing by Derek Abma at email@example.com. --- CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story did not clearly identify how the CCTS handles complaints that are missing key information.