The rollout of legal cannabis in Ontario has entered its third difficult week as the province’s ombudsman said it has received more than 1,000 complaints from customers frustrated by delays, billing problems and poor customer service.

"I have informed the [Ontario Cannabis Store] that we are seeing a high volume of complaints and we are monitoring their response to these issues," said Paul Dubé, the Ontario ombudsman, in a statement. "We have assigned a team of staff to triage complaints and resolve them quickly wherever possible, and we are in regular contact with senior officials of the OCS.”

The OCS has received more than 150,000 orders through its website since Oct. 17, when cannabis was legalized in Canada. However, many orders haven’t been shipped to cannabis customers in the one-to-three business days that was originally promised, instead taking more than two weeks to be processed.

The Office of the Ontario Ombudsman said the most common complaint from customers about the OCS’s first two weeks of operations involve delayed deliveries, poor communication with customers seeking to escalate complaints, and orders that were incorrect or cancelled without notice.

Also hampering deliveries has been ongoing work stoppages at Canada Post, which has a mail processing facility in Mississauga that touches nearly two-thirds of all mail in Canada. The OCS distribution facility is located somewhere within the Greater Toronto Area, according to an OCS customer service representative, so any delays on shipments in the area would be further impacted by a postal work stoppage.

A spokesperson with the OCS said the organization is engaged with the Ombudsman’s office to address customer concerns.

“We have been working with the Ombudsman’s office as we strengthen and improve customer service to deliver products within our targeted timelines,” the OCS spokesperson said in an emailed statement to BNN Bloomberg.

The OCS also sent emails on Wednesday to customers who haven’t received orders in more than two weeks, acknowledging and apologizing for their frustration with the delays.

“Some of the items we received from Health Canada-authorized licensed producers were mislabelled and unfortunately this delayed our ability to ship your order to you, with the correct products you ordered,” the OCS email said.

“The OCS has been working closely with LPs to update them on this issue and has taken steps to ensure all new inventory received has this corrected.”

According to the Cannabis Act, the marijuana industry must follow plain packaging and labelling requirements for cannabis products, including yellow warning labels that have to be at least the same size or larger than the actual recreational marijuana brand.

Those requirements have been set by policymakers to protect against accidental consumption, protect youth from consuming cannabis and provide consumers with health-related information before consuming the drug.

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