Cellphone user protection bill gets another call

Ontario’s Liberal government intends to introduce a bill that would have mobile phone service providers clearly explain their fees to customers as well as face limits on the cancellation fees they charge.

Tracy MacCharles, Liberal minister of Consumer Services, said she plans to present the bill before the provincial parliament next week.

The proposed legislation is similar to a bill put forward in April 2012 which died on the order paper when the provincial legislature was prorogued last October. The Liberal’s move also comes at a time when the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is developing a national code of conduct for the wireless industry. The final version of the CRTC’s proposed code is expected in a few months.

If the bill passes, Ontario will be the fifth province to have a code government cellphone contracts. Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador already have their respective bills protecting mobile phone users.

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The Liberal’s proposed bill will require wireless service providers to clearly explain in plain language information contained in the bill they send customers including:

  • The retail value and actual cost to customers of a discounted phone that comes with a fixed-term contract
  • How roaming charges are calculated
  • How cancellation fees are calculated
  • What services are included for a monthly fee
  • What services will incur added cost

The bill will also ban automatic renewal of contracts and require the customer’s consent before changes to a contract can be made.

The bill will also:

  • Allow consumers to cancel wireless agreements at any time by giving notice to the provider
  • Limit cancellation fees to 10 per cent of outstanding service to a maximum of $50 and a proportion of the discount consumers receive on their phones when they signed for the contract
  • Allow customers to cancel their agreement within a year of signing and get full refund if the provider does not abide by the rules in the legislation
  • Ban wireless providers from charging consumers for services they can’t access while their phone is being repaired under warranty
  • Ensure consumers are not billed for charges incurred after they report their phone lost or stolen
  • Require providers to make the all-inclusive, total monthly cost to be the most prominent information shown in advertisements

A report from the CRTC indicating that consumer complaints against mobile service providers has tripled over the last three years, are partly the reason why the Ministry of Consumer Services in introducing the bill, said MacCharles.

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