Stop provinces on wireless codes, says Rogers

 

Canada’s telecommunications regulator must create a national consumer protection scheme for wireless subscribers to stop provinces from adopting potentially conflicting laws, says a wireless carrier executive.

“We urge the CRTC (the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) to develop and adopt one national consumer (wireless) code and adopt it quickly,” Rob Bruce, president of the wireless and wired divisions of Rogers Communications Inc. told the opening session of the annual Canadian Telecom Summit in Toronto on Monday.

“Canadian consumers deserve absolutely nothing less.”

Bruce’s plea echoes a number of submissions to carriers to the regulator last month who are trying to stop provinces from adopting laws that control certain parts of cellphone contracts – penalties for dropping a contract before its term expires, for example.

Following the passing of consumer cellphone legislation in Quebec and interest in Manitoba of doing the same, in April the CRTC asked the wireless industry whether it should create a national code to head off the possibility of 10 provinces going off on their own.

There are possible constitutional issues if the CRTC tries to create such a code because the provinces have certain rights over consumer protection. In addition, the regulator is trying to avoid regulating wireless as much as possible.

However, most wireless carriers would prefer to face one voluntary code rather than a number of enforceable provincial statutes.

In his speech, Bruce complained the current “mish-mash of consumer protection legislation is complexly problematic. It’s complicated, it’s confusing, it creates unfair advantage and it’s virtually impossible for all of us (as carriers) to implement.”

“Provincial consumer legislation just doesn’t make sense for national businesses.”

The conference is an annual gathering of executives from wireless carriers, network equipment makers and regulators to talk about the future of the industry.

According to a study released today by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA), which represents carriers and equipment makers, in 2010 the industry contributed $18 billion to the country’s gross national product.

There are an estimated 26 million Canadians with cellphones, half of which can be categorized as smart phones.

In his speech Bruce predicted the next wave of wireless digital innovation will be based around the spread of machine-to-machine communications (everything from car telematics to remote healthcare monitoring to refrigerators that automatically compile shopping lists); digital wallets on smartphones that carry a subscriber’s entire identification and any credit cards needed to buy things; and digital video.