CRTC releases draft of new wireless code

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) called on the public to share their views on a draft  wireless service code for the nation which the commission released today.  

The draft code included proposed changes involving:  language clarity on mobile phone service contracts and policies; contract cancellation and renewal policies; advertised pricing; notification of fee changes; repairs and warranties; as well as policies around consumers unlocking their devices.

“The draft code is still very much a work in progress and intended to encourage more discussion,” said Jean-Pierre Blais, CRTC chairman. “We are inviting Canadians to participate by telling us what they think of the working document.”
Mobile carriers prefer a national wireless code rather than having provinces pass their own wireless legislations just as Quebec had done earlier.
Other points covered by the code are:
  • The need for carriers to have specific cancellation fees and to take account of “economic incentives” customers when they signed on for the contract
  • Fees for unlocking a device need to be disclosed in advance and unlocking to be allowed after 30 days
  • Carriers need to explain clearly the limits of their “unlimited plans”
  • Carriers need to inform customers when they have reached 50 per cent, 80 per cent and 100 per cent of their usage limits
  • Charges should be suspended when a phone is in-repair
At least one consumer advocacy group expressed approval of the CRTC’s draft wireless code.
“The CRTC showed they listened to consumers when they wrote this draft Wireless Code,” said John Lawford, Co-Counsel for Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC).

“Canadians clearly said they are worried about high wireless bills coming from unfair contract cancellation fees and high extra charges for such common features as data use and roaming,” added Janet Lo,Co-Counsel for PIAC. “The draft Wireless Code the CRTC released today tackles those tough issues and seeks to protect consumers.”

Last fall, the CRTC received no less than 3,500 comments in writing and about 600 comment in an online discussion when it sought Canadian’s input on the proposed code.

People can join in the online discussion starting today. The website will remain open until 5 p.m. (PST) on February 15, 2013.

Canada’s $19 billion wireless industry has no less than 27 million wireless service subscribers. Customer complaints around issues of contract clarity, fee structures and changes, service changes and privacy issues have been mounting over the years.

The commission wants to put a code in place so that consumers can better understand their rights and the responsibilities of wireless companies. Such a code would be helpful in providing better protection for consumers. For instance, the CRTC does not regulate cellphone rates but a code may be used to compel companies to advertise their prices and service terms clearly.

The code will be administered bt the Commissioner for Telecommunications Services and enforced by the CRTC. Among the powers of the CCTS will be the ability to force carriers to stop certain practices, order them to provide customers with explanations of apologies or provide compensation of up to $5,000.



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