Could a National Code of Conduct Protect Canadian Mobile Users?

by Istvan Fekete on January 3, 2013

Unexpected charges and confusing contracts are just two items on a long list of unfair practices Canadians have experienced when subscribing to any of the existing wireless carriers. The frustration caused by the aforementioned practices urged consumer advocacy groups to pressure the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) to take action and create a code of conduct for the wireless phone industry.

The CRTC asked for public consultation back in October and is now after a second round of online public consultation this month and a further week of public hearings in Gatineau, Quebec, starting next month, with a draft already available before the hearings begin.

The only question that remains is whether or not this wireless code of conduct will indeed protect Canadian mobile subscribers from being the target of unfair practices.

So let’s see what this code of conduct looks like: according to the CRTC, the draft will be outlined based on a series of consumer complaints over carriers’ unfair practices, such as hidden service charges, phone unlocking fees, penalties for ending contracts and system access fees.

Currently, the Canadian mobile landscape seems like heaven for wireless carriers, as consumers pay 20% more than their US counterparts, and 100% more than in Germany.

Alongside bringing the bills down, the new code should force service providers to inform their consumers on contract terms and conditions, require more clarity on advertised prices of services, and enable some leeway for contract cancellations.

What this means is the end of confusing language use in contracts and a clear briefing of consumer’s of their rights and responsibilities, so a mobile subscriber will be aware of all the hidden fees when they decide to sign the contract. The CRTC also faces pressure to end the three-year term, which is unique to Canada.

The carriers seem to support the initiative as a preferred alternative to territorial and provincial standards, so we could assist in changing in the mobile landscape, as the code of conduct could eliminate some of the abuse.

Yet the fact is that while it sounds like a great way to protect consumers, with no regulator having the authority of law to enforce the code, will it be a fuitile exercise?

Written by: Istvan Fekete. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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