Ontario to Introduce New Bill to Make Cellphone Contracts more Transparent and Consumer-Friendly

by Istvan Fekete on April 26, 2013

The Ontario government plans to introduce a new bill which obligates wireless carriers to explain their fees more clearly and face limits on cancellation charges. The aim of the bill is to make cell phone bills — one of the most-hated items of mail Canadians receive — more transparent.

This new bill is also aimed at filling a gap that the Canadian Radio–Television and Telecommunications Commission cannot: to regulate wireless players’ charges.

Ontario’s minority Liberal government said yesterday that it plans to table legislation with the goal of helping consumers to understand cell phone contracts and making cancellation easy and straightforward. You may recall that cancellation fees are among the top complaints wireless subscribers have mentioned when the CRTC asked for consumer input in drafting the new wireless code.

“This is about clarity of the contracts, it’s about strong enforcement measures, it’s about transparency,” Liberal Minister of Consumer Services Tracy MacCharles said during a news conference in Toronto. 

“We’re not here to manage the business of the telecoms. We just want consumers to have clarity in those contracts and know what their rights are and for the telecoms to have certain responsibilities to make those contracts more transparent,” she added. 

Ontario joins the line of provinces imposing regulation for telcos, such as Quebec, Manitoba, Newfoundland, Labrador and Nova Scotia. The proposed bill would:

  • Require wireless providers to clearly explain all aspects of billing in plain language, including:
  • what services are included for a monthly fee and what services would result in added costs;
  • the retail value and actual cost to the consumer of a discounted phone that comes with a fixed-term contract;
  • how roaming costs are calculated;
  • how cancellation fees are calculated.
  • Ban automatic renewal of contracts and require consent for any changes to a contract beforehand.
  • Require the all-inclusive, total monthly cost to be the most prominent piece of information shown in an advertisement.
  • Allow consumers to cancel a wireless agreement at any time by giving notice to the provider. Cancellation fees would be limited to 10 per cent of outstanding services to a maximum of $50 and a proportion of the discount consumers received on their phone when signing their contract.
  • Ban wireless providers from charging consumers for services they can’t access while their phone is being repaired under warranty.
  • Ensure that customers are not billed for charges incurred after they report their phone lost or stolen.
  • Allow customers to cancel their agreement within a year of signing and get a full refund if wireless companies don’t abide by all the rules in the legislation.

Incumbents do not seem to appreciate Ontario’s efforts for transparency and price regulation. The big telcos’ lobby group, CWTA, has issued a statement reacting to the upcoming bill saying:

“We would encourage the Ontario government to first wait to review the new code from the CRTC before moving ahead with its own regulations, as they said they would,” said a statement from the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.

“CWTA and Canada’s wireless carriers remain committed to a national code for consumers, providing all Canadians with equal standards, rather than a patchwork of inconsistent provincial regulations.”

What do you think? Is there a demand for transparency, or is everything fine as it is right now?

Update: According to an email received from Mary Pretotto, Rogers’ Senior Manager of Social Media Community, the carrier supports a national code, rather than individual provincial legislation, because they think it’s better for consumers if people have the same, consistent protections across the country, no matter where they live.

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

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July 16, 2013 at 6:47 am

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zintel April 26, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Ban wi-fi providers from asking for clients for solutions they cannot availability while their cellphone is being set under guarantee.

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