CRTC Wireless Code Lays Down Basic Customer Rights, and Allows Contract Cancellation After Two Years

by Istvan Fekete on June 4, 2013

The wait is over: CRTC has finally unveiled the anticipated Wireless Code that aims to establish a set of consumer rights in a Canadian wireless market dominated by the incumbents. And yes, the Code does bring changes to the wireless landscape: the days of three-year contracts are numbered, as Canadians will be able to cancel their wireless contract after two years. This, however, applies only to new contracts signed after December 2013, when the Wireless Code takes effect.

But the end of three-year contracts is only one of the main benefits of the newly published code of conduct. Here are the key benefits listed by the CRTC:

Among other things, individual and small business consumers will be able to:

  • terminate their wireless contracts after two years without cancellation fees, even if they have signed on for a longer term
  • cap extra data charges at $50/month and international data roaming charges at $100/month to prevent bill shock
  • have their cellphones unlocked after 90 days, or immediately if they paid for the device in full
  • return their cellphones, within 15 days and specific usage limits, if they are unhappy with their service
  • accept or decline changes to the key terms of a fixed-term contract (i.e., 2-year), and
  • receive a contract that is easy to read and understand.

We welcome the changes the CRTC’s new code brings: now mobile subscribers will receive notification if they exceed $50/month in data usage, and will be able to avoid extra roaming charges. But another great benefit of the code is that it finally cures the unwanted changes in the contract’s terms and conditions.

One of the best parts of the code is that carriers can change the terms of a contract only if they notify the user. As an exception, a carrier may only change a key contract term or condition during the commitment period without the consumer’s consent if it benefits the customer. For instance, if it reduces the rate for a service or increases the customer’s usage allowance for a single service.

On the other hand, the Wireless Code has now laid down the rules for cellphone unlocking, but it brings almost no change to the existing practices. Here is what the code says:

“A service provider that provides a locked device to the customer as part of a contract must

  • for subsidized devices: unlock the device, or give the customer the means to unlock the device, upon request, at the rate specified by the service provider, no later than 90 calendar days after the contract start date.
  • for unsubsidized devices: unlock the device, or give the customer the means to unlock the device, at the rate specified by the service provider, upon request.”

This is great news for subsidized device owners, as they can unlock their device after 90 days of purchasing it — handy if you travel a lot and use local wireless services rather than roaming — but the unlocking fee still remains effective. That means you still don’t own the device after paying for it in full, because you need to pay an additional fee — that varies by carrier — to port your device to another network at will.

It remains to be seen what kind of changes the Code will bring. However, the best part is that Canadian wireless companies have been guided toward the much more consumer-friendly two-year contracts.

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

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