CRTC Issues New Wireless Code After Long Last: Reflects a Compilation of Consumer Wireless Woes

Well, after months of consultation and debate, and a seemingly ever rising swell of commentary and consumer gnashing of teeth about the poor quality of Canadian wireless services (and anticipated demise of Canada’s new wireless entrants), the CRTC today announced at long last its wireless code of conduct.  In making the announcement, the CRTC Chairman said:

“Every day, Canadians rely on wireless devices while in their homes, at their jobs, at school or travelling abroad. … The wireless code will contribute to a more dynamic marketplace by making it possible for Canadians to discuss their needs with service providers at least every two years.”

Some of the key aspects of the new code, which is to be effective for new wireless contracts beginning on December 2nd, include: allowing the termination of contracts after two years without cancellation fees; caps on data and roaming charges to avoid “bill shock” ($50 and $100 unless customer consent); have cellphones unlocked after 90 days (or immediately where devices are paid in full); the right to accept or decline changes to key terms of fixed term contracts; and no extra charges for “unlimited” services.

The new code is a mixture of contractual, disclosure and device rights for wireless consumers that addresses a number of the most common consumer (and in some cases competitor) complaints including confusing contracts, locked in terms, hidden fees and other terms and roaming charge bill shock.

With respect to disclosure, the new code generally provides that wireless contracts are to be interpreted in favor of consumers, must use plain language (be “clear and easy to understand”) and include clear price claims and whether taxes are included.  Some of the specific disclosure requirements for postpaid contracts include the services included, limits/additional fees, minimum monthly charges, early cancellation fees, optional service fees and device fee information (including retail value, price paid and unlocking fees).

The new code also requires carriers to provide consumers with a “Critical Information Summary” upfront (a separate document or on the first two pages of a contract, also in plain language) summarizing the most important contract terms, including the code’s mandatory key contract terms, total monthly charge, one-time and additional fees and how to file a complaint to the carrier or CCTS.

For a short run-down of the key elements of the new CRTC code see: your rights as a wireless consumer.  For a copy of the new code see: here.

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