Canada’s Wireless Code in Need of Revisions

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screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-8-15-56-pmThe Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is a federal regulator tasked with reviewing the country’s wireless code. The code is now three years old, and the Financial Post said that three-year contracts are known to be eliminated. The wireless market has undergone several changes since December, 2013, when three-year contracts were voided and cancellation fees were axed “after 24 months and put a cap on charges for data coverage and roaming at $50 and $100 per billing cycle,” according to Financial Post.

Both telecom and consumer groups gave their recommendations for the future of the code this week; both had opposing views on what the future should be. The consumer side agreed that the first wireless code “effectively established more consumer-friendly practices and made it easier for Canadians to navigate their wireless rights,” Financial Post reported. This side also said that data notifications and caps on shared plans need to have stricter rules and clarity, a top complaint with consumers in Canada.

However, the telco side, including the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association and wireless providers, recommended only minor changes to the existing code. This side suggested that the account holder be notified by email when shared plans get close to data caps, but did not want the code’s requirements to make the rules too complex, stifle creativity or, “discourage new offerings like family plans.” Telcos also recommended charging customers a larger fee when they cancel a contract. 

Additionally, the wireless association asked that providers charge consumers a restocking fee if phones are returned within the 15-day free trial period, especially with a drop in complaints and a climb in subscriptions. Consumer groups like the Consumers’ Association of Canada, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, the Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of B.C. and the National Pensioners Foundation, however, still noted that the “wireless code is more important than ever,” citing a need for additional protections with the rise of family plans, more data and more smartphone usage. The coalition asked for consumers to be compensated for unused data or have it rolled over and a gauge on how data is measured with a “broadband nutrition label that outlines fees and speeds,” the Financial Post said.

One thing both sides did agree on was “clarification when provincial rules conflict with the code,” according to the Financial Post. The CRTC will review code submissions at a public hearing in February.

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