Major wireless providers such as Rogers, Bell, TELUS, SaskTel and others are challenging the CRTC’s Wireless Code of Conduct as it relates to retroactive contracts signed between June 3rd and December 2nd, 2013. The latter date aligns with the beginning of the Wireless Code rules; the former is 24 months before approximately 80% of wireless contracts are expected to be under the authority of the Code.
The issue at hand is one largely of ambiguous language: the CRTC wants all carriers to begin implementing aspects of the Code before December 2nd, and be completely up to speed thereafter. But the period between now (or June 3rd) and December 2nd is one of flux, as after June 3rd, 2015 most customers should be able to cancel their wireless services without penalty. Wireless providers fear that if they sign a customer to a three-year term before December 2nd, and are forced to allow him or her to cancel without penalty before the term has ended they will be unable to successfully recuperate the device subsidy.
According to Telecom Trends’ Mark Goldberg, there is plenty of legal precedent in favour of the wireless carriers here, so the group is likely to win the appeal and, conversely, prevent the CRTC from retroactively applying the Code to contracts signed between June 3rd and December 2nd of this year.
The CWTA had asked for clarification about the Code’s language — the document itself, in paragraph 369, says enforcement “should” be in effect by June 3rd, 2015, not “must” or “shall” — and received a letter from the CRTC’s Chief Consumer Officer, Barbara Motzney, offering examples of how a provider would recuperate a device subsidy through early cancellation fees if a contract was signed in April 2013 or October 2013. Based on the opinion of Ms. Motzney, contracts signed after June 3rd of this year will hit the 24 month mark on the day the Code claims all contracts must come under its influence, and “would be contrary to the spirit of the Code and the development of a more dynamic marketplace.”
The appeal is set to be submitted today, and due to the immediacy of its potential effects, the appellants are asking for an expedited process.