After six months of promises and pre-emptive changes to the way our telcos do business — not to mention the very fabric of how we purchase devices — the CRTC’s Wireless Code of Conduct comes into effect today for all new and altered contracts.
Though most of the major Canadian wireless providers have already instituted many of the Code’s tenets, the most drastic of which has been the move away from 3-year contracts, there are some sizeable lesser-known benefits to consumers that should be emphasized.
We have highlighted a few of the more important ones below.
- Contracts must be clear
- Carriers must use plain language, and communicate in full any changes made to the contract
- The final price on the bill must be the same as the one advertised in the contract
- A printed copy of the contract must be made available, at any time during the term, and at no charge
- Any changes made to the contract during the term must be conveyed 30 days prior to implementation
- There can be no cancellation fee after 24 months
- Though 3-year contracts are not banned, customers must be able to cancel their contracts without penalty after 24 months, or two years
- For fixed-term contracts, the early cancellation fee cannot exceed the remaining value of the owed portion of the device
- Devices must be be unlockable
- Devices purchased with subsidy must be unlockable within after 90 calendar days
- Devices purchased without subsidy must be unlockable immediately after purchase
Accounts can be closed without any notice Customers no longer have to give 30 days notice before closing an account
- Devices can be trialled and returned without penalty for 15 days
- New devices can be returned without penalty as long as they’re in like-new condition within 15 days of purchase
- There are now caps on domestic and international roaming charges and data overages
- Domestic roaming fees will be cut off at $50 per monthly bill cycle unless the customer expressly allows the overage
- International roaming fees will be cut off at $100 per monthly bill cycle unless the customer expressly allows the overage
- Data overages will be cut off at $50 per monthly bill cycle unless otherwise specified by the customer
There are many other smaller implications to the Wireless Code that you should read, including specifics on what happens when a term expires (terms are extended at the same price on a month-to-month basis), so take a look at the whole document. It’s fairly easy to read and should provide a good overview on how the government plans to protect wireless consumers going forward.
The trouble here, though, is a lack of choice, and it’s something that keeps being brought up again and again. Since the Code effectively banned 3-year contracts, monthly charges, though simplified, have likely increased for the average consumer. Similarly, upfront phone prices have risen in response to the shorter amortization period for phone payouts; phones were cheaper on purchase when customers had 36 months with which to pay them off.
Questions also remain over whether the Code sets a precedent for future government intervention; Industry Canada is already looking into regulating roaming costs above the $50/$100 overage cap; and the CRTC has set a date of June 3rd, 2015, for when the Code must apply to all contracts, even if the initial term was signed under the old 3-year system.
With the impending 700Mhz spectrum auction next month, and the promise of an even more mobile-centric future, the Wireless Code is just one piece of a very big, very messy puzzle.
Update: It appears that at some point between June and December, the tenet about being able to cancel your service without giving 30 days notice — in other words, same day cancellation — has been removed from the Code. We’ve reached out to the CRTC for further clarification.