When the Wireless Code of Conduct was instituted by the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in 2013, the hope was that it would give customers more leverage against Canada’s national carriers and their oligopoly.
However, as some observers initially predicted, many changes, like the move away from three- to two-year contracts, haven’t actually helped customers save money on their monthly wireless bills.
Another one of the Wireless Code’s stipulations, the part that says users must explicitly approve charges that bring their monthly bill past $50 in additional charges, may also not be helping protect consumers.
A new Marketplace report has found that some customers are still getting surprised with massive bills, and more often than not these cases don’t even involve roaming charges.
The report found that customers with Telus, Bell and Rogers have all run in to situations where shared plans were charged excessive overage fees (up to $1700 in a single month), and that the additional charges were often approved by a child, or a non-account holder. For most carriers, this approval is as simple as replying ‘yes’ to an SMS message from the carrier. And this approval is only required once per billing cycle.
All three major carriers have responded to the criticism, saying that their businesses are in compliance with the Wireless Code. Smaller carrier Eastlink Wireless has said on Twitter that on their family share plans only the account holder can approve overages. The Big Three carriers have said that customers can also block data outright to specific accounts, with a small fee involved in case of Telus.
Since this is obviously in complete dissonance with the spirit of the rules the CRTC put in place, the regulatory group says it will be reviewing the Code in the next two years to evaluate its success and modify it as needed.
If you have been affected by a seemingly unfair practice, the report advises customers who haven’t been successful in disputing overage charges with their carrier to contact the CCTS (Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services) for assistance. The group can and does regularly force carriers to reimburse customers in these circumstances.