The CRTC’s unlocking fee ban came into force on December 1st, 2017 — along with the rest of the updates to the Wireless Code — but it seems that some carriers won’t be adhering to the spirit of the ban.
In an email to MobileSyrup — echoing information found on the carrier’s unlocking website, as well as information provided to the CBC — Bell has confirmed that it will only “unlock Bell devices for current and former customers (including small business customers) with accounts in good standing.”
The device in question cannot have been reported as lost or stolen.
The Wireless Code, device unlocking and carriers
The updated Wireless Code has two very specific provisions on cellphone unlocking:
- Any device provided by a service provider to the customer for the purpose of providing wireless services must be provided unlocked.
- If a device is, or becomes, locked to a service provider’s network, that service provider must unlock the device, or give the customer the means to unlock the device, upon request, at no charge.
The wording of the Code is relatively unambiguous, and a particularly liberal reading of the Code suggests that all Canadians can get any device unlocked for free as long as they ask for the device to be unlocked.
Bell’s implementation of the Code, however, doesn’t provide this service to all Bell device owners, just those who are or once were customers. That means users who purchased a second-hand device locked to the network are finding themselves out of luck.
However, not all of Canada’s carriers are following in Bell’s footsteps.
In an email to MobileSyrup, Rogers confirmed that the carrier will unlock all devices locked to its network, for free, for any individual.
Rogers went on to clarify that this even applies to individuals who bought a second-hand device locked to the Rogers network, but who were never Rogers customers to begin with.
The industry blacklist on devices that were reported as lost or stolen still applies to Rogers.
It’s important to note that Telus’s unlocking page doesn’t make reference to current or former subscribers. Instead, the only two prerequisites enumerated by Telus are that a device is locked to the Telus network and that it isn’t flagged as lost or stolen.
In an email to MobileSyrup, a Telus spokesperson also confirmed that the carrier will unlock all devices locked to its network — including second-hand devices.
“I can confirm that Telus will now unlock all phones locked to our network, free of charge, for any individual or small business consumer (this would include someone who bought a second-hand Telus-locked phone but was never a Telus customer),” reads an excerpt from a Telus email to MobileSyrup.
Attempts to clarify the Code
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) is currently in the process of petitioning the CRTC to clarify the Wireless Code’s section on unlocking, in order to unambiguously state that carriers must unlock all devices, regardless of whether the current owner is or ever was a subscriber.
“Should the Commission deem it necessary or appropriate, this applications requests that the Commission order [wireless service providers] to unlock all devices locked to their network and to make a consequential amendment to the Wireless Code,” reads an excerpt from the PIAC’s December 6th, 2017 application document. “This application also requests that the Commission direct its staff, and request that the [CCTS] request its staff to formally document and notify the public, regulated parties and regular interveners before the CRTC when they provide interpretation or public advice regarding consumer protection under the Wireless Code.”
In an email to MobileSyrup, a CRTC spokesperson stated that, as a result of the PIAC’s application to the commission, the CRTC is “not in a position to comment at this time.”
The Wireless Code and consumer customers
Interestingly enough, there is a segment of Canadian wireless consumers who are almost entirely unaffected by the Wireless Code‘s unlocking fee ban: medium and large businesses.
“The Commission also reiterates that the Wireless Code does not apply to agreements between a [wireless service provider] and a medium or large business where the individual using the service is not responsible for any of the charges incurred,” reads a excerpt from the Wireless Code.
Rogers, Bell and Telus all confirmed that no free unlocking services would be provided to individuals part of medium or large businesses.
In a previous exchange, however, Telus did confirm that “all new devices sent to medium and large buisnesses will be unlocked.”
Update 18/12/2017: A Telus spokesperson responded to MobileSyrup‘s request for comment. Below is the full response:
“I can confirm that Telus will now unlock all phones locked to our network, free of charge, for any individual or small business consumer (this would include someone who bought a second-hand Telus-locked phone but was never a Telus customer).”