Money

CRTC changes rules for cellphone cancellation fees

By Cassandra Drudi, QMI Agency

Canadians will soon be able to cancel their wireless contracts after two years without paying any cancellation fees and travel with their phones without fear of returning home to a shocking data-roaming bill.

The CRTC's new wireless code, unveiled Monday, will apply to all new contracts for cellphones and other personal mobile devices beginning Dec. 2.

Canadians will be able to cancel their wireless contracts after two years without paying any cancellation fees, even if they've signed on for a longer term.

"Every day, Canadians rely on wireless devices while in their homes, at their jobs, at school or travelling abroad," CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said in a release. "The wireless code will contribute to a more dynamic marketplace by making it possible for Canadians to discuss their needs with service providers at least every two years."

Among the other provisions in the code is a $50/month cap on data overage charges, and a $100/month cap on international data roaming charges.

Wireless consumers will be able to return their cellphones within 15 days and specific usage limits if they're unhappy with their service, and will be able to have their cellphones unlocked after 90 days, or immediately if they pay for the device in full. The code does not regulate the amount a carrier can charge to unlock a phone.

Consumer advocates welcomed the rules as a much-needed change to the wireless industry.

"We're glad to have it after all these years," said John Lawford, executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, which participated in the CRTC's proceedings.

Lawford said the caps on data use and roaming are the most important thing contained in the code.

"The data caps both for domestic use and for roaming is where we see people having the most fear in opening their bills, and it shouldn't have to be that way," he said. "That's just a good baseline to keep people from being gouged."

Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law, said the two-year contracts "represents a shift in CRTC thinking." Earlier drafts of the code didn't contain the two-year cancellation provision, which Geist says will likely result in two years becoming the standard length of wireless contracts.

Both Geist and Lawford said the code could have gone further to protect consumers.

The rules were developed in collaboration with the wireless industry and through a public consultation.

 

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