From The Hip: CRTC changes its cellular phone code of conduct
for Smoky River Express
Cellular telephone users may want to take note of recent changes announced by the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) last week regarding extra data, international roaming charges and contract duration.
The CRTC says its new code of conduct will essentially make it easier for Canadians to understand their contracts and basic rights.
So, what exactly is changing, you ask? Well here it is in a nutshell.
The CRTC is putting caps on extra data and international roaming charges to prevent ‘bill shock’ and says Canadians can cancel cellphone contracts after two years without a cancellation fee, as part of the new code.
While the changes sound appealing at first glance, consumers with cell phones should be aware of the timeline. The new code will come into effect on Dec. 2, 2013 and will only apply to new contracts for cellphone users and other mobile devices.
Changes to the code stem directly from public hearings held earlier this year. Those hearings saw the agency hear from concerned consumers who were frustrated and angry about lengthy contracts, cancellation fees, excessive roaming charges and other user-related issues.
The new code:
. Says consumers can cancel their wireless contract after two years without paying a cancellation fee, even if their contract is for a longer term;
. Caps extra data charges at $50 per month and international data roaming charges at $100 per month within one billing cycle to prevent “bill shock.”
. Allows consumers to have their cellphones unlocked after 90 days, or immediately if the device is paid for in full;
. Allows a cellphone to be returned within 15 days and specific usage limits if the customer is unhappy with the service; and
. Says consumers can accept or decline changes to certain elements of a fixed-term contract.
The CRTC says wireless providers have raised concerns with putting an end to the common three-year contracts by setting the maximum amortization period for a device to two years.
Industry experts say having phones subsidized over two years as opposed to three could result in one of two things – higher prices for new phones and/or higher monthly fees from companies such as Rogers, Telus and Bell.
In two years from now, all contracts will have to have a zero cancellation fee after two years. This means even though it sounds like it might be a good idea to wait until December, now might actually be the best time to get a new phone, especially if cellular prices go up.
There’s also the very real likelihood of a third scenario emerging come Dec. 2.
That being the ability for one or more of Canada’s wireless giants to take a strategic leap of faith by keeping costs below the competition in an all-out effort to attract more customers over the long-term.
In the end, the choice regarding which company gets your valued business, has, and always will be, yours to make as an informed consumer.