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Canada Free Expression

Welcome changes to CRTC’s Wireless Code will abolish unlocking fees and strengthen overage safeguards for families

Updates welcomed by consumer rights advocates who say they will provide additional protections and clarity for Canadians

Smartphone unlocking fees will be banned starting in December. The announcement was made this morning, as part of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) updates to the Wireless Code of Conduct — the set of consumer safeguards that apply to Canadian cell phone users.

The CRTC’s changes are welcome and will help to clarify for Canadians what is required of cell phone providers, and protect them from abusive behaviour by telecom companies.

The Wireless Code marked a huge step forward for consumer protections, and these updates will further prevent mistreatment of Canadian cell phone users at the hands of the big telecom companies. The changes made today will go a long way to ensuring Canadians know what their rights are when it comes to cell phone plans, and send a strong message to these companies that the CRTC intends to continue looking closely at the way they treat their customers.

Of course, by far the biggest gripe Canadians have about wireless service is the ridiculously expensive cost of monthly plans. Although the Wireless Code doesn’t cover pricing, cell phone users will be eagerly awaiting the CRTC’s response to Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains’ recent order regarding whether affordable wifi-based mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) should be allowed to enter Canada’s market. Enabling consumers to purchase service via MVNOs would be a real game-changer in terms of monthly cost.

Among the key changes to the Wireless Code announced by the CRTC this morning, and to be implemented December 1, 2017, are:

  • Unlocked devices: Only unlocked devices can be sold, and no unlocking fees can be charged;

  • Changes to family plans: Only account holders will be able to consent to additional charges;

  • Contract clarifications: Changes to ensure voice, data, and text are all part of the “key terms” of a contract, and cannot be changed unilaterally mid-contract;

  • Trial periods: Wireless service providers must make terms and conditions of trial period clear to all consumers; and data, text and all usage limits must be set to 50 per cent of the full monthly limit.

Canadians continue to speak up for stronger consumer safeguards, open networks, and lower prices at https://act.openmedia.org/opennetworks