CRTC eyes new wireless code of conduct

Online forum seeks submissions from cellphone customers, carriers

One hears it from cellphone users all the time: ‘My termination fee is too high! They changed my contract and double billed me.’

On Tuesday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission will address comments such as these when it launches an open forum for consumers to share their ideas on a national retail code.

The code will outline new regulations for cellphone contracts as well as help people understand their monthly bills.

Patricia Valladao, manager of media relations for CRTC said, “There’s not enough clarity as to what’s in their contract so consumers will need additional tools to understand their rights and the responsibility of their service providers.”

In April, the CRTC asked consumers on their website if they should intervene in the wireless market and develop a set of rules for mobile contracts.

According to Valladao, after receiving numerous submissions they launched an on-line form where people could fill out their suggestions.

“We had about 900 responses saying that we needed to address the issue of what’s in the contract and PIAC, one of the contributors, sent over their ideas,” said Valladao.

According to John Lawford, executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, the code will inform consumers all over Canada on terms and conditions, pricing, and allow breathing room for contract cancellations.

Some of the ideas they will propose include adding a brief column to contracts that will explain the different charges you will receive if you go over your plan.

One feature Lawford specifically wants to include is bill-shock protection, which would have phone companies send a warning text before your next bill.

“So, when you go over a predetermined amount, let’s say 50 bucks and it reaches $95 dollars, you will get a text saying did you know you’ve gone over your data cap? Do you want to continue yes or no,” said Lawford.

Many mobile carriers such as Rogers and Bell seem to be in agreement with these ideas but did not respond to requests for interviews. However, Lawford believes this is only the case because phone companies won’t have to alter contracts in accordance to provincial restrictions.

Instead, they will be able to implement one set model of contracts for users, making it easier to charge consumers.

Ashlee Smith, communications manager for the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association who advocate for wireless companies, doesn’t agree.

“Our point is that we want to see a national set bill so carriers across the country know what they need to be doing for consumers,” Smith said.

However, both Smith and Lawford agree that implementing a national code is a positive for wireless and mobile users.

“The great benefit of this national set of standards is that we’re going to see consumers from coast to coast have the same clarity on what they are getting for their services,” said Smith.

After open consultation closes in late November, CRTC will put together a draft code for a public hearing in February.