Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC,) has announced that as of December 1st, 2017, all individual and small business wireless consumers will have the right to have their mobile devices unlocked free of charge upon request, while all newly purchased devices must be provided unlocked staring December 1,2017.
The updated Wireless Code also has changed the trial period after purchase to allow customers with disabilities to cancel their contracts using up to 100% of their plan’s voice, text or data during a 30-day extended trial period.
At the same time, the telecom watchdog loosened trial period restrictions for customers without disabilities to cancel their contracts within 15 days and return their device in “near-new” condition at no cost, as long as they have used less than half of their monthly usage limit.
The decision came following the February 2017 review of the Wireless Code, where unlocking fees took center stage, with some parties (like Freedom Mobile) advocating for the abolishing of those fees altogether.
“The Wireless Code has helped make the wireless market more dynamic to the benefit of Canadians. While they appreciate the Code, they told us loudly and clearly that it could be more effective,” said Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the CRTC, in a press release.
“We have listened to them. The changes and clarifications we are announcing today will give Canadians additional tools to make informed choices about their wireless services and take advantage of competitive offers in the marketplace.”
On top of the new rules, the CRTC clarified certain rules already existing in the Wireless Code to combat bill shock. For shared plans, the account holder must be — by default — the one who consents to data overage and data roaming beyond the established caps of $50 for data overage and $100 for roaming. The CRTC states wireless providers can allow customers to authorize others on the account to consent as well.
The CRTC also notes in its media release that the caps apply on a per account basis, regardless of the number devices on the account — and that these clarifications apply immediately. In addition, the regulator clarified that a wireless plan’s key terms in the marketplace include voice, text and data services, and that the terms cannot be unilaterally changed by the service provider during the contract period without the account holder’s express consent.
“The changes and clarifications we are announcing today will give Canadians additional tools to make informed choices about their wireless services and take advantage of competitive offers in the marketplace.”
Canada’s Wireless Code of Conduct was introduced in June 2013, bringing with it a change from three year to two year wireless contracts and a more transparent and flexible format for subsidy payments over the course of that 24-month period.
Unfortunately the carriers fought back with increased charges for contracts and inflated prices for mobile phones, making it more costly per year for customers.
It also restricted roaming and data overages without the customer’s explicit consent — for instance, it required that carriers suspend service when roaming fees hit $100 CAD, at which point users will get a text asking whether they’d like to use more.
In addition, the Code mandated that a customer’s contract must be written in plain language and that when a customer cancels his or her contract, the carrier must comply immediately. Previously, customers were forced to wait 30 days.