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Canada Government

CRTC Unveils New Wireless Code To Protect Canadian Customers 230

Posted by samzenpus
from the great-white-phone-plan dept.
FuzzNugget writes "The CRTC has unveiled a code of conduct that brings many positive changes for Canadian wireless customers, most notably:
1.) Carriers must provide the option to unlock a cell phone after 3 months for subsidized phones within the contract period, or immediately if the device was purchased outright.
2.) Contracts are now capped at two years, and cancellation fees are limited to the amount of the subsidy.
3.) Carriers can no longer charge outrageous data overage and international roaming charges. Without explicit consent from the a customer, such charges are capped at $50 and $100 per month, respectively."
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CRTC Unveils New Wireless Code To Protect Canadian Customers

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  • A nice lead... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pyrotech7 (1825500) on Monday June 03, 2013 @04:33PM (#43899563)
    I hope the U.S. follows.
    • Re:A nice lead... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by h4rr4r (612664) on Monday June 03, 2013 @04:42PM (#43899651)

      I doubt that.

      I just wish VZW had some idea of what country I am in. When I go to the US Falls I have to turn off the phone or put it in airplane mode as it assumes I am in Canada. I get it, it is close and it might connect to the wrong tower. As a customer I do not care. I paid for nationwide Data and I wish I could use it. Niagara Falls State Park is in the USA and I should not have to pay extra for data in it.

    • by bondsbw (888959)

      I think I would like the changes overall, but any regulation has trickle-down effects. For instance, capping the price of certain services may be realized by capping the ability to use the service, or removing the service altogether if it is no longer profitable.

      And of course, FTA:

      There's a good chance, however, that Canadians could see the price they pay for their cellphones up front rise as a consequence of their newly won long-term freedom.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by bondsbw (888959)

        In other words, government regulation can do a lot to bring fairness and transparency to business. But it can do nothing to force a business to support or continue an unprofitable venture.

        • Re:A nice lead... (Score:5, Informative)

          by rueger (210566) * on Monday June 03, 2013 @07:32PM (#43900845) Homepage
          But it can do nothing to force a business to support or continue an unprofitable venture.

          Trust me, These piddly little changes will still allow Telus, Bell, and Rogers to charge overly high prices, buy up or stifle competition, and generally make obscenely large profits. There never has been, and likely never will be, an unprofitable business in Canadian telecoms, as long as you belong to the Big Three monopolists.
      • I think I would like the changes overall, but any regulation has trickle-down effects. For instance, capping the price of certain services may be realized by capping the ability to use the service, or removing the service altogether if it is no longer profitable.

        That depends on whether it is something work keeping. If it isn't, then it wasn't worth it at the old price either. Honestly, data plans are being charged at way too high an amount, and can be very unsuspecting so yes - something needs to be done in terms of regulation, USA included.

        And of course, FTA:

        There's a good chance, however, that Canadians could see the price they pay for their cellphones up front rise as a consequence of their newly won long-term freedom.

        That wouldn't be a bad thing really. People have too low a value on their phones, so they don't treat them well, then wonder why they're breaking - which in turn drives up the cost for the carriers. Make people realize the real

        • by bondsbw (888959)

          That depends on whether it is something work keeping. If it isn't, then it wasn't worth it at the old price either.

          You're right in this case, where the customer can consent to removing the cap. I'm more concerned about what happens when regulators forget the consent portion, and force both the company and the customer into a situation neither wanted.

          This is more applicable when caps are too low, but in any case, it could be those customers that would happily pay more than the cap that keep the service profitable via economies of scale.

      • by PhotoJim (813785)

        Phone prices should go up - but carriers will now have significant incentive to provide discounts to customers who are out of contract and not using such a subsidy. All we need is one first mover to give a significant discount for it, and the rest will, of necessity, follow.

    • by Virtucon (127420)

      LOL, AT&T and VZ have the market here and they pay billions for frequencies and markets.. Sprint and T-Mobile are also rans but asking for the Wireless Carriers to change is about as likely as having Sarah Palin becoming a Rhodes Scholar.

      "How's that hopey, changey thing working out for ya?'" - Sarah Palin

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      I hope the U.S. follows.

      In the US, it seems to be happening automatically.

      After all, you don't have 3-year contracts In the US for a long time - it's always been two years.

      And lately even ETF fees have been going down across the board - I think it was Verizon who wanted to charge it all the way and they got smacked back rather badly, so now everyone uses a pro-rated system.

      Cellphone unlocking - OK that's relatively new, but the ones where it matters seem to be coming around to doing it willingly as well.

      It

      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        After all, you don't have 3-year contracts In the US for a long time - it's always been two years.

        Give me a good reason why anyone should have to sign on for a two-year contract for data service.

        If the service is good, and it's offered for a fair price, I'll continue being a customer without the contract.

        2 year (or even 1 year) contracts are nothing more than invitations to provide bad service at high prices.j

        Until there is a reasonable level of competition, and the telecoms don't enjoy government's sweethe

  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Monday June 03, 2013 @04:34PM (#43899577)
    I am going to predict that this is going to be a devastating blow to their profits. Back when BlockBuster instituted "No Late Fees" I knew they were doomed. Basically they were profiting on bad luck and stupidity of which people are never short. So then BB had to profit from providing a quality service. Doomed!

    How many people are suckered into overpaying in all kinds of creative ways. The locked phone for instance must keep many people from switching carriers. So I don't see the big three going bankrupt but I do see their profits taking a bigger hit than even they see coming in that they have probably fooled themselves into thinking that they are making profits in ways other than taking advantage of bad luck and stupidity.
    • by MarioMax (907837)

      Funny thing with BB late fees, you actually had until 2PM, not Noon, to get your movie checked in. I know this because I used to work for BB from 2001-2002; the 2PM deadline was to allow the clerks time to get the movies checked in, and even then the late fee could be overridden by the clerk.

      Then again, considering that it was a minimum wage job, most clerks didn't care (I was one of the few who actually gave a rats ass). Its hard to give quality service when the majority of your staff works minimum wage. A

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Netflix seems to do fine. BlockBuster could have survived by they screwed over their customers, changed polices without telling anyone and foolishly guaranteed they would have some movies in stock at all times.

    • by MrEricSir (398214)

      Back when BlockBuster instituted "No Late Fees" I knew they were doomed. Basically they were profiting on bad luck and stupidity of which people are never short. So then BB had to profit from providing a quality service. Doomed!

      That move was a hail mary for Blockbuster, they'd already lost to Netflix & Friends at that point. Besides, it wasn't really a "no late fee" policy so much as a "we'll eventually charge the full cost of the movie to your card if you don't return it" policy. Not the same thing.

  • Reduced Expectations (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sponge Bath (413667) on Monday June 03, 2013 @04:44PM (#43899665)
    Rampant corporate misbehavior has so desensitized the public that weak half measures are applauded. The chance your carrier will break into your house, light your dog on fire and crap on your carpet has been somewhat reduced. Rejoice!
  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday June 03, 2013 @04:52PM (#43899725) Homepage

    With the way things are now in the US, it might be a good idea to buy Canadian phone service and "roam" in the US.

    Actually, with the actions of T-Mobile lately, it's almost as if they were anticipating this. There are no cancellation fees... no more contracts. If you decide to stop being a T-Mobile customer, you just have to pay for the phone you bought through them if you haven't already.

    The roaming and overage charge caps are new though.

    • by Virtucon (127420)

      Oh god but dealing with T-Mobile is an outright clusterfuck! It's better to go to WalMart and buy the SIMs from them or get their StraightTalk (aka Carlos Slim) services or even to SimpleMobile which is now owned by TracFone who is in turn owned by América Móvil [wikipedia.org] that is owned by Carlos Slim. So, choose you can go to VZ, AT&T or T-Mobile (with the shittiest customer service out there and who have been called to account for their new 'no contract deals' with gotchas [go.com]) or you can go to the Mexic

      • by bmk67 (971394)

        T-Mobile (with the shittiest customer service out there and who have been called to account for their new 'no contract deals' with gotchas [go.com])

        Oh, the horror. Buy a no-contract phone on a monthly payment plan, and they actually expect you to pay the remaining balance owed if you terminate service with them?

        Wow, that's some gotcha.

        • by Virtucon (127420)

          Uh, sorry forgot to mention I was a contract customer before they had the pre-pay plans and at the time I brought my phone with me, so all they provided were the network services.

    • by Solandri (704621)

      With the way things are now in the US, it might be a good idea to buy Canadian phone service and "roam" in the US.

      I worked in Canada from 2007-2010. It was actually cheaper for me to add Canada roaming to my U.S. plan and pay $3/mo + 20 cents/min roaming, than to get a Canadian cell phone exclusively for use in Canada (i.e. no U.S. roaming). I would've had to have gotten a 1000 min/mo plan for the per-minute rate on the Canadian plan to be cheaper. Their wireless service was ridiculously expensive. No

      • by PhotoJim (813785)

        I pay $70/month for 300 daytime minutes, unlimited 6 pm-8 am evenings and 24/7 weekends, including free North American long distance and US voice roaming (which always comes out of my 300 minutes but that's fine). Voicemail, call display, and unlimited data. Not all Canadian providers suck.

      • Not really. The Canadian Telecom sector is similar to the American one, except a bit worse in every way. As in the US, unless you go with a MVNO (reseller) you pretty much get screwed over by the cabal's conspiracy of crappiness. Even the MVNO's are not ideal, as they are the same thing but cheaper, and the cabal is still getting your money.

  • Unlocked phone? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sandman1971 (516283) on Monday June 03, 2013 @04:55PM (#43899765) Homepage Journal

    This may sound like a stupid question to some...

    When going to Europe, I would get a burner phone as it was cheaper than paying roaming/data fees. Since they must now unlock the phone (in my case, an iPhone), does that mean that when I now go to Europe all I need to do is buy a SIM card/service from a local cell provider and stick it in my iPhone and it will work?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by chriscappuccio (80696)

      yes as long as the phone covers the frequencies on the network you wish to roam on, which is why "QUAD BAND GSM" used to be popular, although there are more bands now with 4G LTE and so on

    • This may sound like a stupid question to some...

      When going to Europe, I would get a burner phone as it was cheaper than paying roaming/data fees. Since they must now unlock the phone (in my case, an iPhone), does that mean that when I now go to Europe all I need to do is buy a SIM card/service from a local cell provider and stick it in my iPhone and it will work?

      Yes.

    • by Virtucon (127420)

      if you have a phone that covers the frequencies yes. I have a Galaxy Note 2, International edition and it works great all over Europe, I just buy a SIM card when I land at the airport.

    • Yes, as long as the cellular RF hardware runs on the correct frequencies. Most likely, it does.

  • "Contracts are now capped at two years"...

    (sigh)

    My contract is 2 years old next month.

    I still have a year to go, and boy do I have grievances.

  • by dittbub (2425592) on Monday June 03, 2013 @04:58PM (#43899779)
    A lot of Americans are complaining about their American telecom service. But aren't American monthly phone and data plans far far better than Canada?!
    • Yes!
      Your options are Bell/Telus or Rogers/Fido
      Or one of the small carriers who might go out of business at any moment.
      Lastly, SaskTel, in some areas, but not where I live.
    • by stymy (1223496)
      I get unlimited talk, text and data for $40 per month from Wind. That doesn't include the phone, but you can buy a decent one for $150-300 nowadays. And it's nationwide. Granted, Wind doesn't have coverage outside the main cities, but that's all I need. How much does that cost in the US?
      • by debest (471937)

        Just getting another Wind customer's opinion (I've only been able to identify 2 among the people I know)....

        Both the Wind customers I know in the Toronto area complain about rotten coverage, even within Toronto boundaries. Phone calls drop regularly while driving down the 401. Data stops inexplicably for minutes at a time. There are more "dead" areas, and going down in the basement of their homes inevitably leads to zero signal. One has an older Blackberry Bold, the other a Nexus 4.

        What's your experienc

    • by beckett (27524) on Monday June 03, 2013 @06:36PM (#43900535) Homepage Journal
      Yes.

      Until relatively recently, 3 large wireless companies completely dominated the market. there are 3rd party offerings in urban areas that have largely been crippled by regulation favouring the large incumbents [thestar.com]. Mobilicity (now telus), Wind, and Public Mobile recently Withdrew from their own lobbying organization [publicmobile.ca] claiming they were also in the pocket of the big 3.

      “It has been evident for quite some time that, rather than being a true industry association which represents the views of all players regardless of size, the CWTA has instead largely been an advocate for Rogers, TELUS and Bell, and often directly contrary to the interests of new entrant wireless carriers” said Bob Boron, General Counsel and Senior Vice-President, Legal & Regulatory Affairs for Public Mobile.

      The CEOs of the big 3 mobile companies tell their shareholders proudly that they consistently have the highest revenue per customer in the world. This is not in dispute [wordsbynowak.com]. However, when pressed to justify such high priced plans, they use the same hackneyed mantras of: sparse geographic distribution, threat of netflix and streaming services [thestar.com], and supposed customer satisfaction, which are largely corporate marketing spin repeated year after year until it's true [michaelgeist.ca].

      Recently, all 3 new entrants in the urban wireless market became up for sale, and Telus is intending to buy Mobilicity, and Rogers is attempting to purchase the spectrum [michaelgeist.ca] originally allocated by the CRTC to new entrants to increase market competition.

      Canadian wireless service has less choice, higher prices, offering fewer services and typically lower bandwidth caps, thanks to collusion from the large telcos. It's a caricature of the US market.
  • by compro01 (777531) on Monday June 03, 2013 @05:07PM (#43899877)

    The CRTC has opted to not make this retroactive to existing contracts, so if you're currently on a contract, you're still screwed until it ends, and you've got to wait out the entire preexisting term and can't use the new 2 year cutout.

    • by PhotoJim (813785)

      You're in a contract by choice, though. We are not in a contract; we bought unlocked phones.

      Given the automatic unlocking provision coming up, I might just get subsidized phones again, but it would be better if our carrier gave a discount for bring-your-own-device clients.

      Consumers always have a choice. While I'm in favour of the new rules proposed by the CRTC, people knew what they were getting into. 3 years is just too long for me and even when I was under contract, I never went longer than 2.

      • You're in a contract by choice, though. We are not in a contract; we bought unlocked phones.

        Given the automatic unlocking provision coming up, I might just get subsidized phones again

        If there's no BYOD discount, it might still worth it to buy unsubsidized. Unlocking isn't free (wording of code made sure of that), and right now it's $35 for Telus, $50 for Rogers and a whopping $75 ripoff for Bell. Expect these to rise very soon.

  • After i was charged for almost $500 from Bell, i said, NO MORE. Now i avoid talking with any canadian, because as you know, no matter what you do (send/receive SMS for example), you will be charged something outrageous.
    • by PhotoJim (813785)

      There are plans that include US voice roaming, and US texting. You just have to dig a little to find them.

      The only thing I do differently in the US with my plan is to have data roaming turned off. I use text and voice normally and I don't incur any overages as long as I don't talk more than five hours a month while in the US - not hard to do.

  • Here's their mandate on prepaid cards:

    J. Expiration of prepaid cards

    1. General
    A service provider must keep open the accounts of customers with prepaid cards for at least seven calendar days following the expiration of an activated card, at no charge, to give the customer more time to “top up” their account and retain their prepaid balance.

    In my opinion, prepaid phone cards should be considered the same as gift cards: they should never expire, they can only be used up by the customer. They essentially represent a cash transaction, same as a gift card.

    The only difference is, there may be some *slight* cost to the provider to keep that phone number active in their system (I can't right now think of what would cost them money, exactly, but there might be). To cover those costs, the provider could be allowe

    • by msobkow (48369)

      Prepaid used to work as you described, but unless you are "grandfathered" with such a plan, they're no longer running that way. My folks have a plan they've been on for about five or six years. As long as they top up before their credit runs out, they remain grandfathered. Typically a $50 card lasts them for about four months.

  • by CCarrot (1562079) on Monday June 03, 2013 @06:31PM (#43900491)

    I can't see where it says that the carriers have to comply with this code under penalty of law...am I missing something?

    I can definitely see that being able to claim that your company complies with the Code would be a great advertising feature, but what's to stop them from saying "that's nice" and continuing on with business as usual?

    As per the wikipedia article on the CRTC [wikipedia.org]:

    Regulation of telephone service

    The commission currently has some jurisdiction over the provision of local landline telephone service in Canada. This is largely limited to the major incumbent carriers, such as Bell Canada and Telus, for traditional landline service (but not Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)). It has begun the gradual deregulation of such services where, in the commission's opinion, a sufficient level of competition exists.[11]

    The CRTC is sometimes blamed for the current state of the mobile phone industry in Canada, in which there are only three national mobile network operators – Bell Mobility, Telus Mobility, and Rogers Wireless – as well as a handful of MVNOs operating on these networks. In fact, the commission has very little to do with the regulation of mobile phone service, outside of "undue preference" issues (for example, a carrier offering a superior rate or service to some subscribers and not others without a good reason). It does not regulate service rates, service quality, or other business practices, and commission approval is not necessary for wireless provider sales or mergers as in the broadcasting industry.[12] Moreover, it does not deal with the availability of spectrum for mobile phone service, which is part of the Industry Canada mandate, nor the maintenance of competition, which is largely the responsibility of The Competition Bureau.

    So...they're expanding their mandate?

    Hmm...interesting times.

    • by rueger (210566) *
      I can't see where it says that the carriers have to comply with this code under penalty of law...am I missing something?

      Too lazy to actually check, but it may be yet another semi-voluntary thing. At a guess I'd say that this new set of rules was pretty much developed within, and then handed to the CRTC by the Big Three telcos.

      As you noted, the CRTC really doesn't regulate mobile phones. In fact they hardly regulate anything any longer, what with years of neo-liberal Harper government, and a Prime Mi

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