Wireless code changes now in effect in Canada are meant to head off unpleasant surprises on your cellphone bill.
The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission announced new terms to the Wireless Code of Conduct in June, after hearings in February in which consumers complained about unexpected charges and unclear terms of service. Those changes took effect Dec. 1.
One of the most significant changes in the new rules is elimination of the unpopular charge for unlocking the phone.
That means new phones that come with a wireless package should come to you unlocked, and you can take your phone easily to a competitor’s network if you want to change carriers.
This is particularly helpful when travelling in other countries, so you can swap out your SIM card and use one from a local carrier without an unlocking fee.
The other big breakthrough involves new rules about consenting to data overage. On shared family plans, only the wireless account holder, not just any device holder, can consent to extra data or roaming charges.
This should end parents’ pain of a teenage son or daughter agreeing to extra data for streaming or remote use of the cellphone without regard to the cost.
Who clicked ‘Yes’?
The Wireless Code of Conduct already set a cap of $100 per account per month for data roaming and $50 for data overage, regardless of the number of devices attached to the account. Those caps include the cost of any roaming or overage packages the customer has chosen.
But many users have gotten “bill shock” when they were faced with thousands of dollars in overage charges because someone clicked “Yes” when the carrier asked if they wanted more data.
About one-third of complaints about wireless bills involved data charges, the CRTC found in a 2016 survey, and another 23 per cent of people who complained believed their cellphone contract was misleading.
In hearings earlier this year, John Lawford, executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, said the code is toothless unless it can be enforced.
That remains a problem, as the consumer complaints watchdog, the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-Television Services, remains understaffed and has no powers to enforce the code, he told CBC News. Instead, it’s up the CRTC, with a board stuffed with telecom…