Cell Phone plans are just like The CN Tower 360 restaurant, the menu options look decent at best, with a guaranteed side order of exploding your wallet. Most Torontonians at some point have experienced surprise charges on their bill. Thanks to The Canadian Radio-Television Commission (CRTC) Wireless Code of Conduct, customers have fewer limitations now.

This is something anyone with a phone needs to know right now. But first, here’s a perfect montage video of big telecom talking heads arguing that surprise charges are okay and Canadians prefer paying more.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUX2IhwVKhg[/embed]

“We absolutely could do it for less, we choose not to”

The Basic Breakdown

Mobile carriers offered brands new devices at a low upfront price – often less than $100 or even free (looking at you Galaxy S3) – in exchange for customers signing three-year contracts. Any Canadian who entered into a three-year contract before June 2nd, 2013 can cancel their contract right now, without paying any cancellation fees. This was implemented as recently as last Tuesday, and if this is the first time you’re hearing about this, it’s understandable, patio season is Toronto’s bread and butter right now.

These strict early cancellation fees were held over customers to prevent purchasing a phone at a subsidised price and then giving the middle finger to, lets say Rogers, and joining a BYOD (bring your own device) competing carrier. Now, thanks to the new Wireless Code, Canadians that signed three-year contracts, can waltz away from their contracts without incurring fees.


What Happened Exactly

The following is a list of all the new restrictions your carrier must comply with thanks to the new wireless code. Just try and pretend none of these things have happened to you.

    • No cancellation fees after 24 months.
    • Only pay remaining cost of phone (previously charged remaining cost PLUS cancellation fee).
    • For BYOD plans, the fee is either $50 or 10% of remaining number of the month of the contract, whichever is cheaper. So if $60/month and 5 months left on contract, you pay 10% of $60, or $6, for 5 months, totaling $30.
    • No more 30-day advance to cancel services. The carrier must cancel immediately.
    • Customers can return their phone at no cost within 15 days, not exceeding usage limits.
    • Carriers must extend the trial period to 30 days for disabled people.
    • Carriers cannot charge a cancellation fee when you don’t sign a fixed-term contract (2-year terms).
    • The carrier cannot make changes to the contract without customers consent.
    • The carrier must contact the customer before account disconnection.
    • Must unlock subsidized phones after 90 days (Used to be 1-2 years, depending on plan or carrier).
    • Caps on roaming charges unless the customer agrees to continue usage.
    • Cap roaming at $50 domestic, $100 international(something my dad could have benefited from when he used 3G to google “best mojitos” in Cuba.
    • If your device is lost or stolen, the carrier must suspend your service at no charge.
    • If you recover a lost phone, they are obligated to restore your service with no activation fee.
    • Cannot renew, extend the contract without customers consent.
    • Currently exclusive to Ontario – Cannot charge customers for services while their device is being repaired.

Newfoundland, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Quebec have their own wireless codes and are working to expand protections. A list of other provincial initiatives can be found at the OpenMedia site. Jeff Fan, a Scotia Capital analyst, estimated that between two and four million Canadians were still on three-year contracts in 2014.


What Should Your Next Move Be With All These New Quasi- Freedoms?

If you plan to switch, check the number of complaints The Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS)  has received about each wireless service provider.

In a mid-year report for 2014-2015, the CCTS names Bell as number one with 1,989 complaints, followed by Rogers (1,240), Wind (361), Virgin Mobile (312), Fido (306) and Telus (243).

A great tool to find plans that meet your needs is to use the Canadian Cellphone Plan Comparison Tool, hosted by PlanHub.ca (http://www.planhub.ca) . You can filter by voice, data and hardware searches.


What You Can Do To Continue More Changes

The CRTC is holding a public hearing on November 3, 2015. They are welcoming feedback until August 4, 2015 which you can submit your own concerns here. The new wireless codes we have been given is a result of gatherings like this in the past when the CRTC would collect opinions and complaints directly from customers. It doesn’t stop at wireless services; television, internet, home phone and new home protection services are just some of the markets you can have a real say in.

And if Torontonians work together, maybe, just maybe, for the love of all that is holy, we can get that $30 six gig data plan again.

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