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The New Wireless: CRTC launches new Code of Conduct

Say goodbye to three-year wireless contracts

Jim Kerr is Alberta Venture's web editor. Get in touch with him at jkerr@albertaventure.com.

Dec 3, 2013

by Jim Kerr

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Hoping for a new cellphone this Christmas, but scared of commitment?

You’re in luck: The CRTC’s new Wireless Code of Conduct is in effect as of this week, bringing an end to the tyrannical reign of the three-year wireless contract.

Under the new rules, customers can now cancel a new wireless contract after two years without penalty, one of the changes aimed at creating a more equal marketplace. Next June, the rules will retroactively apply to all contracts, something industry is challenging in federal court.

Another main point of the new CRTC rules is that wireless companies must write contracts that are “easy to read and understand,” an obvious nod to the complicated (and often, as a result, pricey) nature of current cellphone contracts.

Other changes include the ability to unlock a cellphone immediately if you pay full price for it, or 90 days after purchase if you were given a discount as part of a wireless plan, a $50 cap on excess data charges (above the monthly amount included in a contract), and a cap of $100 (above the monthly usage defined in a contract) for national and international roaming. Customers will also now be given the option to accept or reject changes to their contracts. The CRTC says its Wireless Code of Conduct makes for a more dynamic marketplace.

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Despite the new rules, several provinces are bringing in wireless codes of their own that take things a step further. In Ontario, for example, wireless providers will have to start offering “all in” pricing by next year to make the cost of a plan clear to customers. Manitoba, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Quebec also have, or plan to draft, their own wireless codes.

That’s troubling for the telecoms that supported the CRTC’s push for change as a way of avoiding a scenario where different areas of the country have different sets of rules.

So far, no word from the Alberta government on whether it plans to bring about its own wireless code.

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