Canada’s National hobby, of course, is hockey. A close second, however, might be complaining about our telecoms.
Length of contracts, monthly cost, contract language verging on gibberish, cancellation fees, unlocking, roaming fees: all of these pet frustrations of Canadian cell phone users and more are on the table for discussion this week in Gatineau, Quebec, during the CRTC’s public hearings towards assembling a mandatory code of conduct for wireless carriers.
Telecommunication is a federal responsibility, and it’s possible that the government has been forced to appear to take a tough stand on this issue after provinces including Quebec, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba either introduced or proposed wireless consumer protection laws to limit things like the length of contracts and cancellation fees. For both the telecom companies and the federal government this was shaping up to be a nightmare scenario of a patchwork of regulations from coast to coast. Taking a stand on the issue is also a political no-brainer in terms of optics, as anger about cell phones is non-denominational.
Lining up on one side of the hearing will be a coalition of consumer rights groups who will claim to represent the interests of the 27-million Canadians who use a wireless device, and on the other will be all of the major wireless carriers.
The opening salvo was unleashed Monday morning by a coalition composed of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, the Consumers’ Association of Canada and the Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of British Columbia who requested that any code of conduct arrived at as a result of this hearing should apply to contracts retroactively, so that there doesn’t exist one group of grandfathered contracts signed before and another of contracts signed after the proposed changes take effect.
For its part, Mobilicity agrees, stating that the code should be applicable to “all existing” contracts that do not already benefit from provincial consumer protection laws, adding that “otherwise it is entirely conceivable that the CRTC wireless code would have little relevance to the vast majority of customers for up to three years or more.”
The federal Competition Bureau has already stated that it supports a shorter limit on contract lengths.
In advance of the face-to-face hearings, which will last throughout the week, the CRTC received almost 600 online comments and approximately 3,500 pieces of written correspondence.
Canada’s third largest mobile carrier Telus is slated to address the hearing on Monday afternoon, with appearances to be made later on by Bell Canada, MTS Allstream, SaskTel and Quebecor.
What changes would you like to see the hearing address this week?