Canada’s new wireless rules a big win for consumers

Regulations written in plain language add balance to carrier/user relationship

While we here in the United States continue to curse the shackles applied by carrier contracts and cast a wary eye toward politicians who promise relief, Canadians today are learning that suitably motivated government regulators can indeed make life fairer for wireless users.  

A new "Wireless Code" released today by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, among other mandates, makes unlocking your phone your right, establishes caps on overage charges, limits contract early-cancellation fees to two years and nixes extra fees for anything described as "unlimited."   


The new rules are pro-consumer and - perhaps most remarkably - they are written in unambiguous language that everyone should be able to understand. Here's the operative passage from a checklist:

Do you pay a bill after you use your wireless service? If so, you use postpaid services, and you have the right:

  • To cancel your contract at no cost after a maximum of two years;
  • To cancel your contract and return your phone at no cost, within 15 days and specific usage limits, if you are unhappy with your service;
  • To have your phone unlocked after 90 days, or immediately if you paid in full for your phone;
  • To have your service suspended at no cost if your phone is lost or stolen;
  • To receive a Critical Information Summary, which explains your contract in under two pages;
  • To receive a notification when you are roaming in a different country, telling you what the rates are for voice services, text messages, and data usage;
  • To limit your data overage charges to $50 a month and your data roaming charges to $100 a month;
  • To pay no extra charges for a service described as "unlimited;"
  • To refuse a change to the key terms and conditions of your contract, including the services in your contract, the price for those services, and the duration of your contract.

Your contract must:

  • Use in plain language and clearly describe the services you will receive;
  • Include information on when and why you may be charged extra.

AT&T likes to assert in its adorable commercials that "it's not complicated."

(Twitters 10 most antisocial celebrities)

It doesn't have to be.

Canada's new wireless code takes effect Dec. 2.

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