Regulators to rein in cellphone contracts

If you've had trouble figuring out your cellphone contract, you're not alone. Last year, the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services fielded more complaints about wireless phones...

If you’ve had trouble figuring out your cellphone contract, you’re not alone.

Last year, the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services fielded more complaints about wireless phones than all other telecommunications services combined.

To combat this growing problem, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission is looking to develop a “wireless code of conduct” to govern how cellphone contracts are written, and it is seeking input from the public.

It’s been accepting submissions from both industry and the public since April, but for the next three weeks the CRTC will be hosting an online discussion about the issue.

But angry consumers aren’t the only ones clamouring for more regulations; telcos are also calling for them.

In fact, the CRTC was prompted to look at the issue after Rogers submitted its own draft wireless code to the regulator.

In the last few years Manitoba, Quebec, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia have all passed their own provincial legislation governing how cellphone contracts are written. Before its legislature was prorogued last month, Ontario was considering similar measures.

Having one set of national rules would be better for everyone, said Mark Choma, spokesperson for the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.

“Canadians would be better served if it was done on a national basis so Canadians in every part of the country have access to the same information about their wireless contracts,” he said. “It’s a more fair system for consumers, and it also makes sense for the industry because they wouldn’t have to adapt all of their systems possibly 13 different ways.”

With approximately 27 million wireless subscribers across the country and no overarching code governing how contracts are written, there are a lot of complaints.

They range from things like penalties for leaving a contract before the end of its term, charges for subsidized handsets, and unilateral changes of contract terms mid-contract.

The way wireless contracts are written often makes it difficult for customers to figure out just what they’re being charged for, say consumer advocates.

System access fees are the most egregious, said John Lawford, who works as counsel for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

Before the government started to sell off blocks of wireless spectrum to telcos, cellphone users had to get their own licence from the now-defunct communications department. But while those licences have disappeared, the fees haven’t.

“There’s no reason that they shouldn’t roll the $7.95 or whatever they charge into the general per-month cost of having your phone,” said Lawford in a previous interview.

The CRTC’s online discussion will run until Dec. 4.

It will focus on three main questions: What should the wireless code cover? How should complaints related to the code be resolved? And how should the wireless code be reviewed to ensure it’s working?

The CRTC plans to hold another public hearing in February, after it tables a first draft of the code.

To participate, people are encouraged to visit:

The hope is that a lot of people will chime in, said Choma.

“Having a well-informed customer is what everyone wants the goal to be,” he said.

Contact Josh Kerr at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited internet options beginning Dec. 1. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet for some available Dec. 1

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited… Continue reading

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. The Department of Environment intends to purchase 20 semi-automatic AR-10 rifles, despite the inclusion of the weapons in a recently released ban introduced by the federal government, for peace officers, such as conservation officers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Environment Minister defends purchase of AR-10 rifles for conservation officers

The federal list of banned firearms includes an exception for peace officers

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Most Read