CRTC Cell Phone Rules Change – Is It For The Best? (Update)

After public consultation and collaboration with the wireless industry, the Canadian Radio-television and telecommunications commission (CRTC) has recently announced big modifications to its wireless code.

Update: To get ready for the new rules, wireless carriers are adapting their contracts to fit the 2-year maximum and has many envisaging that this will result in increased fees. After Telus, Bell and Virgin, Rogers is also set to announced increased monthly prices to make up for the shortened length of contracts.

While this was to be expected, it is still frustrating to see all carriers adopt the same tactic, not giving consumers any alternative. Plus, even with the change in contract length subsidized pricing has not reached parity with the rates available in the United States. For more detail, see this example from highlighted by iphonecanada.ca: “a 16GB iPhone 5 on AT&T starts at $199.99, while the 16GB iPhone 4S starts at $99.99, all on two year contracts. In Canada, customers will be paying $50 more for subsidized iPhones”.

Still, the changes listed below suggest that Canadian customers will get better conditions as the CRTC cell phone rules change.

These include some much welcomed changes to the standard contract length and the capping of roaming fees. Keep reading to find out about all the changes that will apply to new signed contracts as of December 2nd, 2013.

The Changes

Consumers will be allowed to end their contract after two years without any penalties, and this even if they have signed for a longer period of time;
The code will cap extra fees for supplementary data use to $50 a month as well as international roaming charges to $100 a month;
Cell phone users will be able to unlock their devices after 90 days or as soon as they have fully paid them;
Customers will also be able to return their phone(s) within 15 days (respecting certain usage limits) if they are not entirely satisfied with the services;
Contracts will need to be easy to read and understand.

The Bottom Line

Initial reactions from consumer advocates have generally been positive, mostly welcoming these long-awaited changes with open arms. This being said, there are many consumers who feel that the CRTC could be doing more. With the wireless industry being controlled by 3 major players in Canada (Rogers, Telus and Bell), there is a sentiment that more could be done to push cell phone providers to lower their rates. Loosening regulations regarding the entrance of foreign companies in the Canadian telephone industry is one of the many cited options –but that’s whole different ball game.

There are also concerns that with shorter contracts providers may be tempted to offer smaller subsidies for phones, meaning that consumers may have to pay more at the moment of purchasing a device.

Only time will tell if these changes will actually correlate with more money in the pockets of consumers. Either way, these changes can potentially open the door for more revisions as these are perceived as a shift in CRTC thinking, an organization which has throughout the years acquired a reputation for being reluctant to game-changing rules.

What are your thoughts on the changes to the wireless code? Are you happy about them?

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