CRTC clears up cellphone contract confusion

Editorials Opinions

Fucking phone companies, right? If ever there were a group of companies with a firmer grasp on the wallets of this fine country, I haven’t heard of them (besides maybe “Big Oil,” or “Big Tobacco,” but that’s another can of worms for another rant).  Phone companies have a history of pulling cash from the pleading hands of Canadians, using overly confusing, out-of-the-blue fees and unknown overuse of data. Then they paint on a smile and guide your hand as you sign away your paycheque on the dotted line; all for the hot new phone that always seems to die or is out-of-date halfway through your painful three-year contract. They’re wasting our money, and I’m fed up.

By now we’ve all heard about how Canada has some of the highest cellphone bills in the world, and you too may have been heartbroken upon hearing that Verizon won’t be coming to Canada soon (which would’ve hypothetically driven down the cost of monthly phone bills). However, a new Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) code just came into effect on Dec. 2. For those who are up for a new plan in the New Year, you may finally see some basic human decency from the usually impersonal “Big Three” phone providers: Telus, Rogers, and Bell.

The new code set up by the CRTC allows customers to terminate their contracts after two years, with no punitive cancellation fees (this sadly applies only to contracts made after Dec. 2. I checked—I still have a year left on my plan). Additionally, the new code allows consumers to unlock their phones after 90 days, or immediately if the phone is fully paid for from the get-go. The new code also requires plans to be written in plain language. No more hidden, small-print ripoffs. Certain aspects of a fixed-term contract can be declined. Key terms of a plan must be summarized in two pages in a large font. Cellphones can be returned within 15 days if the owner is unhappy with the service. Furthermore, extra data charges are capped at $50 a month, and roaming is capped at $100 a month. No more stories of absent-minded teens streaming YouTube while on vacation south of the border and coming home to a $22 000 phone bill.

Canada doesn’t necessarily pay more than other countries, says a recent investigation by the Huffington Post; however, Canadian phone companies do make more money off of us. Extra competition from Verizon could be great for the country. Cellphones are one of those commodities that are global by nature. While I’m all for local businesses, this competition could be really helpful. Hopefully the new code will at least make the “Big Three” more concerned about treating their customers with respect. Contract headaches, hidden fees, and being put on hold for hours are the worst parts of phone companies. If this code changes the poor service offered by phone companies, I’m all for it.

After losing my “fancy” new Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 one month into my contract two years ago, I am itching to get rid of my moody Blackberry Torch loaner phone. These new rules on contracts are a great victory for Canada and a step in the right direction.