CRTC outlaws phone locking; clarifies shared data plan charges
OTTAWA, June 15, 2017 – The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) today welcomed the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) decision on its Review of the Wireless Code, saying it will help Canadian cell phone users avoid unnecessary costs for cellphone unlocking and overage fees incurred by children and teens.  PIAC was part of a coalition arguing for these changes at the CRTC.  Other members of the Coalition were the Consumers’ Association of Canada (CAC); Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of British Columbia (COSCO) and the National Pensioners Federation (NPF).
“The CRTC said that the wireless companies must read the Wireless Code in favour of consumers not in favour of their bottom lines”, said John Lawford, Executive Director and General Counsel at PIAC. “We also welcome removal of the annoyance and expense of cellphone locking, which limits competition between cell phone companies.”
According to the Decision, cellphones now must be offered in Canada unlocked as of 1 December 2017. Customers with contracts entered into prior to 1 December 2017 may still be charged an unlocking fee; however, even those customers may wait until December and then ask the company to unlock their phone free at that time.
“The CRTC decision to prohibit unlocking fees is a bold effort to help consumers with an unnecessary cost and a barrier to choice” said Alysia Lau, Counsel to the Coalition. “The new unlocking rules should help seniors and other consumers who wish to take their phone with them when shopping for a better plan,” she added.
The CRTC decision also tackled uncertainty over “family share plans” and similar offers from wireless companies that pool voice and data allowances but have been interpreted by the companies, until now, as permitting them to ask minors for permission to go over data limits and to calculate the Wireless Code caps on overage per user, not per account. The Coalition argued that only the adult account holder should be permitted to authorize overages on shared data plans and that data overage fees should be suspended at $50 for all devices cumulatively on the account, although the account holder may authorize other users to accept overages. The Commission ultimately agreed with the Coalition and adopted both of these positions.
For more information, please contact:
John Lawford
Executive Director & General Counsel
Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)
tel: (613) 562-4002 ×25
cell: (613) 447-8125
Alysia Lau
Counsel, Regulatory and Public Policy
Counsel to the Coalition
(613) 562-4002 x38