OTTAWA – The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) warns home Internet consumers in Canada that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) yesterday released its “Internet Code” but that the Code has many traps for unwary consumers and likely will not assist customers who have had Internet service price increases, overage charges or early cancellation fees.
“The CRTC’s Internet Code is a trap for unwary consumers because they may think it protects them but on issues that matter, like the ability of Internet Service Providers to change prices mid-contract or to charge you for cancelling service, it blesses those abuses” stated John Lawford, Executive Director and General Counsel of PIAC. The Internet Code will come into effect on January 31, 2020. However, it is “largely a glorified notice to consumers to beware of Internet Service Providers,” Lawford added.
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) boycotted the CRTC’s proceeding to establish a mandatory code for Internet services after the denial of its request for more time to develop a public interest position, and consult the public on this matter. Several other consumer groups supported PIAC’s position, and did not participate.
PIAC is concerned with the Internet Code because we believe consumers will be confused by its difference with the much more consumer-protective Wireless Code. PIAC finds no compelling reason as to why one standard would apply to wireless services and another, much lower standard applies to retail internet access service.
Consumers should be aware that the CRTC’s Internet Code:
- Allows ISPs to change the price of Internet service during the duration of the contract, because discounts or promotions are permitted to be part of the “price”; (this cannot be done under the Wireless Code);
- Provides no cap on data overage charges. Instead ISPs are only required to notify consumers when their data usage reaches certain usage thresholds (the Wireless Code places caps on data overages);
- Allows for early cancellation fees which, depending on the contract, could be significant (the Wireless Code limits cancellation fees to the remaining monthly cellphone payments).
- Applies only to “large internet service providers” (the Wireless Code applies to all wireless service providers);
- Does not address misleading internet speed advertising, even though many consumers continue to raise concerns about unachievable promised or advertised internet speeds.