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The past precedent PIAC set when they worked to end 30 day cancellation fees for cell phones will now be the rule through internet, cable TV and wire-line phone services. This is the first decision by the CRTC to come out of the Let’s Talk TV hearings, a process that has been gauging public opinion on Canadian television over the last year.
This sweeping change began as an application against just one service; the 30 day notice charge was a practice by some wireless companies to, upon termination of a contract, charge for an additional month’s services if they were not given a full 30 days of notice prior to the customer changing to a new cell phone provider, effectively double billing them in the last month.
PIAC filed an application opposing this practice and it was ended for wireless services in the Wireless Code. It was not long after this that Eastlink, an Atlantic-region cable company, filed an application complaining that there were no rules to protect consumers from these 30 day advance notice requirements in regards to cable TV, internet and wire-line telephone. Eastlink is an established provider in cable TV, but more recently branched out into wireless, internet and telephone. Their complaint was that the 30 day notice requirements were dissuading customers from leaving their current providers. PIAC immediately supported the application, and submitted their own observations to the CRTC.
Typically, in telephone and in wireless, the CRTC has rules in place where, by the time the consumer confirms their intention of migrating their service to a new provider, there are very strict deadlines. In most cases the transfer of a customer’s account has to take place within about 48 hours. While the carriers, between them, have to migrate service within a very short interval, the customer is then hit with a 30 day charge. The consumer cannot originate calls on the old provider once the line has been migrated to the new service provider.
“The way it’s typically presented to consumers, and usually only when they leave, is that you can terminate your service but we’ll tack on another 30 days of service,” says Jean-François Léger, Counsel to PIAC. “ In theory, with how bundles work, you could be hit with up to four 30 day charges at once when migrating.”
The strong application by Eastlink, combined with PIAC’s intervention and the disapproval of consumers during the Let’s Talk TV proceeding spelled the end for 30 day cancellation fees on the remaining services. As of January 23rd, 2015, there can be no extra charge for a month’s service for television, internet, or wire-line telephone.