Monday 3 June 2013

CRTC Wireless Code Published

The CRTC released its long awaited and anticipated Wireless Code today, 03 Jun 2013.  The code will come into effect for agreements signed after 02 Dec 2013. Terms and conditions of the CRTC Wireless Code cannot be applied retroactively to existing contracts.

Like any attempt at regulation of an industry, there are good points and bad points depending on which side of the fence you are on.

I imagine the feature that will attract the greatest attention is the fact that the CRTC Wireless Code in effect does away with the three year contact without really doing away with the three year contract. Confused?  What the CRTC did was make it against the code to charge anything extra to cancel a contract after its 24th month. Bear in mind these only impacts the revenue the vendor may have received for the remainder of the contract.

The consumer is still on the hook for the cost of any hardware subsidy they may have received.

The CRTC Wireless Code identifies how the cost of the subsidy is to be calculated based on either the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price  - the MSRP tag we are used to for other products but which is seldom charged – or the price the vendor will sell the hardware for without a contact. In either case, the bill opt out of a contract could still be hefty based on the subsidy received. 

I suspect there will still be backlash against the need for users to payback any subsidy.  The problem as I see it that people want a phone that retails for $400.00 to $700.00 to be provide for around $150.00 with the vendor absorbing the difference every time the user wants to change to phones.

The CRTC Wireless Code stipulates that the cancellation date shall be the date is notified of the request to cancel and not 30 days later. This 30 day policy was particularity annoying to users who owned their hardware and wanted to switch vendors.  

You can also get ready to receive a huge pile of paper or a large data file when you sign up for service. The list of compulsory items to be included is extensive. A current cell phone contract can run in the range of 12 to 20 pages. I suspect the new ones will be longer as they move from “legal” to “simplified” and they add all the various provincial code requirements.

One issue addressed but not resolved gives the user the right to refuse any unilateral change in contract by the vendor that does no benefit the user. The CRTC Wireless Code does not state what happens if the user refuses. Previously, a user had the right to refuse but the vendor had the option to cancel the contract and therefore the service without charge to the user. This will likely need clarification.  

Full details of the CRTC Wireless Code can be found at this website. An infographic version of the highlights is available at this website.


  1. The new CRTC Wireless Code is certainly generating a great deal of interest across a wide range of media.

    There is one area that seems to be leading to confusion amongst the various commentators and centres around the sections concerning roaming and data overage charges and the associated cap limits. The caps for roaming and data overages are $100.00 and $50.00 respectively. This means that when the costs for roaming and data overage exceed these amounts during a single billing period, the carrier must cut off the service unless the customer has specifically stated that they will accept additional overage charges. It does not mean, as some commentators have implied, that vendors can only charge a maximum of $100.00 and $50.00 regardless of how much roaming or data the customers uses.

    In practical terms, on the positive side this means there should be no more “bill shock” of thousand dollar bills after a trip; on the negative side, it may mean the loss of roaming or data services when the customer is far from home and without the ability to contact the carrier to rectify the problem.

  2. I saw some headlines and jumped to the same conclusion at first (wow - they're actually capping the cost - ok - not...). Thanks for clarifying this. At least if a service cut-off is explicitly defined (i.e. the user has to opt-in for the additional costs when they sign up) it might encourage more people to think beyond the marketing hype and consider how those cool features in their package can actually cost them a lot once they cross the line. That line has always been there, but maybe this makes it a bit less "fuzzy"...? Just a thought...