Wednesday 3 July 2013

Carriers Set To Challenge CRTC Wireless Code

National news media is reporting that the three major incumbent cellular carriers – Bell, Rogers and Telus, often referred to unflatteringly as Robelus - are preparing to launch a legal appeal against certain clauses of the recently announced CRTC Wireless Code. Some updated reports indicate that MTS and SaskTel are joining the process. The motion will be filed at some unspecified future date but possibly as early a 03 Jul 2013 in the Federal Court of Appeal and seeks leave to appeal certain sections of the Code.

In particular it seems they are planning to challenge that the terms of the code that makes the two year stipulation on cellular contract length apply to all cellular contracts after 03 Jun 2015 even though the Code does not come into effect until 02 Dec 2013.

When the CRTC announced the details of the Code on 03 Jun 2013, it indicated the code would not be retroactive or apply to contracts that that existed prior to 02 Dec 2013.  This would seem to mean that in theory any existing 3 year contracts could remain valid until as late as 01 Dec 2016 which is in conflict with the Code date for universal adoption of 03 Jun 2015

The appeal appears to be centred on the question of what happens to existing 3 year contracts that are scheduled to expire in the 18 month period between 03 Jun 2015 and 01 Dec 2016.

There are no reports that the carriers are prepared to challenge any other parts of the Code. Indeed, for the most part they have been in compliance with most parts of the Code for some time, the main exception being the 2 year contract length.

The last time a major legal challenge was launched by the incumbents against a CRTC decision, the whole policy decision concerned came to a grinding halt for almost three years as the appeals worked their way through to the Supreme Court of Canada and the Governor-in-Council.    

I see no reason why the CRTC cannot nip this in the bud and change the compulsory adoption date to 01 Dec 2016. Yes, some folks who signed a three year contract after 03 Jun 2013 may feel hard done by but they knew the new terms were coming and could have waited before signing up to a three year deal.

The CRTC needs to decide whether it is in the public interest to fight the carriers or is the public good best served by getting the code operative as soon as practicable. 

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