The Consumers Council of Canada welcomes the introduction by Ontario Minister of Consumer Services Margarett Best of Bill 82, the Wireless Services Agreements Act, 2012, an act to strengthen consumer protection with respect to consumer agreements relating to wireless services accessed from a cellular phone, smart phone or any other similar mobile device.
The Council believes Ontario consumers deserve protection around terms of service for contracts of all kinds, based on easy to understand principles.
"Contracts for cellular voice and data services and equipment rate as top-10 sources of consumer complaints in Ontario," said Consumers Council of Canada President Don Mercer. "Many consumers feel their rights are unfairly limited and find it hard to understand their responsibilities under these agreements. Quebec has already exercised its authority for contracts in this area. Other provinces across Canada should take responsibility and prompt action, as well."
The Council similarly supported a private members bill proposed by Ontario MPP David Orizietti and is encouraged that the Ontario government has decided to make this initiative part of its agenda. The private members bill enjoyed all-party support, so the Council is optimistic the government's bill will receive broad support.
"This is an opportunity for MPPs from all parties to show they can put the public first and work together to improve consumer protection," said Mercer. "Reducing marketplace confusion is good for competition and good for business in the long run."
Mercer said the Council favours a harmonized approach nationally, so consumers don't become confused about the rights and responsibilities they enjoy from one province to the next. He said the Council found it encouraging that the Ontario proposals track existing law in Quebec.
"The small differences between the Ontario and Quebec positions we understand to be based on lessons learned in Quebec," said Mercer. "Perhaps Quebec consumers will soon enjoy additional consumer protection improvements now proposed in Ontario."
The Ontario bill is said to propose greater protections for consumers of wireless phone, smart phone and data services. The legislation would require clear disclosure of all optional and mandatory services, including the disclosure of “hidden fees” and improve consumer protection concerning contract cancellation.
A similar bill has been proposed in Manitoba, and a private member's bill has been tabled in New Brunswick. With public dissatisfaction running high and provincial legislatures beginning to act, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, which has sat on the sidelines, has consulted the public about whether it should conduct a review of the state of competition among cellular companies to assess the need for federal regulation.