British Columbia continues to work towards developing consumer protections around cellphone contracts, releasing a consumer survey that describes numerous problems just weeks after Ontario’s legislation was repealed.
Earlier this year, British Columbia announced it was responding to consumer dissatisfaction with cellphone billings and contracts and planned to strengthen consumer protection. On November 19, it released the next phase of that legislative development, the summary of a survey of 15,549 consumers.
Just six weeks earlier, Ontario’s Wireless Services Agreement Act was repealed and the two regulations made under it were revoked. Ontario’s legislation was implemented under the Liberal government in 2014, but repealed under the Progressive Conservative government in 2018, going out of effect in October 2019. At the time of the announcement, Ontario representatives said the provincial act had been superseded by federal regulations which provide nearly identical protections.
Based on the survey results, B.C. consumers found those protections lacking. While noting the existence of the federal Wireless Code and Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services (CCTS) complaints, the summary report included six key findings. Among them:
• Only 22% of respondents found their contract was easy to understand and only 36% found their bill easy to understand.
• Nearly three-quarters (71%) of respondents have had an issue with a contract or bill. Almost all (96%) of complaints were initiated with their provider, and only 22% of those customers were satisfied by the result.
• Only 6% of respondents agreed the cost of their cellphone service is reasonable
• Only 12% were aware of CCTS and just 8% were aware of the Wireless Code
The Wireless Code was established by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in 2013, and updated in 2017. It provides consumers with rights such as plain language contracts, 15-day trial periods, maximum two-year contracts and caps on overage and roaming charges.
Created by the CRTC in 2007, the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-Television Services (CCTS) is responsible for resolving complaints from Canadian consumers and small business retail customers regarding wireless services.
General provincial consumer protection laws may offer consumers some additional protections. Most provinces track and report consumer complaints, and share this information with the public, each other and the federal ministry to which the CRTC reports, Innovation Science and Economic Development Canada. The Canadian Consumer Handbook provides links to provincial consumer ministries.