Existing Provincial Rules

Provincial legislation is generally responsible for consumer protection as well as for contracts. Over the last few years, several provinces have recognized the digital policy neglect at the federal level and established their own codes of conduct for telecommunication service providers. OpenMedia.ca recommends that the CRTC look at these rules as a floor on which to build its national rules. Incumbent wireless providers have a vested interest in establishing a weaker set of national rules that will undermine those established by individual provinces.

Manitoba

June 16, 2011 Manitoba passed Bill 35, The Consumer Protection Amendment Act to legislate protections for cell phone users.120 The act protects customers from the unfair price-gouging practices of incumbent cell phone providers through a number of stipulations that target some of the main complaints that were highlighted by customers in this study. These include limitations to how contracts can be changed, along with a guarantee that the customer can cancel without penalty if changes are made without their consent. The bill also demands clarity of advertised pricing, and limitations on the amount that can be charged for early cancellation; termination fees cannot exceed the remainder of contracted services, or the remaining cost of a discounted phone. Wireless telecommunications provider Wind Mobile, a newer entrant to the Canadian market, welcomed the decision on their website, stating, “we’re happy to see the Manitoba Consumer Protection Office taking strides to protect consumers from unfair wireless practices and to raise the bar for the rest of Canada”.121

Quebec

Quebec’s Bill 60, An Act to amend the Consumer Protection Act and other legislative provisions,122 came into effect on July 1, 2010, and offers many of the same protections. Notable protections include preventing the provider from automatically renewing contracts, limitations on termination fees, and requirements clearly advertised pricing that includes all fees. Customers must be given 60 days notice when changes are made to contracts, and these changes cannot affect the nature of the service offered. Like the Manitoban bill, customers will not be charged a cancellation fee if the changes involve "an increase in the consumer's obligations or a reduction in the merchant's obligations".123 If these rules are broken, the provider can be forced to comply through an injunction.124 When the bill came into effect, Ellen Roseman of the Toronto Star applauded these changes, and criticized the federal government for the lack of comparable national rules, noting that landline phone services are regulated by the CRTC, and the lack of choice in the wireless market necessitates similar regulation to that provided by Quebec.125

Nova Scotia

On April 21, 2012, Nova Scotia also proposed an amendment to their Consumer Protection Act in the form of Bill 65.126 Still under consideration, this bill stipulates that customers leaving their contract early would have to buy out their hardware, but would cap cancellation fees at $50. Like the Quebec bill, it forbids service providers from automatically renewing contracts, or from changing contract terms without a customer’s consent, and it requires clarity over the ‘real cost’ of introductory offers.127 Allan Sullivan, a spokesman for service provider EastLink, supports the increased choice these proposals would bring to the market, noting that, "[r]ather than being locked into long-term contracts, [customers] have the flexibility of taking a look at the pricing in the market and [then they] are able to respond and change providers".128

Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador passed An Act to amend the Consumer Protection and Business Practices Act on June 27, 2012.129 This legislation stipulates that service providers outline their terms and conditions in plain language, ensures that customers are notified in advance of changes to their service, and requires that advertising make clear the total monthly cost of a service.130 It also mandates that customers should be able to terminate their service when they choose, and there are caps on termination fees if a customer chooses to end a contract early.131

Ontario

Ontario proposed its own customer protection bill last year: Bill 82, the Wireless Services Agreement Act, 2012.132 The bill proposes many of the same protections as the other provinces, including caps on cancellation costs, clearly advertised minimum costs of agreements—including which services result in added costs—and a requirement of plain contract language that customers can understand. Service providers may not renew, extend, or amend contracts without the customer’s consent, may not charge customers for services while their device is being repaired, and providers must notify customers when they are about to exceed their service limits and incur extra charges.133 MP David Orazietti who proposed the bill noted its importance because “[c]omplaints about wireless carriers comprised 62 percent of the complaints received by the federal Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) in 2010 – 2011. Ontario accounted for 41.4 percent of all complaints”.134 This is a clear indication that firm rules are needed. This bill is currently awaiting reintroduction after the Ontario government was prorogued on October 15, 2012.135

Footnotes

120. Bill 35, “The Consumer Protection Amendment Act (Cell Phone Contracts)”, S.M. 2011, c. 25, (Status: Assented to June 16, 2011, Manitoba). Retrieved from http://web2.gov.mb.ca/laws/statutes/2011/pdf/c02511.pdf
121. WIND. (2011, June 21). “Manitoba the Wireless Consumer First with Bill 35” in Wind Mobile Blog. Retrieved from http://windmobileblog.com/2011/06/manitoba-puts-the-wireless-consumer-fi...
122. Bill 60, “An Act to amend the Consumer Protection Act and other legislative provisions”, 2009, c. 51, (Status: Assented to December 4, 2009). Retrieved from http://www2.publicationsduquebec.gouv.qc.ca/dynamicSearch/telecharge.php...
123. Faguy, S. (2009, June 18). “Inside Bill 60” in Fagstein. Retrieved from http://blog.fagstein.com/2009/06/18/inside-bill-60/
124. ibid.
125. Roseman, E. (2010, August 4). “Ellen Roseman: Quebec consumer law welcome move” in CBC News. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/moneytalks/2010/08/ellen-roseman-quebec-...
126. Nova Scotia Legislature Assembly 61, Session 4. (2012, May 17). An Act to Amend Chapter 92 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Consumer Protection Act, to Ensure Fairness in Cellular Telephone Contracts. Retrieved from http://nslegislature.ca/legc/bills/61st_4th/1st_read/b065.htm
127. CBC News (2012, April 21). “Nova Scotia to unlock cellphone contracts” in CBC News. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/story/2012/04/27/ns-cellphone-...
128. ibid.
129. Bill 6, “An act to amend the Consumer Protection and Business Practices Act”, 1st Session, 47th General Assembly, Newfoundland and Labrador, 61 Elizabeth II, 2012, (Status: Assented to June 27, 2012). Retrieved from http://www.assembly.nl.ca/business/bills/Bill1206.htm
130. CBC. (2013, January 29). “How your cell phone contract could change for the better” in CBC News. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2013/01/29/cellphone-contract-wi...
131. Israel, T. (2012, December 4). Intervention of the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) and OpenMedia.ca. Retrieved from http://cippic.ca/uploads/2012-557_Comments.pdf, p. 8 – 9
132. Bill 82, “The Wireless Services Agreements Act”, 2012 (Status: Second reading October 15, 2012, Ontario). Retrieved from http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/bills/bills_detail.do?locale=en&Intranet=&Bil...
133. Orazietti, D. (2012, April 12). “Orazietti’s Cell Phone Legislation to be Adopted by Provincial Government” in David Orazetti MPP. Retrieved from http://www.davidorazietti.onmpp.ca/REL04122012Cellphone.htm
134. ibid.
135. CBC News. (2013, January 29). “How your cell phone contract could change for the better” in CBC News. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2013/01/29/cellphone-contract-wi...

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