Canada: Change Is In The Airwaves: CRTC Expands The Wireless Code Of Conduct

In June 2013, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission ("CRTC") first issued the Wireless Code of Conduct (the "Wireless Code"). This mandatory code of conduct is aimed at providing consumer protection and regulating the business practices of Wireless Service Providers ("WSPs"), namely the mobile phone service providers. At the time, the CRTC planned to formally review the effectiveness of this new Wireless Code within three years and proceed with any additions or amendments as it found necessary, given changes in the dynamic marketplace 1.

Upon completing its formal review and proceeding to public consultations, the CRTC released Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2017-200 ("Policy") on June 15, 2017. This new Policy amends the Wireless Code, found in Appendix 1 of the Policy, modernizing it to match the realities of the market. This bulletin will cover the primary changes to WSP practices brought about by the amendments to the Wireless Code, some of which are effective immediately and others which must be complied with as of December 1, 20172.

Unlocked Devices

One of the most controversial changes the Policy brings to the Wireless Code is the requirement for WSPs to provide devices to the customer unlocked, meaning that the phone is not locked to that specific WSP's network. For existing customers with locked devices, the WSP must unlock the device at no charge. This new change becomes effective December 1, 2017 and will increase consumers' ability to more freely switch WSPs, as consumers can now bring their phones with them to another provider, at no additional cost, and take advantage of reduced-price Bring-Your-Own-Phone plans.

New Definitions Affecting Multi-user Plans and Data Overage Charge Caps

Another crucial change comes in the form of regulating multi-user plans, such as family plans. New defined terms, such as "account holder", "authorized user" and "device user" are used in place of "customer" in the Bill Management section of the Wireless Code. The account holder represents the person responsible for payment under their contract, whereas a device user is merely a person who uses a device associated with the contract. Account holders may also designate certain device users as authorized users, who consequently gain the same right as the account holder to consent to additional charges on the account or changes to key terms and conditions. Device users have no such rights. Such distinctions in the Wireless Code increase the transparency of the rights of the various users in multi-user plans, something which is particularly important to families who subscribe to such plans.

These new definitions also give rise to new obligations for WSPs to provide notifications when a device is roaming to both the account holder and the device user which, in the case of a multi-user plan, may not be the same person. The previous language only required notifying the "customer", which was defined as merely the individual or small business subscribing to wireless services. The definition of customer has also since been changed to include account holders, authorized users and device users. Furthermore, data roaming charges, maintaining their cap of $100 per month, now apply on a per-account basis. Any additional charges require the express consent of the account holder or authorized user. A similar consent is required for data overage charges, which are still capped at $50 per month, now applicable on a per-account basis. New language has also been added for flex plans, which were less common when the Wireless Code was issued in 2013. Data overage charges for such plans are similarly capped at $50 per month, unless the account holder or authorized user expressly consents to additional charges. The price of a roaming add-on or data add-on, meaning a package providing additional roaming or data capacity for a single month with no commitment or modifications to the customer's rate plan, are now included in the caps on charges.

Expanded Definition of Postpaid Services

New offerings in service plans offered by WSPs have prompted changes to the CRTC's approach to postpaid services versus prepaid services. Since the Wireless Code was issued, WSP now offer pay-in-advance plans in which customers, after exceeding a prepaid balance, may be charged overage fees. Some of these pay-in-advance plans also include early cancellation fees in the contracts and are seen as less "transactional" than the traditional prepaid model of drawing down from a prepaid card on a per-usage basis. The CRTC has determined that these pay-in-advance plans are functionally similar to postpaid plans and has therefore expanded the definition of "postpaid services" in the Wireless Code to include such plans. "Prepaid services" are now defined as those which are only purchased in advance of use.

Minimum Limits on Trial Period Usage

The CRTC has also set minimums for trial periods provided by WSP. For unlimited services, whether voice, text or data, the WSP may no longer set any limit on their usage during the minimum 15 day trial period. For services which are not unlimited, the WSP must set usage limits to at least half of the permitted monthly voice, text or data usage in the customer's contract. For multi-user plans, these limits must be at least half of the permitted monthly usage for the entire account. For customers with disabilities, the trial period must be extended to 30 days and the usage limits must be at least double those offered by the WSP for the standard trial period, with the minimum limit thus being a full month's usage. The new policies affecting trial period usage are effective as of December 1, 2017.

Initiatives for Canadians with Disabilities

The CRTC has further directed many WSPs to collaborate on the creation of a promotional campaign for Canadians with disabilities. This campaign will include sign-language videos for an awareness campaign regarding the Wireless Code, benefitting the Deaf and hard of hearing community. The videos must be complete and made available, free of charge, on each WSP's website, by December 15, 2017. The WSP must also create common terminology sign-language videos which must be made similarly available by June 15, 2018. WSPs also have an obligation to provide, upon request and at no charge, a permanent copy of the customer's contract and related documents to persons with disabilities in an alternative format. Persons with disabilities may also request an alternative format of the Critical Information Summary of their contract at any time during the term of the contract.

Harmonization with the Television Service Provider Code

The CRTC has also effected a few changes to harmonize some of the language of the Wireless Code with that of the 2016 Television Service Provider Code ("TVSP Code"). For example, the Wireless Code now explicitly states that the Critical Information Summary is not a substitute for the same or similar information found elsewhere in the customer's contract, as the TVSP Code says. Similarly to the TVSP Code, the definition of the "permanent copy" of a contract or related documents now requires them to be free of hyperlinks which can be changed by the WSP.

Greater Disclosure Obligations to the Customer

Finally, the CRTC has also included numerous smaller changes which place greater disclosure obligations on WSPs. For example, WSPs previously had an obligation to notify customers of the end of their contract 90 days prior to that date. The amendments to the Wireless Code now require the disclosure of specific information such as the impacts on terms and conditions the end of the contract will bring and a proposed minimum monthly charge for service beyond this date. WSPs must also advise customers that they are not subject to any penalty should they decide to switch plans or providers after the end of their contract. Another disclosure requirement is that customers who elect to have an electronic permanent copy of their contract with related documents must receive it from the WSP within one business day, failing which the customer may cancel the contract within 30 days from the date of reception without any early cancellation fee or penalty. New disclosure obligations now exist for tab contracts regarding how the WSP must present information regarding the monthly early cancellation fee reduction. Finally, the CRTC has required that many of the aforementioned changes appear in the Critical Information Summary, including information about trial periods, limitations imposed on unlimited services and tab contract early cancellation fees.

The CRTC's intention in initially introducing the Wireless Code was to make the wireless market more dynamic and to increase consumer protection for customers of WSPs. The changes and clarifications in the Policy attempt to modernize the Wireless Code to match the realities of the constantly evolving market and to provide customers the ability to make more informed choices about the services provided by WSPs.

footnotes

1. Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2013-271, File no 8665-C12-201212448, at para 393.

2. Appendix 2 to the Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2017-200.

The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Carl De Vuono
Thomas van den Hoogen
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions