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.


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

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

Carl De Vuono
Thomas van den Hoogen
In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
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
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). 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 & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd 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 or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

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