Cell phone user contracts and terms may change in near future

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Cell phone users paying expensive termination fees to end contracts and having the inability to switch providers have been ongoing problems for years. Some users may have been taken by surprise by secret limits on “unlimited” plans however, these issues may soon be resolved.

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has just issued a draft for a national wireless provider code of conduct and they are listening to the public’s complaints and cracking down on unfair terms and conditions.

The CRTC’s new chairman, Jean-Pierre Blais, has garnered a reputation as a “consumer friendly” chair by not only kick-starting this initiative but following through. The CRTC asked the public to provide feedback on current policies and provide suggestions for reform via online discussion.

The online discussion forum began Feb. 11 and terminated at 5 p.m. Feb. 15, coinciding with the last of a public hearing in Gatineau, Quebec regarding the code. 3,500 comments were submitted by Canadians in writing and 600 were posted in the online discussion forum.

Some of the new policies discussed were customers receiving a personalized summary detailing the terms and conditions of their contracts. This would include an outline of cancellation fees at different times during their contracts and a list of tools available to help monitor their usage of different services (texting, calling, data, etc.).

Cancellation fees, or early termination fees, would be limited to the price of the device itself or any savings the owner might have gained for signing on to the contract. Also, monitoring tools should be mandatorily available to consumers that help them monitor their usage in relation to limits of their plan. This way they are aware of extra fees they might incur if they exceed the limits of their plan.

Other policies include users having the ability to restrict features that could cause extra fees, as well as users’ ability to cap their monthly bill, so that when reached, their services would be suspended to avoid over-spending.

Wireless providers would only be able to advertise “unlimited plans” if they disclose whether the plan has secret limits. For example, if they intend to move the consumer to a limited plan if certain plan usage levels are exceeded. Wireless providers would also have to unlock phones under “reasonable terms.” This may include fees and/or time frames.

Although this means serious reform for wireless providers, most of them are onboard. Telus spokesman, Shawn Hill says, “This draft code is a good start to work from.” He also said that Telus will provide input once it has reviewed the draft more thoroughly, but has stated that the company considers a national wireless code of conduct “the right thing to do”.

Hopefully, these life-saving policies will remain intact through the upcoming review. Canada will have to keep its fingers crossed and stay tuned.