Show me one happy customer from one of Canada’s top three wireless providers — Rogers, Bell, Telus — and I will show you a unicorn. The difficulty dealing with a corporation employing thousands inevitably leaves some subscribers feeling trampled. There must be an outlet for complaints besides the lowly minion sitting in the call center.
Our telecommunication oligopoly has a small check on power in the form of the CRTC and, luckily, they have the back of consumers. The CRTC has maintained some protections so we can all enjoy some comfort in the Canadian wireless mess. Most regulatory websites are difficult to navigate with all their technical jargon but, luckily, the wireless regulator published an easy to read checklist shown below.
The consumer’s rights are pretty clear. Being aware of whether you are roaming or not is handy. The $50 limit of overage charges has helped many avoid a horrific $500 plus phone bill.
A user’s right to refuse contract changes is a big one too. Most recently in March 2014, there was an increase of $5 across all major providers for base wireless services. Because of existing protections, the hike only applied to new contracts. It would be foolish to think rate hikes wouldn’t affect us all in the absence of such laws.
Unlocking phones used to be a contentious issue as the big three aggressively tried to prevent consumers from ditching their services using some pretty far-fetched means. To revisit some history, a Telus executive claimed in 2007: “Unlocking a cellphone is copyright infringement. When you buy a handset from a carrier, it has programming on the phone. It’s a copyright of the manufacturer.” Internet and E-Commerce Law professor Michael Geist explained on his blog “Telus is simply wrong” pointing out that there are no laws supporting that claim. Be glad regulators are on your side.
Stephen Harper has tried to endear himself to consumers by introducing more competition to the Canadian wireless provider marketplace. The effort is well intentioned but at this point, basic mobile wireless costs have risen and Canadian mobile service prices are still higher than average. Nevertheless, we can dream of a day when we our communication services are comparable to global leaders.
Are these regulations really necessary? To be brutally honest: yes. Knowing your rights should not be taken lightly. It is the single most important part of being a Canadian wireless service consumer. Empowering yourself with knowledge is the only safeguard against industry malpractice.
Next time you have questions about wireless rights afforded to the average consumer, give the CRTC a call. They’d clearly love to hear from you since their contact info for every mode of communication is made available at the end of the checklist. After all, it is their job to regulate telecommunications. If you don’t let them know about abuses, then who will?