locked phones banned

Locked Phones Banned: The CRTC Upgrades Your Consumer Rights

Big changes to the Wireless Code of Conduct came into effect as of December 1st, 2017. The CRTC, Canada’s telecom regulator, reviewed the Code this past February – any cell phone user on a contract should be very interested in the results.

There are a number of changes, but here’s the biggest takeaway: all phones now can now be unlocked free of charge.

Along with that shocker, there are a number of other revisions to the Code. They might not be as obvious, but these changes could have an even bigger impact on your phone use and your monthly bill.

Here are the main changes to the Code that you should know about.

The Locking Ban

The change that will have an impact for the most Canadians is probably the ban on phone locks.

Before the new regulations, carrier sold phones had software installed so that they couldn’t be used with any other carrier. Phones with this software installed are called “locked” phones.

To have that software removed, you would need to call the carrier the phone was locked to for an unlock code. This code would cost you $50 to $70.

As of December 1st, all phones must be sold unlocked. All locked phones already in use can now also be unlocked for free.

The ban doesn’t mean that all phones are going to become unlocked on their own though. There were early rumors that iPhones were going to be getting an over-the-air unlock, but this plan was scrapped. To have your device unlocked, you’ll still need to call up your carrier for an unlock code.

The difference is, now you won’t have to pay a hefty unlocking fee.

Easier Cancellation

It’s now a lot easier to test-drive a phone plan. The new regulations say that carriers have to give customers a 15-day window to return a phone and cancel their contracts.

You’ll still want to keep your phone use down if you’re not sure you’ll be sticking with the plan though. After using half of the contract’s monthly usage limit, you’ll be locked in.

Canadians with disabilities have up to 30 days to cancel their account and can use their full usage allotment.

No More Bill Shock

There are new caps set on the amount of data overages you can rack up. Once that cap is hit, data usage is cut off until the account holder gives their consent for additional charges. The cap is now set at $50 for data and $100 for roaming overages.

This is great news for parents who have their family on a shared plan. It will also be a lifesaver for forgetful travelers who don’t switch to airplane mode when leaving the country.

Carriers Asking for Delays

Don’t worry – free unlocking has started on schedule December 1st. Some carriers, like Koodo, even started giving out free unlocks before this date.

Other changes will not be rolled out right away by certain carriers.


Earlier in November, Rogers filed a request for a deadline extension for some of the Code’s new rules. They have asked the CRTC for an extension to March 31st so they can have time to update their systems.

The good news is that Rogers will have no problem sending notifications to users when they have hit their data and roaming caps. What they are having trouble with is sending roaming overage notifications to the account holders on shared plans.

They are also asking for some time to deal with shared plans that have separate data buckets for each phone user. With the changes to the Wireless Code, any wireless account is capped at $50 for data overages – even accounts with multiple users. Roger’s stated that they won’t be ready to comply with this regulation quite yet.

As a stop-gap solution, data for the whole account will be temporarily cut off as soon as one user reaches the cap.


On November 16th, Telus submitted their own request to the CRTC for an extension until March 31st. They are citing difficulty updating their billing management systems. Like with Rogers, Telus has not been able to implement the data and roaming billing updates on time.

The CRTC is still reviewing the requests from both telecoms. In the meantime, the December 1st deadline has now come and gone.

What You Need to Know

For the time being Rogers and Telus customers should look over their bills carefully.

Any charges above and beyond the revised Code’s new caps should be credited back to your account. That being said, it looks like the onus is you to make sure that that actually happens.

For everyone else, the main takeaway is that your phone can now be unlocked for free!

Call up your provider or visit one of their brick and mortar locations to get your free unlock today.

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