After years of griping from consumers, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced last week that it would be seeking public input into a national code of behaviour for Canada’s wireless industry.
But digital advocacy group OpenMedia says it fears the process will be hijacked by telecom companies in order to create regulations more favourable to them.
“Big cell phone companies began to support the call for a national code of conduct just as provincially, rules were getting stronger,” OpenMedia notes on its website. “Manitoba and Quebec have strong protections for cell phone users, and Nova Scotia is close behind. Rogers, for one, made sure to note in its submission that the new national rules would ‘eliminat[e] the need for individual provincial rules’.”
The group has launched CellPhoneHorrorStory.ca, a website where consumers can share their stories about wireless service in the form of a letter that OpenMedia will then submit to the CRTC.
“Canadians are more and more aware that they pay some of the highest cell phone fees and are forced into some of the worst contracts in the industrialized world,” OpenMedia executive director Steve Anderson said in a statement. “We know that the Big Three would like nothing better than to use this process to weaken the existing rules and lock Canadians into arrangements that are even more costly and restrictive.”
The Huffington Post Canada asked readers last week to share their ideas about how to change the way Canada’s wireless industry works.
Clearly, certain themes are on readers' minds. The top gripe was cellphone contracts; some readers expressed frustration with their length (Canada’s three-year contracts are thought to be among the longest in the world) while others simply wanted them banned outright.
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Yet other readers pointed out that those contracts allow wireless companies to subsidize the retail cost of cellphones, which typically run in the hundreds of dollars.
"[I]f you don't want any contracts, pay for your phone outright," Shaun Empire wrote on HuffPost Canada's Facebook page. "You can't have a $100 iPhone and expect that there are no strings attached."
But some readers seemed OK with paying the full price.
Other frequent complaints included being charged for incoming voice and data.
“Charges should all be one way only. The call or text initiator pays at their rate. The receiver is not charged,” commenter kedikatt wrote.
Cancellation fees also drew the ire of a number of readers.
“The cancellation fees should be halved. Period. There should be NO Data cancellation fees. Termination fees are absolutely highway robbery. Also, the buyer's remorse period and DOA (Dead on Arrival) period should be EXPLAINED and Signed — not in fine print but as a separate 10 or 12 sized font letter,” write commenter LuckyTron, who identified himself as a tech support analyst.
Yet other readers simply had no faith in the CRTC’s process.
"The CRTC has only contempt for consumers. This should have been addressed 8 or 10 years ago,” wrote Johnny LaRue. “Just another irrelevant government agency making noise to justify their existence.”