Cellphone code caps roaming fees, gives early exit from contracts

Advocates say CRTC changes give wireless users more control

Consumer advocates are applauding a new wireless code of conduct that lets Canadians cancel wireless contracts without penalty after two years and sets caps on data roaming charges.

The new code unveiled Monday by federal regulators applies on new contracts for mobile phones and other devices starting Dec. 2.

Besides the ability to escape three-year contracts without fees after two years, the new CRTC rules cap data overage fees at $50 a month and national and international data roaming fees at $100 a month, unless the user explicitly wants to use more.

“Canadians may finally now be freed of the worst of cellphone bill shock,” Public Interest Advocacy Centre executive director John Lawford said. “We hope that consumers will now be able to enjoy their wireless service fully and without fear.”

He said the code should reduce the mobile device costs of many users

“It also makes it easier to switch companies because those costs are limited and are clear,” Lawford said.

Individuals and small business users will also be able to have their phones unlocked after 90 days or immediately if they paid the full price.

A 15-day return option is also promised to those who are unhappy with service, along with an easy-to-read contract and an ability to accept or decline key changes to a contract.

“The wireless code will contribute to a more dynamic marketplace by making it possible for Canadians to discuss their needs with service providers at least every two years,” CRTC chair Jean-Pierre Blais said.

It’s not yet clear how major phone companies will react to the new rules.

“We already do a lot of what is in the new code,” Telus spokesman Shawn Hall said.

He said Telus replaced contract cancellation charges with a device balance some years ago and already offers phone unlocking and a cap on international data roaming.

“We are thus well positioned to support this new code,” Hall said, calling it “a strong and friendly set of protections.”