Your Rights as a Wireless Consumer; What You Need to Know
The cellular industry is one that has undergone rapid growth in the last two decades. As the industry has grown so has cellular phone ownership and use. As a cellular phone user you may be unaware of your customer rights. Here is a brief overview of the obligations of cellular service providers and your rights as a wireless consumer as defined by the CRTC’s Wireless Code.
The Obligations Of Wireless Service Providers
The code of conduct followed by cellular service providers was created by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. This code of conduct explains the obligations your cellular carrier is expected to meet as per your contract. The overall intent is to make overall consumer rights easier understood and create a better marketplace for both businesses and customers like yourself.
Proper Communication: this means that service contracts, fair use documentation, privacy policies and other related documents must be provided in writing. Also this information must be written in plain language that is easy to comprehend. In matters of pricing the service provider must indicate if their prices include related taxes. Lastly if a cellular plan agreed upon is ‘unlimited’ then there can be no overage charges and any imposed limits must be cleared stated in the contract.
Contracts & Documentation: with postpaid service all contracts and related documents have to be provided to you as hard copies. If you acquire a service contract in person the documents are to be presented at that time. If done over the phone, internet or through other distance methods a copy has to be provided within 15 days. If the written contract contradicts any aspect of the verbal agreement then you are free to cancel service without penalty within 30 days. Service contracts are to be provided free of charge and you can request a copy at any time during your contract period. A digital copy can be used in place of a written one but only if you requested it.
Contract Terms & Costs: your contract must provide costs and related expenses. This means that your monthly bill, service expenses, service limits, overage costs and the overall contract length must be listed. You cannot be charged for services or devices you did not agree to or buy. Any cancellation fee must be explained in detail this includes any monthly decreases and the date upon which such a fee no longer applies. Also if you purchase a subsidized cellular phone its retail price, what you paid for it at the time and any related unlocking fees (if applicable) shall be listed.
Other Information: the following must also be provided in writing. Any one time expenses, trial periods, costs for optional services and features, device upgrades and how they affect the contract length and terms, security deposits, pay per use expenses and warranties. Also your carrier has to provide tools for account management and coverage maps. Lastly your provider has to provide contact information for their customer service department and contact information for the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services Inc.
Prepaid Services: in general prepaid service providers have to provide information related to account balance and related costs. Service and fees have to be clearly stated and instructions on how to check your balance has to be provided. If there is a prepaid contract then you have to be informed of calculating fees (see above) and about any purchased devices (see above as well). Also customer service contacts, CCTS contacts and contract copies have to be provided. Specialized contracts needed due to customer disability also have to be available free of charge. Also prepaid accounts have a seven day ‘active’ window after they expire to allow you time to refill the account.
Critical Information Summary: is a two page summary of your cellular contract. It lists the most important aspects of the contract including costs, charges and related expenses. This must be given as a hard copy separate from the main contract and easily understood
Contract Changes: a carrier cannot change key components of the contract (i.e. monthly charge) without your consent after informing you of the proposed change. It is within your rights to refuse such changes. Note that your carrier can change your services if these changes are beneficial for example your rates go down. Changes to other non key components of your contract have to be explained in writing at least 30 days before they take effect.
Phone Warranties And Repair: your service provider must inform you of any existing manufacturer warranties before offering you an extended warranty or phone insurance. If a phone is stolen or lost you can request service suspension free of charge. You can also likewise restore service free of charge if the phone is located or replaced. Note that in cases of a missing phone service charges still apply as do cancellation fees. In cases of repair service charges can be suspended provided the following is true: the phone came with the contract, it is under some form of warranty or insurance plan, your carrier did not provide a loaner phone, if cancellation would result in an early cancellation fee.
Early Cancellation: the cancellation fee itself cannot be more than the value of any subsidized phone. Also any cancellation fee must go down per month until it reaches zero. When the cancellation fee is initially calculated it is based on the phones MSRP minus any money paid when the phone was purchased. For fixed term contracts without an included phone early cancellation must be based on the lesser of $50 or 10 percent of the combined monthly service charges left on the agreed upon contract.
Disconnections: can be done if are past due for more than two months or owe charges in excess of $50. This can also be done if you do not provide a deposit (when needed) or default on a payment plan. Disconnections can be done between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekends. Notice must be given at least 14 days in advance and 24 hours before service disconnection. You may avoid this if you pay what is due or dispute the charges. Note that notification may not be given in extreme circumstances or instances of suspected fraud or network harm.
Aside from the above listed requirements you also have the following rights as a wireless customer.
- You have the right to cancel a contract after two years at no cost.
- You also have a trial window of 15 days to cancel newly acquired service (provided you meet certain usage limits) if it does not meet your needs. Note this increases to 30 days if you are disabled.
- To have your phone unlocked within 90 days if it subsidized or upon personal request after having paid its full price.
- You are free to cancel service at any time and cancellation takes effect when your service provider received notice of this request.
- Notification of roaming rates if you are doing so.
- When inquiring about premium service charges your carrier must provide information on how to unsubscribe from such services.
- Overages are capped at $50 for voice and $100 for data unless you request otherwise.