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No More Locked Cellphones and Unlocking Fees Thanks to CRTC

  • Synopsis: Published: 2017-06-17 - CRTC announces individual and small business wireless service customers will have the right to have cellphones and other mobile devices unlocked free of charge upon request, and all newly purchased devices must be provided unlocked. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission at crtc.gc.ca.

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Quote: "To ensure Canadians with disabilities have a reasonable opportunity to test their services, they will be able to use up to 100% of their plan's voice, text or data during a 30-day extended trial period."

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced that as of December 1, 2017, all individual and small business wireless service customers will have the right to have their cellphones and other mobile devices unlocked free of charge upon request. In addition, all newly purchased devices must be provided unlocked from that day forward.

As well, updates to the trial period will allow customers who are unhappy with their service to cancel their contract within 15 days and return their device in near-new condition at no costs, as long as they have used less than half their monthly usage limits.

The CRTC also clarified certain rules that are already in place under the Wireless Code. For family or shared plans, the account holder must, by default, be the one who consents to data overage and data roaming charges beyond the established caps ($50 and $100 per month, respectively). Wireless service providers may, however, allow account holders to authorize other users on a family or shared plan to consent to additional charges. The CRTC also made clear that in all instances, the caps apply on a per account basis, regardless of the number of devices associated with the account. These clarifications apply immediately.

Finally, there were various interpretations of a wireless plan's key terms in the marketplace and the CRTC has clarified that they include voice, text and data services. These terms cannot be unilaterally changed by the service provider during the contract period without the account holder's express consent. These clarifications apply immediately.

Quick Facts

  • The Wireless Code is a mandatory code of conduct for providers of retail mobile wireless voice and data services. The CRTC created the Code in 2013 to make it easier for Canadians to understand their mobile contracts, to switch service providers, and to prevent bill shock.
  • The Code promotes a dynamic marketplace by empowering Canadians to make informed choices about their wireless services and establishing standards for industry behaviour.
  • Canadians should discuss their complaints with the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services, who is well placed to help them navigate both the current rules and pending changes.
  • To ensure Canadians with disabilities have a reasonable opportunity to test their services, they will be able to use up to 100% of their plan's voice, text or data during a 30-day extended trial period.
  • The CRTC held a public proceeding in which consumer groups, wireless companies, academics, accessibility groups and individual Canadians provided their views on the Wireless Code's effectiveness. The changes and clarifications announced today result from that input.

"The Wireless Code has helped make the wireless market more dynamic to the benefit of Canadians. While they appreciate the Code, they told us loudly and clearly that it could be more effective. We have listened to them. The changes and clarifications we are announcing today will give Canadians additional tools to make informed choices about their wireless services and take advantage of competitive offers in the marketplace." - Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC

Statement by the Government of Canada on CRTC decision to eliminate fees for unlocking cellphones

The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, made this statement following today's decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to eliminate fees for unlocking cellphones:

"I am pleased that the CRTC has decided to eliminate unlocking fees for cellphones and require that new phones be sold unlocked, starting in December. This decision will provide Canadians with more choice and make it easier for them to switch to other wireless service providers. It will also encourage competition among providers, which could lead to lower prices for consumers."

"Canadians are concerned about the rising cost of their Internet and cellphone bills. That's why locked phones and unlocking fees are a significant irritant to them."

"Our government is committed to protecting middle-class Canadians against the rising cost of wireless bills. We will continue to explore all possible options to ensure that Canadians in every region of the country have access to high-quality telecommunications services at prices they can afford."

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