CRTC taking a step in the right direction

I believe that I speak for many of us students when I say that we hate dealing with cell phone carriers. Yes, we come, sometimes in flocks, when a certain company unveils its “ultimate” smartphone, lining up a day before because it really is worth getting.

Yet, we all dread coming to the till and negotiating our “contract” and “terms.” Oh, I have to sign up for three years just to get the subsidized phone price? And there is a minimum price I have to pay for those 36 months? And even if your phone and patience survive those three years you can’t even change carriers, as the phone will be locked to your carrier. These are some of the pitfalls of Canadian wireless companies that the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission) has allowed for so long.

However, all of that might change; Canadians have a chance in an open forum to address what changes they would like to see their phone carriers adopt. In this article I will explain two major changes I think should happen with our current wireless code.

The first thing is changing the standard three-year “$50 minimum” term agreement in order to get, for instance, an iPhone 5 for $180 – erroneously believing that you will “save” $580. However, they’ve got you for three years, and within about a year you have already paid Rogers, Telus, Bell, or whomever, the difference in cost owed to the manufacturer. It is interesting to note that these three mega companies have 94 per cent of the mobile phone market in Canada. I understand that not everyone can pay a lot more than $180 up front for purchases like these, but the lack of options really gives the carriers a huge advantage. Indeed, Canada’s Competition Bureau reports that “the large proportion of wireless contracts are three years in duration.”

I propose that they introduce both one-year and two-year contracts instead, because a lot can change even after just one year, and termination fees should not have to be such a nightmare. You should be able to opt out anytime and just pay the difference from the MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) if it’s early enough in the contract agreement, or not at all if you’ve reached that certain point where they’ve paid off that difference. Nevertheless, offering choices tailored to individuals’ needs are commonly established in many industries and I hope to see that happen in the wireless industry as well.

Another issue is data charges, especially concerning roaming charges on trips. No way do I want to be charged an extra $100 or $200 for sending a couple of text messages or accidentally downloading an app. Is it possible for a carrier to warn us or set up a cap on additional fees? Perhaps going over or $50 or $100 would help remind people of this crucial step to make sure they aren’t roaming.

To be fair, they are technically providing a cap, but the average person’s monthly fee on their plan does not stray too far from $50 before taxes. So when your “new” bill from roaming and other charges is about 400 per cent over your average bill, only then do they start capping or actually caring about you. Lowering these cap levels to 100 per cent would make much more sense. I suggest they change that right away. As you can see, there is currently only one clear winner in this situation, and it is not the consumer.

It’s important for Canadians to speak out on these issues. You can do so by going to the CRTC website and becoming a part of the process.

5 Comments on "CRTC taking a step in the right direction"

  1. I switch off data,easy to do, and i am with Mobilicity everything in no EXTRA CHARGES, Blackberry Bold 9900 works just fine. New Entrant serves me well.

  2. This is going to sound way old fashioned, but truly the only way around this is not govt. regulation, just keep your old phone till you’ve saved up for the one you want. As long as you want it now but don’t have the funds now, you’re really just leasing the phone – the company is in charge with their terms. You wouldn’t buy your note book under these circumstances, why do it with your phone? There are reasonable priced, awesome unlocked phones like the Nexus 4. If you own the phone, you are in charge.

  3. KA - Calgary | March 12, 2013 at 8:12 am |

    I have been with Wind Mobile for the past several months and really like their model. First, their services, are very well priced. Currently, for $42/month, I’ve got Canada wide calling, North America texting, *unlimited data, voice-mail, call display – sorry, don’t mean to sound like a salesperson. Most importantly to me though was the early opt-out option. Wind subsidized the cost of my phone, and monthly, write off a percentage of the remaining cost. To close the contract, I’ll have to pay off the remaining cost of the phone, but I can see exactly what that is at any time; no surprises.

    It’s not perfect, but I think it’s quite fair, and a hell-uv-a lot better that anything the big 3 are offering now. I’ll NEVER go back to Telus, Rogers or Bell.

  4. For so long we’ve been paying rediculous rates on a service – not a physical object (i.e. car, house, furniture). And how do you approach your carrier with these charges?? “I don’t believe I was on the internet THAT much downloading/streaming THAT much data” – how do you prove that statement? Long distance charges – sure, you can refute those charges. “I did not call that number on that day at that time.” It’s rediculous!

    A short time ago our son went to Cancun for a vacation. We had to purchase a $70 travelling package so he could make 40-minutes worth of calls, send 200 texts (incoming were unlimited) – else pay $1.65/min or $.40 per sent text. Come on – really? I bring my laptop out of the country and hook up to the hotels wireless, I don’t get charged for sending email (which takes up more ‘room’ than a text message) back home.

    We’ve been under the carriers’ thumb for far too long people!

  5. Perhaps you could follow up this story with the 27% reduction in the CRTC’s full time work force. Clearly these actions against the big telecoms have cost them their very jobs by those with influence.

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