Thousands of Canadians participate in first draft of wireless code of conduct

Consumers are asking for clear language in their cellphone contracts and want to be able to put a cap on extra fees, says a draft of a national wireless code.

Thousands of Canadians contributed their ideas to the first draft of the national wireless code, which was released Monday by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

“I would like to thank Canadians for having shared their candid views on wireless services,” CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said in a statement.

Complaints about cellphone bills and contracts being difficult to understand have long been hot button issues for Canadians.

The telecom regulator wants more comment from Canadians on what they think of the first draft of the code for the competitive wireless industry.

“We are inviting Canadians to participate by telling us what they think of the working document. Once finalized, the wireless code will enable them to make informed decisions in a competitive marketplace,” Blais said in a statement.

So far, the draft code found that Canadians were angry about having to sign three-year cellphone contracts.

“We felt it was more appropriate to deal with the effects of the three-year contracts such as transparency in billing and the cancellation fees rather than removing an option that many Canadians choose,” said Denis Carmel, a spokesman for the CRTC.

It also found that consumers want contracts for their cellphones and wireless devices, such as tablets, written in “clear, easy-to-understand language.”

They also don’t want to have to read fine print and have asked that contract information be given in an “appropriate font size.”

Last fall, the CRTC asked Canadians for help in creating a national code for wireless services.

Since then, it has received more than 3,500 written comments and have had nearly 600 comments posted on its online discussion forum.

Under the draft code, service providers will have to stop all services that can cause consumers to have additional fees once the total amount of extra fees reaches an amount set by the consumer, or in the absence of an amount set by the consumer, $50.

Based on suggestions, the draft code also says wireless carriers will provide consumers with an online tool that allows them to monitor any additional fees incurred within a billing cycle.

Canadians also have asked for clarity when it comes to advertised prices.

The draft code says the advertised price must indicate whether it includes sales tax and government-mandated fees.

If the consumer cancels the contract early, the consumer cannot be required to pay any fee, charge, penalty, interest, or other amount other than the termination fee, the draft code says.

It also says Canadians want the ability to unlock cellphones on reasonable terms.

The telecom regulator said pubic hearings on the wireless code will be held the week of Feb. 11. Canadians can join in the online discussion until Feb. 15 to comment on the draft code.

The wireless code will be administered by the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services and enforced by the CRTC.