TORONTO: Canadian cellphone users are happy with two pieces of news.
On Monday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission allowed consumers to get out of three-year contracts with cell phone companies after two years without paying any cancellation fee and unlock their cell phones. On Tuesday, industry minister Christian Paradis killed the $380-million Telus bid to take over Mobilicity to ensure that users benefit from competition.
“Our government is clearly committed to encouraging competition in the wireless market so that Canadian families will benefit from cutting-edge technologies and services at affordable prices,” the minister said.
He added, “We will continually review the regulations and policies that apply to the wireless telecommunications sector to promote at least four wireless providers in every region of the country so that Canadian consumers benefit from competition.’’
WIND Mobile, Mobilicity and Public Mobile launched mobile services in 2008 after the Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) auction, which included five-year restrictions on them for transferring licences.
“Our government has been clear that spectrum set aside for new entrants was not intended to be transferred to incumbents. We will not waive this condition of licence and will not approve this, or any other, transfer of set-aside spectrum to an incumbent ahead of the five-year limit,” said Paradis.
The government fears that if Telus is allowed to take over Mobilicity, then Rogers and Bell will go for WIND Mobile which is the largest of three new entrants with 600,000 subscribers across Canada. Any takeover of the new entrants by the big players will not go down well with consumers to please whom the government allowed more competition in the wireless market.
The survival of WIND Mobile in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario will be the key factor in the government’s policy of having at least four carriers in each regions of the country.
Meanwhile, the new code unveiled by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission says:
- Consumers can terminate wireless contracts after two years without cancellation fees.
- Carriers will have to cap extra data charges at $50 and international roaming charges at $100 a month.
- Users can unlock their cellphones after 90 days. If they have paid the full price of the device, they can get it unlocked immediately.
- Users will be allowed to return their cellphones within 15 days or specific usage limits if they are unhappy with their service.
- Users will have the right to accept or decline changes to the key terms of the new (two-year) contract.
- Contract terms should be easy to read and understand.
The new code will come into effect on contracts signed after December 2, 2013.