Canada’s telecom and broadcast regulator is developing a wireless code of conduct, with public hearings all this week that are designed to collect input and ideas to improve market protection for consumers.
The hearings will be covered by the country’s public access channel, CPAC, as well as audio streamed on the CRTC website. Public participation and input can continue this week as the hearings progress; the deadline for both is February 15th.
Public input into the hearings and possible code considerations have been underway for some time, and the CRTC says many suggestions have been received already, including making wireless service fees and packages more transparent and easy-to-understand; the need for a cap on additional fees as well as online tools to monitor cellphone fees and smartphone usage.
Many call for the shortening, if not an outright hang-up, on three year contracts.
Canada’s top wireless providers (Telus, Rogers, and Bell) have all stated that a new code of conduct for improved customer service is welcome.
Rogers, for example, suggested to the CRTC that it go ahead and develop and implement a “National Wireless Services Consumer Code”. Rogers called it “the ideal solution” for protecting consumer interests and developing a more robust and competitive market.
It would at least be a consistent set of rules, one that seems more attractive to providers if not consumers than, say, each province setting up its own consumer protection regime.
Québec, for example, and its Consumer Protection Act, has specific criteria for operating a wireless service and offering those services to customers. Other provinces are looking at similar legislation or amendments.
The CRTC has looked at telecom before, of course. Back in 1994, it first decided that a hands-off approach was best, and that as a government organization, it would not regulate the wireless sector.
The CRTC said at the time that there was enough competition in the marketplace so the industry would guide itself, and provide Canadian consumers with a choice of innovative services without being told.
However, even with new competition in the marketplace, the Big Three providers are said to control some 96% of the cell phone market, and studies say that Canadians pay some of the highest cell phone fees in the industrialized world, points out citizen advocacy group OpenMedia.ca.
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