Subscribe to receive news and updates
By providing your name and email, you are agreeing to be contacted concerning this consumer education and mobilisation campaign. Your information with not be shared with any third party and you will not be contacted by any third party, unless you so authorise.
August 19, 2015
By Celia Sankar
When you sign up or prepay for wireless services, does the phone company have to honour its service agreement with you over the duration of the agreement, whether it's for 30 days, 60 days, one year, two years, or indefinitely?
Or can the company change anything and everything about the agreement as it pleases, without seeking your consent?
These questions are at the heart of an application filed this week (August 18, 2015) by the DiversityCanada Foundation and the National Pensioners Federation to protect the rights of prepaid wireless consumers. You can play a part, too.
Our two organizations are asking the telecom watchdog to reverse a decision from May of this year which sanctioned a Telus policy that introduced mandatory changes to key terms of its prepaid wireless agreements with consumers.
DiversityCanada/NPF have called on the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) to review and vary a ruling in which it gave its blessings to a Telus policy that required prepaid wireless, pay-per-use consumers with a balance of over $300 to acquire monthly plans. ( See the full application here.)
Our organizations argue that Telus cannot unilaterally change service agreements by simply stating it's now mandatory that consumers make such a switch. Fundamental contract principles require Telus to ask consumers for their consent to make such a radical change to their agreements for prepaid wireless services.
(Prepaid pay-per-use payment arrangements are distinct from prepaid monthly plans. In the former, consumers give the phone company funds in advance that are recorded as a balance in their accounts. Consumers draw on the balance to pay for wireless services “as and when” they make calls, send text messages, etc.
By contrast, with monthly plans, the phone company offers a suite of services at a set price to be used within 30 days – eg, 100 minutes of local calls and 100 text messages for $15. Consumers pay the full $15 upfront, even if they don't eventually make the allotted number of calls or send the maximum number of texts.)
The matter before the CRTC affects not only Telus customers with a balance of over $300, but seeks to protect the rights of the 3.7 million consumers who have prepaid wireless services agreements with all Canadian carriers.
Our organizations have pointed the CRTC to a fundamental flaw of the Wireless Code, which was introduced in June 2013 to ensure that wireless services agreements were both clear and fair.
A section of the Code affirms the basic contract principle that a party who wishes to make a change to an agreement must first obtain the other party's consent.
However, that section makes reference only to post-paid consumers (those who use wireless services and pay only after they receive the bill). The Code pointedly omits prepaid consumers from the stipulation that wireless services providers must obtain consent in order to make material changes to a consumer agreement.
Post-paid consumers usually sign two-year agreements, whereas prepaid consumers have agreements for shorter periods.
“Regardless of the length of their contracts with carriers, all consumers are entitled to fundamental contractual rights,” our filing this week with the CRTC states. “DiversityCanada/NPF therefore submit that every individual who has a contract with a wireless services provider is entitled to protection from material changes to that contract for the duration of that contract – whether it be 30 days, 60 days, 365 days, two years, or indefinitely.”
You can play a part to ensure that phone companies respect their agreements with all consumers.
Please tell the CRTC to make it clear to Telus and all other wireless services providers that they must not change key terms of their agreements with prepaid wireless consumers during the contract period, whatever that length may be.
You have until September 17 to submit your comments in support of our application here.