Consumer protection rules for the wireless service providers
On October 3, 2019 Ontario’s Wireless Services Agreement Act, 2013 was repealed and the two regulations made under it were revoked. Canada’s national Wireless Code still applies to all wireless service providers.
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The Wireless Services Agreements Act covers:
- new cell phone, smart phone and wireless service contracts
- existing contracts that are amended, renewed or extended
Make the contract clear
All contracts for wireless services must be clear and in writing. You must ensure a contract includes the exact services and goods a consumer will receive and pay for. Your requirements for disclosure are outlined in section 10 of the act.
The contract must show the minimum cost the consumer will have to pay and what services it includes.
The minimum cost:
- is the lowest amount the consumer must pay, regardless of usage
- cannot change in a fixed-term contract without the consumer’s explicit consent
- may include options the consumer added to a plan (such as more data or a special roaming plan that has a monthly cost)
- is usually shown as a monthly cost whether the consumer’s contract is for a fixed term or is month-to-month
The contract must set out how much of a service the consumer can use without having to pay more than the minimum cost. For example, a two-year contract for $40 a month could include:
- unlimited local calling and texts
- 500 long-distance minutes
- 2 GB of data
The contract can include optional services that aren’t covered under the minimum cost and will result in additional charges if used.
For example, if the minimum cost includes 2 GB of data, but the consumer has an option to go beyond this limit, the contract must show the consumer:
- that 2 GB is included in their minimum cost
- that as soon as they go over 2 GB they will be charged extra
- how much extra they will be charged for going over 2 GB and how that cost is calculated
If a cost can’t be fixed in the contract – such as long distance rates that may vary over time – the contract must include where the consumer can find the current applicable information, such as your website.
For example, a consumer signs their contract in July and makes a long-distance call in September to Europe, which is a location not included in their contract. In that case, the rate published on your website in September applies because that’s when the call was made.
Changing the contract
If you want to increase a minimum cost or the cost of any optional services, the rules you need to follow depend on the type of contract:
- Fixed-term contract: you must get explicit consent from the consumer agreeing to the change. This means, for example, the consumer must clearly say “yes” or confirm their wish electronically. Consent cannot be just implied.
- Month-to-month contract: you must give the consumer notice – of 30 days minimum and 90 days maximum – before the proposed change and give them the choice of accepting the change or ending the agreement
Give the consumer a copy of the contract
You must give consumers a copy of their contract in writing, as soon as possible. If the contract is electronic, it must be in a format that allows the consumer to save or print it.
If a consumer does not receive a copy of the contract, they can cancel it within one year and you must give them a full refund.
There can only be one contract per device. For example, a consumer cannot be asked to sign two different contracts for services to the same cell phone.
When to give a new copy of the contract
You must give the consumer a copy of a new contract when:
- a contract is amended, renewed or extended
- the consumer asks for one
If you do not give a consumer a copy of their contract when they ask, they can file a complaint with the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunication Services.
When a contract ends
A month-to-month contract ends when the consumer or the service provider decides to end the contract.
A fixed-term contract ends once the term has finished, unless the consumer and the service provider agree to extend it. This extension can happen a number of ways:
- The consumer asks that the fixed-term contract be extended or renewed for another fixed-term.
- The service provider asks and receives explicit consent from the consumer to renew or extend the contract.
- The contract states that, after the fixed term ends, the service will be automatically extended on a monthly basis. This:
- protects the consumer from having their service interrupted or from losing their phone number at the end of the term
- gives the consumer time to change their mind before the end of the term and tell you they do not want the contract to continue month-to-month
- simplifies the extension process since a new contract is not needed after the fixed term unless its terms have changed
When the consumer is outside of Ontario
Ontario’s Wireless Services Agreements Act does not apply if the consumer is in the following provinces, because they have similar legislation:
- Newfoundland and Labrador