N.S. to regulate cellphone contracts, cap cancellation fees
Published Friday, April 27, 2012 6:23PM ADT
Cellphone users in Nova Scotia could soon be better protected when they enter into cellphone contracts, according to the provincial government.
The province announced Friday it is making amendments to the Consumer Protection Act that they say will better inform and protect cellphone users.
It says the changes will address public concerns about long-term cellphone contracts, silent extensions, high cancellation and other fees, as well as concerns about cellphone use and cyberbullying.
Cellphone user Tristan Grant says he likes the idea of more regulations around cellphone contracts.
"There was one company, it was horrible," says Grant. "I had to pay them, I think, over $500 to get out of my contract."
Cellphone user Natalie Campbell shared a similar story.
"My phone broke and…I wanted a new one, but I still had a year on my contract, so I had to buy a new plan and had to put my other plan at, like, $20 a month to pay it off until it was over," she says.
Hearing stories like these prompted the Nova Scotia government to propose amendments to the Consumer Protection Act that would put an end to expensive cancellation fees.
Customers would be able to cancel their contract at any time under the proposed legislation, and cancellation fees would be capped at $50.
"I think it's great because people shouldn't be dinged that bad because they don't want a service anymore," says cellphone user Nicole Dorton.
"With all the different cellphone companies that we've got going around and stuff like that, yeah, you can really get dinged," agrees cellphone user Jeannine Crouse.
Another proposed change is no more automatic renewals on existing contracts.
"A provider has to notify the consumer that your contract is going to end, and they have to contact them 60 to 90 days before that to get their permission to roll it over," Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations Minister John MacDonell told CTV News.
Under the proposed legislation, cellphone companies will also be required to provide more information about minimum monthly costs in advertising, and will not be able to change major parts of the contract, such as service options, costs and fees, without customer permission.
Neither Bell nor Rogers would comment on the changes, but Telus says it already meets, or even exceeds the proposed measures.
Company spokesperson Jim Johannsson says Telus has filed a submission to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, proposing a national code to cover wireless customers.
In an email, Jim Johannsson told CTV News it "would provide consistent consumer protection while avoiding a patchwork of provincial regulations that would be more costly and cumbersome to administer."
Eastlink plans to launch its wireless service later this year and says it supports the proposed amendments, calling it "an important step towards providing consumers with more choices and competition in the wireless market."
Grant says he likes the sound of that.
"Oh, it would be awesome…it would help us out a lot," he says.
The government says the proposed amendments would only affect new contracts signed after the regulations come into effect.
Quebec, Manitoba, and Newfoundland and Labrador have passed similar legislation and Ontario has also announced its intention to regulate wireless service contracts.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Jacqueline Foster
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