N.S. unveils new rules to protect cellphone users
Published Friday, February 15, 2013 6:33PM AST
The way cellphone providers do business with their customers in Nova Scotia is about to change.
The provincial government unveiled new regulations under the Consumer Protection Act today in an effort to protect cellphone users.
When John MacDonell’s personal cellphone was up for renewal, he says he encountered a problem right away.
“My wife informed me my three-year contract on my cellphone was up,” says Nova Scotia’s municipal relations minister. “But I had to call to ensure they didn’t keep billing me.”
He says his personal experience is one of the reasons behind the Consumer Protection Act.
“No contract can change in any significant way without the client being aware of that,” he says.
“The providers have to really tell their clients in very clear language, and we ask for plain language, around what exactly is in their contracts.”
It also provides an easier exit strategy for people looking to opt out of existing contracts.
“The fee cannot be higher than $50,” says MacDonell.
However, customers will still have to pay for their phone if they choose to cancel their contract.
MacDonell says many cellphone providers weren’t thrilled with today’s announcements.
“They weren’t jumping with glee that we were doing this. Eastlink was the one that really came on board and seemed very much in line with where we were going.”
Today’s announcement comes the same day Eastlink is rolling out its brand new mobile service.
“We get this market, we get what our customers want,” says Eastlink CEO Lee Bragg. “We get what’s important to them, the idea of no contracts. We’ve never had any contracts with our customers with any other products.”
Affordable cellphone use is an important consumer issue, but it’s also an important student issue.
Jonathan Williams, executive director of Students Nova Scotia, says students often need cellphones to stay connected with their professors, family and friends for months, not years.
“Many students need to move. The semester ends, they go to work somewhere else. They need that flexibility they will have now with cellphone contracts,” he says.
While it may be a step in the right direction, Android smartphone user Spencer Creelman says the act is not enough to bring significant change to his cellphone experience.
“It means people are trying to appease consumers but they’re not doing enough for me to care.”
Creelman says the changes are not retroactive on existing contracts and only apply to new contracts going forward.
The Consumer Protection Act goes into effect May 1.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Paul Hollingsworth