by Marie Aspiazu
British Columbians, and Canadians in general, have been price-gouged and misled by cell phone providers for far too long. We continue to pay some of the highest prices for for cell phone service in the industrialized world, and Big Telecom’s misleading and aggressive sales tactics regularly make headlines.
Back in 2013, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) passed the Wireless Code of Conduct to help protect customers from Big Telecom’s predatory practices and provide more clarity around cell phone contracts. However, loopholes and weak enforcement mechanisms have left the door open for customer abuse – from surprise cell phone bills in the thousands of dollars to the continuation of device subsidy charges long after the customer paid the charges off.
Fortunately for British Columbians, the provincial government recently recently announced its intention to strengthen cell phone customer protection and improve cell phone contract and billing transparency. To that end, the government launched a survey to gather people’s experiences with their cell phone providers. The survey closed on July 5th.
The BC government initiative has the potential to introduce ground-breaking provincial legislation that would complement the federal Wireless Code of Conduct. It could bring about stronger enforcement mechanisms and penalties to keep Big Telecom in line.
But in order to make this happen, British Columbians needed the opportunity to make clear demands and put pressure on the government. So OpenMedia launched a petition calling for specific measures to strengthen cell phone customer protection at the provincial level and ensure that British Columbians get a better deal when signing up for a cell phone plan. The petition asks for increased billing transparency, improved advertising and sales standards, and strong enforcement standards.
OpenMedia has also been invited to meet with government officials to present its views. We will be using this meeting to deliver the petition and bring our collective voice straight to key decision makers.
Provincial legislation to protect wireless customers isn’t new. Quebec, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia have passed laws to better protect their constituents and close some of the loopholes found in the Wireless Code at the federal level. Ontario had such laws too, through its Wireless Services Agreements Act, but Doug Ford’s government scrapped it with the passage of the unpopular Bill-66.
Now it’s BC’s turn to pass strong provincial legislation to protect cell phone users.
Marie Aspiazu is a Campaigner and Communications Specialist at OpenMedia, a non-profit organization that works to keep the internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. For more information on digital policy issues, including free expression, access to the Internet, and online privacy, Visit openmedia.org