Ontario reintroduces cellphone consumer protection bill

Wireless providers would have to explain their fees more clearly and face limits on cancellation charges under legislation being reintroduced by the Ontario government.

Ontario introduced a similar bill in April 2012, but the bill died when the Ontario legislature was prorogued in October.

The proposed rules announced Thursday, similar to those already in effect in Quebec, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia would:

Require wireless providers to clearly explain all aspects of billing in plain language, including: what services are included for a monthly fee and what services would result in added costs;the retail value and actual cost to the consumer of a discounted phone that comes with a fixed-term contract;how roaming costs are calculated;how cancellation fees are calculated.

Ban automatic renewal of contracts and require consent for any changes to a contract beforehand.

Require the all-inclusive, total monthly cost to be the most prominent piece of information shown in an advertisement.

Allow consumers to cancel a wireless agreement at any time by giving notice to the provider. Cancellation fees would be limited to 10 per cent of outstanding services to a maximum of $50 and a proportion of the discount consumers received on their phone when signing their contract.

Ban wireless providers from charging consumers for services they can't access while their phone is being repaired under warranty.

Ensure that customers are not billed for charges incurred after they report their phone lost or stolen.

Allow customers to cancel their agreement within a year of signing and get a full refund if wireless companies don't abide by all the rules in the legislation.

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, which regulates the wireless industry, is working on a wireless code of conduct that would lay out national rules for cellphone contracts and fees.

However, the proposed code says the national rules cannot prevent consumers from taking advantage of provincial consumer protection legislation if it is advantageous to the consumer.

The group representing Canada's large wireless telecommunications service providers issued a statement Thursday discouraging Ontario from proceeding with its proposed legislation.

"We would encourage the Ontario government to first wait to review the new code from the CRTC before moving ahead with its own regulations, as they said they would," said a statement from the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.

"CWTA and Canada's wireless carriers remain committed to a national code for consumers, providing all Canadians with equal standards, rather than a patchwork of inconsistent provincial regulations."

The group added that much of what is in the proposed legislation is "already common practice" and that Ontario's proposed bill will be "irrelevant in any case" once the CRTC's national code is in place.

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