Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New Consumer-Friendly Rules for Cellphone Users Coming in Ontario

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New Consumer-Friendly Rules for Cellphone Users Coming in Ontario

Article excerpt

Ontario dialling up new wireless rules

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TORONTO - Ontario will soon join three other provinces with new rules for wireless contracts that the governing Liberals say will end the "horror stories" consumers report after opening their cellphone bills.

Government legislation aimed at addressing those complaints passed unanimously in the provincial legislature Wednesday and is expected to take effect in the spring.

Cellphone users won't have to pay more than $50 in cancellation fees and will be able to walk away from their contracts after two years. But they'd still have to pay off or return their phone if it was provided free or at a discount under the deal.

Telecom companies would have to write contracts in plain language, spelling out which services come with the basic fee and which ones would cost more.

They'd also have to obtain explicit consent from cellphone users before altering their contracts.

Consumer Services Minister Tracy MacCharles said even she has a hard time understanding changes in her cellphone contract and those of her teenage children.

"This bill is going to address that," she said. "It's going to empower consumers and it's going to make them more confident."

They'll understand their rights, get clearer contracts and know when they have to give consent, she added.

"We really want to get the confidence up, because when the consumers are confident, then that helps the marketplace, that helps the telecoms, that helps our economy."

Some of the provisions mirror the national telecommunication regulator's code of conduct, which takes effect in December.

But there are strong differences between the two, MacCharles said.

Ontario's legislation would add all-in pricing and strong enforcement with penalties of up to $250,000 for corporations who are convicted of violating the rules, she said.

The push by Ontario and other provinces for better laws to protect consumers has spurred the federal government to take notice, said cabinet minister David Orazietti, who's championed the changes since 2010. …

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