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April 30, 2013

As previously announced, the Ontario Government has now introduced for first reading new proposed legislation for wireless contracts and services in Ontario (Bill 60 – An Act to strengthen consumer protection with respect to consumer agreements relating to wireless services accessed from a cellular phone, smart phone or any other similar mobile device).

In making its new announcement yesterday, along with the introduction of the Bill, Ontario’s Ministry of Consumer Services said:

“Ontario is taking steps to strengthen consumer protection by introducing legislation today that would, if passed, make it easier for consumers to understand the costs and terms of their cell phone and wireless services contracts.”

According to the Ministry, the new proposed consumer protection legislation would: limit the costs associated with cancelling a contract; require contracts to be written in plain, easy-to-understand language; ensure that wireless contracts clearly spelled out which services consumers get with a basic fee (and which services would result in a higher bill); and disclose the total price of wireless services in advertising.

This newest proposed provincial wireless code comes at the same time as the ongoing federal wireless code consultations and considerable debate over the future of wireless competition in Canada, which has included criticism of allegedly failed Federal policies to spur more wireless competition in Canada and the expected sale of some of Canada’s smaller wireless carriers.

In addition to consumers’ discontent over wireless services (according to the Ministry, telecom related complaints have more than tripled over the past four years), Ontario’s new proposed rules also reflect some key trends in Canadian advertising law enforcement, including increased pressure for total upfront pricing, services that are subject to additional costs and plain language terms understandable by ordinary consumers.

Some of the contractual rights for consumers Bill 60 proposes include: detailed disclosure of goods and services (and fees) in contracts; plain-language contracts; a consumer’s consent to amend, renew or extend fixed-term contracts; a prohibition on automatic contract renewals for fixed-term agreements; the right to cancel agreements at any time (with cancellation fees capped or no fee, depending on the type of plan); and a ban on charges for services that are not accessible (where devices are being repaired) (for an outline of the proposed contractual rights see: Backgrounder: New Rules for Wireless Contracts and Services).

For copies of the Ministry’s news releases, Backgrounder and proposed legislation (Bill 60) see here, here, here and here.

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