The provincial government has introduced legislation to make it easier for consumers to grasp an understanding of the costs and terms of wireless service agreements they sign.
If passed, the legislation would provide for contracts to be written in plain language so that customers could differentiate between services that come with a basic fee and those that result in higher bills. Providers will also be required to offer a cap on the cost of cancelling a contract and a modest fee for consumers opting out of fixed-term contracts.
Minister of Consumer Services, Margarett Best, said the government wants to eliminate “cell shock” many people experience when they open their bills to discover they have been charged exorbitant sums because the terms of their agreement lacked clarity.
“What we have done is to address consumers concerns,” said Best. “Service providers have a responsibility to give consumers the information they need so they understand clearly the terms and all the costs of any cell phone and wireless agreements they sign.”
Nearly 80 per cent of wireless service agreements are post-paid which means consumers are billed after they sign agreements and use the service.
“Millions of Ontarians subscribe to wireless phone services and we are moving forward with important legislation that reaches the same objectives as those proposed in two bills I previously introduced,” said MPP David Orazietti. “This is a pocketbook issue that consumers want addressed and our government bill contains measures that will make cell phone contracts considerably more fair and transparent.”
The proposed Ontario legislation would take effect six months after being passed. It would cover existing agreements that are amended, renewed or extended after that date.
It’s estimated that almost 70 per cent of Ontarians are in possession of wireless service agreements. About 62 per cent of complaints received by the federal Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services in 2010-11 were about wireless services and more than 41 per cent came from Ontario residents.
BY RON FANFAIR