CRTC Puts an End to Locked Cellphones and Unlocking Fees

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is putting an end to fees charged to “unlock” smartphones, a costly irritant to customers who want to switch wireless providers.

Canada’s telecom regulator today announced that as of December 1, 2017, all individual and small business wireless service customers will have the right to have their cellphones and other mobile devices unlocked free of charge upon request. In addition, all newly purchased devices must be provided unlocked from that day forward.

As well, updates to the trial period will allow customers who are unhappy with their service to cancel their contract within 15 days and return their device in near-new condition at no costs, as long as they have used less than half their monthly usage limits.

The CRTC also clarified certain rules that are already in place under the Wireless Code.

For family or shared plans, the account holder must, by default, be the one who consents to data overage and data roaming charges beyond the established caps ($50 and $100 per month, respectively). Wireless service providers may, however, allow account holders to authorize other users on a family or shared plan to consent to additional charges.

The CRTC also made clear that in all instances, the caps apply on a per account basis, regardless of the number of devices associated with the account. These clarifications apply immediately.

According to the Globe & Mail, unlocking fees generated over $37 million in revenue for Canadian carriers in 2016 as carriers responded to 943,000 requests to unlock devices.

While that’s a relatively small amount of revenue for the $22.5-billion industry, the fees – typically about $50 for the code used to unlock the SIM card – are a deterrent to switching providers and help keep customers from leaving.