Ontario politician on Canadian telcos: ‘Consumers are tired of being gouged by these companies’

Earlier this week we observed that Telus will now let eligible customers “unlock” their phones for a ludicrously overpriced fee of $50 (Rogers and Fido recently did the same).

Ontario Liberal MPP David Orazietti isn’t pleased with this latest money grab from Canadian telcos and has gone so far as to publicly state his strong opinions. After introducing Bill 133, or the “Wireless Phone, Smart Phone and Data Service Transparency Act 2010” in November of last year, David is now once again lunging at telcos for gouging their customers.

“The recent decision by Telus Mobility to offer unlocking as a paid service falls well short of providing customers with any meaningful new consumer protections,” said David. “Telus’ decision fails to recognize that a device that has been paid for in full should automatically be accessible to the owner at no additional cost.” 

He goes on to say that, “under Telus’ new rules, owners of many smartphone models, such as the iPhone, the Samsung Elevate and the Samsung Advance, as well as owners of older cell phone models, will not be eligible to have their devices unlocked.” An then he drops the hammer on them: “When it comes to addressing unfair business practices, the major wireless service providers still have a very long way to go and, frankly, consumers are tired of being gouged by these companies.” 

Few can argue with that. David’s Bill 133 hopes to rectify some of this. The Act proposes greater transparency and protection for consumers of wireless phones and their attached data services. Specifically, the Act proposes that Canadian telcos be required to:

• Improve transparency of automatic renewals. 

• Notify consumers when they incur any additional charges. 

• Eliminate activation dates and expiry dates on prepaid cards.

• Make true costs more transparent when advertising.

• Disclose the cost of all optional and mandatory services included in an agreement. 

• Make service agreements more understandable to consumers. 

• Reduce contract cancellation fees.

And SooToday highlighted statistics from a 2010 survey which found that, globally, Canadians pay the highest minimum monthly charges for cellphone services. Aong their other highlights:

– The Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) reports that complaints about wireless carriers comprised 52 percent of the complaints it received in the 2009-2010 monitoring period. 

– 75 percent of the complaints about postpaid wireless services received by the CCTS for 2009 fell within the following categories: billing errors, termination disputes customer service grievances, and terms and conditions changes. 

– Cellular phone service is the business category for which Better Business Bureaus in Canada had the most complaints last year. 

– Complaints about cell phones and long distance charges consistently appear on the Ministry of Consumer Service’s annual list of “Top 10 Consumer Complaints”.