CRTC announces Proceeding to establish a mandatory code for mobile wireless services


The CRTC has just announced a Proceeding to establish a mandatory code for mobile wireless services. In theory this is a great move. In reality this is lip-service to a disillusioned and misguided public.

The reality is that his will not lead to any meaningful change in Canada’s wireless landscape, because:

  1. The telcos will voluntarily implement some of the codes prior to the establishment of the official code;
  2. There are provincial consumer protection laws that already require some of the things the public is demanding; and
  3. Most consumers (or at least the ones who post comments and in forums) are dumber than a sack of cabbages and just don’t understand how our nearly-but-not-really free-market works.

If you haven’t already done so you should post your comment on the CRTC web site (since they can’t really admit they read this blog).

Here’s what I had to say to the CRTC on this issue…

Code of conduct should include:
– decreasing cancellation fee proportional to remaining contract
– reasonable cost to unlock mobile phone once subsidy is paid off
– ability to remove unwanted software (apps) from the phone upon demand (not all smartphones have the capacity to handle the software installed by the carrier; but carriers do not test every model of every phone in every possible situation)
– individual service feature add-ons should be available at reasonable cost relative to feature bundles that include the individual features (i.e.: the sum of the individual prices should be more than the bundle price unless there is an obvious efficiency in having the two features simultaneously)

Let’s take a look at each one of those.

Cancellation fees

Many provinces, soon to be all I’m sure, already have clauses in their consumer protection laws that correlate your cancellation fee with the number of months you have left on your contract. It’s a moot point if the CRTC requires this since it’s already available to the majority of consumers but it would be nice to have a national standard.

Perhaps a more controversial addendum to this would be requiring the service providers to indicate what amount of your bill represents the subsidy and how much you can expect to save once your subsidy is paid off. Even going so far as allowing early pay-off so you can trigger the monthly savings ahead of time.


Unlocking is a more reasonable alternative to carrier’s feeble trade-in programs. Allowing consumers to sell or gift their phones and trade-up. You would have to pay off your subsidy first, but I think that’s totally reasonable.

Of course someone who expects to travel with their phone would simply have to purchase the phone outright and have it unlocked immediately upon purchase. If you know you’ll need an unlocked phone then pony-up the dough and buy one! Just because you decide to travel doesn’t mean the telcos have to give you special treatment.

Unwanted software

Okay, this might be a pet-peeve, but two things are certain: carrier software is often crap-tastic; and just because it isn’t branded spy warez r uz doesn’t mean it ain’t!

Most of the apps carriers put on your phone are simply white-label apps that have been re-branded and pointed to your carrier’s servers or data-sources. Not much design or development goes into these apps; hardly any testing; and definitely no support. So if you don’t use something you should be able to get it off your phone – especially if it’s something that feels it has to run in the background (and worse if it feels it has to always remind of this wonderful opportunity you’re missing out on).

We learned a lot from the Carrier IQ scandal a while back and so did the carriers: they now hide that functionality in apps that you actually want and seem genuinely useful. If you don’t want this stuff running in the background you should be able to remove it from your phone.

NOTE: I’m not a conspiracy-theory nut-job, but it’s fun to play one sometimes.

The other thing is, and this goes for OEM’s apps too, is that not every apps is tested in every possible way, and sometimes an app or OS upgrade is too much for a phone to handle, particularly an older phone. So once again, if you don’t use it you should be able to get the CPU/memory/bandwidth hogging app off your phone.

Individual Service Features

Okay, now this really is a pet peeve. Why is a bundle of un-related features cheaper than sum of the individual features? Remember, they’re un-related. Caller ID and Voice Mail and text messaging have nothing to do with each other. So why is it cheaper for me to get a bundle with all three than to just add Caller ID to my plan!?

I can understand why carriers would offer bundles of bandwidth and internet based services (like Mobile TV or sports broadcasts). But I don’t understand why they have to bundle everything!? It’s like every new junior marketing hire has to come up with a new bundle during his probation period if he wants to keep this job?!


And finally for all you twits whining about lack of competition in comments and forums. Competition does not mean the government will order Robelus to give you an iPhone 5 and unlimited internet. Competition means they try and sucker you for all the money they can while you try and sucker them for all the product and services you can – when you meet in the middle that’s the result of competition.

The new entrants, such as Wind, Public, and Videotron, will bring more choices to a certain segment of consumers. But they are not a choice for everyone – either because of their limited AWS handsets, their limited coverage, or their inability to bundle other services such as residential phone, internet, or television.

Increasing foreign investment is not going to make things any cheaper either. If someone invests millions or even billions of dollars it is because they want as much of the incredibly high margins Canadian telcos are making – not because they feel sorry for you and want to hand-out iPhones and unlimited internet like the Easter Bunny!

Don’t forget to post your comment on the CRTC web site and leave a little note saying “hello” here (I know you’re lurking there Chaiman Katz, c’mon – say hi!).

Cross-posted on Schultzter’s Blog