Since WIND’s launch in December 2009, Canadian consumers have started to enjoy lower prices, better value, and greater choice in the wireless industry. The Manitoba government recently gave consumers another reason to celebrate. On June 15, the Manitoba government passed Bill 35, an amendment to Manitoba’s Consumer Protection Act relating specifically to cell phones and cell phone contracts. When it comes into force, the Bill will protect consumers when they enter into wireless contracts from a number of unfair practices, including unclear contracts, abusive cancellation fees, and unilateral changes to their contracts. WIND’s been fighting for such changes for some time and I’m sure you’re starting to see a theme here. You’ve likely seen points raised by Tony or Ken in media about these important points, and by my colleague Andrea Wood, who’s been championing the consumer cause at all levels of government, precisely because we think it’s an important one for the Canadian economy and for innovation in general in this country.
As longstanding champions of wireless choice for Canadians, we’re happy to see the Manitoba Consumer Protection Office taking strides to protect consumers from unfair wireless practices and to raise the bar for the rest of Canada. It’s encouraging to see that consumers are now demanding to be treated fairly and – more importantly – that the government is listening.
Thanks to a lack of competition in the wireless sector, market mechanisms and self-regulation alone have not been enough to protect Canadian consumers. For example, according to the Seaboard Group, at 24-36 months, typical Canadian post paid contract terms are the longest in the world. The same report noted that a Canadian seeking to cancel his or her device contract after 6 months would pay about twice as much as an American – an AT&T customer would pay $256, while a customer of one of the Big Three would pay between $500 and $600.
There is still more room to grow and hopefully more change to come, because all Canadians should be offered similar protection. Earlier in the year, the Government of Ontario introduced a private members bill in an effort to end unfair wireless practices. This is a great step in the right direction and we challenge all provinces to offer more protection from the abusive practices of wireless carriers.