Jean-Pierre Blais at the public hearing on the Wireless Code review
February 6, 2017
Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman
Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission
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Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to this public hearing taking place from February 6th-9th. Before we begin, I would first like to acknowledge that we are meeting here today on the traditional lands of First Nations peoples. I would like to thank them and pay respect to their elders.
Wireless Code Review
It is hard to overstate the importance of wireless services to Canadians. Mobile voice and data wireless services improve the quality of life for Canadians and empower them as citizens, creators and consumers. Canadians use these services to do all sorts of things: find jobs, conduct business, keep up with current events, monitor and engage in social media and of course - keep in touch with family and friends.
The Wireless Code was originally created three years ago in response to significant concerns brought forth by individuals, consumer groups and wireless service providers regarding the clarity of contracts for mobile wireless services. One of the principal objectives was to make it easier for individuals and small business owners to obtain information about their wireless contracts, and their associated rights and responsibilities as mobile customers. The Code addresses things like limiting early cancellation fees to enable consumers to take advantage of competitive offers every two years, requiring trial periods for wireless contracts and setting default caps on international data roaming and data overage charges.
The Code also established baseline standards for industry behaviour, all with the ultimate goal of contributing to a more dynamic marketplace.
Since the Code came into effect, wireless services have now become Canadians’ primary phone service; LTE coverage now reaches over 97% of the population. The importance and use of wireless data has grown – over 22 million Canadians now have wireless data plans, compared to 13.2 million in 2011. We know this because the Commission has been conducting research on the impact the Wireless Code has had on Canadians, since its creation.
We also know that average monthly household’s spending on communications services has continued to increase, and wireless services account for most of those expenses.
It appeared clear at that time that the wireless landscape would change significantly over three years through developments in technology, the economy and the marketplace, which would require a reexamination of the Code.
The Commission committed to review the Wireless Code’s effectiveness within three years of its implementation as it would allow enough time to:
- Monitor compliance with the Code;
- Collect data about the Code’s effectiveness; and
- Identify and correct any issues that may have developed during the implementation process.
So here we are, three years later - doing precisely that.
Based on the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) annual reports, wireless complaints have decreased since the Code was created, however, wireless services remain the most complained-about communications service.
We also heard from Canadians who participated in an on-line discussion forum last fall or submitted interventions to this proceeding about whether they think the Code is working for them. For example:
Overall effectiveness of the Code:
Jacob Dagenais – intervention no. 53
I believe the wireless code of conduct has done well in ensuring Canadians know what to expect from the carriers.
Mr. Dagenais says he would like to see changes overall to the Code to make it more effective for consumers.
Philippe Léveillé – intervention no. 80
The Code has managed to fill any gaps in the telecommunications market, particularly concerning fees and clarity of contracts. But the Code does not go far enough.
There were also some concerns and frustrations expressed by Canadians, such as:
Gordon Graff, intervention no. 81
What is of great concern to me is whom do the Cell phone companies contact in case of overages. In some cases, the companies, allow CHILDREN to make financial decisions, which could greatly impact hard working families.
The issues we are discussing during the hearing are based on comments like these and other feedback we have received from Canadians, the industry and consumer groups, since the Code’s inception.
Canadians are an important part of this proceeding. We value your input.
This proceeding provides another opportunity for Canadians to engage with the Commission on how the Wireless Code is working for them. Your feedback will help us make informed decisions relating to any changes or amendments to the Code going forward – to ensure its continued effectiveness today and into the future. We must be forward-looking if the Code is to remain relevant.
We are listening.
You can participate by taking part in our online discussion forum launched this morning. It will run from February 6-14, 2017. Log on to our website at: www.crtc.gc.ca.
The purpose of this proceeding is to ensure the Code continues to effectively meet its objectives through:
- Reducing the risk of bill shock;
- Eliminating barriers to switching service providers so consumers can take advantage of competitive offers; and,
- Improving contract clarity so that Canadians can make informed choices about their wireless services.
I want to thank those who have taken the time to participate, those we will hear from this week, and those who are taking part from afar. 202 parties, including individuals, mobile wireless service providers, consumer groups, accessibility groups, university students and professors, and the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services have participated to date.
I would like to make a few introductions before we begin.
The panel for this hearing consists of:
- Peter Menzies; Vice Chairman and President of telecommunications for the CRTC
- Chris MacDonald; Commissioner for Atlantic Canada and Nunavut
- And myself, Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC. I will be presiding over this hearing.
The Commission team assisting us includes:
- Meghan Wawryk , Hearing Manager
- Adam Balkovec and Megan Maloney, Legal Counsel
- Lynda Roy, Hearing Secretary
Before we begin, I would like to invite Ms. Roy to explain the procedure we will be following.
Madam Secretary . . .
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