Telecom Commission Letter Addressed to the Distribution List

Ottawa, 20 October 2016

Our reference: 1011-NOC2016-0293

BY EMAIL

To: Distribution list

RE: Review of the Wireless Code, Telecom Notice of Consultation 2016-293-1 – Requests for Information

Dear Madam or Sir:

The Commission is reviewing the Wireless Code to ensure its ongoing effectiveness. To assist the Commission in its consideration of the issues raised in Telecom Notice of Consultation 2016-293-1, Commission staff requests that you respond to the attached questions as set out below.

Responses to the questions set out in the appendices are to be filed no later than 26 October 2016. These submissions must be received, not merely sent, by that date.

To facilitate accessibility and administrative processing, responses should be provided in a single document.

We also ask that you repeat each question in your response.

A copy of this letter and all related correspondence will be added to the public record of the proceeding. Parties that wish to designate some or all of their answers as confidential must do so in accordance with the CRTC Rules of Practice and Procedure:

As these questions may result in new evidence on the public record of the proceeding, all parties may comment on responses to these questions in the reply phase, submissions for which are due 7 November 2016.

Should you have any questions regarding this letter, please contact Meghan Justus by email at meghan.justus@crtc.gc.ca.

Sincerely,

[Original Signed By]

Nanao Kachi
Director, Social and Consumer Policy
Consumer Affairs and Strategic Policy

Enclosures


Distribution List

Wireless Service Providers

Consumer Groups

Other Parties

c.c.: Meghan Justus (meghan.justus@crtc.gc.ca)


Appendix 1: Questions for All Parties

All parties are asked to respond to the following questions about:

Prepaid Services

The CCTSFootnote 1 submitted that “since the launch of [the Wireless Code], WSPs have expanded the ways in which “pre-paid” services are offered.  In some cases, customers are not required to purchase and activate a prepaid card; instead they subscribe to pre-paid service in the same way that other customers subscribe to post-paid service.  In some cases, WSPs’ offerings were substantially similar for both pre-paid and post-paid customers, the only difference between the two being the point in time at which the customer pays for the service.”

Q1     Explain what you consider to be the key differences between prepaid and postpaid services, if any. 

Q2     Should the Wireless Code continue to distinguish between prepaid and postpaid services?

Trial Period

Q3     Provide your view, with supporting rationale, on Union des consommateurs’ proposalFootnote 2 that:

In your answer, comment on the specific changes proposed by Union des consommateurs to section G.4. of the Wireless Code as set out below, with the proposed additions indicated bold text:

“(i) When a customer agrees to a contract through which they are subject to an early cancellation fee, a service provider must offer the customer a trial period lasting a minimum of 15 calendar days to enable the customer to determine whether the service meets their needs.(ii) The trial period must start on the date on which service begins. (iii) A service provider may establish reasonable limits on the use of voice, text, and data services for the trial period. [Translation] “These limits must correspond to at least half of the permitted usage under the contract selected by the customer.”; (iv) During the trial period, customers may cancel their contract without penalty or early cancellation fee if they have (a) used less than the permitted usage; and (b) returned any device provided by the service provider, in near-new condition, including original packaging. [Translation] “(c) no additional conditions may be imposed on the customer”; and (d) the trial period and its limits must be disclosed upon entry into the contract.” (v) If a customer self-identifies as a person with a disability, the service provider must extend the trial period to at least 30 calendar days, and the permitted usage amounts must be at least double the service provider’s general usage amounts for the trial period.”

Q4     Provide your views, with supporting rationale, on the Coalition’s proposalFootnote 3  that

Q5     Provide your views, with supporting rationale, on proposalsFootnote 4 by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA), SaskTel, and Québecor Média (Vidéotron) that:

In your answer, you may address the following issues raised by the parties:

Q6     Provide your views, with supporting rationale, on Vidéotron’s proposalFootnote 5 that the Wireless Code should set new limits on the trial period such that customers may only cancel without penalty if they have also returned any gifts with purchase prior to cancellation.

If you support this proposal, provide examples of the types of incentives or gifts that a customer should be required to return if they cancel their service during the trial period.

Software Updates and Security Patches 

An individualFootnote 6 raised concerns about access to software updates and security patches on the record of the proceeding:

“I think you need to address the issue or at least consider asking the carriers and/or handset manufacturers to release critical security updates to their mobile operating systems, particularly android. Users of Apple iPhones, Windows Phone, Google Nexus phones, and Blackberries get their security updates directly from the manufacturer bypassing the carriers altogether. Bottleneck seem to be at the carrier approval and testing stage prior to release to customers. Carriers should be mandated to release and update the phones firmware and security updates in a timely fashion so Canadians privacy and security is maintained.”

Q7     Provide your views, with supporting rationale, on whether the Wireless Code should include new requirements relating to device software updates and security patches. 

If you consider that the Wireless Code should specifically address these issues, provide proposed wording to reflect your views.


Appendix 2: Questions for WSPs

Bell, Eastlink, Rogers, SaskTel, SSi Micro, Telus, Vidéotron, and Wind are asked to respond to the questions set out below, on behalf of themselves and their affiliates, about the following issues:

Awareness of the Wireless Code

The CoalitionFootnote 7 proposed that the Wireless Code should be modified to require WSPs to do the following to improve customer awareness of the Code:

Q1       Provide your views, with supporting rationale, on the feasibility, including the cost and resource implications, of each of the proposals above. 

Critical Information Summary

The CoalitionFootnote 8 proposed that the Wireless Code should require WSPs to provide customers who are interested in comparison shopping a personalized Critical Information Summary of a firm offer before they enter into an agreement. 

Q2       Provide your views, with supporting rationale, on the feasibility, including the cost and resource implications, of this proposal. 

Q3     What information do you currently provide to potential customers who are interested in comparison shopping for wireless services? Provide examples as appropriate. 

Accessibility - Alternative Formats

Deaf Wireless Canada Consultative Committee (DWCC) proposed that the Wireless Code should require WSPs to create videos in American Sign Language (ASL) and La langue des signes québécoise (LSQ) to explain common terminologies used in contracts.

Q4     Provide your views, with supporting rationale, on the feasibility, including the cost and resource implications, of this proposal.

Accessibility - Trial Period

The Wireless Code (section G.4) requires that, when a customer agrees to a contract through which they are subject to an early cancellation fee, a WSP must offer the customer a trial period lasting a minimum of 15 calendar days.   

If a customer self-identifies as a person with a disability, the WSPs must extend the trial period to at least 30 calendar days, and the permitted usage amounts must be at least double the WSP’s general usage amounts for the trial period. Media Access Canada (MAC)Footnote 9 submitted that it has reviewed several WSP websites and it does not believe providers are making this requirement clear to consumers. MAC suggested that the Wireless Code should require WSPs to put this information in marketing materials.

Q5       Provide your views, with supporting rationale, on the feasibility, including the cost and resource implications, of this proposal.

Q6       Describe the steps a customer with a disability would need to take to make use of the extended trial period.

Q7     Provide a copy of the text from your contracts, and any other relevant documents, on the trial period that explains the trial period to consumers, including consumers with disabilities.

Cap on Data Overage Charges

The Wireless Code (section E.3) requires WSPs to suspend data overage charges once they reach $50 dollars within a single billing cycle, unless the customer explicitly and knowingly agrees to pay additional charges.

Q8     Do you notify a customer once they have reached $50 in data overage charges in a single billing cycle for contracts with a single user? If no, please explain why.  If yes, describe how you notify the customer. In your answer, address:

Q9     Describe how you notify a customer once they have reached $50 in data overage charges in a single billing cycle for contracts with a multiple users – e.g. family or shared plans. In your answer address:

Q10   At what point do you suspend charges in the case of a family/shared plan? Confirm whether you suspend charges once the overage fees associated with the contract reaches $50 or whether you suspend charges once all users have incurred $50 worth of overage fees each (or some other approach).

Q11   Do you notify customers when they have used certain percentages of their wireless mobile data allotment (e.g. at 50%, 90% or 100%, etc.)? If so, explain why and how. If not, explain why not.

Bill Management Tools

Q12   Describe the bill management tools you currently offer to customers to help them manage their mobile wireless voice and data services. Do the tools that you currently offer provide information to customers about their usage in real time?

Q13   Comment on the feasibility, including cost and resource implications, of implementing real-time voice and data management tools for customers, including those on shared/family plans.  

Unlocking

The Wireless Code (section F.1) states that “(i) A service provider that provides a locked device to the customer as part of a contract must (a) for subsidized devices: unlock the device, or give the customer the means to unlock the device, upon request, at the rate specified by the service provider, no later than 90 calendar days after the contract start date. (b) for unsubsidized devices: unlock the device, or give the customer the means to unlock the device, at the rate specified by the service provider, upon request.”

Q14   Describe the steps that a customer would take to unlock a wireless device that is locked to your network. In your answer, explain how long the process usually takes and what contributes to this length.

Q15   Do you charge unlocking fees to the following categories of customers?

If so, explain the rationale for charging an unlocking fee to such customers. If not, explain why not. Address whether such customers must ask to have their device unlocked or whether it would be unlocked automatically at any point.

Q16   Many consumers have raised concerns about rates for device unlocking. In 2013, when the Wireless Code was established, the Commission stated in the Wireless Code Policy, paragraph 159, that “[m]ost WSPs submitted that they offer unlocking services to their customers, which vary in their rates, terms, and conditions. For example, WIND submitted that it charges $10 for its unlocking service while Bell Canada et al. submitted that they charge $75. TCC submitted that it allows unlocking after 90 days, while Bell Canada et al. submitted that they unlock devices once the contract term has elapsed. Videotron submitted that it does not offer an unlocking service.”

Provide the current range of rates you charge customers as an unlocking fee.

Q17   How has the range of rates you charge to customers changed since the introduction of the Wireless Code?  If rates have increased or decreased, explain why. 

Q18   The CCTSFootnote 10 submitted that complaints associated with locked devices have increased significantly in the past year. The CCTS also notes that certain WSPs have stated that they do not have the ability to unlock devices. Does your company have the ability to unlock mobile devices locked to your network? If not, explain why not.

Q19   The CoalitionFootnote 11 submitted that “WSPs should unlock a device at no cost to the customer: (1) for a subsidized device, when a fixed-term contract has ended, and (2) for a prepaid device, immediately. Otherwise, WSPs should only charge a reasonable, costs-based fee to unlock a subsidized device during a fixed-term contract. The Coalition also believes, in line with many of the individual comments submitted in this proceeding, that device unlocking should be permitted immediately without a 90-day wait period.” 

Provide your views, with supporting rationale, on The Coalition’s proposed changes.

Security Deposits

The Wireless Code (section H) requires that “(i) If a service provider requires a security deposit from a customer, the service provider must… (e) return the security deposit with interest to the customer, retaining only any amount owed by the customer, no more than 30 calendar days after (i) the contract is terminated by either the customer or the service provider; or (ii) the service provider determines that the conditions for the return of the security deposit have been met. … (iii) A service provider may apply the security deposit toward any amount past due and may require customers to replenish the security deposit after such use in order to continue providing service.”

Union des consommateursFootnote 12 submitted that: [Translation] “In our study of the Code, we did not find any contracts that specifically required a deposit. However, in certain contracts studied, we did find several mentions of deposit return conditions. We found that some providers indicate that the deposit will be returned in the form of a credit with the service. We are unconvinced that this is the preferable method for all consumers. We hope that consumers owed a deposit return following a termination will be able to receive their deposit in cash with the Bank of Canada interest rate.”

Q20   Do you require certain customers to provide a security deposit in order to obtain a contract for wireless services? If so, how many of your current customers have paid a security deposit? Please provide this information as actual numbers and as a percentage of your customer base.

Q21   What is the range of security deposit amounts you currently require?  What factors are considered when setting the amount of the security deposit for individual customers?

Q22   When you require a customer to provide a security deposit, how is this indicated in the contract? Provide examples of relevant text.

Q23   How do you return the security deposit to customers? Is it in the form of a credit to their account or some other format?

Q24   The CoalitionFootnote 13 submitted that WSPs should be required to:

Comment on the feasibility, including cost and resource implications, of implementing The Coalitions’ proposals above.  

Prepaid Services

The CCTSFootnote 14 submitted that “since the launch of [the Wireless Code], WSPs have expanded the ways in which “pre-paid” services are offered.  In some cases, customers are not required to purchase and activate a prepaid card; instead they subscribe to pre-paid service in the same way that other customers subscribe to post-paid service.  In some cases, WSPs’ offerings were substantially similar for both pre-paid and post-paid customers, the only difference between the two being the point in time at which the customer pays for the service.”

Q25   Describe the different categories of prepaid and postpaid wireless services you currently offer.

Subsidized devices

Several individualsFootnote 15 raised issues related to the subsidized devices included in many wireless contracts.

Q26   Do you currently offer contracts that include subsidized devices? If so, explain how many of your wireless contracts that include device subsidies. Please provide this information as actual numbers and as a percentage of your customer base.

Q27   Do you currently decrease customer’s bills by an amount related to the device subsidy once the customer is no longer subject to an early cancellation fee? Why or why not?

Q28   Do you currently offer customers who bring their own devices discounts equivalent to the value of a device subsidy for a similar device? Why or why not?

Footnotes

Footnote 1

See paragraph 80 of its submission, dated 2 October 2016.

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Footnote 2

See paragraph 88 of its submission, dated 3 October 2016.

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Footnote 3

See paragraph 356 of its submission, dated 3 October 2016.

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Footnote 4

See paragraphs 31-33 of the CWTA’s initial submission, paragraphs 18-20 of SaskTel’s initial submission, and paragraphs 35-40 of Videotron’s initial submission, all dated 3 October 2016.

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Footnote 5

See paragraph 39 of its submission, dated 3 October 2016.

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Footnote 6

Elton Fong, intervention number 72, dated 10 August 2016.

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Footnote 7

See paragraphs 422-427 of its submission, dated 3 October 2016.

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Footnote 8

See paragraphs 249-257 of its submission, dated 3 October 2016.

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Footnote 9

See paragraphs 37-39 of its submission, dated 3 October 2016.

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Footnote 10

See paragraphs 47-52 of its intervention, dated 2 October 2016.

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Footnote 11

See paragraphs 316-317 of its intervention, dated 3 October 2016.

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Footnote 12

See paragraph 90 of its submission, dated 3 October 2016.

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Footnote 13

See paragraphs 361-362 of its submission, dated 3 October 2016.

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Footnote 14

See paragraph 80 of its submission, dated 2 October 2016.

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Footnote 15

For example, see Ken Klak, intervention number 9, David Nyarko, intervention number 24, and Jason Rhinelander, intervention number 122.

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