Better Reception, Clarifying Nova Scotians' Cellphone Protections, Op-ed

Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations (to March 31, 2014)

June 13, 2013 10:45 AM

Nova Scotians told us they wanted cellphone contracts that are clear, fair and do not make them feel trapped.

We listened to these concerns and, in the absence of any federal rules, we acted on them. Amendments to Nova Scotia's Consumer Protection Act for fairness in cellphone contracts and responsible use, including cyberbullying, took effect May 1.

Last week, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) issued the new federal wireless code. We are pleased to see it follows in our footsteps, and leads the way in some areas, to protect Nova Scotia consumers.

I'd like to clarify the province's legislation and how Nova Scotians are protected.

Under the province's rules:
-- Consumers can cancel their contract at any time for a fee of $50 or less. Consumers will still have to buy out their equipment if they cancel early.
-- Cellphone companies must provide more information about minimum monthly costs, and include that information in advertising.
-- Providers cannot change major parts of a contract, including services, costs, fees or locations where the phone can be used, without consumers' permission.

We know that protecting Nova Scotians isn't just about fair cellphone contracts. Cyberbullying is one of the greatest dangers facing Nova Scotians in the digital world. The province's legislation features a consumer protection component unique to Nova Scotia. Cellphone providers must give customers a one-page info sheet on responsible cellphone use, including cyberbullying, when they sign a new contract or extend an existing one.

We're continuing to study the new federal wireless code to see where there are differences, but at first glance, it provides greater protections in some areas than provincial legislation. For example, under the federal wireless code, consumers can end their wireless contracts after two years with no cancellation fees.

The federal code also caps roaming fees and data charges, and provides unified rules across the country. It also has an enforcement mechanism through the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services.

The federal wireless code comes into effect Dec. 2, and only affects contracts made on or after that date.

It is important for Nova Scotians to be aware that they have protections now when they enter into cellphone contracts. The new federal wireless code will build on those.

In the end, though, what really matters is that Nova Scotians have uninterrupted access to clear, fair cellphone contracts, as well as the information they need to help them be responsible digital citizens.

A win-win situation for all.

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Media Contact: Tracy Barron
              902-424-2733
              E-mail: barrontb@gov.ns.ca