Thursday, 12 April 2012

Ontario clamps down on cell phone companies

Ontario clamps down on cell phone companies
Apr 12 2012  Rob Ferguson Queen's Park Bureau
Ontario is taking aim at “price gouging” by mobile phone companies with proposed legislation to cap the cost of cancelling service, provide up-front pricing details and plain-language contracts.
The bill from Minister of Consumer Services Margarett Best incorporates key elements of two previous private members’ bills by Liberal MPP David Orazietti in an effort to ease what they call “cell shock” when customers open their bills.

But it does not address concerns about voice and data costs because they are regulated federally, Orazietti (Sault Ste. Marie) told reporters, urging Ottawa to open the industry to more competition that could lower prices.
“Canadians are paying the highest cell phone prices out of 11 countries in a recent survey,” said Orazietti, whose two previous attempts to get this legislation approved had all-party support.
If passed by the Legislature under the minority Liberal government — which is now casting for NDP support of its budget to survive — the law would cap “exhorbitant” cancellation fees for fixed-term phone contracts at $50.
Some carriers have charged as much as $400 to $600 for cancellations.
Contracts would also have to be written in plain language so consumers can understand them more easily and would have to spell out clearly which services are covered by the basic fee and which are extra.
“It’s important consumers know what the full price of getting into a contract will be,” said Orazietti, who has also had other private members’ bills picked up by the government and made law.
Best said beefs about cell phone bills are among the top 10 complaint categories when Ontarians call her consumer ministry.
“This is a pocketbook issue consumers want addressed,” added Orazietti. “Bill shock is a common problem.”

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