Consultations available by video and phone with electronic signatures.

Understanding Mobile Phone Contracts

Nearly everyone has a mobile phone and a lot of people have contracts with their wireless service provider. However, much like with every contract and agreement, it’s important to know what you’re signing up for when you sign a wireless contract. It’s also important to know that you have rights and there are certain rules that wireless service providers must follow.

Questions You Should Ask Before Signing a Cell Phone Contract

As mentioned, before you sign any contract, it’s a very good idea to make sure you know what you are signing. Don’t assume that the representative at the wireless company will explain everything to you. There’s a good chance that your contract is long, and the representative might miss out on a few things when they’re explaining it.

To protect yourself, ask questions whenever you don’t understand something in the contract. Some questions that you should make sure to ask include:

  • Are there any system activation fees, sign-up fees, or other fees that I should be aware of?
  • Is there a cancellation fee for breaking this contract? If there is, how is it calculated?
  • If I go over my plan’s limits (such as using more data or sending more text messages than what is listed in my plan) how much will I be charged?

These questions will give you a lot of the important information that you need to know about your cell phone contact. If the wireless provider doesn’t answer these questions in a satisfactory manner, ask again. If they still don’t give you the information you need, consider whether or not you really want to sign the contract.

Rules Wireless Providers Must Follow

In Canada, every Canadian with a mobile phone plan is protected by the CRTC Wireless Code of Conduct. This code explains your rights and outlines the rules that wireless providers must follow. These rules include:

  • Plain language contracts
    • Your wireless contract and all related documents must be written in a way that is clear, timely, accurate, and is easy for customers to read and understand.
    • The contract must also clearly set out the prices and charges associated with the contract and indicate whether these charges include taxes.
  • No cancellation fees after two years
    • Customers must be able to cancel their contract at any time by notifying their service provider and the customer must not be charged any fees other than the cancellation fee outlined in their contract.
    • Even if you sign a contract that is longer than two years (to receive a special discount or “lock in” at a certain price, for example), you are legally able to cancel your contract after two years and the provider is not able to charge you any cancellation fees.
  • Caps on roaming charges
    • All service providers must place a cap of $100 per monthly billing cycle on data roaming charges
    • This means that, once you reach a total of $100 in national and international data roaming charges within a single monthly billing cycle, your service provider must suspend your service to prevent additional charges.
    • The account holder (you) is the only one who can consent to additional charges unless you have expressly authorized another person to do so.
  • No fees to unlock phones
    • As of December 1, 2017, all mobile devices purchased from a wireless provider must be unlocked free of charge, upon request.
    • All new mobile devices sold after December 1, 2017 must be sold unlocked.
  • Warranties
    • Service providers must inform customers of the existence and duration of the manufacturer’s warranty on a device before offering an extended warranty.
  • Trial period
    • Also effective as of December 1, 2017, customers are able to return their phone to the wireless provider free of charge within 15 days of signing the contract. This is to give you the option to cancel your contract without penalty if you are not happy with the service.
    • However, you must not have used more than 50% of your monthly usage during this trial period and the device must be returned in near-new condition, including original packaging.

If you feel that your service provider is not following the Wireless Code, you should first attempt to resolve the issue with the provider directly. If this attempt is not successful, you can file a complaint with the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services (CCTS).