B.C. to study billing transparency, fairness in cellphone contracts; BC Liberals slam Horgan and NDP

Mike Farnworth

FRUSTRATED by the lack of transparency in cellphone bills – from clarity about fees to the absence of plain language that makes contracts confusing – consumers want to see changes, and the government says it is looking for information to help.

The Province has launched a public questionnaire inviting British Columbians to share their views and experiences regarding cellphone contracts. The goal is to identify ways to promote transparency and fairness and aid government in reviewing B.C.’s current consumer protection laws. This public survey also gauges an individual’s knowledge about their rights under the federal Wireless Code.

“Cellphones are a part of everyday life and people deserve to understand where their money is going and have tools to make informed choices about their cellphone services,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “We will also use the results to advocate for British Columbians’ concerns to the federal government and encourage the delivery of more flexible, transparent and affordable cellphone options in B.C.”

The survey runs from May 29 until July 5 and takes up to approximately 15 minutes to complete. Stakeholders groups and the telecom industry will also be invited to participate in the engagement. The results of the public engagement will be summarized and included in a public report.

“This survey will provide valuable insights to government on what issues British Columbians have when it comes to cellphone contracts and billing, and what actions the Province can take,” said Bob D’Eith, MLA for Maple Ridge-Mission. “My hope is that we hear from British Columbians from all over the province so the data provides a complete picture of cellphone contract and billing experiences.”

This action government is taking on cellphones is part of ongoing work to provide informed consumer protection changes in B.C. that recently include:

* protecting financially vulnerable people by changing the rules on payday and high-cost loans via the Consumer Financial Protection Action Plan; and,

* regulating live-event ticket sales to help provide an even playing field between fans and ticket selling businesses.


Quick Facts:

* 92% of British Columbians have at least one cellphone in their household, versus 59.3% having a landline.

* Cellphone use as a primary communications device is on the rise: Canada-wide in 2017, 36% of households reported having only a cellphone and no landline, compared with 15.5% of households in 2012.

* The federal government is responsible for regulating telecommunications in Canada. Provinces have jurisdiction over contracts and consumer protection.

* Established in 2013 and updated in 2017, the federal Wireless Code provides consumers with a number of rights, including plain language contracts and the ability to cancel a contract at no cost after two years.


Complete the survey here: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/cellphonebilling


Jas Johal

MEANWHILE, the BC Liberals slammed Premier John Horgan and the NDP for “more studies, no action.”

“The NDP promised to address cell phone bills in its February Throne Speech, yet waited until the very end of May to announce a useless survey on the issue,” said Jas Johal, BC Liberal Co-Critic for Jobs, Tourism and Technology and MLA for Richmond-Queensborough. “They’ve said the survey will help give them insight into what actions the Province can take, which tells me they simply don’t know what they’re doing.”

Horgan and the NDP’s failure to come up with ideas and take action just adds to the affordability woes of British Columbians, said the BC Liberals.

“Whether its costly cell phone bills, skyrocketing gas prices, or rising ICBC and hydro rates— life isn’t getting any easier for hard-working British Columbians,” said Greg Kyllo, BC Liberal Co-Critic for Jobs, Tourism and Technology and MLA for Shuswap. “Affordability was a key promise made by John Horgan and the NDP, and all they’ve shown they know how to do is order study after study. They are clearly stalling, and British Columbians can see right through it.”

Johal and Kyllo also noted that cell phone billing is a matter of federal jurisdiction, and the CRTC is already doing this work. They said Horgan continues to waste taxpayer dollars on expensive studies to create the illusion he is doing something.