ARCHIVED - Telecom Commission Letter Addressed to Barry Chapman (Bell Mobility Inc.)

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Ottawa, 14 August 2014                                                          

Our references: 8665-C12-201212448

BY EMAIL

Mr. Barry Chapman
Vice President
Regulatory Affairs
Bell Mobility Inc.
bell.regulatory@bell.ca

RE:  Wireless Code Implementation – Compliance Reports – Action Required

Dear Mr. Chapman:

This letter is to inform you that it appears to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (the Commission) that your company, Bell Mobility Inc. (Bell), has made most, but not all, of the necessary changes to its contracts, policies, and procedures to implement the Wireless Code (the Code). The Commission appreciates your company’s efforts to implement the Code on time. However, the Commission considers that there are one or more remaining issues that your company must resolve in order to fully and appropriately implement the Code. Bell is required to respond to the Commission’s concerns, set out in more detail below, by 22 August 2014. In your letter you should explain whether you have taken the actions directed by the Commission in this letter in order to come into full compliance with the Code.

The Commission intends to publish a report for consumers in August 2014 that summarizes the results of the Wireless Code implementation process, including the information submitted by your company in your Wireless Code compliance reports and in response to follow-up correspondence, including this letter. If your company demonstrates in its response to this letter that it has made the necessary changes to fully implement the Code, the Commission’s upcoming report will reflect this.

The requirement to implement the Wireless Code

In The Wireless Code Policy.Footnote 1, the Commission established the Wireless Code, a new mandatory code of conduct for providers of retail mobile wireless voice and data services (wireless services). The Wireless Code applies to all wireless services provided to individual and small business consumers in all provinces and territories regardless of the status and business models of the wireless service provider (WSP).

As required by paragraph 377 of the Wireless Code Policy, WSPs filed reports with the Commission in January 2014 detailing how they have implemented the Wireless Code.Footnote 2.

Commission staff reviewed these reports and, on 22 May 2014 and 6 June 2014, issued letters to follow up with certain companies to seek clarification on specific issues in these reports. Your company filed a response on 29 May 2014.

Specific issues to be resolved

Based on the above-mentioned reports and correspondence, it appears that your company needs to address the following issues to fully and appropriately implement the Code:

In section G. of the Wireless Code, Contract cancellation and extension, the Commission required wireless carriers, including Bell, to provide a trial period to customers when they sign up for a new contract. Specifically:

“(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.

(iv)  During the trial period, customers may cancel their contract without penalty or early cancellation fee if they have:

  1. used less than the permitted usage; and
  2. returned any device provided by the service provider, in near-new condition, including original packaging.

(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.” [Emphasis added]

The contract sample you provided with your Wireless Code implementation report indicated that customers may have to pay a restocking fee if they avail themselves of the trial period.

In a letter dated 22 May 2014, Commission staff sought clarification on this point and asked Bell to explain how it considered that its approach was consistent with the requirement set out in the Wireless Code.

In a letter dated 29 May 2014, Bell replied that “While each of the Bell Entities' respective terms of service reference a potential device restocking fee being applicable when a customer returns their device during the trial period, none of the Bell-related companies actually charges such fee. Accordingly, the Bell Entities have consistently satisfied the trial period requirements set out in the Wireless Code since it took effect on 2 December 2013. Within the short timeframe that the Wireless Code has been in force, the Bell Entities have been gathering information to better determine what, if any, recovery costs may be associated with devices that are returned during the trial period. To the extent any of us may determine there is a need to recover underlying costs associated with device returns during the trial period, we would, of course, do so in a manner fully compliant with the Wireless Code's trial period requirements, including, by disclosing such a fee in plain language, with full transparency to each customer and by ensuring that any restocking fee is not punitive nor in any way representative of an early termination charge.” [Emphasis added]

The Commission hereby clarifies for Bell that where the Wireless Code states “(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” that “penalty” should be read to include a “restocking fee” or other similar fee. As a result, a customer could not be charged a penalty, including a restocking fee, if they have met conditions (a) and (b) referenced above.

Action Required

The Commission considers that Bell needs to do the following in order to fully implement the Code:

Pursuant to section 37(2) of the Telecommunications Act, the Commission hereby directs Bell to file a response by 22 August 2014, demonstrating that it has changed its trial period policies as set out above.

If Bell fails to take the action required by 22 August 2014, the Commission may take further steps to enforce its requirement.

Should you have any questions regarding the above matter, please contact Nanao Kachi at 819-997-4700.

Procedural information

This letter and all subsequent correspondence form part of a public record. As set out in Broadcasting and Telecom Information Bulletin 2010-961, Procedures for filing confidential information and requesting its disclosure in Commission proceedings, WSPs may designate certain information as confidential. WSPs must provide an abridged version of the document involved, accompanied by a detailed rationale to explain why the disclosure of the information is not in the public interest.

All submissions are to be made in accordance with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Rules of Practice and Procedure, SOR/2010-277.Footnote 3

Sincerely,

ORIGINAL SIGNED BY

John Traversy
Secretary General

c.c.: nanao.kachi@crtc.gc.ca

Footnote 1

Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2013-271, 3 June 2013, CRTC File number 8665-C12-201212448.

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Footnote 2

https://services.crtc.gc.ca/pub/DocWebBroker/OpenDocument.aspx?Key=62279&Type=Notice

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Footnote 3

http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-2010-277/index.html

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