OTTAWA (CUP)—To help consumers avoid surprises on their cell phone bills, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is looking to develop a national and mandatory code for providers to follow. After requests from Rogers and Telus, the CRTC is also asking the public to provide input, having received over 700 online responses so far.

“What we’re consulting Canadians about is the specific language and things that could be in that code,” says Denis Carmel, spokesperson for the CRTC. “We don’t have a spelled out code at this point in time and that’s why we want the code developed.”

The code would be a national set of rules for mobile service providers to follow, touching on issues such as contract cancellation fees and accurate advertising prices, among others.

“It’s mostly about providing the tools for consumers to understand what they’re paying for, like termination costs and what happens if your cell phone is stolen and the costs and charges associated with that,” Carmel says. “All these issues have to be spelled out clearly…so the consumer knows what he or she is getting into.”

Carly Suppa-Clark, senior manager of public affairs at Rogers, said that the provider is already doing a lot of the things it outlined in their proposal to the CRTC.

“Rogers took the initiative to actually draft the code earlier this year as a starting point to help define a single set of national standards,” she says. “These standards would make it easier for Canadian consumers to do business with service providers in every part of the country.”

Suppa-Clark said Roger’s began to provide services such as mobile phone unlocking, all-in pricing in advertising, and alerts to notify customers of charges. Carmel said another reason why the code should be developed is to avoid a mosaic of regulations across the provinces. “If there’s a law in a specific province…our code would not make that void, it would be a superposition of that code,” he says, adding that Manitoba and Québec already have their own mobile phone regulations.

Steward Lyons, president and chief operating officer for Mobilicity, said it’s important that the CRTC follows through with regulating mobile service providers and making the code mandatory. He added that a national code is necessary and Mobilicity will likely be submitting its own suggestions to the CRTC.

Public comments can be submitted on the CRTC website until Nov. 20. After that a new phase of feedback collection will begin.

“There will be another method for people to give their input and encourage dialogue,” Carmel says. “We are going a little further this time [in asking the public for input] because it’s strictly a consumer issue. From a regulatory standpoint it’s nice to understand the issue and frankly we are not confronted on a daily basis with the challenge of negotiating and getting what you pay for.”

Public hearings on the issue will take place in Jan. in Gatineau, with only those who provided their input being allowed to attend. Carmel said the code will be in place by summer 2013 if all goes smoothly.

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