Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

MTS boss OK with CRTC cell code

If it doesn't depart from provincial law

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OTTAWA -- A proposed wireless code of conduct for cellphone providers is mostly acceptable to MTS Allstream as long as it doesn't go in a different direction from existing provincial consumer-protection laws, the company's president said Friday.

Kelvin Shepherd presented at Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission hearings on the CRTC's proposed wireless code of conduct in Gatineau, Que., Friday.

The combined company is MTS Allstream, but in Manitoba the wireless business is under the MTS division. Pierre Blouin is CEO of MTS Allstream; Shepherd is president of the MTS division and Dean Prevost President of Allstream.

The CRTC aims to improve protections for wireless customers on issues such as extra fees and information provided to customers about their bills. The proposed code would require plain language used in contracts, the right of a customer to cancel his or her contract without penalty if the terms of the contract are changed, and limits on fees charged to end a contract early.

"Largely we're in agreement with the direction the CRTC is proposing with the wireless code," Shepherd told the Free Press.

However, Manitoba is one of several provinces to already have laws or regulations in place protecting consumers from exorbitant fees for cellphones.

Manitoba's Consumer Protection Act passed in 2011. Among its provisions were limiting the fees for cancelling a phone contract to the value of the phone and time remaining on the contract, and preventing companies from changing the terms of a contract unless that term benefits the customer.

Shepherd said it cost MTS Allstream about $1 million to implement the act, a lot of which went to training sales staff.

He said if a new national wireless code comes in that is different, the training will have to be done all over again and confusion could take hold.

Shepherd told the CRTC hearings the national code works as long as it adds on to existing provincial laws but doesn't directly differ from them.

"The core of what the CRTC is proposing is closely aligned with (the Manitoba Consumer Protection Act)," said Shepherd. "We would find it challenging, and consumers would find it challenging, to deal with two different codes that aren't aligned," he said.

The proposed wireless code says it should be interpreted to always benefit the consumer and will not override any protections provided by provincial laws or regulations.

One area MTS does take issue with is the suggestion that companies cap additional fees, such as roaming and data charges, to $50, before the customer's services are suspended. The idea is to prevent customers from getting huge, unexpected bills. Shepherd said $50 is too low and would result in consumers being inconvenienced when their phones suddenly don't work.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 16, 2013 B6


Updated on Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 10:52 AM CST: Changes headline to read "MTS boss"

11:30 AM: adds paragraph clarifying the separate divisions and presidents within MTS Allstream

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