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CRTC Ruling Bans Locked Cell Phones and Unlocking Fees

CRTC Ruling Bans Locked Cell Phones and Unlocking Fees

By Simon Hung

It’ll soon be easier to switch wireless carriers, because the CRTC has announced updates to their Wireless Code that will put an end to the sale of locked cell phones and unlocking fees.

Effective December 1, 2017, customers with an individual or small business plan will have the right to have smartphones and other mobile devices unlocked free of charge upon request. In addition, all new devices sold in Canada must be unlocked as of the same date.

Currently, most phones purchased from major carriers are locked to one network, meaning you cannot swap carriers without unlocking the device, a service that most carriers provide at a surcharge. This is great news for frequent travellers or anyone looking to switch carriers, since you’ll now be able to use your existing phone on any network without hassle.

All smartphones sold in Canada after December 1, 2017 must be unlocked.

The CRTC also ruled that unhappy customers during a trial period can opt out of their contract within 15 days, as long as they return their device in near-new condition and less than half of the monthly usage limits have been used. Carriers are also prohibited from changing key terms of a contract including voice, text and data.

In addition, it’ll be easier for parents to manage data usage on family or shared plans, as the CRTC also ruled that the account owner must consent to any data overages beyond established caps, effective immediately. Previously, it was possible for anyone on a shared plan to authorize data overages -- a CBC Marketplace investigation in 2016 found that even minors could authorize data overages, which could result in exorbitant fees.

It remains to be seen how major carriers will adapt to these changes, as unlocking fees alone generated $37.7 million in revenue for carriers in 2016. Nonetheless, the changes are considered a big win for consumers, as the rulings will give wireless customers more control and flexibility with their devices and services in the future.

39 Comments

    • Nice. That's some good news.
    • Report Post
    • summary from what i understood. for consumer and small business. not for corporate plans.

      CRTC said that WCOC cap is per account , irrespective of devices on account. effective immediately.
      Some changes to return policy. ( usage should be less that half of monthly quota. now, all new activation are prorated, so not sure how it will impact.
      And making locking devices illegal. and users can request unlocking for free.

      link from CRTC

      https://www.canada.ca/en/radio-televisi ... gfees.html
    • Report Post
    • Holy crap just saw that they made $37.7 million in unlocking fees?

      Robellus wants to keep the fees for anti-theft purposes, but the real crime is them robbing Canadians of almost $40 million!
    • Report Post
    • too bad it isn't valid from today on. Also wondering if applicable to corporate plans. They tend to follow suit.
    • Report Post
    • alanbrenton wrote:
      Jun 15th, 2017 4:15 pm
      Nice. That's some good news.
      Not for me.. LOL!
    • Report Post
    • After all these decisions by the CRTC to "help" the consumer, the carriers will find a way to screw us over.
      - This elimination of 3 year contracts
    • Report Post
    • rsxmachine wrote:
      Jun 15th, 2017 4:36 pm
      too bad it isn't valid from today on. Also wondering if applicable to corporate plans. They tend to follow suit.
      consumer and small business plans only for now.
    • Report Post
    • Wow. That's a game changer. Also, it get's rid of the vast majority of the unlocking industry in Canada and may make buying locked phones from abroad less desirable. I wonder if phone prices or plans will go up to compensate for the lost unlocking revenue.
    • Report Post
    • mobifree wrote:
      Jun 15th, 2017 4:40 pm
      Not for me.. LOL!
      I actually thought about unlocking services too but yeah, that isn't good news for them at all.

      At least the Big 3 will not have to run unlocking code servers any longer (not sure if that's how it works)?
    • Report Post
    • DiceMan wrote:
      Jun 15th, 2017 4:44 pm
      Wow. That's a game changer. Also, it get's rid of the vast majority of the unlocking industry in Canada and may make buying locked phones from abroad less desirable. I wonder if phone prices or plans will go up to compensate for the lost unlocking revenue.
      I'm guessing that's a rhetorical question.
    • Report Post
    • desi_mtl_dude wrote:
      Jun 15th, 2017 4:41 pm
      consumer and small business plans only for now.
      Ya but I have a feeling the corp plans for individuals who pay will be included.
    • Report Post
    • I'm gonna argue that this is BAD for the consumer.

      Why? There will be way fewer deals on off contract / prepaid phones. No carrier is gonna sell a phone anymore without forcing you to sign up for their plan. The deals already suck in Canada compared to the USA. I enjoyed getting good deals on prepaid phones at Superstore, Walmart etc. and paying $3 to unlock them. That's over now.

      Who does this screw over the most? The poor, who are most likely to have to rely on prepaid phone services, and will pay higher prices for their off contract devices. Many of these people cannot pass a credit check to get a subsidized device through a post paid carrier.

      Thanks CRTC for your misguided interference in the marketplace AGAIN.
    • Report Post
    • Kurtz7834 wrote:
      Jun 15th, 2017 5:11 pm
      ....Who does this screw over the most? The poor...
      This doesn't matter to the RFD community.

      Our poverty line is high 90K high school emerging salaries..and that's nightschool high school equivalencies.

      The rest of us multimillionaire (average RFD'ers) can afford it.
    • Report Post
    • This is good news in that we dont have to go to shady stores to unlock our phones. But this is bad news because big telecoms are just going to pass the $37 million to the consumer. most likely to see rates go up by $5 i would say.

      whats interesting to see is how freedom mobile and new guys will react to this. they might benefit from this greatly.
    • Report Post
    • So even if my locked phone was purchased 3 years ago, I can ask my carrier to unlock it for free after Dec 1?

      What if I am not the original owner? (e.g. I purchased used locked phone from eBay company and RFD'er.)
    • Report Post
    • This is good news, it should make things easier for new prepaid customers who want to choose their unlocked phone and expand the Canadian unlocked phone marketplace.
    • Report Post
    • Kurtz7834 wrote:
      Jun 15th, 2017 5:11 pm
      I'm gonna argue that this is BAD for the consumer.

      Why? There will be way fewer deals on off contract / prepaid phones. No carrier is gonna sell a phone anymore without forcing you to sign up for their plan. The deals already suck in Canada compared to the USA. I enjoyed getting good deals on prepaid phones at Superstore, Walmart etc. and paying $3 to unlock them. That's over now.

      Who does this screw over the most? The poor, who are most likely to have to rely on prepaid phone services, and will pay higher prices for their off contract devices. Many of these people cannot pass a credit check to get a subsidized device through a post paid carrier.

      Thanks CRTC for your misguided interference in the marketplace AGAIN.
      It's true. You could get crazy discounted phones on pre-paid just because they're carrier-locked. No more of this :'(

      I figure the incentives for activating on post-paid will lessen, as well.
    • Report Post
    • Sounds like now until November 30 is the best time to by a prepaid phone then? :)
    • Report Post
    • mobifree wrote:
      Jun 15th, 2017 4:40 pm
      Not for me.. LOL!
      I have to buy a Samsung S7 soon. So I still need you to unlock one more for me.
    • Report Post
    • alanbrenton wrote:
      Jun 15th, 2017 5:52 pm
      Sounds like now until November 30 is the best time to by a prepaid phone then? :)
      Yup, because there's no way that Robellus is gonna subsidize a prepaid device anymore if you can just pull it out of the box and use it with another carrier, without even having to unlock.
    • Report Post
    • scoper wrote:
      Jun 15th, 2017 5:43 pm
      This is good news, it should make things easier for new prepaid customers who want to choose their unlocked phone and expand the Canadian unlocked phone marketplace.
      You're missing the point. There WILL be fewer prepaid phones available AND the prices will increase on prepaid phones. This definitely makes things HARDER for prepaid customers.

      Bell Rogers Telus will absolutely not wanna sell unlocked prepaid devices, especially on any good / midrange phone. Say goodbye to stuff like the $129 Moto G4 Play.
    • Report Post
    • alanbrenton wrote:
      Jun 15th, 2017 6:09 pm
      People have been buying these prepaid phones? I'd rather keep the Note 4 I bought used. I will be waiting for the little loved prepaid phones from Wind.

      http://www.bestbuy.ca/en-ca/category/pr ... ortDir=asc
      Yes, prepaid phones are often the best option for quick emergency device, loaner phone etc. Lots of people who do not wanna have to sign up for a new plan just to buy a cell phone.
    • Report Post
    • Worth noting ...

      " ....once a customer has paid off a device subsidy, typically spread over a two-year period"
    • Report Post
    • MikeVTO wrote:
      Jun 15th, 2017 6:12 pm
      Worth noting ...

      " ....once a customer has paid off a device subsidy, typically spread over a two-year period"
      That's the other thing. What about the millions of existing devices floating out there that are off contract / prepaid, and still locked. Does Bell have to unlock a Bell-locked iPhone for a non-Bell customer, for free? Nothing is made clear.

      Another sh*tty CRTC policy that hasn't been thought out.
    • Report Post
    • This is terrible news for ALL Canadian wireless subscribers to appease a small handful of loud Canadian wireless subscribers.

      This is reminiscent of the 3yr contract elimination from a few years ago. Most Canadians were screwed with the elimination of the 3yr contract because of a few morons who wanted to eliminate the 3yr contract.

      The carriers are not a charity, and are ruthless. They will make their money someway, somehow.

      Prior to the CRTC eliminating 3yr contract, most Canadians can get FLAGSHIP phones for $0-$200 (max) on a plan that didn't exceed $60/month (included upto 6 gigs of data, and sufficient minutes).

      Today a 6GB plan and a flag ship phone cost $120/month + $300-$700 upfront cost.

      Fast forward to this decision to make unlocking "FREE", $50 to unlock your phone works out to just over $2/month. If history repeats itself, and no reason to think it won't, the carriers WILL increase EVERYONE'S monthly plan by at least $5/month when it's time for renewal.
    • Report Post
    • I don't think the rising monthly costs relate to just these contracts / unlocking fees.

      It's probably more to do with carriers just wanting to raise the rates on everything. Phone lines and cable TV costs have gone up considerably and there are no unlocking fees associated with those and contracts are only 1 to 2-years long. The contracts and unlock fees are just a few reasons to reduce churn because it's almost always costlier to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one. The loyalty department often have the leeway to provide discounts for those threatening to leave anyway so the publicly available monthly fees are probably inferior to what some subscribers get when they go for a renewal.

      I bet the rates would have gone up even if the 3 or even 5-year contracts and unlock fees were around.

      I would take this as a positive but I usually buy my phones unlocked on ebay.com anyway and tend to keep them for a long time.


      I wonder what CRTC will decide on blacklisting of phones, haha.
    • Report Post
    • mobifree wrote:
      Jun 15th, 2017 6:19 pm
      This is terrible news for ALL Canadian wireless subscribers to appease a small handful of loud Canadian wireless subscribers.

      This is reminiscent of the 3yr contract elimination from a few years ago. Most Canadians were screwed with the elimination of the 3yr contract because of a few morons who wanted to eliminate the 3yr contract.

      The carriers are not a charity, and are ruthless. They will make their money someway, somehow.

      Prior to the CRTC eliminating 3yr contract, most Canadians can get FLAGSHIP phones for $0-$200 (max) on a plan that didn't exceed $60/month (included upto 6 gigs of data, and sufficient minutes).

      Today a 6GB plan and a flag ship phone cost $120/month + $300-$700 upfront cost.

      Fast forward to this decision to make unlocking "FREE", $50 to unlock your phone works out to just over $2/month. If history repeats itself, and no reason to think it won't, the carriers WILL increase EVERYONE'S monthly plan by at least $5/month when it's time for renewal.
      Although I realize you have a business interest in saying this, I gotta agree with you. The CRTC doesn't understand the implications of the laws it creates.
    • Report Post
    • Kurtz7834 wrote:
      Jun 15th, 2017 6:29 pm
      Although I realize you have a business interest in saying this, I gotta agree with you. The CRTC doesn't understand the implications of the laws it creates.
      Business wise, I'm royally pissed, no doubt. It's cutting into my revenue.
      On a consumer level, with 6 different monthly cell phones that I'm paying, I'm afraid I'll see a significant increase in my monthly bills along with the cost of the phone will potentially rise.

      Unless you're buying a Google device, where do most people buy their phones? The carrier.
      Even if you decide to buy your phone outright, you still have to come back to the carrier to use said phone.
      Unless one of the carriers are willing to go rogue and cut prices in hopes of stealing customers from the other carriers, the prices will remain unchanged and you'll have your synchronized price increases as you already.
      And now the price of the phones will go up the same way.
    • Report Post
    • Kurtz7834 wrote:
      Jun 15th, 2017 6:29 pm
      Although I realize you have a business interest in saying this, I gotta agree with you. The CRTC doesn't understand the implications of the laws it creates.
      They might have short term implications on jacking up the outright prices and maybe monthly, but on a long term, with the mobility barrier removed, carriers will be forced to compete on monthly plans, their primary product. Consumers just need to wise up and stop buying into "free" phones and do the legwork to compare and switch.

      Unlocking businesses are basically just the guy selling lube when the Big 3 are going in dry, so they get no pity from me. It's a business that should not have existed in the first place, much like those bottomfeeders helping people sign on to out-of-province plans and charging people $100 for it.
    • Report Post
    • ToniCipriani wrote:
      Jun 15th, 2017 6:45 pm
      They might have short term implications on jacking up the outright prices and maybe monthly, but on a long term, with the mobility barrier removed, carriers will be forced to compete on monthly plans, their primary product. Consumers just need to wise up and stop buying into "free" phones and do the legwork to compare and switch.

      Unlocking businesses are basically just the guy selling lube when the Big 3 are going in dry, so they get no pity from me. It's a business that should not have existed in the first place, much like those bottomfeeders helping people sign on to out-of-province plans and charging people $100 for it.
      You must be new to Canada if you seriously think the Big 3 are going to reduce prices. This is just another excuse for them to jack prices.
      Just look at the net effect of all other CRTC ruling recently. It's always been negative for the consumer.
      Because 800,000 or so customers paid $50 for unlocking, 25M customers are going to get royally screwed over.
    • Report Post
    • Kurtz7834 wrote:
      Jun 15th, 2017 6:09 pm
      You're missing the point. There WILL be fewer prepaid phones available AND the prices will increase on prepaid phones. This definitely makes things HARDER for prepaid customers.

      Bell Rogers Telus will absolutely not wanna sell unlocked prepaid devices, especially on any good / midrange phone. Say goodbye to stuff like the $129 Moto G4 Play.
      I disagree, making it free to unlock phones means more availability of prepaid phones, granted it may be primarily in the secondary market, customers will just pick and choose the prepaid plan of their choice without necessarily buying a new phone from the plan providers. I don't care whether the big guys want to sell unlocked prepaid, I want those types of phones more available and they will be whether they like it or not.
    • Report Post
    • Everyone wants the latest iPhone S7, Galaxy S8 or LG G6 but don't want to pay $1000+ upfront. I'm not saying it's right to live beyond your means.. But that's western society in 2017.

      Very few people buy phones outright. This tiny minority is going to benefit, while 95% of Canadians will suffer.

      Just like the 3yr contract elimination.
    • Report Post
    • Wondering if those who already has a locked phone (like for 2 months) ill still have to pay the fee
    • Report Post
    • scoper wrote:
      Jun 15th, 2017 7:05 pm
      I disagree, making it free to unlock phones means more availability of prepaid phones, granted it may be primarily in the secondary market, customers will just pick and choose the prepaid plan of their choice without necessarily buying a new phone from the plan providers. I don't care whether the big guys want to sell unlocked prepaid, I want those types of phones more available and they will be whether they like it or not.
      You're missing the point completely.
      Where do these affordable phones comes from? They're originally sold by the carrier. Their original intent is to sell it to a customer who's going to use it on their network, and majority do use it on their network.
      Obviously the typical RFD crowd unlocks the phone and love the mobility of porting carrier to carrier.
      Now that there's virtually no guarantee that a customer (who currently is ignorant to the fact that they can unlock their Moto G play for under $3) will remain with TELUS Prepaid, there's no reason for TELUS to sell those low-mid tier phones at those prices.
    • Report Post
    • Rip to "most" unlocking sellers & ebay resellers. I knew people who made a living just off unlocks and minor repairs. 41000 to unlock an iphone is criminal.
      There will still be a market to unlock foreign phones.
    • Report Post