Law Talk

Cell Phone Contracts: Friend or Foe?

 

 

Law Talk

September, 2013

Cell Phone Contracts: Friend or Foe?

Cellular telephone contracts are often standard-form agreements that cannot easily be negotiated. Once you sign a contract with a provider you often find yourself locked-in for an extended period of time with little room to cancel or make changes to the contract. There are options however, and here is what you need to know if you run into problems with your service provider.

Cancelling a Cell Phone Contract: What Are My Options?

Generally, if you wish to cancel your contract before your service term is complete you will have to pay a cancellation fee. The amount of the fee will be found in your contract, either as a lump sum or as a monthly payment you must make for each remaining month of your contract.

There are two situations in which you may be able to cancel your contract without paying a fee. The first is if your provider did not comply with the requirements of Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act, 2002 (CPA) with regard to your contract. For example, the CPA requires certain information to appear in the contract, including the name and address of the service provider and an accurate description of the services to be provided. If any of the required items are missing, you may be able to cancel your contract within one year of having signed it, without a cancellation fee. You may also have the right to cancel without a fee if you signed a contract with a provider who made a false representation to you about any of its services, or pushed you into signing the contract.

Second, you may cancel your cellular contract without paying a fee if a service provider has failed to deliver your cellular telephone to you, or has failed to activate your cellular account, within 30 days of you having signed the service contract.

Making a Complaint About a Service Provider

If you have a complaint regarding your provider, you should first try to contact them to see if they can help you. You should gather all relevant documents, such as your contract, past bills, and proof of payments made to the provider. When you speak with an agent of the service provider, make a note of the person’s name, the date of your call, and the details of your conversation. If you are not satisfied with the solution offered, clearly say so. It is important to continue making payments while you are trying to resolve the problem, or the provider could report your failure to pay and damage your credit rating.

If you cannot reach a satisfactory solution with the provider and feel that the provider has violated the CPA, you may file a complaint with Ontario’s Ministry of Consumer Services. The Ministry will investigate the matter and may require the provider to comply with the CPA.  You can find a complaint form and sample complaint and cancellation letters on the Ministry’s website at http://www.sse.gov.on.ca/mcs/en/Pages/default.aspx.

Another option is to contact the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS), a non-profit organization which receives, investigates, and attempts to resolve complaints about its member organizations. While not all cellular providers are members of the CCTS, the majority of the major service providers are. The CCTS will try to resolve issues related to member compliance with service contracts, billing issues, and service delivery issues. More information about filing a complaint can be found on the CCTS website at: http://www.ccts-cprst.ca/complaints/other-resources.

If your complaint against your provider is still unresolved, you may sue your provider in Small Claims Court, which hears breaches of contract, misrepresentation, and negligence claims of up to $25,000 in damages. Though you can hire a lawyer if you wish, you are free to represent yourself at Small Claims Court, and filing fees are minimal. The Ministry of the Attorney General has extensive resource guides for Small Claims Court on its website at: http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/courts/scc/default.asp.

For more information on consumer rights, complaints and cancellations related to cellular telephone contracts, please visit the Ministry of Consumer Services website or contact them at 1-800-889-9768. In addition, you can find more information about consumer protection topics at any time in a series of Community Law School webinars archived online at www.yourlegalrights.on.ca/training-topic/consumer-law. Be empowered, and stay tuned.

This column is brought to you by Community Law School (Sarnia-Lambton) Inc., and Community Legal Services and Pro Bono Students Canada at Western University, with funding support from the Law Foundation of Ontario. It provides legal information only.  The information is accurate as of the date of publication. Laws change frequently so we caution readers from relying on this information if some time has passed since publication. If you need specific legal advice please contact a lawyer, your community legal clinic, Justice Net at 1-866-919-3219 or the Law Society Referral Service at 1-800-268-8326.


 

This column provides legal information only and is produced by the students of Community Legal Services and Pro Bono Students Canada (UWO). The information in this article is accurate as of the date of publication. If you need legal advice please contact a lawyer, community legal clinic or the Lawyer Referral Service at 1-900-565-4LRS.

Last edited: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 @ 6:54 PM