On the eve of the first anniversary of the national Wireless Code, the DiversityCanada Foundation and National Pensioners Federation have jointly petitioned the Harper Government to overturn a provision which they say allows phone companies to seize over $138 million per year from consumers without justification.
The petition, submitted today to the Governor in Council (the Governor General as advised by the Prime Minister and Cabinet), calls for the quashing of the section of the Wireless Code that permits Bell, Rogers, Telus and other wireless providers to place expiry dates on cash held in the accounts of 3.7 million prepaid wireless consumers.
The Wireless Code was introduced on June 03 of last year by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to offer greater protection for cell phone consumers. But DiversityCanada and the NPF have long pointed out that the Wireless Code fails the most vulnerable consumers, such as seniors, youth and minimum-wage workers who use wireless services on a prepaid, pay-per-use basis.
“We’ve protested this injustice before the CRTC since the Wireless Code was released,” said Celia Sankar, executive director of the DiversityCanada Foundation. “However, the CRTC has bent over backwards to protect the wireless companies. Now, we have no choice but to ask the Harper Government to step in, and to truly put consumers first by stopping big telecom companies from grabbing cash from the accounts of pensioners and other vulnerable Canadians and claiming that the money ‘expired’.”
The petition states that the CRTC breached its duty of procedural fairness by ignoring evidence that prepaid wireless accounts accounts hold cash, and by failing to explain the legal basis on which it decided to permit the phone companies to seize this cash from consumers’ accounts.
“Pensioners are on fixed incomes, so every dollar counts,” said Herb John, president of the National Pensioners Federation. “Aging Canadians want to
see responsible action from the Government to protect the funds of prepaid wireless consumers.”
The petition points out that as of May 1 this year, the Harper Government banned banks from placing expiry dates on the cash held in so-called
prepaid credit card accounts, and requests that wireless providers be similarly restricted.
By law, the Governor in Council must make a decision on the petition by March 04, 2015.