Prepaid Wireless Services: protection from bill shock?


Ioana Delapeta


Union des consommateurs




To improve the consumer protection measures benefiting wireless services (WS) customers, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) adopted the Wireless Code in 2013. But the Code treats postpaid services and prepaid services differently.

Union des consomateurs’ (UC) research attempted to answer the following questions: Are existing protections in the wireless sector adequate for prepaid services, or are users of those services, who are less affluent in many cases, neglected? Are consumers adequately informed about the options of those services or about the circumstances that could entail nasty surprises? How do prepaid WS providers meet their obligations?

In addition to the Wireless Code, Canadian consumers are protected by consumer protection laws in certain circumstances. In the majority of existing regulatory frameworks, both federally and provincially, the legislative instruments have focused on consumer information. So Union des consommateurs (CU) focussed mainly on the issue of information dissemination.

UC’s report draws a brief portrait of the Canadian market of wireless services, and identifies the various complaints of consumers using prepaid wireless services. UC also identifies the legislative measures for disclosing information likely to apply to WS. An overview of the regulatory framework of prepaid WS abroad (the United States, Australia, France, the United Kingdom) enabled UC to compare the Canadian regulatory framework with existing measures abroad. Lastly, a field survey enabled UC to verify how contracts and their terms are disclosed to the prepaid wireless consumer, as well as their level of compliance with the legal and regulatory framework.

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OCA Funded Research
This research received funding support through the Office of Consumer Affairs' Contributions Program.

Contact information

Union des consommateurs
7000 Parc Ave, Suite 201
Montreal, QC  H3N 1X1
(514) 521-6820
(514) 521-0736

Source: Consumer Policy Research Database

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