Rogers, TELUS and Bell Lose Legal Challenge to CRTC Wireless Code

Rogers, TELUS and Bell, along with SaskTel and MTS joined together back in the summer of 2013 to challenge parts of the freshly announced CRTC Wireless Code.

Basically, customers that signed three year contracts back in 2013 prior to the Code being implemented (later that year) would be able to leave their contracts after two years, which also meant not paying any remaining hardware subsidies (or cancellation fees), thusly leaving carriers to foot the bill. The document filed in court at the time read:

“The application of the Wireless Code to those contracts that terminate after 3 June 2015 is uncertain. This uncertainty has led and will lead to confusion in the marketplace, which will only be resolved once this motion is determined and, if leave to appeal is granted, the appeal is heard and a decision is rendered,”

These customers on three year contracts, as of June 3, 2015, will be able to walk away from their terms and not pay any remaining hardware subsidies or cancellation fees. This group, coupled with customers coming off fresh two-year contracts are being dubbed the ‘double cohort’ by the wireless industry, as companies will be fighting hard to sign up these new ‘free agents’.

The Globe and Mail reports tonight the Federal Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the CRTC today and dropped the challenge put forth by carriers.

Justice Denis Pelletier, writing for the unanimous three-member panel, found the code did apply retroactively to contractual rights already entered into before the code came into effect.

However, he found the CRTC’s decision to interpret its governing legislation in such a way that gave it the right to make the code retroactively effective was reasonable.

“It is reasonable to have all customers on the same footing as soon as possible,” Justice Pelletier wrote.

OpenMedia campaigns manager Josh Tabish, which worked with legal teams from the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) to oppose the carriers’ challenge, called this a huge win for Canadians:

“This is a great win for Canadians, and sets a strong precedent for the CRTC’s ability to stand up for great choice and affordability in Canada’s telecom market,”  said in a statement.

Rogers and TELUS were not available for comment on the ruling, but BCE spokesman Mark Langton stated “the ruling is clear and we’ll comply.” If this is the case, then it’s most likely Rogers, TELUS, SaskTel and MTS will similarly comply as well.