Proposed Canadian law would require cellphone unlocks after contracts

“A proposed new law in Canada could lead carriers and phone manufacturers to have a mandatory unlock in place under certain conditions,” Electronista reports.

“Bill 133 in the province of Ontario would require that carriers unlock a phone for free if users either pays full price for the device or their contract expires,” Electronista reports. “Carriers would at the same time have to let customers end a contract in 30 days and could only make changes mid-contract with permission.

Electronista reports, “The bill, put forward by Member of Parliament David Orazietti, could potentially alter the landscape of cellphone service in Canada and would push many international phone makers to change their policies.

Full article here.


  1. It never going to happen. Even if it does pass Bell, Rogers and Telus will find news to screw their customers . Why do you thing Canadian have some of the world highest cellist rate.
    To this day they still can not get rid of the system access fee. They just rename something else and put it on your bill.

  2. @nightfly, I have no SAF. No 911 fee either. My bill is a straight $25 phone + $30 data + $10 options, then taxes. That’s with Fido.

    Our business phones with Telus also have no SAF or 911.

    I agree with you otherwise, our cell contracts suck–why are we the only country that has 3 year contracts for smartphones (not just iPhones)!? That’s outrageous, and the fact neither Bell nor Telus tried undercutting Rogers by offering 2 year contracts when Rogers lost iPhone exclusivity proves there’s collusion between the three.

  3. Still a better landscape than in the U.S. where, at this point, there has only been one provider since the iPhone’s inception and tethering, long promised, has never really been a reality. Not to mention the kung-fu grip iPhone 4 antenna issue that never materialized north of the border. Canada may have 3-year terms rather than 2 which is the norm in the States, but overall, more choice northside.
    Collectively, North Americans are being gouged with cell phone bills compared to Europeans.

  4. this happens in Australia already. The cost of the phone is calculated in the plan cost.

    iPhones are effectively “free” in Australia. You pay $69 (or whatever) a month, no handset repayments, no upfront cost(LOL @ Americans for paying $199 for an iPhone), after 24 months the phone IS yours.

    +1 for Canada.

  5. Simon C:

    You have just described subsidy model that exists everywhere in the world, including the US. The only difference here is that your carriers seem to offer heavier subsidy than the American one. In EU, many carriers offer different rate plans, depending on which the up-front price of the iPhone varies (from full, unsubsidised price of 700EUR, to 300EUR, to 100EUR to 0EUR). In the US, for the iPhone, there is only one subsidy model, where the subsidy appears to be approximately US$ 450, which brings the up-front price down to $200, with a mandatory two-year commitment. After those two years, the phone IS yours.

    What Canadians are proposing is for what happens after those two years. In most countries, you can ask the carrier for the unlocking instructions and they’ll let you unlock the phone. In US, and apparently, Canada as well, they won’t do it for the iPhone. Canadians want a law that will allow them to do this. Americans stand almost no chance of ever getting such law enacted.

    Let’s not forget; current American GSM carriers (T-Mobile and AT&T) already provide instructions for unlocking any other GSM device they sell, upon request. I have unlocked about a dozen different phones over the years, on T-Mob and AT&T. The only exception in US today is the iPhone.

  6. This story torques the proposal’s significance by suggesting it’s a federal “Canadian law” by calling David Orazietti an MP and by saying it could “alter the landscape of cellphone service in Canada.”

    Orazietti is a member of Ontario’s provincial legislature, an MPP, member provincial parliament, not a federal MP, member of Parliament. The proposal was made for Ontario only.

    Torquing this story by saying “A proposed new law in Canada” is like saying of Alaska: “A proposed new law in the United States” banning igloos in July will hammer California.

  7. Canada has high rates because the network covers a population density (nationally) that is way lower than other countries. This increases operational costs.

    As to the law: not knowing all the details (where the devil resides) it sounds reasonable to me.

  8. @Gregg. That’s actually a lot of BS that is spouted to justify higher prices.

    Most people (90%) LIVE in a narrow band of land within 160 kilometers (100 miles) of the U.S. border

    About 80% of Canadians live in cities. Additionally Canadian cities are usually more compact than their American counterparts, meaning population density is usually higher.

    See this Map:

    In the US, 82.6% live in “Metro Areas.” Metro areas are calculated differently in both countries, US Metro Areas encompass a larger area of influence than Canada.

    I wouldn’t be surprised that if you compared them both with equal metrics, Canada would be much more of an urban country… and it is probably why Canadians are apt to buy smaller city-friendly cars (like the Acura 1.6EL which wasn’t available in the US)

  9. @Gregg,

    In addition to ApplePi’s points, Australia’s population density is even lower than Canada’s, yet their maximum contract terms are still 2 years.

    Whatever reason the Canadian telcos are using to justify the 3 year contract “requirement”, it’s bullshit.

  10. @ApplePl. While it’s true that most Canadians live close to the U.S. border it’s also true that the service provided by the Canadian networks does not cover much rural territory, which is a really big issue. At my cottage in the Laurentians, not that far from Montreal, there is no cell coverage, so I don’t have a cell phone. Lack of coverage is a real problem which is why, aside from high prices, that Canadian per capita cell phone use is lower than in most advanced countries. In Vietnam, cell use is really high and people just buy SIM cards, and they work everywhere. No contracts: just buy time on the card. It’ll never happen in Canada.

  11. The key is NOT the unlocking part. Anyone who is even semi-savvy can look up how to unlock an iPhone, once it has gone beyond its contract period.

    The KEY is for the carriers to provide a plan that does not have cost of recovering the phone subsidy built into the monthly rate. What’s the point of using an older iPhone that is beyond its original contract or a new one that you paid much more up-front to purchase, if you are still paying the same monthly rate as the customer who is still “paying off” a subsidy?

    So if there is government involvement in this matter, it should be to force carriers to separate “subsidy recover” from the wireless plan cost on the customer’s monthly bill. Once the contract has expired, the “subsidy recover” part goes away and the customer is paying only for the wireless plan. New customers who come with unlocked phones can join the network and pay only that rate for the wireless plan. And since they are NOT paying off any subsidy, there should be NO required two-year contract (it should be month-by-month).

    I have an older iPhone that I bought used for around $100. I use it with a pre-paid plan that costs me (as a minimum) $25 every 90 days. I only pay for the voice option because what I really wanted was an iPod touch that can make phone calls as needed (and also take pictures). That’s what I have now, and it works quite well for me.

    But I’d be even more satisfied with a pre-paid voice AND data plan with a reasonable cost that is based entirely on actual level of usage. Ultimately, that’s the best deal for most customers… you pay only for what you use, not a set monthly rate. You’re not paying extra for “unlimited use” just so someone else can have ridiculous usage at the same price.

  12. @nightfly: the fight for justice is never finished, but taking away one more way that indiscriminate corporations screw the people is a step in the right direction. If you’ve honored the contract and fully paid for your subsidized phone, then there is no legitimate reason that the user shouldn’t be able to use that phone however they wish — including taking it to a different carrier without penalty.

    I much prefer the European model. One should always have the option to buy the unlocked phone on day one, and use it on any compatible network without restriction. If Apple pioneers the implementation of a universal GSM/CDMA phone, then customers will be all over it. As it is today in the USA and Canada, both handset mfrs and end users are screwed by the overpriced, underperforming network providers.

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