Changing Your Canadian Phone Or Cable Provider Just Got Easier

By: Lee Rickwood

March 23, 2011

By Lee Rickwood

Do you think their ‘Friends’ rating is going up?!?

You can tell them, if so.

Long the target of open Internet lobbyists and consumer protection advocates, that government group that manages telecom services in Canada, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), may finally have done something right in the public’s eyes.


‘Not bad, CRTC!’ applauded one advocacy group.

The agency’s appointed members have ruled that the process for people who want to change their TV, home phone, mobile or Internet service providers must be a whole lot easier. Once it has obtained the proper consent, the new provider will make all the service switch arrangements on behalf of the consumer.

‘Not bad, CRTC!’ applauded one advocacy group, congratulating the CRTC on a decision it sees as undermining big cable and telecom tactics.

(In my case, I’d be a whole lot happier if the CRTC had done this, like, three weeks ago!

I recently contacted one of the major phone providers in order to cancel my account.  You’d think I had murdered my grandmother or something!  They wanted explanations and justifications for my action. They offered all sorts of other services if only I would stay. Eventually, they promised to let me go if I would kindly return all materials in a soon- to-be-provided mailing kit. After my second call to the company to remind them to send it, well, I think I am free now!)

Under the new rules, customers no longer have to notify the current provider that they plan to switch to a competitor, but you can let them know if you want to.

A single call to the competing company will be sufficient to switch providers, the CRTC said.

The new guidelines released by the CRTC also will require companies like Bell, Rogers, TELUS, Shaw and others to switch customer accounts within two days when a customer opts to leave for a competitor’s services.

That’s been the case with phone services for a while, but now the two-day limit aims to cut the red tape for customers trying to switch from one TV or Internet provider to another, as well.

There’s also a 2 1/2-hour limit for mobile companies to transfer your account to another provider once you tell them that’s your intention.

Now, you as a customer are still responsible for all termination fees, penalties and other costs associated with breaking any contract you have with a service provider.

(The so-called ‘early cancellation fee’ charged by many providers if service is terminated for any reason, can be quite substantial. At FIDO, for example, it can go ‘to a max of $300’.  A ‘data early cancellation fee’ can reach $100, depending on the contact and the provider. On the other hand, some companies offer a ‘port-in’ credit when you bring in your old number and open up a new account. WIND, for example, has a $100 promotion, but good only up until the end of March.)

Various cell phones pictured

Customers are still responsible for all termination fees, penalties and other costs associated with breaking a phone contract.

In any case, the CRTC says, those contracts must abide by customer transfer and service cancellation requests from a prospective new service provider acting on behalf of a customer (so you can get out without having to explain yourself).

It’s called “churn” in the telecom business. The seemingly continual movement of customers in and out of different services plans, and – heaven forbid – out of one company’s arms and into another’s.
It’s been estimated that a telecom company spends like $200 bucks in ‘acquisition’ costs for each new customer – advertising, marketing, promotion, sales and fulfillment, etc.

Keeping an existing customer is a lot cheaper.

And if a customer does leave, that’s not just $200 bucks down the drain, it’s all the potential revenue from that customer.

So telecoms hate churn. There are industry tactics, strategies, conferences and consultants whose main goal is to reduce churn.

Of the top ten or so ways a telecom company has to keep a customer, offering special deals and new price points can be an enticement to stay. So, too, dangling bundled services (the so-called triple or quad play, with landline, mobile, Internet and cable TV services in the mix) and touting ‘better, faster, higher’ services and speeds.

Suddenly you’re offered lower rates, higher caps, maybe a free month or two of service, maybe a new car!

It’s a highly competitive time in the industry now, with new companies, new services, and new technologies being offered.

But customer contact strategies for on-going relationship building  – making ‘touches’ as the industry calls customer contacts – are still one of the most successful ways to reduce churn.

Of course, there are also highly technical remedies for churn, such as complex predictive algorithms and real time analysis tools that track usage habits in real-time, so as to anticipate new service needs or to predict potential customer changes or defections!

Along those lines, the CRTC will put in place safeguards that prevent a company from sharing confidential customer information during the transfer process.

It’s the concern for consumers contained in the new telecom ruling that has some CRTC critics changing their tune – slowly, hesitantly, cautiously.

As John Lawford, lawyer and research analyst the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) in Ottawa, said recently, “Customer service, unfortunately, on its own, is a problem with cellphone companies in particular. They have a lot of front line staff to deflect questions, to tell people that they’re wrong, and that they need to pay these bills. It’s a business model predicated on disrespect really.”

Harsh words, perhaps.

But whatever the business model, it’s a successful one – the Canadian wireless association reports its industry generated nearly $17 billion dollars in revenue in 2009.

submitted by Lee Rickwood

# # #

So, what’s your tech?

Do you have a horror story about switching cell phone companies?

Do you think the new CRTC rules would have helped? Are these new rules good for consumers? For the industry?

Should the agency, as has been called for, be eliminated?

You can always leave a comment here at, or you can tell the CRTC!

The CRTC has launched another public consultation, and the government agency is calling for submissions about consumer protection and telecom service provision.

You can fax, write or fill out an online form to tell them your thoughts by April 18.


  1.' marilyn winters says:

    I’m writing today, to voice my opinion on verbal contracts with cable companies, whereas there is not a signed contract. All calls are suppose to be recorded for quality assurance, as I am told when calling my subscribing cable company. I recently just ran into an issue with Rogers Cable in NB when I called up to cancel my services with the company in order to go with a company offering a lower monthly price and who offered no contract obligations to cancel, except a 30 day notification but I was told by Rogers that I had made a verbal agreement to stay with them for a period of 24 months in order for me to obtain the rate of 137/monthly provided to me by the cable company under a so called bundle package. I disputed this fact and informed them I did not verbally agree to a 24 month contract at any rate offered as I do not subscribe to any company which obligates me to any contract. I asked the customer service Representative, who was extremely rude and unprofessional to play back the voice recording of the verbal contract that supposently took place, and she was unable to provide this for me. Again, after the conversation went back and forth on my word versus her word, she was the customer service manager, in the end she basically said I was lying and she would impose at 320$ cancellation fee on my final bill. The end result was that I again try to resolve the issue, telling her I would more than happily pay for services rendered to date and also provide a 30 day notice at this time to cancel, which she did not seem interested in hearing. I hung up and looked up the CRTC web site, which seems to indicate that if you have a verbal agreement with a company, it has to take place between The Cable Company, Myself, and a third party not connected to either of us, in order to justify that the verbal contract was indeed legitimate. In the end I can’t believe how bad our customer service is declining, I thought to myself, wow, I was willing to pay for services received to date plus a 30 day notification, and now because my integrity and honesty has been put forth, I will not be paying anything to this company that is owed and they may forward me to collections to try and resolve this issue. All this because I say I did not agree to a cable contract verbally and the Representative says I did, and at the end of the day there is no third party involved as a witness to put this matter to rest!!!

  2.' brando says:

    nice to see a step forward for the customer even if its a baby step, be even better to see if the government would step in and set a bar on how much a provider can charge there clients on the services they want, instead of being over charged

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