BY BOB D’EITH
Chair of the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services,
MLA for Maple Ridge-Mission
VICTORIA – This spring, Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, and I took the first steps to making cellphone billing and contracts less confusing and easier to understand for people in B.C.
We’re doing this because we know that in 2019, cellphones are a much-needed tool to live, work and stay connected to family. Today, 92% of British Columbians have a cellphone while only 59% have a landline. This is a dramatic change from 15 to 20 years ago when landlines were universal and payphones were readily available in public spaces.
We started this project by putting out a survey to get input from people about their everyday frustrations and concerns with cellphones. The survey ran until July 5, and we received a large response, with more than 15,000 submissions recorded. This alone shows that people in B.C. care about how cellphone services are delivered by the telecom industry.
It was my hope when we launched our survey that people from all over B.C. would respond and provide valuable insight, so we could get a complete picture of the perceived issues with cellphone contracts, billing and affordability. And I was not let down – they did.
Having various age groups respond was also important to getting results that showed the diversity of experiences throughout the province. The survey received input from a broad range of ages. Some of the input affirmed widely held perceptions about cellphone services, while other responses highlighted some lesser-known issues and concerns to British Columbians.
While we aren’t quite ready to put out the report about what we heard, it will be made public soon. I can say that we have some detailed data and vivid commentary that will help government think through policies and decisions that affect everyone.
In the meantime, I continue to engage with key stakeholders to gain a full view of cellphone contract and billing issues, including what is working and what is not working. Over the course of my meetings with stakeholders thus far, some overarching themes are starting to emerge:
* Consumers are experiencing several issues with their cellphone contracts and bills, despite the existence of the federal Wireless Code.
* Issues regarding sales and advertising of cellphones are a concern for many.
* Some groups, particularly seniors, have unique needs when it comes to cellphones and are more vulnerable to things like aggressive sales practices and hidden fees.
Once we have heard all these perspectives and finish analyzing the results of the public survey, we are going to consider what actions B.C. can take to make life better for British Columbians when it comes to cellphone billing and contracts. We will also be taking our concerns, backed by your input, to advocate on your behalf in the federally regulated telecom sector for better affordability and transparency.
Thank you for filling out our survey and sharing your experiences and views. Our government is always open to hearing more about your concerns and how we can make life more affordable for you and your family.