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Oh, wow, Canada: No more carrier-locked phones for Canucks

And no fees for unshackling mobes, either – all from December this year

Canada has ruled that cellphone networks may no longer charge fees for carrier-unlocking handsets nor sell new phones locked to their network.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) said that as of December 1 of this year, phone sellers will be barred from selling handsets locked to a specific carrier, and all carriers will be required to unlock customer handsets for free.

The change is part of a larger overhaul the CRTC has made to Canada's Wireless Code, a set of consumer rights guidelines the CRTC manages.

In addition to the unlocking rules, the CRTC also mandated that any new charges from overage fees or roaming charges be approved by the primary account holder. This applies mainly to shared family plans, where the parent who owns the account will now need to give permission before racking up additional charges.

The rules on free trial periods have also been changed, allowing customers to return a phone and cancel a plan within 15 days, provided the device is still in new or like-new condition and less than half of the data in the monthly plan has been used.

"The Wireless Code has helped make the wireless market more dynamic to the benefit of Canadians. While they appreciate the Code, they told us loudly and clearly that it could be more effective. We have listened to them," said CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais.

"The changes and clarifications we are announcing today will give Canadians additional tools to make informed choices about their wireless services and take advantage of competitive offers in the marketplace."

The savings for some Canadians may be short-lived. As the CRTC is changing its rules, lawmakers in Canada's parliament are reportedly considering a plan to levy a five per cent tax on broadband internet service.

According to a Globe and Mail report, MPs want to use the increased tax on broadband to help fund local media companies and broadcasters, who are losing revenues to streaming media services.

Canada charges a similar tax on cable and satellite television services already, and lawmakers reason that by extending the tax to broadband, those who use streaming services will also pay to fund local media. ®

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