Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation; redundant, and a headache for everyone

Canada's Federal government passed an Anti-Spam legislation that will go into effect on July 1, 2014. While it may sound great at first, it's really not. If anything, it's a redundant headache for everyone; legislation for the sake of legislation. 

The gist of it is that companies that using email to promote their products and services have to now get express consent from everyone they send out email to, or IM, SMS, or call. However, think about it for a second. If you are already on the emailing list for a particular company, chances are you like what they do/sell, and signed up on your own accord to stay up to date. That's pretty much the exact same thing, no it is the exact same thing as this nonsense piece of legislation. 

Retailers that acquire their emails at the cashier checkout also ask for their customer's consent. It's not as if they are placing a gun to their head, forcing them to hand over their work or personal email addresses. Instead of making the process easier, cashiers now have to ask for the email, ask the customer to read the consent statement, type in the email, and then accept, making an already painfully slow process even slower. The only impact that this will have is far fewer people signing themselves up because it will be easier and quicker to say no than to agree and have to go through that million step process for something that should be incredibly simple. 

The end user has the power to already grant consent and take it away, by giving their email or phone number to whomever they choose, or by simply unsubscribing or not handing over that information. 

If the federal government wanted to pass an effective anti-spam legislation, they should have targeted the ISPs. Before iOS 7 was released, my dad had no way of blocking the spam phone numbers that would call him, and I'm not joking with this number, 17 times a day. I had contacted Rogers, and they wanted to charge him $20/month to block only three phone numbers. The best part is that his cell phone number, the one that was plagued by spam calls, isn't listed anywhere. So, rather than placing the onus on the end user that's constantly under attack, why not make it so that the ISPs have to stop giving out their customers phone numbers to the highest bidder? Why not make it so that the ISPs have to provide a flat rate service in which the customer can block as many calls as s/he wants? Why not make it so that every phone has to have a call blocking feature enabled? Why not do a million other things that would actually benefit users and businesses, rather than making it harder?

100 Days Until I End A 6 Year Relationship (With My Phone Carrier)

Today, after I got home from my shift at work, I noticed a small package from TELUS, my current phone service provider. Normally, it’s just my monthly phone bill in the mail, or what they call TELUS Perks; small gifts such as movie passes or a charitable donation in your name. Today, however, it was something different.

Seeing this made me really excited.

 

I’ve been with TELUS for nearly 6 years now. It’s my longest relationship with anything ever. My first phone was a Motorola RAZR V3C, and my second, and current phone, is my HTC Desire. Yes, the original Desire, the one that shipped with Android 2.1 Eclair and never officially received any Android 2.3 update. But that’s besides the point. Well, not really, because since I was with TELUS, and my particular plan was that I’d have a credit spending limit of $200 (meaning I wouldn’t have to pay my phone bills until I hit that dollar amount), I couldn’t upgrade without jumping through a number of insane hoops. First, I’d have to pay off the remaining balance of my device, which is $10/month for however many months I had left. Then, I’d have to pay my $200 to get off that credit spending limit program I was on, and then to top it all off, a $275 cancellation fee. So it could eventually come close to $700 before I could even do anything else.

In case you can’t read the text in that image, the booklet basically says that I am currently eligible for a phone upgrade and they’ll make it easy for me to do so by:

  1. Waiving my device balance (the $10/month and the $200 credit limit program would be gone)
  2. Offering special discounts on select phones so I can save more
  3. Giving me access to the hottest phone at the best in-market prices

Naturally, this got me pretty excited, seeing as despite the fact that my 3-year old phone with 512 MB RAM/ROM is running Android 4.2.2 fairly well, I desperately need a new phone as a daily driver. I flipped the page over and saw the phone that they were offering me:

Seeing the three phones that they were offering me immediately bummed me out.

The Samsung Galaxy Ace Q, The BlackBerry Curve 9320, or the Nokia Lumia 620, all phone, maybe with the exception of the Lumia 620 (which is a Windows Phone 8 device, thus, has no app ecosystem), that are lower spec’d than my current device. Why on earth would I want to pay $25 to buy a phone that is arguable far worse than what I am currently working with?

But, to make sure that I wasn’t being stupid and missing anything in this sparsely detailed booklet, I called TELUS customer support, and they clarified that yes, those were the only three phones I could “upgrade” to at the $25 price point. If I wanted, say the Nexus 4, I’d pay $30, or if I wanted the HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S4, I’d pay approximately $180, the current subsidized cost of those devices. The real kicker was that I’d be locked into another 2 year contract, with a ridiculous monthly rate plan of a base $55/month with unlimited calling and texting and 250 MB of data. For another $8 per service, I could tack on Caller ID, Voice Mail, Call Waiting and Conference Calling. The only one I’d require are the first two, a $16 additional charge.

Then, because 250 MB of data is nothing, for another $30/month, I could tack on another, wait for it, another whole 750 MB of data. $30 for 750 MB?! TELUS, you have to be kidding me. Again, this is if I went with the cheapest phone out of the best that they can offer me.

That brings the total charges per month on a new two year contract to around $100/month, more than my current $80/month with unlimited texting, 300 minutes of calling, Call Waiting, Conference Calling, Voice Mail, Caller ID, and 1 GB of data. So with spending more, I’d be getting less than I currently have with my now grandfathered rate plan.

I decided to shop around a bit more, and looked at Rogers, the next best bet. The plans are relatively the same, but for another $150/month, you can bump you 250 MB of data to 20 GB. 20 GB for $150? The numbers seemed skewed to me, and they are. For home internet plans, you can roughly get 1 GB of data for $1, if you’re at the 80 GB data cap with Rogers or Bell.

It gets even better.

I then wanted to know why they charge so much per text message, $0.20/text. The customer services client told me it’s because of the infrastructure charges and the cost to actually send such a large file over the airwaves. That, is not true. The most a text message will ever come to in size is 160 kb. Even for your 5-6 pagers, they get split up, which is why the person who receives them receives 5-6 texts from you, even if it doesn’t look like that on your end. So that cost per text argument is frankly total bull.

To end the phone call with the customer services client, a woefully ignorant lady who kept having to refer to her manager on duty for basic questions such as, “how much longer do I have until my contract is over?” To answer that question, it is 100 days, as of writing this.

So, this was in essence, a horribly long-winded way of basically saying that the big three Canadian telecommunications companies are no longer economically viable for someone like me, a recent university graduate in their early 20s. It’s no wonder why so many people my age really want Verizon, the largest American telecommunications and phone service provider, to come and enter the Canadian market. It’s no wonder why almost everyone that I talk to is so bitter with Rogers, Bell, and TELUS, as well as their respective subsidiary companies, Koodo, Virgin, and Fido. It’s no wonder why so many more people, including me, want to jump ship to companies like WIND Mobile as soon as they are able to, and it’s no wonder why you will not be getting my money ever again.

We, as the consumer, want, and demand better choice that’s actually affordable. Paying over $100 a month for a phone service is ridiculous, and needs to stop. The big three have had their chance, in fact, many, chances, to change their practices and give the consumers what we’ve all been clamouring for since we all clued into what was going on.

The good news is that I only have 100 days left in my six year long, monetarily abusive relationship, with TELUS. 100 very long days until I can finally begin voting with my wallet.

Until then, I only have one last thing to say, and that is a big screw you to TELUS.

I wrote a letter to the editor of the Toronto Star regarding this issue. You can read it here.