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Negotiating with a Cellphone Provider - Understand your legal rights

Understand your legal rights

The provider's advertising must not be misleading

Advertisements for cellphones, whether they are on TV, in magazines, or posters in stores, must be accurate and must not mislead.

Service providers cannot sell you a phone at a price higher than its advertised price. 

Providers must base any claims about the performance of their product on adequate and proper testing. For example, if a service provider advertises that its network is the "most reliable in Canada", they must have done adequate and proper testing to support that claim.

The provider must communicate clearly and accurately

Under the Wireless Code, Canada’s main set of rules for cellphone service providers, any salesperson for a service provider must communicate with you in a way that is clear, timely and in plain language. They must describe products and services accurately. This applies whether they are dealing with you on the phone or in the store. 

The salesperson can't mislead you or use other unfair practices

Under BC law, a salesperson can’t use "unfair practices" to convince you to buy a phone or phone plan. Unfair practices include making statements, verbally or in writing, or any conduct that has the capability of deceiving or misleading you.

For example, a salesperson must not:

  • tell you that a phone or plan is of better quality than it really is
  • tell you that a phone or plan is only available for a limited time if that is not true
  • tell you that you are getting a special price or benefit when they are really offering the same thing that you can get somewhere else

Another type of unfair practice is when a salesperson does something "unconscionable". Examples of unconscionable practices include:

  • taking advantage of vulnerabilities that you may have that affect your ability to protect your own interests, such as any physical or mental disability, illiteracy or language difficulties
  • charging far more than what is reasonable for a phone or plan
  • pressuring you to buy a phone or plan that they know you cannot afford

If the salesperson does something "unconscionable", any agreement you sign is not binding on you.

Any phone you get must be unlocked

Under the Wireless Code, any phone provided to you by a service provider must be provided unlocked. (When a phone is locked to a network, it can only work with that provider's voice, text and data services.)

A provider can't charge you to unlock a phone.

You are protected by the legal warranty

Under BC law, when you buy a new phone, it must meet certain conditions. It has to be fit for the purpose you bought it for, of "merchantable" quality, and durable for a reasonable period of time. It also has to be "as described".

These conditions are called the "legal warranty", as they are found in a law called the Sale of Goods Act. They apply regardless of whether the seller mentions them. They are in addition to any warranty the seller or manufacturer provide.

If your phone turns out to be faulty, you have the right to get it repaired or replaced, or to get a refund, depending on the situation.

If the provider offers to sell you an "extended warranty"

When you buy a new phone, the salesperson may suggest you buy an "extended warranty". This is a promise by the seller—in exchange for you paying a certain amount in advance—to cover repairs and maintenance for a given period if there are problems. 

But be aware that an extended warranty may not give you any more rights than you have already through the legal warranty explained above. 

If you're thinking about an extended warranty, ask the salespersion the questions below under "Questions to ask". 

Also note that a service provider must inform you of any manufacturer’s warranty that exists on a phone before offering an extended warranty or insurance for it.