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Problem with a New Cellphone - Understand your legal rights

Understand your legal rights

If you signed up less than 15 days ago

If your cellphone contract includes an early cancellation fee, you have a 15-day "trial period" to see whether the service meets your needs. During this period, you can cancel the contract—for any reason—without having to pay any penalty or early cancellation fee. 

To cancel the contract during the trial period, you can't have used more than half of your monthly usage limits. You must return the phone in near-new condition, including the original packaging.

The trial period starts on the date on which your service begins.

For persons with disabilities, the trial period is 30 days, and the usage limits are doubled.

If the terms in your new contract don't reflect what you agreed to

You might agree to a new cellphone contract on the phone. Under the Wireless Code, the service provider must send you a copy of the contract (see our page on signing a cellphone contract). 

If the "key terms and conditions" in the contract conflict with what you agreed to on the phone, you can cancel the contract without paying a cancellation fee or other penalty. You have 30 days after receiving the copy of the contract to cancel.

The "key contract terms and conditions" are:

  • the voice, text and data services included in the contract
  • any limits on the use of those services that could trigger overage charges or additional fees
  • the minimum monthly charge for services included in the contract
  • the length of the commitment period, including the end date of the contract
  • any early cancellation fees, how much they decrease each month, and when a cancellation fee no longer applies
  • if you received a free or discounted phone on signing the contract, the retail price of the phone and the amount you paid for the phone

If your new phone doesn't work

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 (not broken or damaged),  
  • durable for a reasonable period of time, and
  • "as described" (it has to match the description given in selling it).

These conditions are called the "legal warranty", as they are found in a law called the Sale of Goods Act. This warranty is like a promise by the seller that the phone will work the way it's supposed to for a reasonable amount of time.

You are protected by the legal warranty

The legal warranty applies regardless of whether the seller mentioned it. It is in addition to any warranty the seller or manufacturer provide.

The end result is that if your new phone is faulty or doesn't work, you have the right to get it repaired or replaced, or to get a refund, depending on the situation.

The legal warranty doesn't cover problems that you caused. For example, if you drop your phone in the water, you will probably have to pay to replace it.

If there is a warranty from the seller or manufacturer

In addition to the legal warranty, many sellers and manufacturers offer their own warranty or guarantee for a product. This is their promise about the quality of goods sold and what they will do if there are problems. Read any warranty or guarantee to see if it covers the problem.

If the phone provider's advertising misled you

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

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

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

If the salesperson misled or pressured you into buying a phone or plan

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 the phone or plan is of better quality than it really is
  • tell you that the 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 did something "unconscionable", any agreement you signed is not binding on you.