The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has denied requests by consumers, consumer groups and some new entrants to re-regulate retail and wholesale wireless services generally, finding that competition in the mobile wireless market continues to be sufficient to protect the interests of users with respect to rates and choice of competitive service provider.

The finding, in Telecom Decision CRTC 2012-556, followed a public proceeding to consider whether the conditions of forbearance in the Canadian wireless market had changed sufficiently to warrant CRTC intervention with respect to retail mobile wireless data and voice services. That proceeding was triggered by an application by consumer groups to prohibit certain billing practices by wireless service providers, as well as an application by wireless service providers for the Commission to establish a uniform national consumer code for wireless services.

In its decision, the CRTC indicated that it would establish such a national consumer code, initiating another public proceeding to determine the content, application and enforcement of such a code; however, it would continue to forbear from regulating mobile wireless service rates or competitiveness in the mobile wireless market generally, despite concerns raised by some interveners about the competitiveness of the Canadian wireless market, including issues related to choice of provider and pricing.

In a series of decisions commencing shortly after it received the forbearance power in 1993, with the enactment of the Telecommunications Act, the CRTC has determined that wireless services in Canada are subject to sufficient competition to protect the interests of users, and that it would allow market forces to guide the mobile wireless industry’s growth.   Accordingly, it has consistently forborne from exercising many of its powers under that Act, including the requirement for prior approval of rates, and the determination that rates be just and reasonable.

In its most recent decision, the Commission has maintained this approach, noting that there is no evidence that the conditions for forbearance have changed sufficiently to warrant regulatory intervention with respect to mobile wireless service rates or competitiveness in the mobile wireless market. 

In fact, the Commission noted that market indicators, including those included in its recently published 2012 Communications Monitoring Report, continue to demonstrate that consumers have a choice of service providers and a range of rates and payment options for wireless services. In addition, the average monthly cost for mobile services has remained relatively stable. Meanwhile, new entrants in the mobile wireless market continue to increase their market share and coverage and companies continue to invest in new infrastructure to bring new innovative services to more Canadians.