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Telus joins Rogers in seeking to extend wireless code deadline past Dec. 1

The Telus store at at 2187 Queen St. East in Toronto's Beach neighbourhood is photographed on March 5, 2014.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Telus Corp. has joined Rogers Communications Inc. in saying it can't meet a Dec. 1 deadline for completing changes to the way customers are billed for extra data usage and international roaming charges.

Vancouver-based Telus is asking the CRTC for permission to extend the deadline for updating its billing system to March 31, 2018 – although it anticipates some changes will be completed before that time.

Canada's wireless carriers were told last June that they had until Dec. 1 to comply with a number of regulations including how they set caps on wireless data usage and who is authorized to accept extra charges for accounts with more than one device user.

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In a letter to the CRTC, Telus says it's "impossible" for the company to implement the changes to its bill management system on time despite its "best efforts" since the CRTC announced its revised policy on June 15.

A redacted version of the Telus request, dated Nov. 16 and posted on the CRTC's website late Friday, said that there's only a small number of customers that will be affected by the delay, since the bill management system doesn't need to change for single-user accounts – only accounts with multiple users.

"In addition, Telus provides its customers with a data manager tool that already gives an account holder of a multi-user account the ability to manage authorized users by subscription. . . . Because of this tool, many existing TELUS customers already have their own account level protections from bill shock," Telus says in its letter to the CRTC.

The Telus request is similar to an earlier request from Rogers Communications Inc., which told the CRTC on Nov. 3 that it wants to defer having its billing system in compliance with the wireless code until May 31.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre, an Ottawa-based not-for-profit organization that frequently comments on telecommunications policy, says the CRTC to should deny the requested delays.

PIAC's position is that the CRTC's instructions in June actually reinforce billing obligations to notify account holders of data overages that have been in place since 2013.

PIAC also says wireless carriers have been required to apply data caps at the account level, rather than at the device level, under the original 2013 wireless code.

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"In other words, the obligation to send international roaming notifications to the account holder and the obligation to apply the overage caps predate the Commission decision in the review of the Wireless Code," PIAC's legal counsel Ben Segel-Brown wrote in a letter posted on the CRTC website.

"Rather than attempting to micromanage each carrier's ability to comply with regulatory obligations, the Commission should simply force carriers to bear the consequences of their regulatory non-compliance."

PIAC's letter, which predates the Telus request, said it believes it would be reasonable for Rogers to waive data overage charges in cases where the protections of the code ought to have been applied.

"These conditions would provide interim protection to Rogers' customers, provide incentives for Rogers to implement the Wireless Code provisions in a timely manner, and provide a general incentive for all service providers to comply with Commission regulatory policies," the PIAC letter concludes.

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