The biggest challenge for consumers, experts agree, is predicting data usage and its impact on service cost.
“In terms of estimating personal data usages, it’s very difficult because it’s abstract,” said University of Ottawa assistant law professor Marina Pavlovic.
For example, it’s hard to know how many gigabytes of data will be used to show a single YouTube video — let alone how many videos, photos, text messages, emails and internet searches will accumulate during a billing cycle.
Another difficulty, which may be reduced under recent regulatory changes, has been service contracts that allow data to be shared among multiple devices with different users, such as parents and their children.
Maker said extra fees on shared plans has been one of the most common complaints to the CCTS, which oversees the wireless industry’s code of conduct on behalf of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
A revision to the wireless code, announced by the CRTC in June, was to address that problem by requiring service providers to notify account holders of overages from all devices and authorize only them to consent to extra fees.
But two of Canada’s largest wireless service providers — Rogers and Telus — were unable to comply with that requirement by the Dec. 1 deadline and asked for several additional months to adjust their billing systems.
Pavlovic — one of the lead authors of a research study presented to the CRTC last year, as it was preparing to update the wireless code — believes it still requires consumers to spend too much time and energy to avoid bill shock.