Cellphone Contracts: Legal Protections

Rido Franz / iStock / Thinkstock

Having a phone is almost as necessary as the air we breathe. So take time to learn about your cellphone contract. The law protects you in many ways, but you also have some responsibilities.


Can you have your own cellphone contract?

  • You have the right to sign a contract for a cellphone, even if you’re under 18.
  • Merchants can ask for a guarantor. What is this in plain English? Merchants can require that an adult—your father or mother, for example—sign the contract with you. The adult promises to pay your bills if you can’t continue to pay them yourself.
  • You might be able to cancel a contract if there is a big imbalance between you and the merchant. In other words, the merchant had an unfair advantage over you. An example is signing an expensive three-year cellphone contract, without a guarantor, when you don’t have a job. Careful! Your parents might still have to pay if you can’t.


Can you buy things without your parents’ permission?
You have the right to manage the money you earn unless you’re really earning a lot of money. You can buy basic things you need. But if you want to buy more expensive things, you need your parents’ permission. Find out before you buy!


Your phone doesn't work? The law can help

The phone you buy comes with warranties. A warranty is like a promise by the merchant that the product you buy will work the way it’s supposed to for a reasonable amount of time.


Three Kinds of Warranties

A legal warranty is free. It means that the merchant must give you a phone that works properly for a reasonable length of time.

A manufacturer’s warranty – or merchant’s warranty – is often included in the cost of the phone. It protects you if the phone doesn’t work properly.

And then there’s an extended warranty that merchants often try to sell you.


How Warranties Protect You

Merchants have to repair a new phone that doesn’t work properly. In some cases, they must even give you a new phone or a refund.

You might have to pay for some repairs, but only if this is clearly written in the contract describing the warranty.

Merchants can’t make you pay for services you didn't have while the phone was being repaired. For example, you don’t have to pay for data services if you can’t access the internet with the phone the merchant lends you while yours is being repaired

Important! Most warranties don’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.

Want more information? Read our article Understanding Warranties on Things You Buy.  


Cancellation Fees

You usually have to pay a fee to cancel a contract before the date stated in the contract.

The cancellation fee depends on the phone discount you got when you signed the contract. The higher the discount, the higher the fee. But the closer you are to the end of your contract, the lower the fee.

What if you didn’t get a phone discount?

The rule is simple: the cancellation fee is 10% of the amount left to pay on the contract, but it can’t be more than $50.

Suppose you have a two-year contract. If you pay $50 a month and you cancel five months before the two years are up, the amount left to pay on the contract is $250 (5 X $50). In this case, you’ll have to pay $25 (10% of $250) because this is less than $50.

If you didn’t get a phone discount and the contract doesn’t end on a fixed date, there is no cancellation fee.

You can find out more about cancelling cellphone contracts on the websites of the CRTC and the Office de la protection du consommateur (consumer protection bureau).

Important !
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.