Your Cellphone Contract

Objective :

  • Teach students about consumer rights;
  • List the areas of intervention governed by the Consumer Protection Act;
  • Explain the roles of organizations and institutions that can tell consumers more about their rights and obligations;
  • Learn about the recourses available to consumers and merchants in asserting their rights.

Description :

After watching a funny video about buying a cell phone, students answer questions about assessing their needs and budget, the different types of contracts, warranties, etc.

Equipment :

Introduction :

Discussion

Before watching the video on cell phone contracts, the teacher leads a discussion in which students analyze their own consumer behaviour.

If the group has already completed the Goods and Services Consumption activity, the teacher can skip ahead to viewing the video.

A range of questions fuels their reflection:

Q: What factors influence your buying?

A: Potential answers: Personal, economic and socio-cultural factors: age, gender, knowledge, personal values, beliefs, budget, income, prices, taxes, culture, network of relationships (family, friends, coworkers, social media, etc.), your desire to fit in with a group, social pressure, lifestyle, fashion, media, advertising, etc.

Q: What might motivate you to make one purchase over another?

A: Potential answers: The price of the product, its quality, its appearance, its usefulness, my needs, the environment, other people’s comments about the product, etc.

Q: What resources can provide consumers with information?

A: Potential answers:

  • The Office de la protection du consommateur, consumer associations, your local Association coopérative d’économie familiale (ACEF), Éducaloi, Protégez-vous, the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), etc.
  • Advertising, businesses, social media, relatives and friends can also give you information. But be careful! These aren’t official sources, so you’ll need to check the information to make sure it’s true.

Q: How do new technologies affect consumer habits?

A: Potential answers:

  • New technologies are constantly being updated, giving us the impression that our devices are quickly outdated. This can lead some consumers to buy new devices more often.
  • Technology provides access to a wider range of products. At the same time, too many choices can result in overconsumption.
  • Technology gives you access to more resources so you can do your research before you buy.
  • You can use it to shop differently, for example, from the comfort of home. On the other hand, it can further isolate people who already spend a lot of time alone in front of their screens.
  • Etc.

The discussion focuses on the topic of buying a cell phone.

Q: Why would someone want a new phone?

A: Potential answers:

  • Makes it easier to stay in contact (lets anyone, anywhere contact other people at any time);
  • To keep in touch with someone who is far away;
  • To call for help in an emergency (safety);
  • For its functions (GPS, calendar, applications, etc.);
  • For 24-hour access to information;
  • Because they don't have a home phone;
  • To be on trend;
  • For entertainment (music, games);
  • Etc.

Q: What would someone think twice before getting a new phone?

A: Potential answers:

  • Not enough income;
  • Effect on the environment;
  • Desire to maintain privacy;
  • Loss of personal downtime (can always be reached);
  • Has trouble using technological devices;
  • Unknown health consequences;
  • Fear of becoming overly dependent on the device;
  • Satisfied with their current phone;
  • Etc.

Signing a cell phone contract shouldn’t be taken lightly. Before making this kind of commitment, it’s important to take certain precautions.

The teacher asks students what they should consider before signing a cell phone contract. He or she jots down the answers on the board.

Viewing the video

The teacher shows students the Your Cell Phone Contract video.

 

Explanations :

What does a cell phone contract look like? What does it cover?

The teacher shows the students a sample cell phone contract, either in hard copy or PowerPoint format. He or she draws their attention to the elements that must appear on every cell phone contract, on the very first page:

  • the consumer and the merchant’s name and address;
  • the place and date where the contract is signed;
  • a detailed description of every service covered by the agreement;
  • the monthly rate for all services under the contract, including the monthly fee for optional services, like voice messages;
  • the monthly rate for each related charge, like the charges for 9-1-1 access and network access;
  • the total amount the consumer must pay each month;
  • the description and current price of the good sold or offered as a bonus, like a cell phone;
  • the contract term and its expiry date;
  • the terms governing contract cancellation.

If the consumer signs an agreement with a service provider in person, for example, in a store or with a travelling salesperson, the contract must be written clearly and legibly on paper, in duplicate. First, the service provider signs the contract and its duplicate on its last page. The next steps are to:

  • give the consumer an opportunity to read the contract;
  • ask the consumer to sign the contract and its duplicate, on the last page;
  • give the consumer a duplicate of the contract.

If the agreement is made over the Internet or over the phone, the provider must send the consumer a copy of the contract (e.g., by email or standard mail) within 15 days of the date the contract was made.

Instructions :

Referring to the information in the video and the theoretical explanations, the students work together as a class to finish the earlier list of aspects to consider before signing a cell phone contract.

Then, in teams, students work on the scenarios of the student workbook.

Conclusion :

Once the students have completed the worksheet, the teacher addresses the entire class. Using the answer key, he or she asks the teams, each in turn, to share their answers to the various scenarios.

The teacher also asks the students questions about certain aspects they need to consider before they enter into a cell phone contract:

Q: What are the two types of cell phone contracts? What's the difference between them?

A: Potential answers:

  • Fixed-term contract: the consumer is bound by an agreement for a fixed period, ranging from one to two years, for example. During this period, the merchant cannot change the price of the services. If the consumer cancels the agreement, he or she may have to pay a cancellation penalty.
  • Open-ended contract: the consumer receives an invoice every month, but isn’t bound by a contract with a fixed period. The price of the services may increase, and there is generally no cancellation penalty.

Q: When signing a cell phone contract, the provider may require that someone stand as your guarantor (co-signatory). What does this mean?

A: Potential answer: This is when the provider requires that a parent or another adult agree to pay your bill instead of you if ever you’re unable to pay it. This is how the provider makes sure the contract will be respected.

Q: In the video, our buyer chose to get a new phone. Are there ways to reduce the environmental impact?

A: Potential answers:

  • Choose not to own a cell phone.
  • Buy a used phone, for example, through a classified ads website.
  • Give away your old phone, if it still works.
  • Make sure your old phone is recycled properly.
  • Etc.

Q: What can happen if you don’t pay your cell phone bill for two months?

A: Potential answers

  • Service can be cut off by the cell phone provider.
  • You may face high fees and be required to pay a security deposit in order for your service to be reactivated.
  • This may negatively affect your credit report.
  • Etc.

It would be helpful for students to understand that their choices mean they may have to make certain sacrifices. This is called opportunity cost.

Opportunity or alternative cost is defined as the loss of a good or a benefit that is given up when a choice is made. It’s the cost of the good or service that you give up to choose another good or service.

For example, if you choose to buy a new car instead of investing that amount, the opportunity cost is the interest lost on that investment when you buy the car.

Q: What do you have to give up to buy a state-of-the-art device (which costs more)?

A: Potential answers: Outings, clothes, gifts, travel, etc.

To delve more deeply into the topic of cell phones, the teacher can conduct another activity with the students: A Telephone for Luke.