OTTAWA – Three-year contracts from cellphone companies should be banned, the opposition says.

The New Democrats say if the federal broadcast regulator that is drafting a national code of conduct for the wireless industry  does not ban the three-year contract, the Harper Conservatives must act.

Canadians are being gouged with long-term contracts, according to NDP consumer critic Glenn Thibeault.

“If you have a handset that through heavy use doesn’t last your three-year duration, you need to buy,” he said.

Thibeault says three-year terms lock consumers into contracts.

“Then there’s all these fees that come across with that.”

Consumers then end up paying for new cellphones, or extending their contracts by accepting subsidized prices for a newer device, rather than pay often hundreds of dollars in cancellation fees.

“It’s a win for the consumers but [wireless carriers] are still going to have their profits. They’re still going to be able have customers so I don’t see that as an issue for the big guys,” Thibeault said.

Industry Minister Christian Paradis says he is not considering action because the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is reviewing the matter in its proposed code of conduct for Canada’s wireless industry.

“I understand that the CRTC will study the complaints,” he said. “But what I can reassure is that we want to have more competition, better prices for consumers.”

The commission is developing a code of conduct for telecommunication companies and it could include a ban on the 36-month term.

If it is developed, it is not likely to take effect until at least summer 2013.