Price-gouging: The cell phone market in Canada

07.08.08

Two related stories in today’s Gazette, referring to all three major players in Canada’s mobile phone market:

First, a story about how Bell and Telus are both going to start charging for incoming text messages. Considering most of the spam I receive is actually from Bell, that shows some nerve. Coupled with my recent notice that Bell’s plan prices are going up yet again, for me, this is finally the last straw. I’ve had it with Bell. Enough. Fini. C’est tout.

Unfortunately, the competition isn’t much better. Rogers, which recently signed a highly-touted exclusivity contract with Apple to bring the iPhone to Canada, is charging ridiculously high rates for data, basically pricing the iPhone out of reach of the average consumer. And don’t try to get an iPhone from a competitor, either; there aren’t any.

The competition bureau, of course, doesn’t see a problem here:

“Where consumers are concerned about the plans being offered with the iPhones, we don’t consider this to be a competition issue,” said bureau spokesperson Marilyn Nahum. “We don’t consider the iPhone to be a distinct market.

“It’s a cellphone that competes with other cellphones in the market. If consumers don’t like the plans being offered with the iPhone they can go to the competitors.”

This is nothing new. With only three major carriers in the marketplace, Canadians have been gouged on cell phone prices forever. We pay twice what Americans pay for similar voice or data plans, and several times what Europeans or people in the rest of the world pay. Most of us pay a bogus “system access fee” of $6.95 to $8.95 per month, and virtually everyone pays for incoming voice minutes – a practice almost unheard of outside of North America. Our phones are “locked” to our carriers, we are locked into 2- and 3-year contracts with hefty cancellation penalties, and until last year, we couldn’t even keep our phone numbers when switching carriers.

Don’t expect things to get better anytime soon, either. As long as the major telecommunications companies are in bed with the CRTC, and virtual monopolies are allowed to exist, things are only gonna get worse.

Meanwhile, Bell and I are history. Anyone have an old Rogers phone they want to donate / sell to me at a reasonable price?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 John B 08.01.08 at 8:19 PM

I do have an old Fido (Nokia) phone you can have. ;-)

I ditched Fido for Virgin Mobile as soon as number portability came along. Virgin is really only good though for light users (at least during business hours). As soon a Rogers bought Fido I started getting the usual letters stating “in order to serve you better, we will charge you more”.

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