Some Canadian wireless customers are still paying a ‘system access fee’

The $6.95 charge was phased out for in-market plans in 2009


While Rogers’, Telus’ and Bell’s $6.95 ‘system access fee’ for wireless customers was scrapped in 2009 for new customers, some customers on old plans are still paying the fee.

CBC News’ Sophia Harris brought the issue to light, with a report that 70-year-old customer Shanmugam Sivalingam is still being charged $6.95 by his provider, Telus.

His son, Harry, discovered the charge and was shocked that the long-outdated practice was still continuing.

Further, he found that switching his father off the plan to an in-market offer would only increase his monthly payment.

The big three Canadian national telecoms were never made to end the charge by Canada’s telecom regulator, instead leaving the practice behind when new providers eschewed the practice. Additionally, Rogers, Bell and Telus faced a class action lawsuit headed up by Regina lawyer Tony Merchant that was lodged in 2007.

The ongoing lawsuit claims that the system access fee was designed to give the impression of a government levy when, in reality, most of the fee simply went into the companies’ coffers.

After ending the fee, Rogers added a government regulatory recovery fee ranging from $2 to $3 per month, which was eventually dropped in 2012. All three carriers also raised the price of wireless plans by $5 in 2009.

Rogers did not comment on the lawsuit, but confirmed to MobileSyrup that any customer still paying the fee has always had the option to switch to a different plan that does not charge the fee. The customers still paying the fee make up a small group of customers, according to the carrier.

Bell spokesperson Nathan Gibson further told MobileSyrup:

“We wouldn’t comment on any active court cases, though I would note that most of this kind of litigation has been dismissed by the courts or significantly narrowed in scope over the years. Neither Bell nor MTS (relaunched as Bell MTS in March 2017) has charged a SAF on new customer accounts for many years. Any fees associated with a customer’s service are fully outlined in their contract.”

Telus did not respond to MobileSyrup in time for publication, but told CBC that the company made it clear to all customers that they could switch to new plans to avoid the charge.

Source: CBC News