Switch carriers? How? Ottawa gives mixed messages over rising mobile prices

Even as the minister responsible admitted there aren’t enough competitive options for mobile service in Canada, another federal official said consumers can and should search for other service providers when faced with price increases.

That message — from Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Canada — came just hours after the Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne said Canadians “still pay too much and see too little competition” for cellular services.

“Customers could consider switching service providers,” an ISED Canada representative wrote Thursday, when asked for a response to price increases at Rogers Communications and reported hikes at Bell. 

Rogers said earlier this week some of its wireless customers will see increases of less than $7 to $9 per month in the coming weeks. On Friday, it said the average increase will be $5.

Some customers have reported that Bell is raising the monthly cost of their existing wireless plans in February. This was first reported by tech news outlet MobileSyrup.

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The idea that Canadians should bear the burden of searching out cheaper prices doesn’t sit well with one competition expert.

“That should not be the consumer’s responsibility,” said Keldon Bester, executive director of the research and advocacy group Canadian Anti-Monopoly Project, who spoke out against Rogers’s recent merger with Shaw Communications.

“As opposed to companies fighting for customers, it’s customers hunting around for the best deal in a not-that-great marketplace.”

WATCH | Rogers says prices for some plans are going up: 

Cellphone plans are about to get more expensive for some Canadians

Rogers Communications has confirmed that it will increase the price of some of its cellphone plans — a move that’s not landing well with many customers.

According to Bester, part of the problem is the high cost in time and effort it takes to find savings.

“Of course it’s possible to switch. But what we need to realize is, I think, the people that need these affordable services the most are not the folks who can sort of leisurely be on the phone with Bell for an hour trying to negotiate a better contract,” he said. 

Neither Bell nor Telus responded to repeated requests for comment. 

Quebecor, owner of the cable and mobile provider Videotron, said on Thursday that a price freeze is in place for customers with its Freedom Mobile, Videotron and Fizz brands. 

Quebecor bought Freedom Mobile from Shaw, as part of the Calgary-based telecom’s merger with Rogers. Under that agreement, Videotron was obliged to lower prices, but the lowest price the government can enforce is $68 per month. 

Rogers was not subject to similar price controls in its purchase of Shaw. Federal officials say the coming increases are permitted.

“At this time, there is no indication Rogers is contravening their transaction agreement. However, Rogers is subject to binding reporting…

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