Bell Canada and subsidiary Bell Aliant are looking to increase the price of making a local pay phone call to as much as $1.

The companies have asked the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to approve the increase, saying the money is needed to modify the equipment.

Bell and Bell Aliant are also seeking to double the cost of non-cash pay phone payments — such as those made by credit cards — from the current $1 to $2.

The Royal Canadian Mint is changing how the loonie is made this year, and the companies say they will face "significant capital expenditures" to update pay phones across the country.

According to the companies' application, "the new one-dollar coins will have different characteristics than the current ones and so will not be recognized by the current coin validation systems."

Bell and Bell Aliant also say that as consumers use pay phones less and cellular devices more, price increases are needed to help recover costs.

Low-income groups speak out

Consumer groups arguing low-income individuals who rely on pay phones will be disproportionately affected by any increase. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre is urging people to contact the CRTC to oppose a hike.

"We don't think Bell's proposed pay phone charge increase is right," the centre says in a flyer.

The companies, however, say without the extra money, pay phones will disappear faster.

"The new $1 coin will have different characteristics from the current ones and so will not be recognized by the current coin validation systems," they say in their application to the regulator.

"Permitting the companies to recover the costs associated with upgrading their pay phones to accept the new $1 coins through rate increases for local pay phone calls will also assist the companies in slowing the decommissioning of pay phones as profitability will be more likely."

Telus recently told the CRTC it will not seek to increase the cost of calls from payphones in Alberta and British Columbia, keeping the price at 50 cents.


  • An earlier version of this story said Bell was seeking looking to double the cash cost of making a local pay phone call to $1. In fact, it is applying to increase the price to as much as $1.
    Apr 02, 2012 6:25 PM ET
With files from The Canadian Press