Industry Minister Jim Prentice is calling on the chief executive officers of Bell and Telus to meet with him and explain their decision to charge consumers for incoming text messages.

'I believe this was a poorly thought out decision.' —Jim Prentice, industry minister 

Prentice, who has sent letters to the heads of the two companies, said the decision to charge consumers without text bundling packages will hurt consumers. The companies must meet with him before Aug. 8.

"While I have no desire to interfere with the day-to-day business decisions of two private companies, I do have a duty as minister of industry to protect the interests of the consuming public when necessary," Prentice said in a statement.

"I believe this was a poorly thought out decision."

Under the new plans, customers will be charged 15 cents for each incoming text message, including uninvited spam messages. Previously, customers without text plans were only charged for outgoing messages. Customers with a text messaging rate plan or bundle will not be affected by the new charges.

Meanwhile, the federal NDP is calling on disgruntled Canadians to add their names to an online petition protesting the new price plan from Bell and Telus for incoming text messages.

"Cellphone companies are now charging for spam, consumer confidence sinks lower every quarter and the central bank's quarterly business outlook suggests 42 per cent of businesses in Canada will increase the cost of their goods and services," NDP Leader Jack Layton said in a release.

"The average CEO in Canada makes more on New Year's Day than the average Canadian employee makes in a year. It's no wonder a record number of corporations want to jack up prices — the people ordering the price increases can afford them."

A group supporting the petition on the social networking site Facebook had more than 2,000 members as of Wednesday morning.

A spokesman for Telus said the new charges would help cover rising text messaging costs.

"This helps us recover costs from pay-per-use customers," spokesman Shawn Hall said. "Typically customers who send and receive the odd text message, you know, 'Honey pick up milk and eggs on your way home,' that kind of thing."

Miko Labarda, a Telus customer in Toronto, said he sends and receives more than 100 text messages every day. He expects his bill will be at least $200 more every month because of the new fees. "I thought it was an outrage," he said. "Once my contract is over in like a year I'm switching to Rogers."

Marc Choma, a spokesman for the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, an industry group representing telecommunications companies, refuted charges that Canadians are being overcharged.

"When you're looking in terms of investment, what it costs to bring wireless service to Canadians, to be able cover that vast an area with such a little population we are doing very well here in Canada," he said.

With files from the Canadian Press