Rogers axes system access fee but adds new charge

Rogers is scrapping the $6.95 system access fee and replacing it with a "regulatory recovery fee" that will differ by province.

Rogers is scrapping the $6.95 system access fee and replacing it with a "regulatory recovery fee" that will differ by province.

The new fee, which takes effect on Oct. 5, will range between $2.46 and $3.46 per month, depending on the region. In addition, Rogers is raising the base rates of its plans by $5 and adding three free calling features — call forwarding, Who Called and Call Manager, which allow customers to manage incoming calls and alerts them to calls received when their phones were off.

The new structure is an effort to make customer bills clearer and bring pricing policies in line with what wireless carriers in the United States are doing, Rogers spokeswoman Liz Hamilton said.

The new charges do not apply to existing plans, although customers who want to switch to the new structure can do so if they are eligible, she said.

"If the plan you have works for you, that's fine. If you want to switch to the new plan, that's fine too."

The structure does also not apply to Fido, Rogers's discount brand, which dropped its system access fee in November.

"They're different value propositions and they have different marketing strategies behind them," Hamilton said.

Follows other players' leads

Telus was the first of Canada's big three cellphone providers to ditch the system access fee when it launched its Koodo discount brand in March 2008, with Bell and Rogers following suit with their respective Solo and Fido units (Virgin, now a subsidiary of Bell, also doesn't charge the fee).

Bell and Telus still charge the system access fee on their core brands. Both companies declined to comment.

"At this point, we're taking a look at it, however, we aren't able to comment on a competitor's pricing approach," said Bell spokesperson Julie Smithers. "Of course you can count on Bell remaining competitive in the marketplace, but we have no new pricing initiatives to announce today."

All of Canada's existing cellphone network owners are facing an ongoing class-action lawsuit over the system access fee.

Lawyer Tony Merchant's class action was certified in Saskatchewan in 2007 and is still before the courts. Merchant has said cellphone providers have misled the public into believing the fee was a government or regulatory fee, and is seeking the return of up to $20 billion.

The carriers have denied that they misled customers.

None of the new cellphone companies that are launching service in the next few months — Wind, Public Mobile, DAVE Wireless and Vidéotron — are expected to charge the system access fee.


Peter Nowak


Peter Nowak is a Toronto-based technology reporter and author of Humans 3.0: The Upgrading of the Species.