Telus sacks system access fee

Telus has become the first of the big three Canadian wireless companies to drop the hated system access fee — and not replace it with a new charge.

Telus has become the first of the big three Canadian wireless companies to drop the hated system access fee — and not replace it with a new charge.

The company announced Tuesday that it was discontinuing its $6.95 system access fee, which it said went toward maintaining and upgrading its network, as well as the 75-cent 911 charge.

Telus's rival Rogers dropped its system access charge in September, but replaced it with a "regulatory recovery fee" ranging between  $2.46 and $3.46 depending on region, which the company said will help pay for the cost of complying with various government regulations.

"Nobody likes surprises. We are listening to Canadians, who have told us wireless pricing can be confusing," said Telus chief executive Darren Entwistle said in a statement. "With Telus's Clear Choice plans, the price you see is the price you pay."

Telus subscribers won't see a huge savings though, as the company is also increasing the price of its monthly service plans by $5 to make up for the revenue shortfall. Telus is, however, including its Voicemail 3 service — which lets customers save up to three voice mail messages — with the plans. Rogers also boosted the price of its plans when it dropped the system access fee.

A spokesperson for Rogers said the company did not comment on competitors' offerings.

Existing Telus customers will be able to stay on their existing plans and continue paying the extra fees, or they can switch onto the new offerings.

Competitors about to enter market

Telus's move leaves Bell as the last of the big three national carriers to charge the fee. Bell officials did not return requests for comment.

The system access fee is the subject of an ongoing class-action lawsuit by Regina-based lawyer Tony Merchant. He says Canada's cellphone carriers for years misrepresented the fee as a government or regulatory charge, and is seeking the return of billions of dollars to consumers. The carriers have denied the accusation and the matter is still before the courts.

Telus was also the first of the big three to sack the system access fee in the discount wireless market with the launch of Koodo in early 2008. Rogers and Bell followed suit by discontinuing the fee on their respective discount brands, Fido and Solo.

The moves by Rogers and Telus to simplify fees on their core brands come as new cellphone companies are about to enter the Canadian market. Globalive and Public Mobile are planning to launch services in several cities by the end of the year, followed by DAVE Wireless and Videotron early next year.

None of the new entrants are expected to charge system access or 911 fees.

Globalive's ownership is being reviewed by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. The regulator will on Thursday rule whether changes are needed to the company's structure before it can launch. 


Peter Nowak


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