Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne has asked the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to examine recent price hikes on roaming plans.
“This is part of a concerning trend to charge more for existing services broadly at a time when inflationary pressures are making it difficult for Canadians to pay their bills,” Champagne wrote in a letter to CRTC Chair Vicky Eatrides.
Several carriers have recently implemented price hikes. Telus and its flanker brand Koodo increased the cost for U.S. roaming from $12/day to $14/day and international roaming from $15 to $16/day.
Bell and its flanker Virgin Plus also increased its price tag. The costs for U.S. roaming went from $12/day to $13/day and international roaming from $15/day to $16/day.
Eastlink also has plans to increase its costs by $1 on April 20th. The company will charge $13/day for U.S. roaming and $16/day for international roaming.
“Increases to these types of ancillary fees add to the cost of a consumer’s bill beyond the main sticker price,” Champagne wrote. “In many cases, these fees are much less visible and are unpredictable or challenging for consumers to understand.”
Champagne acknowledges the Wireless Code addresses some aspects of roaming fees but doesn’t stop providers from increasing costs involved with international roaming.
“Increases to ancillary fees like international roaming fees can be a mechanism where a service provider seeks to raise the consumer price without affecting the main sticker price that is most visible to consumers in making their purchasing decision.”
In response, the CRTC said it had already started collecting such information, with initial results showing Canadians pay higher international roaming rates than other countries. While the Commission didn’t specify which countries, it did say it would commission a study to examine the issue.
“As the telecommunications regulator, we take seriously attempts to increase Canadians’ bills through ancillary fees. We will continue to use all available tools to address this type of behaviour and will keep Canadians apprised of developments,” Eatrides wrote.
Updated 03/23/2023 4:06pm ET: The article has been updated with additional information.