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Monday, April 6th 2015

2:07 PM

Have phone, will travel

The punch line was hard: “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.” It was a spoof radio ad making fun of telephone service decades ago. If you live where I live, in Canada, not much has changed.

Then, the phone company was a monopoly. It charged what it wanted because there was nowhere else to go. Now you can go somewhere else but you’re still getting stiffed.  And don’t take my word for it. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has studies showing Canadians pay among the highest rates in the developed world for some of the worst service. Other studies say the same.

A small example: In New Zealand the three major phone providers all offer pre-paid monthly smartphone deals for $19, (slightly less for a Canadian with the currency difference), 15 per cent tax included. A user gets 100 calling minutes, unlimited texting and 500 megabits of data usage. I used one of these deals on a recent visit and as a very casual user I could get by with such an arrangement full-time. For slightly more cash, my current phone plan gives 50 minutes, no text, no data and I can live with that.

Only one provider in Canada, which happens to be a chain of gas stations and not even a phone company, offers the same package as the NZ firms for $35. Plus 12 per cent tax. Plus $1.25 for an emergency service access fee. Nearly $41 added up. More than twice the price a New Zealander pays for the identical service!

Take any package from any provider and a Canadian pays more than anyone else for the same thing. The phone companies have their excuses but as the OECD studies say, those are just excuses. It’s not the government’s fault - it’s deregulated the market, allowed more competition, tried to level the field. It’s our fault. We know we’re getting stiffed; we let them do it. We don’t demand better. We’ll pay anything for that phone package. Even if we don’t need it.



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