≡ Menu

System access fee: the drip feed for Canadian wireless carriers

The practice of burying hidden fees on bills, and how it rips consumers off is gaining some visibility:

Broadband Reports: companies are "taking business expenses and breaking them out as below the line fees, so they can misleadingly advertise a lower rate".

MSNBC: "Those $5 and $10 charges really add up. Even with these limitations, Americans told us they lose $946 to sneaky fees every year, enough to stock a sizable retirement fund."

Michigan Telephone: "People, please, stop just putting up with corporations stealing from you.  Would you let someone walk into your home and smile as they carted off your possessions, or took a few bills out of your wallet or purse? Heck, would you let your kids do that? Then why do you let big corporations do it to you, without a word of protest??"

Here in Canada there's one wireless fee that grates on everybody's nerves.  It's the "system access fee". There isn't a carrier that doesn't charge six or seven bucks a month under the line item called system access, so you can't even switch carriers to avoid paying the darn thing!  When you ask about it, you get a shrug along with the comment "everybody charges it". 

Mention it the next time you talk with your carrier.  I always do, and I always force the CSR to explain what it's for to me.  Then I ask them to remove this non-service fee from my bill.  Every time I talk with them, though, they politely refuse. It costs the carrier $25 to $30 per call to receive my call.  Three or four calls per year asking about what that "system access fee" is on my statement will wipe out any profits they make from nickeling and diming me.   It's a little subversive, but it's just the sort of thing that appeals to the Canadian in me.  And perhaps if enough people did the same, the bean counting MBAs who work in product management at Canadian carriers  would see the logic of discontinuing this practice.  

{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Geoff January 16, 2008, 6:04 am

    Virgin Mobile?

  • Alec January 16, 2008, 6:58 am

    True enough. Unfortunately for anyone who needs roaming or long distance, it's not a great option.

  • Geoff January 16, 2008, 7:59 am

    My wife was with Rogers for 3 years. She used her mobile almost entirely for her business, which never strayed outside of Ottawa and was hardly ever conducted on evening and weekend hours. After years of paying what we felt were excessive, if not abusive, rates, we finally decided to bite the bullet and give the Virgin option a try. The number portability was the critical factor in the experiment.

    So far, so good. The coverage and sound quality has apparently been no better or worse on average than with Rogers. And there are no extra fees for "real" voice mail, caller ID, etc. And, joy of joys, no system access fees. We estimate the annual savings will be in the range of $600-$700.

    You are, of course, entirely correct. But for those who are "local" in their needs, Virgin appears to offer a viable option.

  • Rafi February 4, 2008, 8:00 pm

    How does it cost them 25 – 30$? Do you mean indirectly or directly. Like every time I cal they have to pay a CSR and pay for answering the phone, electricity, the works? Or 25$ to pick up the phone. I don't get that because if that were the case then no wonder they charge 7$ a month. Otherwise they would lose millions answering the phone for their customers.

  • Alec February 4, 2008, 9:11 pm

    loaded cost Rafi. Obviously it's not just the cost of the salary.

  • John Bear February 14, 2008, 9:54 pm

    Try a TracFone. I have used mine for 6 months. The service is great, the cost is very cheap. Works great and coverage area is excellent. Roaming works.

Leave a Comment