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Rogers $30/month plan is only a small victory for consumers

While I was on vacation, Rogers blinked. In response to a massive outcry, they revised their iPhone data pricing temporarily, offering a discounted $30 for 6G of data plan for all customers who sign up before the end of August.  It gets better than that, too.  The plan is being offered for all smartphones, including the Nokia N95 and apparently the Blackberry Bold, if it launches before the end of August.  All indications are that Bold is coming very soon.

Jim Courtney also informed me last night that Rogers accounts currently not under contract are eligible for an additional $50 rebate, bringing the cost of the iPhone down to just $149 for the 8G model.

This is excellent news.  At least for now, Canadians aren’t getting screwed by Rogers… much.  There are still several more consumer abuses that we need to continue to focus on, however:

  • Arbitrary fees. All of the major carriers in this country charge a “system access fee”.  Although it’s non-negotiable, and the inference is that it’s some kind of government mandated tax, it is in fact simply another way to abuse the the consumer.  Customers should have simple, clear and unambiguous language from carriers about what each of the fees on the bill represent.
  • Contract lengths. At this point contracts in Canada are 50% longer than anywhere else in the world.  Three years is a long time at the rate that technology changes.  It’s an abuse of the customer to demand such a long commitment.
  • Arbitrary contracts. Service contracts were originally designed to lock a consumer into a minimum agreed upon usage term in return for a subsidy on the handset.  Increasingly consumers are choosing to supply their own handsets — either through purchasing them second hand, or by paying full price for handsets that aren’t locked to a particular carrier.  Even so, carriers demand that consumers who own unsubsidized handsets sign up for long service contracts.  For example, in order to get Rogers $30/month plan on my existing Nokia handsets, I would have to agree to a three year contract with Rogers.  When carriers aren’t subsidizing the handset, it’s abusive to demand that the customer sign up for an extended contract.
  • Locked phones. When a consumer has paid out the term of the contract, then the handset belongs to that person.  When a consumer travels outside of Canada, and doesn’t wish to pay roaming charges to the Canadian carrier, then the handset must be unlocked so that a foreign carrier’s SIM can be inserted.  It’s an abuse of the customer to refuse to unlock that handset so that it can be used on another carrier network. In most countries, other than Canada, carriers are required to unlock handsets or sell unlocked handsets if requested.

A good starting point to address these issues is David McGuinty‘s private members bill, the C-555 Get Connected Fairly Act.  His bill addresses the accuracy and locking issues, but not the contracting issue.  If you wish to support it, sign the petition.  In addition, continue to let your own MP know your views on this issue.

Canadian consumers have won a skirmish with Rogers, but the battle to be treated fairly is far from over.

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{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Jason Yeung July 23, 2008, 10:37 am

    Unfortunately, this is only temporary – the $30/6GB ends at the end of August. The fact that they want you to sign away your life for 3 years isn't surprising – they know competition's around the corner and just want to lock you in.

    With the spectrum auction over and the new entrants coming soon, along with the rumours that TELUS and Bell will go GSM/HSPA soon – it's no wonder they want to lock you in for 3 years.

    As for me, I'm sticking with my cheap plan on TELUS and hope they'll migrate me over to GSM when the time comes….I'm not willing to be locked into three years.

    – Jason

  • Barry Garnet July 24, 2008, 3:03 am

    With the recent purchase of a new iPhone, I was required to sign a "Getting Started" document that I have read and understood the various aspects of the plan including the agreement, using the iPhone, data usage, the bill, use outside Canada, the warranty and more.

    It included a section about the bill that outlined that the System Access Fee was a "non-government fee".

  • anon July 24, 2008, 2:04 pm

    Alec – can you actually name two countries where there are requirements for unlocking phones?

  • Alec July 24, 2008, 2:41 pm

    Sure.

    In the United States, carriers are required to unlock a phone for customers wishing to travel internationally. France requires carriers to offer unlocked phones. Italy and Germany also.

    Shall I go on?

  • Jason Yeung July 24, 2008, 4:08 pm

    Hong Kong as well. None of the GSM phones – including the iPhone – sold there are locked.

    Plus the plans are super cheap and depending on the phone, contracts are pretty short too. No ETFs or anything – for a $0 phone, you pay full price for the phone up front, and the cost is rebated to you on the monthly bill until your contract's up (so it effectively gives you a free phone).

    – Jason

  • David December 2, 2008, 12:31 pm

    We need UNLIMITED plans like in the USA, eventhough 6GB is alot of data, we need the peace of mind that we will never go over the limit.

    David
    The GSM Unlocker

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