Rogers wireless customers who exceed their data package limits will now see much higher bills, but the carrier defends its decision to raise prices in the face of consumer frustration.
“The vast majority of Rogers customers, about 90 per cent, don’t get charged data overage and we’ve taken the worry out of data use with our data manager app that allows families to control, in real time, data use,” said Rogers spokesperson Sarah Schmidt.
The Toronto-based company recently revised its Share Everything packages and adjusted its overage fees. As a result, customers will pay $7 per 100 megabytes, up from $5 per 100 megabytes, for data consumption that exceeds their monthly plan. That works out to a price increase of 40 per cent.
Bell similarly raised its data overage to $7 per 100 megabytes from $5 per 100 megabytes in April.
Rogers’ new data overage fee will only apply to new customers and existing customers who change or update their plans. The new plans offer more data included, and the unit rate of data in these plans has nominally decreased. Rogers justified the modifications as a direct response to the new ways customers are using data.
“We’ve updated our plans so they’re more in line with our customers’ usage and offer them more value on their monthly rates,” said Schmidt.
“Our customers are using more data than ever and we’re constantly investing in our network to meet their demand for data and speed and have invested billions in the last five years.”
While Schmidt acknowledged the price increase, she stressed the efforts Rogers is making to help customers monitor their data use.
“Over the last year since we’ve introduced (the) data manager, we’ve seen a 75 per cent decrease in the number of customers that are incurring these data overage charges.”
But Bruce Cran, president of the Vancouver-based Consumers’ Association of Canada, told Global News that he’s “surprised and disappointed” that Rogers pushed up the price. Cran said the move doesn’t serve customers well.
“Compared to the U.S. our data for internet and cell phone fees are tremendously high, so that I have a problem with, individual companies taking advantage of that is their right as a corporation,” another customer said.
A quick look at plans offered by American carrier AT&T shows that you can be paying as little as $60 USD plus tax per month for an unlimited talk, text, and data plan throughout North America.
Rogers does not currently offer an unlimited data plan and its new Share Everything plans start at $95 per month for two gigabytes of data. Which means, on some occasions, it may be cheaper to purchase an unlimited data plan from an American carrier for use in Canada. Even AT&T’s six-gigabyte plan promises no overage fees and offers rollover data, which means any unused data will transfer over to the next month.
In 2013, the CRTC established the Wireless Code of Conduct to regulate Canadian wireless service providers in order to protect consumers.
“The code promotes a dynamic marketplace by empowering Canadians to make informed choices about their wireless service providers and establishing standards for industry behaviour,” said CRTC spokesperson Patricia Valladao.
While the code does not regulate retail rates, it does put a $50 cap on how much a consumer can be charged in data overage fees. The data overage cap was established to prevent “bill shock.”
After a consumer has reached the $50 cap, they must be notified and consent to any additional data they want to pay for. The rule does not restrict consumers from paying for more data if they want to, but with the new fee increase it means that consumers will be paying $50 for less data than before.
“We give them the tools, but there is a responsibility on the consumer to stay informed,” said Valladao.
Comparison studies of pricing have frequently shown Canadian consumers pay a high price for data usage among developed countries.
According to a 2016 study by telecom research firm tefficient, Canadian consumers pay some of the highest prices per gigabyte of data along with users in Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic and the Netherlands.
With files from Stephanie Gordon