Freedom Mobile has launched a new promotion that takes a novel approach to dealing with data overages, which can be an expensive extra cost if usage goes beyond their monthly plan’s limits.
The wireless arm of Shaw Communications Inc. is offering 100 gigabytes of extra data to new and existing customers — provided they sign up for a two-year plan with a new handset for $60 per month.
The offer will be available for only a limited time in provinces served by Freedom, but the company hasn’t disclosed when it will end.
Freedom says the bonus data pool won’t expire, but will be automatically applied when a customer exceeds a qualifying plan’s normal monthly limit.
WATCH: Canada has some of the world’s most expensive telecom prices, according to experts. One provider is vying for customers by offering a promotion targeting one of the top consumer complaints. Jill Croteau explains.
The Big Binge Bonus promotion is Freedom’s latest tactic for distinguishing itself from Canada’s national wireless carriers owned by Rogers, Bell and Telus.
In October 2017, Freedom challenged its three bigger rivals by offering a plan with 10 gigabytes per month for $50 — at the time a relatively large amount of data for the price.
The three national carriers later launched aggressive discounts and promotions in the weeks before the 2017 year-end holiday period, often the biggest selling opportunity for Canadian mobile carriers.
Laura Tribe is the executive director of OpenMedia — an advocacy group that focuses on privacy and open internet in Canada — and says promotions like this are exactly what Canadian consumers need.
“Low data caps and high overage fees are the quintessential Canadian cellphone experience, and Big Telecom knows it,” Tribe said.
“Last year, Freedom’s more affordable promotion led to all Big Three providers coming back with matching short-term promotions of their own, just to undercut the offering and lock their customers back into contracts. I suspect we’ll see something similar from Bell, Telus and Rogers again shortly.”
Global News reached out to Rogers, Bell and Telus to find out if they plan to launch any counter promotions. In a statement, Telus said it does not comment on pricing or promotion speculation, and instead directed people to its website. Rogers and Bell did not reply to our request.
Canada has some of the world’s most expensive telecom prices, and wireless prices are generally lower in regions of Canada that have competition between multiple carriers such as Freedom, Videotron, Eastlink and SaskTel.
“Challenges to the Big Three’s market stronghold is exactly what we need — but we need so much more of it,” Tribe said.
“These plans are limited offerings, available for just a few days at a time. But with so many people locked into contracts, we can’t afford to switch on a whim. What we need is more sustained choice and competition. Imagine what would happen if these kinds of promotions were available throughout the year, from a variety of providers.”
Tribe said Freedom’s latest move is an example of why the minister responsible for telecommunications, Navdeep Bains, should mandate fair access for mobile virtual network operators (MVNO), which are wireless providers that do not own the physical network infrastructure (such as cell towers) over which it provides services to its customers.
Examples of MVNOs in Canada include Virgin, PC Mobile, Koodo, Fido Solutions, Chatr and Public Mobile — several of which are owned by the Big Three.
The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) — the industry’s regulator — has been ordered by the federal government to look into allegations of misleading and aggressive sales practices in the telecommunication industry.
Bains ordered the investigation in June after a series of investigative reports by the CBC, complaints by consumers and calls for an inquiry by consumer advocacy groups.
The CRTC has been ordered to provide a report to cabinet by the end of February 2019.
— With files from The Canadian Press