Device activation and SIM card charges are the wireless industry’s unholy offspring.
System Access Fee:
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Remember the System Access Fee? It’s that inexplicable charge that Canadian cellphone providers used to tack on to customers’ monthly bills to pay for the privilege… of being their customers.
New carriers Wind and Mobilicity helped kill off the blatant gouging by not charging the System Access Fee, which typically came in between $6 and $8 a month. Embarrassed, Bell, Rogers and Telus had no choice but to follow suit.
Industry boosters will suggest this was competition at work, but the new carriers wouldn’t have even existed had it not been for government intervention in the way wireless spectrum is doled out. So really, it was the Feds who indirectly killed the fee.
Worry not, Big Three shareholders, because the System Access Fee is alive and well, in a way. It has simply morphed into other completely unwarranted charges.
Key among these are the fees that big carriers levy for activating a phone and for new Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards.
As CBC reports, Bell and Rogers customers pay $15 and $20 to activate a device on their respective networks.
The same goes for SIM cards, without which a phone also cannot connect to a network. Bell charges $9.95, Telus $15 and Rogers $9.99 if the customer doesn’t buy their device through the company.
These aren’t recurring monthly charges like the System Access Fee was, but they’re based on the same logic – namely, they’re devoid of it. They are unequivocally naked cash grabs.
A particularly friendly or helpful customer service agent might waive the fees for customers who object to them, but they’re just as likely to enforce their employer’s rigid, never-ending quest for bigger and bigger piles of lucre. Logic isn’t big with many of these individuals.
Case in point: I recently switched to a better plan with my provider, Rogers’ Fido sub-brand. In doing so, I lost my free Spotify premium subscription and access to the carrier’s roam-like-home feature, which allows customers to use their existing plan in the United States for $5 a day.
Since I frequently take short trips to the U.S., I asked a service rep to reinstate the roaming provision, otherwise I’d revert to using Roam Mobility, a third-party roaming service based in Vancouver. Roam Mobility’s rate is similar, but requires me to switch my SIM card when I cross the border.
In simple terms, I pointed out to the Fido rep that the company could either get some roaming revenue from me, or none. With rigidity and illogic being the rule there, it should come as no surprise which option he took. Congratulations are due to Rogers for delivering my business to a different company.
My personal anecdote is the reverse of the unwarranted activation and SIM card charges, but again, it shares the same DNA. The Big Three extract money from customers in ways that can’t be justified, and they also turn it down in the same way.
One would hope that good sense or perhaps even competition would solve this problem, but that’s like hoping to see a real live unicorn some day. It just isn’t going to happen.
One could also hope that policy makers might also somehow force carriers into adopting logic or – failing that – ban unfair fees altogether, but that never works out. After all, we might not have activation and SIM card charges if the feds hadn’t killed the System Access Fee in the first place.