Ask a Canadian about their smart phone plan and you’re typically going to hear an earful about how they’re paying too much, especially in comparison to the rest of the developed world.
The Post Millennial spoke to several Canadians and expats living in Canada who found loopholes to get phone plans outside of Canada–either from their dual citizenships or trusting friends or family members living in America signing them up under their names.
One Canadian we spoke to was visiting family in Florida, when he heard an ad on the radio for T-Mobile plans that were way cheaper than his plan in Canada. He spoke with his cousin and was able to get him to sign him up for a phone plan of US$30 ($39.43), under his cousin’s name, that includes unlimited North-American-wide talk and text and unlimited data. All he has to do is send an e-transfer each month to pay for his significantly lower bill.
An expat from Europe living in Canada who spoke to The Post Millennial has a similar plan to the aforementioned one; they were able to bypass Canadian providers because their father got them on his plan in the U.S. where he works.
The big-three Canadian phone companies–Bell, Telus and Rogers–have been enjoying their de facto oligopoly of the Canadian market. Bell, Telus and Rogers all offer $65 a month plans that includes unlimited data, however, unlike U.S. plans, these plans cap fast-speed data at 10GB and do not offer unlimited North American-wide talk and text. In order to get 50GB of maximum speed data and unlimited Canada calling with Bell, for example, costs $115 a month, which still doesn’t offer as good of features as the far cheaper T-Mobile plan (other American providers offer similar rates) that’s nearly one-third the cost.
There’s another loophole to get around these outlandish monthly fees and get on with an American carrier that’s also being used by some Canadians fed up with their bills. One can simply buy an American sim card online and a pre-paid voucher, then call a carrier in the United States and set up a phone plan that has unlimited roaming in Canada.
Another Canadian, this one with American citizenship, The Post Millennial spoke to has a family plan with U.S.-based Cricket for US$100 (CAN$131.42), that includes four lines that all get North American-wide unlimited data, as well as unlimited talk and text. That works out to CAN32.85 a month at the current exchange rate.
The Post Millennial contacted the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Navdeep Bains’ office to enquire about what they were doing to break up the big three carriers or at least hold them accountable for their price gouging tactics.
“Our Government has taken a number of steps to support affordability, competition, consumer interests, and innovation in telecommunications. And we’ve seen encouraging steps in the right direction–prices are up to 32% lower in regions with more competition, and there are now low-cost data plans. But there is more to be done, which is why during the recent election campaign we committed to reducing cell phone bills by 25%,” said the minister’s spokesperson Keenan Dani.
The Post Millennial also contacted Shadow Minister for Industry and Economic Development Michelle Rempel Garner.
“In Canada for the same price you’re paying for 5GB of data an American gets 12GB of data. This is where the Liberal’s argument that they’re going to reduce phone plans by 25% kind of falls short. They have been very light on details on how they are going to do that. Canada doesn’t need a state intervention, what are they going to do? Buy a cell phone company the way they bought the pipeline? There are other new and innovative ways to license spectrum that are being developed all around the world.”
“It’s about time that we take a look at a made in Canada approach instead of just hoping that continuing on the path of long-term spectrum licences will magically build both wireless and broadband access into rural communities,” continued Garner. “We need to acknowledge that so far it isn’t working and come up with an approach that will. This is going to be one of the thrusts of our agenda. We will support a free market in this space and incorporate innovative system design.”
Garner went on to express the concerns she and her political opponents share in fighting to lower the cost of plans for Canadians.
“This is one of the most highly and heavily lobbied industries in the country and there is an inordinate amount of pressure put on entire caucuses of all political stripes. We have an opportunity while in a minority parliament to build some consensus on this. I also know that this is going to be an issue that is heavily lobbied.”
There are dozens of registered lobbyists listed on the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada’s website for the big-three Canadian telecom companies that have lobbied the federal government in the past 12 months.
The Post Millennial reached out to Bell, Rogers and Telus comment for this story, but none of them got back to us.