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Law | Wednesday, September 19th, 2007 | 10 years, 2 months ago

I was a customer of Fido, a cellular carrier in Toronto, for about 10 years. They started out as the little company that could – relatively cheap rates, by-the-second billing, and no contracts. I definitely stayed with them for longer because there was no obligation.

However, after several years of operation, Fido enacted a “Government Licensing Fee”, or some such, of about $30 per year. This gave way to a monthly fee of about $6.95 per month. Naturally, these fees were charged on top of the ordinary monthly fee, yet Fido had the nerve to omit this amount from all advertising.

I read a Toronto Star article a few years ago discussing the controversy surrounding this suspicious government licensing fee that had appeared on nearly all of Toronto’s cell carriers as of late. The most noteworthy points were that the government enforced no such fee, not all carriers asked for it, and it was highly suspicious that the fee appeared almost simultaneously on the major carriers’ invoices, never advertising any increase in subscription price. Also noteworthy was mention of a class action lawsuit that dissolved after the carriers each assigned new names to this fee, removing the implication that it was required by law, but not omitting or reducing the fee.

It’s been years since I read that article. Fido has changed hands and is now owned by Rogers – a lumbering brontosaur of a Canadian media company with a reputation of harbouring very helpful sales staff and useless support reps. I quickly got fed up with the new Fido, endured the remainder of my contract (which was requisite in order to buy a replacement phone – an ordeal I discuss here and here), and ditched them with many harsh words.

I left Fido for Virgin Mobile. I approached Virgin with much skepticism as their low prices and many included features seemed too good to be true. Most suspicious of all was the exclusion of any fees above and beyond the advertised price. Lo and behold, to my astonishment, the service is all it claims to be and more.

After several months of cellular bliss I’d almost forgotten about the other carriers altogether. A Toronto Star article reminded me of the plight of my brethren. The topic of a class action suit is on the table again – a move that is sure to make a couple of lawyers rich on behalf of the majority of Canada’s cellular subscribership.

I’m not satisfied. Not only is this story similar to the one I read years ago, it’s by the same Star columnist! If the requisite parties are aware of the problem, where’s the solution?

Can I expect to be reimbursed for the 5-odd years I had to pay this fee? Why is this massive scam taking nearly a decade to resolve? If impersonating a police officer is a jailable offense why is it legal to impersonate the government in demanding fraudulent fees?

Where’s the justice? In someone’s pocket?

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