Minister Asks CRTC Chair to ‘Look Into’ International Roaming Price Hikes

Industry, Science and Technology Minister François-Philippe Champagne today shared a letter he sent to Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) chair and CEO Vicky Eatrides, asking the regulator to “look into” the recent trend of increasing international roaming rates across wireless carriers.

“As you may be aware, certain wireless carriers have recently increased fees charged to their customers for international roaming,” Minister Champagne wrote in his letter.

“This is part of a concerning trend to charge more for existing services broadly at a time when inflationary pressures are making it difficult for Canadians to pay their bills. The current increase in roaming fees is of particular concern, given that the long-run trend in other jurisdictions has been one of general price declines.”

Service providers across the Canadian wireless space have taken to frequently (and often quietly) increasing their international roaming rates. Just this month, Telus and flanker brand Koodo, along with Bell and its flanker brand Virgin Plus, hiked international roaming prices.

A recent government-commissioned study showed that Canadians still pay some of the highest prices for wireless and internet services in the world, and while wireless was an average of 2.6% cheaper in 2022 than in 2021, prices aren’t dropping nearly as quickly as in other countries.

Minister Champagne said in his letter that while he recognizes that the CRTC’s Wireless Code touches on international roaming fees, it “does not prevent service providers from increasing fees incurred for international roaming.”

“Increases to these types of ancillary fees add to the cost of a consumer’s bill beyond the main sticker price,” he continued. “In many cases, these fees are much less visible and are unpredictable or challenging for consumers to understand.”

Vicky Eatrides took over as chair and CEO of the CRTC from Ian Scott in January. In the weeks since, Ottawa has issued a new policy direction to the telecom watchdog, instructing it to focus on wireless/internet affordability, competition, and consumer rights.

With Eatrides at its helm, the CRTC has already lowered wholesale internet rates and launched a review of the internet market as a whole to increase competition and curb high prices.