Tuesday, July 29, 2008

SMS Alert: Class Action Suit Filed Against Bell, Telus

Bell and Telus announceed earlier this month that each would begin charging customers without a packaged plan for received text messages in addition to sent ones. The decision has now spurred a class-action lawsuit by a man in Quebec who says the change requires a change in the terms of one's contract.

If you're signed up with a locked in agreement with either carrier, and have selected your desired plan option, the Quebec man is arguing that the carrier is not permitted to change the terms of said plan until the contract has ended. Charging per text message received is a new condition to the plan. Customers from both carriers, as well as GSM carrier Rogers Wireless, have always paid to send text messages.

The charges don't apply to people who already have a text messaging bundle, or add one to, their existing plan. For example, Bell customers can get 100 text messages for $5/mo.

At the time both carriers made their decision, Industry Minister Jim Prentice openly expressed his disdain, calling it a "poorly thought-out decision", and asking the President of both companies to meet with him in Ottawa prior to August 8 to discuss the issue.

"While I have no desire to interfere with the day-to-day business decisions of two private companies," Prentice said back in early July, "I do have a duty as Minister of Industry to protect the interests of the consuming public when necessary."

I find it strange that, as e-mail and MMS continue to gain popularity among phone users, undoubtedly resulting in increased revenues for carriers, Bell and Telus would decide to nickel and dime the occassional users. Meanwhile, both conpanies offer unlimited data plans to smartphone users that browse the web and check e-mail, essentially awarding the heavy users. The situation is oddly contradictory to Bell's Internet "traffic shaping" issues, whereby the company allegedly slows down the services of heavy Internet and peer-to-peer users to appease those who don't engage in such activity.

On the one hand, charging for receiving SMS messages might help to encourage those who aren't very interested in anything but voice to partake in features like text messaging more often. But on the other, it might deter people from using the functions altogether, choosing to just stick to voice, and revert to their laptops and home PCs for communicating via text.

Unlimited data or not (the answer being "not"), Rogers certainly has a leg up on the two CDMA carriers when it comes to good, ol' reliable texting.

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1 comment:

gsm-rules said...

Fido did try charging people to send SMSes a few years back, but shortly changed it back to "sender pays". I think this was not long after they created the joint SMS network that worked between GSM+CDMA.