Fido was always an underdog in the Canadian wireless market, but it had its customer base - the cost-conscious urbanites for whom a trip to Woodbridge was as likely as a trip to Rome. They traded weak signals on the city's fringes for cellular savings, but ever since the Rogers takeover, Fido has been leaving unpleasant surprises on those customers' doorsteps.
Fido customers opened their statements this month to discover that their roaming fees are being increased.
Previously, Fido customers using their phones in the States would pay a flat 20 cents per minute. As of August 16, a call from Buffalo to Tonawanda, for example, will cost 50 cents a minute. If someone calls you, it's 70 cents a minute. A call to Toronto from there will go up to 80 cents a minute.
Fido director of corporate communications Karen Berkhout says the move is simply part of a market realignment. "There comes a point where you look and say, 'We haven't raised the prices for long distance in nine years. '"
The question is whether Fido customers would prefer to keep low prices or see improvements in reception. This is a "different value proposition," as Berkhout calls it. Those who don't care about another bar of reception - including those who've signed long-term contracts with Fido - are trapped.
The fine print in the service agreement states that "the local per-minute airtime rate, the system access fee, the 911 emergency service fee, the option fee, and the long distance and roaming charges may be modified" any time.
Thinking of dumping Fido?
You'll get hit with an early termination fee of $20 a month for each month until your contract expires, up to a maximum of $200. You can also forget about asking the CRTC for help. "There aren't any laws on cellphone long distance," says info officer Sue Papineau.
Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers' Association of Canada, offers little hope for those who wish to protest. "You can complain to your member of Parliament or you can use your feet and walk to another phone company."