Like most consumers, I’ve always been opposed to the idea of paying System Access Fee (SAF) simply because there’s no regulatory or government compliance associated with it. IMO, SAF has been a sore spot for most Canadians and it’s no surprise that our very own Jeff Weiner hasn’t been spared either.
In fact, SAF has been a bone of contention between the wireless carrier fraternity, the government and the Supreme Court of Canada ever since it was introduced. And yesterday, Canada’s top judicial institution made a landmark decision to allow a $19-billion class-action lawsuit against Canadian cell phone companies over the notorious “system access fees” to proceed.
The carrier fraternity has defended itself over SAF stating that it’s essential to cover their network operation and maintenance costs. On the other hand, critics and leading telecom experts have been of the opinion that it should be added to the advertised monthly fee rather than explicitly being counted as a separate entity.
The issue dates back to 2006 when a class action lawsuit was brought against the major carriers with respect to the System Access Fee. Though it was initially rejected, the Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan certified it as a class action in 2007. The Supreme Court’s latest decision implies that the original class-action suit filed in a Saskatchewan court in 2004 can proceed.
While it may be too early to celebrate, I have no doubt that this a massive step in the right direction in streamlining the way Canada’s wireless carriers operate. A number of carriers were forced to do away with SAF after new carriers such as Mobilicity and MTS joined the fray. However, in the absence of clear regulatory guidelines, several carriers have continued with malpractices such as not explicitly disclosing the fee amount to consumers.
The lawsuit calls for Canadian public to be reimbursed. You’re invited to join the Cellular Class Action or to get more information at a Merchant Law Group Website.