Canada's telecommunications regulator has refused a request from Telus Corp. to charge some customers a credit card processing fee.
While Telus didn't need the CRTC's approval to add the surcharge, the regulator said Thursday that it was concerned about its effects on affordability, consumer interest and "the most vulnerable consumers, who rely on credit cards to pay their everyday bills."
"The CRTC is sending a clear message to Telus and other telecommunications service providers that are thinking of imposing such a fee on their customers," the regulator said in a news release.
"Should the practice continue, the CRTC will explore all available regulatory options."
Telus did not respond to a request for comment on the refusal.
The Vancouver-based company first broached the fee with the CRTC over the summer, saying it could apply to credit card payments made in Alberta and B.C. for regulated home telephone services.
Telus began to charge a 1.5 per cent fee to clients paying by credit card in October in areas where services are not regulated by the CRTC, including its wireless and internet customers outside of Quebec.
Telus was free to add the surcharge as of Oct. 6 after a class-action lawsuit from retailers against Visa, MasterCard and banks which issue cards was settled.
The settlement over fees charged and restrictions set by banks and credit card companies was reached in 2017 but took time to wind through provincial approvals.
The settlement included $188 million in payouts from banks and credit cards, of which about $131 million is available to be paid out to Canadian merchants, as well as the removal of the surcharge restriction from Visa and Mastercard.
The removal of the restriction allows merchants to potentially recoup processing fees for credit cards that range from as low as around one per cent for basic cards to nearly three per cent for cards that offer rewards such as cash back or loyalty points.
Prior to the settlement, businesses accepting credit cards had to absorb the costs associated with such payments.
The CRTC's ability to guide practices around surcharges like the one Telus wanted to charge is limited because the organization only regulates services in certain markets where there is not enough competition to protect the interests of consumers.
Telephone services in rural and remote regions and internet services operating through terrestrial facilities in the Far North are among the most common the CRTC regulates.
The CRTC does not regulate other services, including wireless and internet services, meaning they do not need the CRTC’s approval to modify their rates, terms and conditions.