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Telus Corp. wants to add a surcharge for customers who pay their bills with credit cards.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Canada’s telecom regulator is weighing whether to allow Telus Corp. T-T to add a surcharge for customers who pay their bills with credit cards, but said it needs more time to make its decision amid a barrage of consumer complaints.

Telus Communications Inc., a unit of Telus, first sent its request to institute the surcharge to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission on Aug. 8. The company planned to impose the surcharge of 1.5 per cent starting on Monday.

The request was made after the resolution of a years-long legal battle between small businesses and the credit-card companies and financial institutions. Businesses have had to bear a fee that averaged 1.4 per cent of each credit-card transaction, but as of this month have the option of passing on the fee to customers.

The CRTC had originally said it would render a decision by last Wednesday, but told Telus in a letter Thursday that it may take until Dec. 6 to complete its analysis of the application.

How Canada’s new credit card transaction fees will affect how you pay

Telus is so far the largest company to say it would pass on credit-card fees to customers. The request has been met by an unusually large number of letters from customers. According to a database on the CRTC’s website, it received more than 4,300 letters from the public, which it refers to as interventions, the majority of which were negative.

“As of the time of this filing, there are 4,300 public comments. Tariff applications typically attract 0-10 public comments,” said a Sept. 7 submission from the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, a consumer organization based in Ottawa.

The group analyzed the first 1,449 submissions and found that 27 per cent felt Telus’s surcharge proposal was about adding to the company’s profitability; 23 per cent cited a concern that the government was allowing telecom companies to charge too much; and 21 per cent cited general concerns about consumer affordability.

In a reply to the interventions, Telus argued that criticism about it being a profitable company was misplaced and that the important question was whether this fee was reasonable. Telus said customers could avoid the fee by paying with a debit card or through a chequing account.

The company also said that the surcharge would help contain costs since the transaction fees would no longer be hidden in its prices.

“An avoidable surcharge such as proposed by Telus will both help with the recovery of the direct costs imposed on a credit-card transaction, and will incent customers to elect to use lower cost payment methods,” the company said in its reply, filed with the CRTC. “The purpose is not to generate more revenues, but to help limit and recover costs.”

The company did not respond to a request for comment last Friday.

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