08/29/2014 09:50 EDT | Updated 10/29/2014 05:59 EDT

Regulator battles telecom companies over 'pay-to-pay' billing fees

Canada's big telecom companies say they will keep charging customers additional fees for producing and mailing paper bills, with some exceptions.

The announcement came after executives from nearly a dozen major telecom companies — including Bell, Rogers and Telus — met with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for an all-day meeting in Gatineau, Que.

The companies said they would exempt these groups from paper billing (pay-to-pay) fees:

- Seniors.

- Individuals with disabilities.

- Military veterans.

- Customers with no internet connections.

But in a statement released after the meeting, regulators say that doesn't go far enough.

CRTC chair Jean-Pierre Blais said "many Canadians who will not benefit from the exemptions will be disappointed with the outcome so far."

Blais also praised the four companies — Cogeco Cable, MTS Allstream, SaskTel and Shaw Communications — that have opted not to charge for paper fees, saying "Canadians should keep this in mind when they select service providers."

The broadcast regulator had urged participants prior to the meeting to make firm decisions about the fees they charge, with an eye toward eliminating them altogether.

The federal government has twice promised to end pay-to-pay policies: In its October 2013 throne speech and in the 2014 budget.

According to a study released this week by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Canadians pay over $500 million a year in paper billing fees.

The advocacy group says low-income Canadians and seniors shoulder the heaviest burden, as they are less likely to have access to the internet. An estimated 15 per cent of Canadians do not have internet access at home.