node created 2020/08/14
Discussion of Apple topics here on HN almost always gets reduced to the argument that Apple is not a monopoly, so what they are doing is OK. I want to present an alternative viewpoint. It's not a monopoly issue, it is an anti-competitive issue.

In Canada, we have three major cell carriers. None of them has a monopoly, or anything close to it. None of them has even 50% market share.

You can have a 10 GB smartphone plan with Rogers for $75. If you don't like that, you can switch to Bell's 10 GB plan for $75. If you don't like Bell, of course you can switch to Telus's 10 GB plan for, wait for it, $75.

The Big 3 operate smaller brands with fewer bells and whistles and lower costs. You can get a 4 GB cell plan from Koodo (Telus subsidiary) for $50, or from Fido (Rogers subsidiary) for $50, or from Virgin Mobile (Bell subsidiary) for $50.

Sometimes one of them has promotional pricing, like $45 instead of $50 for 4GB. The other two offer the same pricing for the same duration. Sometimes one of them increases their prices by $5 a month citing reasons such as infrastructure investments, lower Canadian dollar value, or inflation. The other two increase their prices by the same amount a couple of days later.

And none of this is collusion in the legal sense. They don't gather in smoke-filled rooms and decide how to screw over their customers. There is not back-channel communication whatsoever. And it is not because the competition is so perfect the prices have been commoditized. In fact, Canada has some of the highest cell plan prices in the world, even adjusting for factors such as population density and GDP.

It's just that the big companies have decided to stop competing. If you live in, say Alberta or Ontario or BC, you have three options and they are all the same overpriced crap. Cell carriers in Canada are not a monopoly, but you don't have to be a monopoly to harm customers with anti-competitive behaviour. Apple and Google, Android and iOS do not have a monopoly or a collusion agreement. But they are harming the customers all the same.