One of the justifications for applying the GST and HST at the cash register is that this makes it a visible sales tax. Unfortunately, it is this very feature that makes this tax invisible at the most critical time: when consumers make purchasing decisions.
Canadians are becoming increasingly accustomed to seeing added charges on top of advertised prices. Eco fees just add to standard HST or GST plus provincial sales tax. Things are worse if you want to fly; the number of added charges on flight costs is almost uncountable.
An unfortunate side effect of this trend is that we don’t know what the final price of an item will be even knowing the advertised price. This makes it difficult to make sound purchasing decisions. By adding these charges later to make them visible, they become invisible when we make the decision of whether to buy.
There is some justification for applying sales taxes after the fact because not all customers must pay GST or HST. For example, online retailers must routinely calculate different sales tax depending on where the purchaser lives. Another justification is that these sales taxes are a fixed percentage that people tend to understand reasonably well.
Eco fees are a very different matter. The amounts vary wildly. There is no reason why eco fees shouldn’t be just included in advertised prices. If retailers want to make eco fees more visible, then they can include a mention of the eco fee amount along with the advertised price that includes this fee.
If this trend continues too far, then advertised prices will bear no resemblance to the all-in price the consumer must pay. (This has already happened with cars and airline flights.) I would prefer to see all-in pricing as is common in much of Europe.