I seriously doubt that the College is concerned that its price point is too high. Any strategy of keeping a business viable through such things as installment plans and cutting overhead and other costs is ultimately based on the premise that you want to sell more of your product. I don't think the kings of arms see increasing sales as their objective. Perhaps this would change if they saw the demand for new grants shrinking so severely that the economic survival of the institution was put in jeopardy, but there seems to be no foreseeable danger of this.
As I understand it, the Canadian Heraldic Authority is supposed to price its wares strictly on a "recover all costs" basis, and its rock-bottom price estimate for a minimum of design work and the version of the letters patent without any bells and whistles is currently $2,400, or about £1,360. (See http://www.gg.ca/document.aspx?id=15368&lan=eng
for discussion of the higher-end options.) Once you start working the math, these numbers don't seem unreasonable. I ran the numbers in the U.S. context about three years ago on the AHS forum:
Wage rates in Washington are, I venture to say, a tad higher than in Pretoria. If you staffed this hypothetical office with a single newly-hired GS-13--equivalent to an Army major--at the lowest step on the GS-13 pay-scale, earning the minimum amount of annual leave (4 hours per pay period), here's how the math works out:
Benefits $26,710 (employer's contribution to Social Security, retirement, health insurance, etc)
Total personnel cost $115,743
If this one person unassisted could handle all the work--receive the application, research for duplication, record the registration, and prepare and send a response to the applicant--while also performing any other duties associated with running such an office (financial reports, dealing with IT, taking care of his own personnel business with his boss, whoever that may be, then the office would have to take in $486 per day to break even ($115,743 divided by 238 working days [52 weeks times 5 days a week, minus 10 federal holidays and 13 days of leave]).
How long would it take one person to process one registration, assuming a serious effort is made to avoid duplicating arms previously recorded as having been used in the United States, and that any genealogical claims to previously existing arms have to be verified? One day? One week? Should we say three man-days on average? Let's use that for the sake of argument. That's almost $1500 per application.
And how many applications would one expect? My understanding is that the CHI processes only 20-30 applications a year, Lyon Court about 50, and the College of Arms around 100 or so.... At $1500 per application, you'd have to process 75-80 registrations a year to cover just the salary of a single person.
Start adding the additional personnel you'd actually have to have--no one runs an official heraldic office with one person--and the cost of supplies, utilities, office space, IT (none of which would be provided free in the U.S. system--all such support services are reimbursed by the using organization) and the price starts heading up to into Lord Lyon territory [Note: which was £2,236 as of 2013].
Note also that (a) no heraldry authority in the world turns around an application in three working days, which means the personnel cost per grant would actually be much higher than calculated here, and (b) there's nothing in these calculations for artwork of any kind--who's going to pay even $1500 for a grant of arms with no emblazonment?
As I understand it, the SABH can operate at a lower price point in part because South African taxpayers subsidize it through the provision of free office space and administrative support as part of the National Archives. I don't know whether Lord Lyon has to pay rent for his space in New Register House in Edinburgh, but as noted above, even without having to pay for the offices the personnel costs alone would keep the cost of an English-style grant in any Western European or North American country at roughly the Canadian price range or above. Even a relatively simple registration with the two language-community heraldic offices in Belgium costs €500 plus the cost of artwork for the certificate, presumably another €500 or so at the going rate for good herald painters and calligraphers.