TELECOM FIJI ACCUSED OF ABUSING MONOPOLY POWER

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No competition for landline calls means excessive billing

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Jan. 6, 2011) - The Consumer Council claims Telecom Fiji Limited has taken advantage of its monopolistic situation by increasing its charges.

TFL, in a statement, had said the increase was a result of its efforts to stay in competition with mobile phone service providers.

Council CEO Premila Kumar asked TFL if this was an attempt to offset the deficit incurred in the first quarter of last year.

Landline calls since the start of the year are now $0.08 per minute.

Ms Kumar said there was no competition and no price control in the telecommunication services as far as landline services were concerned.

She said TFL should be reducing its overhead costs and line maintenance costs rather than find an easy option of passing the costs on to consumers.

Since January 2009, the council has received 88 complaints against TFL.

Mrs Kumar said that the complaints include charging reconnection fees for bills paid on time, charging for calls not made, charging rental fees for barred services and on Easy Tel phones which are not landline, incorrect billing, levying normal charges on promotional call rates and charging for calls made from pre-paid Quick Dial services.

She said being a single telecommunication service provider, TFL had an upper hand in making decisions on increasing call charges without taking the views of consumers.

But TFL chief executive Rohan Mail said in response to recent pronouncements similar to Mrs Kumar's statement that the company has been "at the forefront of reducing call charges to customers even before liberalisation".

TFL's local calls will change from 16 cents untimed for residential customers and 12 cents for 60 minutes for corporate customers to 8 cents per minute in 2011 for all customers.

Mr Mail said TFL was in the process of reconfiguring its local call pricing specifically to deliver a simple and easy service in comparison to mobile rates.

A local call lasting 2.5minutes under the new charging scheme will cost customers 20 cents.

The average cost of a post-paid mobile call is 15 cents a minute while a prepaid mobile call (with a double up) is 22.5 cents a minute.reduced by TFL, currently costing only $0.16 per minute for frequently called destinations, a reduction of about 90 per cent.

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