Potraz slaps down Econet over low tariffs

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THE Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has ordered Econet Wireless to stop offering its customers the 10 cent per minute tariffs and revert to the old 25 cents charge.
The shock directive, issued Tuesday, came just days after the country’s largest mobile phone network provider launched the surprise promotion.
The regulator said in a letter to Econet: “We hereby direct Econet to stop the implementation of the advertised tariffs with immediate effect and no further Buddie Zone advertisements should be flighted in any media issue or released after 4PM on Tuesday the 20th of August 2013.”
The surprise intervention by Potraz will raise questions about the role of the regulator in the telecoms industry.
Last Thursday, Econet announced it was cutting call charges from 23 cents to 10 cents, a 60% cut that the company said included discounts on its Buddie Zone platform.
But POTRAZ told Econet that it could not reduced call charges by more than 50%. If Econet did not raise the tariffs by Friday, the company would be penalised.
Econet expressed disappointment with the move and said it will take the steps necessary to protect the interests of its customers and ensure competitiveness is protected in the market.
“The regulator is there to create a level playing field. We are not aware of any similar order being given to other operators who are freely offering similar discounts,” the company said in a statement.
“Even when other operators violated key conditions of their licence, we did not see any such threats being made. Now when we take steps to deliver affordable services to our own customers, we are barred. This leaves us wondering just how level our playing field really is.”
The 10 cents tariffs had been well received by the public, with usage having risen sharply since the tariff was effected, Econet said.
“The move by POTRAZ will disadvantage millions of Econet customers who were already enjoying the heavily discounted call charges on Econet and to other networks,” the company added.Advertisement