Council Calls for Inkk to Come Clean

10/04/2008 12:27

Consumer Council of Fiji is clear on its stand that Inkk is not what it appears to be – that is, a new player in the market to create competition. Rather it appears to be an extension of Vodafone services except Inkk is created as a separate company to mislead our ordinary consumers.

During a procedural complaint investigation against Inkk services, the Council stumbled across certain confusing and thought-provoking information, hence the call to relevant stakeholders including the State to clear doubt in the way Inkk has entered our market overnight.

The Council has an obligation to protect and inform its consumers about the reality on the ground. This is particularly important when new players like Inkk enter the market in the name of ‘competition’ whereas market practice reveals it is far from real competition. Inkk came into operation so suddenly that in the small timeframe it claims to have 1500 recharging outlets including Courts and Chicken Express and a significant number of clientele. It appears Vodafone with 85% customer base is comfortable with Inkk taking their customers away. This is very strange behaviour for any service provider in a market place. It appears Vodafone is providing every mechanism possible for Inkk to operate as a viable business in Fiji. Any intelligent consumer can see Vodafone assisting Inkk to dilute the market because Digicel may be a real threat.

Vodafone’s involvement at all stages in facilitating Inkk, to survive and stay in the market in very interesting. There is no doubt that Vodafone has brought Inkk in to the market and this is evidenced through infrastructure, facilities and staff sharing which is a new information to the consumers. The Council stands corrected, this means Vodafone is also the complaints handling center for Inkk. When the Council was investigating the complaint, we were informed by Inkk customer care rep that due to network congestion the consumer was charged for “unsent text message” Vodafone rep also informed the Council that this glitch happened due to network congestion. My question to Vodafone is why they are allowing Inkk to use their network when they can’t even serve their own customers. Commerce Commission must look into this including “not so competitive” behaviour displayed by the two mobile companies.

Vodafone has responded that Inkk is a separate legal entity which only utilizes its network services; facilities; and staff---surely the concept of competition is seemingly blurred here. It is for the first time Vodafone disclosed sharing of facilities and service which was kept confidential and the reason for Inkk not to inform consumers their contact details. An ordinary citizen is expected to doubt if Inkk is technically a separate entity as Vodafone keeps telling the public. What is even more confusing is that C J Patel & Company has come forward to claim that they are solely responsible for Inkk operations and CJ Patel Office is the premises and it is the “face” behind Inkk, instead of being just the distributor. We challenge Inkk to educate the Council and the consumers and tell us who is in charge of Inkk?

The Council thrives on promoting accountability and transparency in trader-consumer dealings which means it must ensure that players do not enter market to confuse or mislead the consumers. Inkk has been embarking on expensive promotional advertising and it would be interesting to hear from Inkk or relevant authority the actual money that entered the country by this foreign company.

For now, consumers can expect the confusion to deepen unless the stakeholders come clean. For the sake of consumers, we can hope that the veil of confusion is lifted as soon as possible before more gullible consumers are fooled and taken for a ride.