Consumers suffering from international call war

05/08/2009 15:39

The Consumer Council is calling on Telecom Fiji Limited (TFL) and Fiji International TelecommunicationsLimited (FINTEL) to resolve the issue over international access calls as it’s the consumers who are being affected directly by these two companies.

Telecommunications players have been given enough time (18 months) to prepare themselves well forderegulation of the international telecommunication market. The exclusive license for the internationaltelecommunication link held by Fiji International Telecommunications Limited (FINTEL) ended on 18th July2009. One of the main intentions of deregulation is for consumers to enjoy reduced calls charges, morechoice, increased access and better service delivery. However, the ongoing squabble between the twocompanies and amongst other telecommunication service providers is doing nothing but jeopardising thisimportant policy aim of deregulation set by the government.

We note a media statement by TFL that its customers would not be able to make calls to certaindestinations via the “00” service. It’s no use talking about the “00” access code when it’s not even listedin the Fiji Telephone Directory 2009! TFL needs to explain why the access code “00” has been removedfrom the Fiji Telephone Directory 2009 and why there is no information on charges incurred forconsumers who choose for this international direct dial (IDD) option. What TFL advertised in the directorywas the use of “052” access code. As a consumer we pay our bills to TFL when we make internationalcalls and therefore TFL failed to inform their customers on “00” access code as they did previouslythrough the telephone directory.

In the previous years’ directories the “00” access code was given and consumers were aware of whatinternational call charges they paid when using this code. However, for the 2009 directory, the chargesfor a “00” international access call is not displayed and consumers have been given the alternate “052”access code. So customers who make “00” calls are unaware of what they are being charged.This is an unethical means of making money. Disclosure of information is an important requirement underfair trade practices and also a consumer right under relevant laws.

The Council is calling on TFL to clarify to consumers if its “052” access code is a direct international lineor is running on a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) platforms. Consumers need to know the differencebetween a direct phone line transmission and VoIP which is transmitted via the internet. Quality andconnectivity for VoIP calls are never guaranteed. TFL’s information in the 2009 directory gives“052” under international direct dial (IDD) which anyone reading it assumes it’s a directphone line connection and not VoIP. This is misleading! The Council often hear from thesecompanies that “customers come first” unfortunately it is not displayed through their action.

The Council wishes to make it clear that TFL is the retailer of call services and the buck stops with them.Whatever problems it has with FINTEL is at the wholesale level and should never in anyway disrupt retailcustomers, i.e. the ordinary consumer.