Telecom Fiji should improve services and not charges: Council

10/05/2010 15:46

The Consumer Council of Fiji wants Telecom Fiji Limited to work on improving its services rather than increasing call charges.  From January 2009 to date, the Council has received 67 complaints against Telecom Fiji ranging from charging reconnection fees for bills paid on time, charging for calls not made, charging rental fee barred services and on Easytel phones which are not landline, incorrect billing and levying normal charges on promotional call rates.  This is but a tip of the ice berg.

The Council believes that Telecom Fiji’s arguments that the increase in the recent local call charges was to meet increasing costs of business and service maintenance is unjustified. This is because Telecom Fiji had recently increased its fixed line rentals substantially to meet the business costs and that of maintaining and upgrading the organization’s services.

A few years back Telecom had increased its monthly line rental for residential customers from $3 (approx) to $11.25 and for businesses from $5 (approx) to $15 for small businesses and $35 for big and corporate businesses. These were substantial increases which the Telecom Fiji justified would help them meet business and service maintenance costs and keep the local and international call rates low.

The Council does not understand why Telecom Fiji is increasing its local call charges when it had already factored increasing business and line maintenance costs in the line rental fee on all residential and business lines. Rental charges are guaranteed income for Telecom Fiji whether a customer makes a call or not. If anything, Telecom Fiji should be reducing its overhead costs to reduce its business and line maintence costs rather than finding the easy option of passing the costs to consumers.  

An analysis of consumer complaints to the Council reveals enormous dissatisfaction Telecom Fiji’s services. There are huge problems with Telecom’s billing system. With massive complaints on incorrect billing, what guarantee is there that consumers would really get the benefits of Telecom’s promotional packages such as the “Home Basic Plan” which is supposed to offset the 33% increase in local call charges. 

How would post pay residential customers know that they have not been charged for 56 calls given “free” by Telecom Fiji?  Telecom bills do not show the number of local calls made each month and to know how many local calls were made in a month, one has to request for a print out of local calls from Telecom Customer Care which would cost $2 per page.  If Telecom Fiji can charge for calls not made than what is the guarantee that consumers will not be charged for the so called “free 56 calls” which they would have made.

The Council believes if there was a need to increase call charges then it should have been done gradually so that consumers are given enough time to make adjustments rather than fork out substantial amount of money immediately.  Being a single telecom service provider, Telecom Fiji has an upper hand in making decisions on increase call charges without taking views of consumers, who want to see an improvement in Telecom’s services.