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Trinidad : TSTT under investigation

By Exilus Deceyon

Tobago., 07 déc. 05 [AlterPresse] --- The telecommunications Authority (TATT) has begun a probe of TSTT’s two-year contracts in which customers can be penalized for terminating their mobile services with the monopoly provider.

The authority’s executive director Dr John Prince said yesterday that TSTT has taken advantage of mobile customers in the absence of competition by locking them into a two-year agreement.

He said the country did not have unfair competition legislation and TSTT was using this as leverage for its Christmas promotions to customers-a mobile package of “buy one, get one free†.

But customers who breach the two-year contract when other service providers come on stream, could and would be penalized, TSTT’s chief executive officer Carlos Espinal said during the launch of the company’s mobile office in San Fernando, on Monday evening.

“There is a provision in the contract for the company to recuperate from the investment we have made to allow the customer to acquire the handsets and the service we have provided.

“If the customer terminates the contract without a good reason there is recourse we can take,†he said.
Espinal chose not to disclose the recourse open to the telecommunications giant to recover its losses if there is a breach.

However, Clause 9 (c) of the contract states that customers may have to pay back what it spent to get the phones as a penalty.

“A default charge equivalent to the initial discount received on the equipment is payable for termination of contract before 24 months for GSM equipment,†the clause states.

Prince said the TATT is considering its options in the matter.

“We have requested from TSTT, a copy of the contract to look at the clause. By the end of the week, we should have some definite idea on what kind of action we can take,†Prince said yesterday.

He added that TATT was in the process of preparing TSTT’s concession documents and was looking at including a clause on consumer rights and obligations.
TATT was also looking at customers being bound to a telecom provider for one year, said Prince.

“The only way TSTT can seek recourse from a contract is through the law.â€
Prince said the mobile playing field was not level right now but the onus was on the customer to read their contracts.

“Right now, Laqtel or Digicel does not have the same option,†Prince said.
Espinal who steered clear of the telecommunications war with Irish powerhouse Digicel and the local outfit Laqtel, said TSTT was very proud to inaugurate their new flagship store in San Fernando.

“We will continue to build more (cell sites) to deliver on our commitment that we are going to provide a service to 98 per cent of our people,†Espinal pledged.
Last week, TSTT re-branded and re-launched its mobile service, adopting the b-mobile brand of its minority shareholder, Cable and Wireless.

Scores of people flocked its stores to take advantage of its Christmas promotion. The launch took place two days before the November 30 deadline that Digicel has said it would launch and provide choice for customers.

This has been held up because TSTT had not installed the equipment that would make interconnection among the providers possible. [de vs apr 06/12/05 21:45]