Drop Illegal Surcharges or Suffer Consequences -LTA Orders Lonestar Cell MTN, Orange

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Although it had long been expected that there would have been an increment in surcharge on calls and data from Mobile Network Operators based on communications from the MNOs and subsequent litigations they undertook against the government, no one really thought the day would come for them to see such message on their phones, but it happened on Wednesday, October 8, 2020. “…in compliance with LTA Order 0016-02-25-19 issued by the Liberia Telecommunications Authority on February 25, 2019, a surcharge amount of US0.008 per minute has been added to Lonestar to Lonestar calls (on-net) and US$0.00065 per MB of data. The changes to our packages take effect from today Wednesday, October 8, 2020,” a message from one of the country’s two mobile network operators read. But the Government of Liberia, through the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) says the increase in cost of service for voice and data bundles by both Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), Lonestar Cell MTN and Orange, is illegal and arbitrary, and has given both MNOs 12 hours to rescind this illegal price increase or face appropriate punitive measures.

 

The LTA in a surprise press statement issued Thursday, October 8, 2020 said its attention was drawn to the illegal and arbitrary increase in cost of service (voice and data bundles) by both Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) Lonestar Cell MTN and Orange under the pretense of complying with the surcharge order.

 

“The LTA regards this act as illegal price fixing, collusion, and antitrust conspiracy. Under relevant provisions of the Liberia Telecommunications Act of 2007, no ‘Term Services” can be increased without approval of the LTA,” the telecommunications regulator stated.

 

The LTA said order 0016-02-25-19 resulted in the introduction of a Floor Price on Voice and Data, under which the MNOs eliminated the “3 days free call” package and a windfall of over a 104 Million USD in extra revenue.

 

“The New Term of Services which is being implemented by the MNOs now is far in excess of what is required for implementation of any order and designed for profiteering and political purposes,” the LTA stated.

 

Kimmie Weeks Reacts

 

In the wake of the LTA position statement, a former executive of one of the Mobile Network Operators, Mr. Kimmie Weeks has sharply condemned the LTA statement as dishonest.

 

“I have read, with great dismay the statement issued by the LTA that there had been no imposition of surcharges to voice and data services and that GSM companies are acting on their own accord. I’m honestly not sure how they could issue that statement with a straight face. Here is section 4 of the LTA order which was signed by the Commissioners and speaks specifically about the imposition of surcharges. Did they forget this? Die they forget the recent Supreme Court ruling which stated that the LTA could proceed with the implementation of the surcharge in its order? Not sure who the LTA is trying to hoodwink or lie to… is it the President or it the Liberian people?

 

According to Part IV of the LTA Order 0016-02-25-19 establishing price floors for on-net voice and data services and a regulatory fee on telecommunications goods and services, “On the sixth monthly anniversary of this Order, being October 15, 2019, there shall be automatically imposed a surcharge on on-net voice in the amount of US$0.008 for each minute of call.”

 

Section 4.2 states that “on the sixth monthly anniversary of this Order, being October 15, 2019, there shall be automatically imposed a surcharge on mobile data in the amount of US$ 0.0065 for each megabyte of data.”

 

Section 4.3 states that “the surcharges to this Subpart shall go into immediate effect on the specified date with no additional notice or Order required, subject only to any determination arising from a review and analysis of market indicators that me be pursuant to Sections 5.1 and 5.2 in the sole discretion of the LTA.”

 

Although it had long been expected that there would have been an increment in surcharge on calls and data from Mobile Network Operators based on communications from the MNOs and subsequent litigations they undertook against the government, no one really thought the day would come for them to see such message on their phones, but it happened on Wednesday, October 8, 2020. “…in compliance with LTA Order 0016-02-25-19 issued by the Liberia Telecommunications Authority on February 25, 2019, a surcharge amount of US0.008 per minute has been added to Lonestar to Lonestar calls (on-net) and US$0.00065 per MB of data.

 

The changes to our packages take effect from today Wednesday, October 8, 2020,” a message from one of the country’s two mobile network operators read. But the Government of Liberia, through the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) says the increase in cost of service for voice and data bundles by both Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), Lonestar Cell MTN and Orange, is illegal and arbitrary, and has given both MNOs 12 hours to rescind this illegal price increase or face appropriate punitive measures.

 

The LTA in a surprise press statement issued Thursday, October 8, 2020 said its attention was drawn to the illegal and arbitrary increase in cost of service (voice and data bundles) by both Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) Lonestar Cell MTN and Orange under the pretense of complying with the surcharge order.

 

“The LTA regards this act as illegal price fixing, collusion, and antitrust conspiracy. Under relevant provisions of the Liberia Telecommunications Act of 2007, no ‘Term Services” can be increased without approval of the LTA,” the telecommunications regulator stated.

 

The LTA said order 0016-02-25-19 resulted in the introduction of a Floor Price on Voice and Data, under which the MNOs eliminated the “3 days free call” package and a windfall of over a 104 Million USD in extra revenue.

 

“The New Term of Services which is being implemented by the MNOs now is far in excess of what is required for implementation of any order and designed for profiteering and political purposes,” the LTA stated.

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