Consumers suffering from international call war

05/08/2009 14:58

The Consumer Council is calling on Telecom Fiji Limited (TFL) and Fiji International Telecommunications Limited (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 for deregulation of the international telecommunication market. The exclusive license for the international telecommunication link held by Fiji International Telecommunications Limited (FINTEL) ended on 18th July 2009. One of the main intentions of deregulation is for consumers to enjoy reduced calls charges, more choice, increased access and better service delivery. However, the ongoing squabble between the two companies and amongst other telecommunication service providers is doing nothing but jeopardising this important 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 certain destinations via the “00” service. It’s no use talking about the “00” access code when it’s not even listed in the Fiji Telephone Directory 2009! TFL needs to explain why the access code “00” has been removed from the Fiji Telephone Directory 2009 and why there is no information on charges incurred for consumers who choose for this international direct dial (IDD) option. What TFL advertised in the directory was the use of “052” access code. As a consumer we pay our bills to TFL when we make international calls and therefore TFL failed to inform their customers on “00” access code as they did previously through the telephone directory.

In the previous years’ directories the “00” access code was given and consumers were aware of what international call charges they paid when using this code. However, for the 2009 directory, the charges for 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 under fair 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 line or is running on a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) platforms. Consumers need to know the difference between a direct phone line transmission and VoIP which is transmitted via the internet. Quality and connectivity 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 direct phone line connection and not VoIP. This is misleading! The Council often hear from these companies 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 retail customers, i.e. the ordinary consumer.