LTA’s New Tariff a ‘Burden’ on Consumers

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The National Association of Telecommunications & ICT Consumers (NATELCO) is suggesting that the US$0.05 tariff (fee) required of telecommunications service providers by the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), for all outgoing international calls, contravenes all processes and procedures as enshrined in the LTA Consultation Process Guidelines. According to the consumers’ group, the new regulation is too abrupt, burdensome and unacceptable.

On July 31 this year, the LTA through its board chair, Angelique Weeks, issued an order establishing regulatory surcharges for both incoming and outgoing international voice traffic. The order took effect 30 days from the date of issuance, which was the end of August, 2015.

According to the terms of the regulation, all international calls from Liberia shall incur a regulatory surcharge of US$0.05 per minute to be paid to the LTA by the originating service provider. Telecommunications operators have said that the surcharge will have to be borne completely by consumers.

The LTA Consultation Process Guidelines require that, “prior to issuing of any order or any exercise of its authority that is likely to have any substantial impact on network operators, service providers, any other market participant or the general public, the LTA shall conduct a process of public consultation appropriate to the circumstances and shall take account of the results of the public consultation in the final exercise of its authority.”

It states further that, at the conclusion of the consultation process, the LTA shall publish a brief report on the results.

“Unfortunately, all of these steps were not taken into consideration prior to the issuance of the order to increase the tariff,” said chairman of NATELCO, Bartholomew Wilson.

He described the newly introduced US$0.05 tariff (fee) as a “burden” on mobile-phone users, which customers will pay to service providers on all international calls from Liberia.

In a press statement issued yesterday, Mr. Wilson called on the LTA to revisit its recent decision regarding the added tariff for outgoing international voice calls.

“What concerns us most is the manner and form in which this regulation was issued and the overall trickle-down effect it is sure to pose on the over 2 million consumers, that majority survive on overseas support from family members and relatives especially during difficult times like these,” Mr. Wilson said.

He continued, “We all know the economic burden the Ebola crisis has incurred on the livelihood of our people; in a country where there is complete economic devastation, with basic institutional collapse. The least we want to see is any regulation/order that will not add to the suffering of the people who are still striving to recover from a period of chaos and hardship.”

He explained further that his group will continue to speak against any such regulation that will undermine the interest of the consuming populace.

Mr. Wilson is convinced the LTA’s order “is an indirect attempt to impose financial burden on consumers,” who will ultimately bear the burden of the new regulation, which contradicts the preamble of the Consumers’ Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights states that, “the LTA maintains that the consumer is King and that it is the obligation of all service providers to respect and uphold their rights.”

He meanwhile called on the LTA, the National Legislature, Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, and all service providers to immediately suspend the implementation of the order until a proper consultation is carried out.

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