Business

Digicel says sorry

BY KARENA BENNETT
Business reporter
bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, July 02, 2017

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Telecommunications company Digicel has sought to mend its relations with customers following its decision to charge a $15 Prepaid Maintenance Fee (PMF) on customers who spend less than $50 for the month of June.

Digicel on Friday said as a gesture of goodwill and appreciation for the feedback received it will be providing full refund to affected customers for the June fee. But the moves come after a request by the Office of the Utilities Regulation (OUR) asking Digicel to explain its decision to start charging a maintenance fee.

The OUR, in requesting that Digicel respond to the queries by June 30, also noted that it wanted Digicel to provide evidence that it had provided customers with sufficient advance notice, the exact amount to be charged, and the basis of such a charge.

It said while Digicel has updated its Terms and Conditions on its website with the PMF (clause 10.4), there is no indication of when its customers were notified, if indeed they were notified at all. The OUR also expressed disappointment that Digicel had not notified the regulator of this new fee prior to implementation.

Digicel, in a text message to customers later that day said, “We're sorry we didn't tell you before charging a maintenance fee. You've been rebated JMD$15. Plus enjoy JMD$16 in free talk time on us!”

The telecommunications company, in its explanation to the OUR, said the fee was implemented to cover the cost of providing service to those customers who spend less than $50 each month and is therefore not applicable to the vast majority of our customers who spend more with us “because they understand that we offer the best value and best service”.

It noted that customers who pay the fee of $15 will receive three minutes on the Internet free of cost which would have been valued at $16.47 exclusive of taxes. Additionally, customers will have their prepaid service extended for 14 days.

“That said, we did not communicate the features and benefits of this properly to our valued customers – and for that we would like to apologise,” Digicel stated.

“We are now taking steps to make sure we keep our customers well informed. In future, customers will be notified via text message in advance in the event that consumption appears to be falling below J$50 for any given month advising them that they can avoid the fee by making a call, sending an SMS or browsing,” the company continued.

In March, Minister of Finance Audley Shaw during his budget presentation admitted that increased propensity for use of data using technology like WhatsApp was impacting revenue of the major carriers, which would ultimately affect the rate of government's intake, as well.

A recent report by the Economic Programme Oversight Committee listed telecommunications tax as one of the main underperformers in Government revenue, signalling that consumers tendency to use Whatsapp for calls and text messages has begun to impact the revenues of the Government and the telecommunications providers.

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