Zimbabwe’s Telone Urged to be Be Flexible On Telephone Bills

Telecoms

TelOne should be flexible when demanding revised February to June telephone bills from its customers as asking for lump sums will lead to public resistance, Transport, Communication and Infrastructural Development Minister Nicholas Goche said last week. Government on Wednesday directed TelOne to reduce its February to June tariffs to 5 US cents per minute.

"I encourage TelOne to be flexible when dealing with its customers. They should not demand lump sums because the public will resist paying the amounts again. Government decided to use obtaining regional tariffs of 5 cents per minute when working out relevant bills. So for the subscribers who have already paid at higher rates, the amounts should be credited to their accounts," Minister Goche said.

He said the US 5 cents per minute charge was only for the specified period and after that, a new pricing mechanism would be devised. Minister Goche said the tariffs issue was a historical one which arose when the country moved from Zimbabwe dollar-denominated tariffs to the US dollar/multiple currency system.

The initial tariffs that were set right across the board were artificially high as operators cited high input costs. Subscribers ended up receiving huge bills sparking a public outcry. Government then took up the matter. TelOne was one of the first organisations to give the Government a breakdown of costs and the tariffs they wanted to charge, but even then, these were high.

In July the ministry then did a comparative analysis of tariffs in the region. But there was still the challenge of what to do with the January to June bills. It was then noted that in January, the country had not yet moved into the multi-currency system and therefore it was illegal to bill customers in US dollars. This meant the January bills would have to be offset.

This left the issue of the February to end of June bills unresolved. There was no mutual agreement within the sector on how to manage the period and there were interconnection debts that obtained. "It is unreasonable to contemplate writing off the bills. It would set a dangerous precedent vis-à-vis the consumers of the service. There is no such thing as a free service," said Minister Goche.

"Government has decided to use obtaining regional tariffs in terms of working out the relevant bills for that period. "For subscribers who have already paid their bills at a rate which is higher than the US 5 cents, they should be credited. The rest of the subscribers should simply honour their bills."

The Herald