On the heels of TSTT’s announcement yesterday that land line phone calls across Trinidad and Tobago will cost 23 cents per minute, from next month, came a stern warning from its regulator to withdraw the rate change or face legal action.
TSTT, in an advertisement published in Newsday, advised the existing rate structure, which currently ranges from 23 cents per call to 69 cents per minute, will be replaced with a single rate across the board of 23 cents per minute, as of September 7.
For example, a call from Port-of-Spain to Scarborough between 8 am and 5 pm currently costs 23 cents per 20 seconds. With the national rate, this call will cost 23 cents for 60 seconds.
However, a call among two persons in the Arima exchange area, which now costs the caller 23 cents for an unlimited time, will be changed to 23 cents per minute.
TSTT noted the adjustment was made in response to customer feedback and conforms to international trends for local call billing. This also comes on the eve of the entrance of at least five land line operators into this market and months after TSTT issued an unaudited $122M loss for 2006.
But the Telecommunications Authority (TATT) yesterday warned that TSTT had breached its concession by revising its rates without providing a 30-day notice to the authority. Subsequent to this, a further 30-day notice must be given to customers advising of the rate change, said TATT.
TATT warned that it is prepared to take the necessary steps which may include the commencement of legal proceedings against TSTT to address what it termed the concession breach, if TSTT failed to withdraw the tariff revision.
Addressing the proposed 23 cents per minute rate, TATT said, “On the face of it, the proposed changes if effected will result in an obvious increase in the cost of making calls within the same exchange. However, in some cases, the potential impact is actually a reduction in the cost per minute of a call.”
The Communications Workers Union however warned the new rate will inflate phone bills by at least 300 percent.
Businessmen and land line customers yesterday welcomed the uniform rate, noting that while some people will lose out with calls within an area, they will benefit from savings since most people tend to make calls to lines outside of where they live and conduct business. One TSTT customer told Newsday, “I could see my phone bill cutting by more than half with this new plan. It’s about time because this has been happening in the US and other developed countries for some time now.”
Downtown Owners and Merchants Association president Gregory Aboud was also pleased.
“We are beginning to see the benefits of active competition among telephone operators. This reduction in communication costs will help every single operator of business in the country to reduce cost and improve competitiveness,” Aboud stressed.
TSTT customer solutions manager Brian Clark told Newsday that the new national rate will give customers the ability to better manage their phone call patterns and reduce their monthly phone bills.
He also admitted that there could be instances where customers experience slight increases in their bills for lengthy calls in the same area on the same exchange.
He added that while the national rate only applied to local calls, TSTT has been making progress in reducing some international calls and he identified the weekend call rate of 50 cents per minute to the US, United Kingdom and Canada as an example.