Liberians Rebuke Government’s Plan to Strap-off Three-day Free Call

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Monrovia – The Liberia Telecommunication Authority’s (LTA) decision to cancel the three-day free call promotion that is being offered by the country’s two GSM service providers – Lonestar Cell MTN and Orange – seems not to be going down well with many consumers.

Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh, [email protected]

Recently, the LTA posted on its website a proposal for new floor pricing for both voice calls and data. The proposal sets the floor price for voice call at US$0.156 per minute and data at US$0.218 per megabyte.

If the new price takes effect a dollar call card that once served consumers for three days unlimited voice calls would now serve for only 64 minutes while 100 megabytes of data would be US$21.00. Currently, consumers pay US$1 for 1,000 megabytes of data.

The latest decision to drop the popular and affordable three days ‘free’ call promo follows the LTA decision to cancel the international call bundles offered by Lonestar Cell MTN and Orange which allowed customers to make international call at low cost.

The LTA argues that the intent of the new tariff is to end the “price war” between Orange and MTN, which came about following the introduction of an extremely low-price call promotion. The regulator says the “price war” led to counter offers from other telecoms operators and resulted in a vicious cycle that brought the price far below cost, which it claims is “destroying the telecommunications industry in Liberia”.

The news has been attracting mixed views across Monrovia and its environs. Many have slammed the move and some say it would undermine the government’s Pro-Poor Agenda. 

FrontPage Africa’s microphone has been sampling the views of several costumers in Monrovia and its environs on the LTA’s planned decision.

Henry Wolokolie, Chairman of the Liberia Consumer Protection Association: 

“We don’t support what the LTA is coming up with and we think that the LTA should rescind her decision on cancelling the three-day promotion being carried out by the two major GSM service providers. And we believe that competition is a healthy exercise that should be encouraged in any industry or sector. And so, whatever the two GSM service providers are doing in terms of advertising their services to attract consumers should be encouraged; rather than what LTA is coming up with. We think that LTA should concentrate on developing policies that will help the sector instead of coming up with regulations that will affect consumers. We are calling on the LTA to rescind her decision because it will affect vulnerable consumers who rely so much on these services for their day-to-day activities.”    

Henry Roberts, Student, United Methodist University (UMU):

“The idea the government has come with to put a halt to the three days free call is bad. This is because in our country we don’t want to do things on or own. Ever times we copy other people’s things. It is time to do things on our own. For cancelling the three days free call is not in the interest of the subscribers because we it helps us to communicate with our families and friends far and near. My advice to the government is to sit with the companies and find a solution other than cancelling the three days free call.”

Felecia K. Kollie, Student, UMU: 

“I support the idea of terminating the three das free call if it is crippling their (MTN/LoneStar and Orange) businesses because business is all about profit. Once the offer is not harming them, they should cut it off and find a best solution.”

Grace Anthony, Student, UMU:

We are already used to the three days free call. If I buy my scratch card for L$170 and the three-day free call is not there, and you go talk for one minute, you will not talk for a long time and the money will finish. It will just be like a waste because the money will run out very fast and customers will be discouraged to transact. Business will intend go down. So, I recommend to the government to allow the companies to continue their three-day free calls for us, the citizens because right now it is not easy. This is the cheapest way that we are able to talk with our people in the rural areas.”

Alvin P. Domah, Vendor Broad Street:

“The decision to cancel the three-day free calls should be looked at carefully. I think it should be replaced with something suitable. There should be fixed minutes awarded for certain amount. For example, if they can give us 60 minutes for L$1.00 to be sued for unlimited length of time, the it will be alright. But to cancel the three-day free calls without replacing it with something good will be very bad.” 

Joshua Tarr, Vendor Broad Street:

“If the government wants to take the decision to allow the GSM companies to raise profit and pay revenue, then it is well understood. This is because the essence of any business is to make profit. To be frank, communication is very expensive everywhere in the world. I believe Liberia is the first country to benefit from such offer for a long time. We thank the company for the offer. However, looking at the condition we find ourselves in, to just cancel three-day free call will be too difficult for the common people because not everyone has money to buy card regularly. Although we want the company to stay here to help, we want them to work with government to come up with a win-win solution.”

Jerry J. Doe, Private Security Agent, Broad Street:

“If it is the government decision to take away the three days, some of us will find it difficult because we have been benefitting from the three-day over the past three years and if the government will come up to abruptly take the three-day and bring in another system, I think that will not be in the interest of the ordinary Liberians. The government should drop the taxes so that the three-day can continue because the offer allows us to talk with our families, friends, well-wishers and some of our relatives in the rural areas. If there will be no three-day, then we will find it difficult. Looking at what is unfolding in the country where majority of the citizens are unemployed and not even able to afford to buy scratch card for L$170.00 or L$180.00.” 

Lloyd Karley, Money Exchanger, GSA Road:

“I think the decision to cancel three-day free calls is not bad. Cutting off three-day in order to get more revenues and profit will be in the interest of rural Liberians. It is necessary for Government to raise more revenues to help those in the rural areas get connected also. Once the two companies get more profit, they will expand their coverage to allow the rural people get network. I want to suggest that they should not cancel the three-day totally. Maybe you can reduce it to two days; instead of cancelling the entire three-day. The data bundles should remain because most of us are on the internet.”  

Morris Dennis, Money Exchanger, Red Light:

“This particular three-day free call has been existing since Madam Sirleaf’s administration. Some individuals just want to find means for the public to go against this government.  And if the government agrees for this three-day free call to go, then I’m very sorry for them because it will haunt them in the future. In time to come, the public will judge them by their actions and decisions that are being taken today. My advice to this CDC Government is for them to put their house in order and work with the GSM companies to find a solution that will be in the interest of the Liberian people.”

Abraham Dominic, scratch card dealers, Red Light:

“The decision to cancel the three-day free call will not be necessary for us. The reason is that for the past three years, we have been adjusted to the offer that helps the citizens to make call at affordable prices. If you cancel it now, people will go out of communication and the GSM Companies will end up experiencing drop in income. Even with the three-day, people are still going around asking to make local call because they can’t afford to buy scratch card. Not everybody will get money to make call daily. 

Although the companies need to make profit, but we think that they should see reason and address the issue that will not hurt the costumers. It is because of the free call that most citizens bought phones. So, if you cut it down, most people will go out of communication. They will lay down their phones.”

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