More Than 88% Of Liberians Not In Favor Of Surcharge

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An independently conducted poll shows that 88% of Liberians are not in favor of the new Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) order to impose additional surcharge on telecommunications consumers while another 68% say they are not aware of or are confused by the surcharge.    The poll results come in the wake of Liberian GSM companies’ announcement that they would add on a surcharge of US$0.008 for each minute of on-net voice calls and US$0.00065 for each megabyte of data as imposed by the LTA.

The surcharges are being implemented as a result of an LTA Order# 0016-02-25-19, which imposed a floor price on telecommunications tariffs.   The LTA said that this measure was necessary to end aggressive marketing practices such as the once widely popular “3 days free calls.”   The same LTA order went on to establish the surcharge which would go into effect six months after the start of the start of the floor prices.

The LTA order states in section four: “on the sixth monthly anniversary of this order, there shall be automatically imposed a surcharge on on-net voice in the amount of 0.008 for each minute of call.”  The order also states: “on the sixth monthly anniversary of this order, there shall be automatically imposed a surcharge on mobile data in the amount of US$0.00065 for each megabyte of data.”

Since the introduction of this order, many Liberians have struggled to understand exactly what the surcharge mains for them and how it would affect their daily lives.    A surcharge is defined as: “an extra fee, charge, or tax that is added on to the cost of a good or service, beyond the initially quoted price. Often, a surcharge is added to an existing tax and is not included in the stated price of the good or service.”    Surcharge is therefore imposed by national government and 100% of the imposed surcharge is passed on the consumer.

Earlier this year, Orange Liberia sought to block the implementation of the surcharge stating that the burden on the customer would be too great.    The company challenged the order at the level of the Supreme Court and the Court placed an injunction on the imposition of the surcharge while the case was in court.    As a result, GSM companies did not begin to execute the imposition of the surcharge.     Several days ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the LTA could impose additional taxes on telecommunications usage as per the act establishing the LTA.   

As a result of the imposition of the order, Liberian GSM companies have announced plans to execute the order as required.   However, a majority of Liberians have already begun to appeal the imposition of the surcharge stating that the higher cost of telecommunications would take away from money used for other daily essentials.    IT instructor John Wilson observed “most countries in the world are trying to make telecommunications and especially access to the internet affordable if not free to their citizens because they are aware that it aids growth and development.   We cannot do the opposite in Liberia to make the cost of telecommunications higher for our own people.”    

It is yet to be seen if the LTA will continue to insist on the imposition of the order despite massive pushback from GSM companies and citizens alike.

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