POTRAZ deputy director general, Alfred Marisa.
Image credit: POTRAZ website
Econet, POTRAZ deputy director general Alfred Marisa said to us in a telephone interview today, jumped the gun with the latest 10 cents per minute tariffs and this is the reason they have been asked to revert to old pricing with immediate effect. Marisa told us that Econet ran the promotions without POTRAZ approval, a move he said is in direct violation of mobile tariff regulations in Zimbabwe.
Earlier today, Econet sent a statement out to the press notifying the public that they had been directed by the telecoms regulator to end the Buddie Zone promos it launched recently. In the statement, Econet complained that POTRAZ was treating it unfairly as the regulator has allowed competing mobile operators in the country to run similar promos without question.
Asked if this allegation is true Marisa said “Econet did not seek approval for the tariff reduction. We have nothing against promotions, we actually encourage them but they have to be approved first, otherwise some players will abuse their market power.”
The argument between Econet and the regulator is centered on promotions around the Buddie Zone brand. As part of Buddie Zone, Econet subscribers, for some months now, get discounts ranging from 0% to 90% on calls to other Econet subscribers. On Friday last week, Econet announced that the Buddie Zone suit of promos now included a tariff slash of up to 60% on calls by Econet subscribers to other networks effectively slashing off-net calls to 10 cents a minute from 25 cents. The new promo was largely a response to the continued onslaught from competing mobile providers, Telecel and NetOne. Telecel mainly actually.
Now according to Marisa, Econet approached them with the dynamic tariffing – the name of the dynamic discounts concept of Buddie Zone – promotion last year and it was approved with the conditions that it would be for a specific period of time, only applicable to calls within the network and lastly, that the discounts would be limited to 50%.
Marisa told us today that all these conditions have been flouted by Econet as the time period expired some time back (he couldn’t specify when), the new promo was applying on calls to other networks, and the discounts are well above the approved 50% limit (Econet promised 90% discounts in the Friday announcement). As such, Marisa said, they had to enforce the rules hence the move today.
On the accusation by Econet that other mobile operators are not getting the same treatment from the regulator, Marisa said that Telecel specifically, has applied for and got approval for the promotions it’s running – the ones that have caused so much drama locally in the past few weeks. “Look at the Telecel promotion, we approved it and it ends this month unless they ask for an extension,” said Marisa.
We haven’t received an official response from Econet on the new information provided by POTRAZ. However, POTRAZ choosing to play it by the rule book on this issue will probably have Econet pulling out the “but how come you let an unlicensed operator operate for months without a license?” card.
We will be posting more information on the matter as we get it.