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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Telcos charging way too much

THE Government needs to urgently look into the high charges by mobile telcos for local calls made on mobile phones.

It has now come to a point where calls made to overseas destinations can be cheaper than those made locally. A mobile phone call is also about four times more expensive than those made using the fixed line or the public phone.

How is it that overseas calls are cheaper than those made to local destinations just a couple of kilometres away? How is it that the fixed line is much cheaper than mobile links?

Today, the frequent refrain of almost every prepaid user is that one has little or no credit and that one needs to top up constantly. The credit is gone in a jiffy. Mobile phone calls today take a big slice of one’s personal expenditure.

The most exploited appear to be the young who use their pocket money to buy prepaid cards. The poor youngsters are totally exploited to the hilt by the mobile telcos with alluring advertisements that blind them to reality.

All kinds of attractive advertisements in various media, especially directed towards the young, are to be found everywhere with the intention of making people connect and communicate. But the cost is high.

The chatty younger generation are the main and easy target of the telcos who eye their disposable incomes. This could be one reason for charges being high in the country.

The Government needs to investigate why local mobile phone charges are higher than in less developed countries. In India, for example, rates are extremely low because of a price war amid healthy competition.

Here the various mobile telcos, instead of being in competition with one another, have established a cartel to maintain the monopoly and the status quo, exploiting the captive phone user who has no other option.

The profit level of each of the mobile telcos is more than RM1.5bil annually, a level of profit usually associated with financial institutions and petroleum companies. Need there be a better illustration than these figure to show that the telcos are charging exorbitant rates compared to their costs and investments.

It is also time that the MCMC became proactive and not wait for complaints about telcos. All mobile telcos should charge a uniform rate no matter which network is used as the differences are unjustified considering that Malaysia is a small country.

The charge per minute should be indicated on the display screen of the phone to better inform users. Currently, only the charge for the call is shown.

It is also time that consumers associations (CAs) took up this issue seriously as high charges for local calls are discriminatory and unjustified. With the cost of almost everything going up, the CAs need to focus on relevant issues, and not on extraneous ones for which there are other organisations to champion.

The mobile telcos would not have gone on an exploitative spree if the CAs had been more proactive and vigilant in championing the cause of the Malaysian consumer.

V. THOMAS,

Sungai Buloh

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