The bitter feud between Jamaica’s two major mobile providers has intensified with Digicel now accusing LIME of refusing to open up toll free numbers to other telecom operators, a charge denied by LIME, the former Cable & Wireless Ja (C&W).
According to Digicel, its revenue stream is being adversely affected because, along with other operators, it is unable to sell toll free services to corporate customers. Digicel complained that LIME has a monopoly in that segment of the market and corporate customers are “forced to use C&W/LIME’s toll free service and accept whatever prices and service standards C&W/LIME chooses”.
“By refusing to comply with the OUR’s directive to open up toll free numbers to competitors, C&W/LIME is acting in a blatantly anti-competitive manner and making a mockery of the regulatory regime here in Jamaica,” Helga McIntyre, legal and regulatory manager for Digicel Jamaica, told Caribbean Business Report (CBR).
“It’s unacceptable; for the good of corporate organisations, consumers and competition, C&W/LIME must be shown the error of its ways,” she added.
LIME, however, denied the accusations and said that the firm was in fact instrumental in the creation of a toll free regime in which Digicel can now offer service to its customers. In a statement to CBR, LIME said it wrote to the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) on March 11, 2009 advising the regulatory body that:
- It is not true that LIME is preventing Digicel from providing toll free numbers to its customers. Digicel can assign toll free numbers and provide toll free service to its customers and is not hindered in doing so by LIME; and
- LIME is concerned about the use of toll free numbers to provide a particular form of Indirect Access called two stage dialling (2SD) and the matter is currently under appeal and LIME is awaiting a ruling.
However, a third party, Flow, has entered the fight, and has supported the argument put forward by Digicel. Flow’s public relations manager Denise Williams told this newspaper that Flow’s ability to provide cost-effective services to its customers has been hampered. She accused LIME of being “anti-competitive and a major hindrance to the growth of the industry”.
“In the end, it is the customer who ultimately pays the price,” said Williams.
Last month, LIME, peeved by a 21 per cent price increase imposed by Digicel on its landline customers, made a formal complaint to the Fair Trading Commission (FTC), appealing to the agency to take action in putting a stop to what it described as Digicel’s “anti-competitive, discriminatory and predatory conduct”.
In February, Digicel filed a $1.7-billion lawsuit with the Supreme Court of Jamaica against LIME contesting the price structuring of LIME’s Homefone product and its handling of bad debt regarding retail fixed to mobile rates.
Director of consumer and public affairs at the OUR, David Geddes, was said to be off the island and could not be reached for comment yesterday.