Orange Liberia, Lonestar Cell MTN win surcharge battle against LTA
Liberia’s mobile operators, Orange Liberia and Lonestar Cell MTN have announced their victory on the removal of mandatory surcharges which were imposed by Liberia’s Telecommunications Authority (LTA) to improve competitiveness in the market.
The LTA imposed additional surcharges of $0.008 per minute of voice calls and $0.0065 per megabyte of data.
The French telecom giant, Orange Liberia and Lonestar Cell MTN, a subsidiary of South Africa’s MTN Group have been fighting the regulator on extra charges in their voice calls and data bundle prices which were supposed to be implemented in 2019.
The telecom operators increased their tariffs in October of this year to match the additional surcharges to their rates. This was immediately after Liberia's Supreme Court ruled in favour of LTA in a legal case filed by Orange Liberia.
The LTA argued early this month that the telecom operators were engaging in illegal price-fixing and profiteering.
The regulator gave the telecom giants a 12-hour ultimatum to reverse the increases, but they defied and engaged the LTA.
Orange Liberia and Lonestar Cell MTN argued that the voice calls and data prices had gone beyond the reach of many consumers in the West African nation. Liberia already ranks 56 out of 61 countries globally on the affordability of internet, according to the Alliance for Affordable Internet.
Rolling back consumer surchages
Announcing the revocation of LTA surcharges on Twitter on Thursday, Lonestar Cell MTN said they were rolling back the implementation on surcharges.
“We have agreed to roll back the surcharge implemented on voice and data products on October 8, 2020 with immediate effect,” reads part of the statement.
Orange Liberia said they had become victors in their battle with the regulator. “I am happy to announce that after much negotiation, the LTA, Orange Liberia and Lonestar Cell MTN have reached a common ground to remove surcharges,” said Orange Liberia CEO Mamadou Coulibaly said on Twitter on Wednesday.
In a statement on Facebook, the LCA said they were committed to promoting a responsive and predictable regulatory environment that takes into consideration the needs of consumers, government and the operators.
“LTA has mandated the mobile network operators to pay over $4 million into government revenue as gains made on the implementation of the floor price, mobile network operators reverting to pre-surcharge tariff on voice and data services and restituting credits to affected consumers from October 8 to 14, 2020,” reads part of the statement.
Coulibaly said subscribers who recharged during the imposition of surcharge will receive full restitution.
Lonestar Cell MTN said as part of the roll back of the surcharge adjustments, their subscribers who purchased bundles between the 8th of October 2020 and the 14th of October 2020 would receive the difference in minutes and data between the allocation they received when they bought the bundles compared to the allocation in place before the surcharge was implemented.