The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has ruled that the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT) shall be able to continue to offer its “Get More Pay Less” promotion until August 2017.
This ruling, made public on June 15, effectively denies an application by Digicel to have the international outbound component of the promotion declared anti-competitive.
The promotion which began on February 22, 2017 offers customers a bundled package, comprising of minutes, data and texts for varying durations. With each plan individually priced, consumers have the option of choosing a plan best suited to their individual needs.
Additionally, the minutes offered in the promotion could be used in a number of ways including calls to the United States and Canada. It is this aspect which Digicel claimed to be anti-competitive and disadvantageous.
On the day the promotion was launched Digicel wrote the PUC objecting to the promotion on the grounds that it promises to provide all of GT&T’s customers with minutes that could be utilized to make calls to the USA and Canada and that if all of the minutes provided for in the promotion were used exclusively in this manner then the effective rates of such calls would be significantly below the PUC approved retail rates to these two destinations.
Using this argument Digicel claimed that the promotion is anti-competitive since GT&T which still holds a monopoly in the market for international services in Guyana is providing Digicel with a wholesale rate which is considerably higher than the highest possible retail rate its customers would pay using this promotion.
The company appealed to the Commission to have GT&T suspend or terminate the promotion and any further promotion until the hearing and determination of the complaint. Alternatively they had asked for an order to be made requiring that all present and future promotions concerning international rates, be extended by GT&T to Digicel and be offered as part of their bundled minutes to their customers.
In response GTT maintained that its actions were legitimate since Section 6.2 of the Government of Guyana/ Atlantic TeleNetwork Agreement states that during the period of the licence issued to GTT, no other company, nor Government, shall provide any services to which the licence relates.
Though Digicel maintained at hearings, which began on March 21, 2017 that customers are likely to utilize all of the minutes in the bundled promotion to make overseas calls, data provided by GTT proved otherwise.
At the request of the PUC, GTT provided information on the number of subscribers to the bundled plan and the distribution of minutes of usage that included both local and international minutes.
“The data supplied by GTT indicated that approximately 96% of the minutes of use were made to the local networks and 4% were used to satisfy international services,” the order notes. It also highlights that though Digicel was asked to provide information to the Commission showing the impact, if any, that GT&T’s promotion may have on the outbound segment of its business it failed to do so.
The commission therefore concluded that there was no significant switching by Digicel’s consumers to GT&T’s network to take advantage of the promotion and that the trend of use over the last three months is likely to continue into the immediate future.
Consequently it ruled that the promotion does not appear to be anti-competitive and Digicel is not at a disadvantage as a result of the promotion and it ordered that “the promotion which commenced on February 22, 2017 shall run for six months, and shall be concluded no later than August 22, 2017.”
The Commission is to be informed as soon as this promotion ends.
Table showing the bundles being offered by GTT in its “Get More Pay Less” promotion.