NTRC in battle with FLOW
The National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) of the Commonwealth of Dominica on April 20, 2021, issued a commission order, under regulation 41 of the telecommunications (retail tariff) regulation S.R.O no. 40 of 2012, due to many complaints from retail customers indicating that the Licensee (Cable & Wireless Dominica Ltd) requires that they purchase a fixed voice service if they wish to purchase and access Fixed Broadband Internet Service.
In an interview with the SUN, Executive Director of the NTRC Craig Nesty disclosed that Dominica's laws clearly state that telecommunication providers should not tie services together; i.e. making it mandatory that customers who want Internet service, must also receive the home phone service.
"Consumers should have the option to acquire a particular service of their choice and only pay for that particular service," he said. "They should not be forced to get a particular service that they don't need and they don't want to get another service."
While he acknowledged that this has been an ongoing practice of the company for years, the NTRC tried to address the matter directly and was advised by the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) that such complaints should come directly from the consumers.
"Fortunately over the last quarter, from January to April we had 6 complaints coming to the NTRC, the most we have had in any period of history and four of those complaints were based on illegal tying and that created avenue for ECTEL to take this situation seriously and for them to formulate an official response to this problem," Nesty said.
The Commission reviewed the complaints received and submitted those complaints about consideration in accordance with Regulation 11(3) of Telecommunications (Dispute Resolution) S.R.O. No. 34 of 2007.
Having considered the evidence gathered during its review and investigation of complaints made to the Commission, the representations made by the company in its correspondence to the Commission dated 9' March 2021 and the recommendations of ECTEL hereby determines that:
(a) The Licensee has levied charges associated with a fixed voice service to a retail customer who purchases fixed broadband internet service which is contrary to Regulation 8(1)(a) of the Retail Tariff Regulations;
(b) A physical line is needed to access fixed based services, but a physical line is a part of the fixed network infrastructure and is not a billable retail service on its own; and
(c) The Licensee published the tariff for its fixed broadband service on its website, therefore, it would be reasonable for a retail customer, having access to that information, to conclude that the only charge to be levied for broadband service is the charge stated on its website.
Since then, the commission ordered that the company refrained from levying any charges associated with a fixed voice service to a customer seeking fixed broadband service; charge a retail customer seeking fixed broadband service for that service only; continue to publish the charges for fixed broadband service on its website; and comply with the Order by April 26, 2021.
Several attempts were made to speak with FLOW management but were unsuccessful.
As to the next course of action, the order signed by Acting Chairperson Careen Prevost States that failure by the Licensee to comply with this Order may result in an application being filed by the Commission with the High Court in the Commonwealth of Dominica for an Order to compel Compliance by the Licensee and for costs and other relief as the High Court may allow in accordance with Regulation 42 of the Retail Tariff Regulations.