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Inquiry charges under scrutiny

Inquiry charges under scrutiny

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Three weeks after telecommunications company Cable & Wireless (C&W) Barbados stopped their controversial charges for directory inquiries, Vincentians are querying the local cost attached to the directory assistance.{{more}}

Like in Barbados, Cable & Wireless is still the sole provider of landline services here.

But, according to Director of the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, Apollo Knights, Cable & Wireless is still well within its rights to add a charge to directory inquiries if it wishes to do so. Knights said that this charge comes under an unregulated part of the agreement signed between Cable & Wireless and the East Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) in May 2002.

He said since the cost is unregulated, the NTRC cannot control whatever price is attached to directory inquiries.

Speaking under condition of anonymity, a salesperson who used the directory inquiry service frequently, said that he has stopped using it. He explained that the directory assistance operators are not from this country and are sometimes unable to do an effective job.

“It was better before,” he says, “and now it’s bad, you have to pay for it?”

Currently, a customer is allowed three free inquiry calls per month from a fixed line, every call after that Cable & Wireless charges 50 cents for every inquiry made. Customers are allowed two listings per call.

The Fair Trading Commission (FTC), which regulates telecommunications in Barbados, had questioned the charges applied by Cable & Wireless on November 3 in that country. Cable & Wireless Barbados said it had filed rates with the ministry in accordance with the ministry’s Unregulated Services Policy, while the FTC asserted it was generally considered that directory inquires fell within the domestic telecommunications services category which are regulated.

However, unlike Barbados, the only areas of telecommunications services, which are regulated locally, are fixed to fixed line calls, fixed lines to mobile, monthly line rentals and reconnection charges.

Chief Executive at C&W Daryl Jackson said that every customer is provided with a telephone directory free of cost. Jackson explained that persons wishing to get a number should first use the phonebook to do their inquiry as the company strongly recommends directory use before calling directory assistance. He added that it costs C&W to provide the directory inquiry service, “so we have to have a charge that reflects that cost”.