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FLOW price increases ‘unacceptable’ – ECTEL

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The Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) has deemed the recently announced increases in FLOW’s broadband prices as “unacceptable” and has rejected amendments made to a draft agreement between the regulator/Council of Ministers and merging parties Cable & Wireless Communications Plc and Columbus International Inc.{{more}}

ECTEL made this statement in a release published on October 20, 2015 – explaining that the merging parties had returned an amended version of the draft agreement to the regulatory body, which ECTEL found had “rendered the Agreement unenforceable.”

“The proposed amendments from the merging parties have therefore been rejected by ECTEL,” the statement advised.

“It is unacceptable that at this time when the wordings of conditions agreed to are being finalized, FLOW has announced its intention to increase broadband rates in the territories affected by the merger.”

Insisting that the announcement “goes against the spirit of discussions between the merging parties and the Regulator,” ECTEL expounded: “The Council demands that the merging parties honour the commitments, including the provision of services at affordable prices, which have been made to the Regulator and also announced publicly.”

Notification from FLOW St Vincent (via newspaper advertisements, its website and in email correspondence with customers) indicates that effective Sunday, November 1, broadband prices will be altered as follows: Turbo 12 (formerly Turbo 10) will increase to $129 from $110 per month for 12 Mbps; Turbo 25 will increase to $149 from $135 for 25 Mbps; and Turbo 10 Loyalty will crease to $129 from $110 for 10 Mbps.

According to the FLOW St Vincent website, these price adjustments will not affect customers who have bundled packages.

FLOW Grenada’s website also outlines a price increase taking effect on November 1, however, it only affects two packages: Turbo 12 (increasing from $79.50 to $99) with up to 12 Mbps, and Turbo 20 (increasing from $135 to $149.99) with up to 20 Mbps.

The statement further explained that following a meeting that took place on July 13, 2015, the two merging parties committed to working with the Council of Minister (in the sub-region) and ECTEL to “ensure that services were offered at affordable prices and at the highest quality levels;” and subsequently accepted conditions that had been proposed by ECTEL to facilitate the “approval of the integration of their business.”

Among other conditions agreed to by the merging parties at the July 13 meeting was the provision of “basic retail broadband Internet service in each of the Member States with transmission speeds of at least 5 Mbps, priced per year at not more than 3 per cent of GNP per capita.”

A source who works within the telecommunications industry explained that ECTEL does not make decisions relating to FLOW’s pricing – which is not regulated within the sub-region. However, the regulator does have a say in LIME’s rates, which are regulated by a price cap plan through the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission.

“ECTEL has no power to make a decision on the price increases for FLOW directly,” said the source.

“As long as the entry package is not raised – as is the case in SVG – I do not believe it will be a big issue, as customers can always move back to a lower price package.”

ECTEL’s release added: “It is the Council’s desire to continue to protect the interest of consumers and advocate in the best interests of the citizens of the ECTEL Member States. We encourage all stakeholders, including consumer agencies, to come together in a united effort to ensure that the merging parties adhere to and not delay implementation of the conditions agreed with the Regulators.”

ECTEL member states comprise St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis and the Commonwealth of Dominica. (JSV)

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