Ban on Generous Mobile Top-Up Offers Lifted

The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications on Sunday reversed an order by its regulator that forced the country’s nine mobile phone companies to abide by a law that sets minimum prices for calls, ultimately allowing mobile operators to continue offering lucrative top-up deals, officials said Monday.

“The regulator is implementing the ministry’s order and we are reviewing [the case] for the benefit of the people and the public,” said Lay Marivo, deputy director of the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia (TRC).

Mr. Marivo explained that the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications on Sunday halted the TRC’s decision last week that ordered all operators to abide by a 2009 proclamation that set the minimum calling price per minute for same network calls at 4.5 cents, and 5.95 cents per minute for cross-network calls.

According to a statement signed on Sunday by Telecommunications Minister So Khun, the TRC met with operators on April 22 and again on April 26 to discuss implementation of the proclamation. However, the decision to implement the 2009 proclamation has now been scrapped.

“Halt the implementation of the decision of the meeting between the TRC and the mobile operators,” the statement says. “TRC has to continue discussing with the mobile operators according to the law and other regulations, in order to facilitate policies, norms and relevant provisions that are contrary to the present situation.”

Mr. Marivo said a meeting among operators scheduled for yesterday afternoon to discuss possible solutions was canceled after he received the ministry’s order.

Mobile firms on Monday welcomed the ministry’s decision and some said they would resume their bonuses as soon as possible.

“Smart remains on the strong view, supported by the consumer voices, that a minimum price floor for telecom services shall not be implemented and enforced by the government but to let the market follow the Free Market principles. Smart will as soon as practically possible re-introduce the tariffs and promotions, which were changed on 29th April to as before,” Smart CEO Thomas Hundt said in an email.

Since its merger with operator Hello in mid-February, Smart, which is owned by Malaysia-based Axiata Group Bhd, had offered 500 percent top-up bonuses—an offer that MobiTel, which is owned by the Cam­bodian firm Royal Group, has deemed too generous to be fair in the market.

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