GT&T denies unfair competition in cellphone sales
Complaint lodged with PUC

Stabroek News
July 16, 2000

A local communication company is calling on the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to act against the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company Ltd (GT&T), which it has accused of engaging in unfair competition in relation to the sale of its cellular telephones. This accusation has been denied by GT&T, which claimed that it was within its right to offer any package to its customers and the company should do likewise.

Swansea Industrial Associates (SIA) of 166 Waterloo street, North Cummingsburg, Georgetown, which has been in operation for the last four years, claims to offer the widest selection of cellular phones and accessories in the city.

SIA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Clement D.M. Duncan, to whom Stabroek News spoke recently, said that the country's sole phone company which already enjoyed a monopoly position had introduced a system that discriminated against agents selling cellular equipment.

According to Duncan, GT&T only stocks and sells one brand of cell phone - the Nokia 5120 - for which the phone company, from the start of its cellular service, had been requesting customers to pay a security deposit and activation fee, apart from the purchase price of the instrument.

When attempts were made to reduce the price for connecting to the local cellular network, GT&T waived the activation fee of $10,657 for new customers, Duncan said.

This position was altered a short time later, the CEO stated, when in an April 2, 2000 advertisement in the Stabroek News the phone company announced that persons purchasing its cellphones would only be required to pay a deposit fee of $10,658 along with the price of the instrument.

This, Duncan said, was a direct attempt by the company to induce persons to purchase its phones which are limited to a single brand name and model, and that action gives an unfair advantage to GT&T over other cellphone retailers.

Responding to a question from Stabroek News, Marketing Director of GT&T, Patricia Hinds, said that the cellular market was an open one and competitors had the option of offering whatever concessions to attract customers.

She denied that the phone company was enjoying an advantageous position, pointing out that Swansea had the option of a wider variety and could like GT&T devise marketing strategies to attract customers.

To demonstrate its concern in the matter, the Waterloo street company wrote to the PUC on April 10, outlining its position in relation to the practice by GT&T and requested a ruling on the case.

Questioned on the response from the regulatory body, Duncan said that it had merely acknowledged receipt of the letter and noted that it was giving the matter careful consideration.

The Guyana Consumers Association (GCA) was also apprised of the situation via letter but it has not yet given a response.

Director of SIA, Christian Duncan, told Stabroek News that the company offers a range of cellphones, including the Nokia but it also stocks updated versions. Apart from that brand, it supplies Motorola StarTac 7797, Ericsson LX588, and the Mitsubishi T200, which he said was being examined by GT&T for importation to add variety to its stock.

The company is also involved in providing other communication equipment such as long range cordless phones, residential wireless and mobile transmission equipment.

SIA expects to expand shortly into the cellular network by providing cellular services in Georgetown in collaboration with another partner.

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