The National Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (NTRC) and telecommunication company Flow Dominica, may soon be heading to court over the illegal tying of services.
According to the NTRC, since the start of the year, several customers have filed complaints indicating that Flow has levied charges for Landline service to customers who only requested fixed broadband internet service which the commission says is a violation of Regulation 8(1 )(a) of the Retail Tariff Regulations.
Signed by the acting Chairperson, Careen Prevost, on April 20, 2021, the company issued a commission order, under regulation 41 of the telecommunications (retail tariff) regulation S.R.O no. 40 of 2012, to “the Licensee”- Cable & Wireless Dominica Ltd.
While Dominica News Online (DNO) has made several attempts within the past two weeks to speak to the management of Flow but has not been successful, Executive Director of the NTRC, Craig Nesty, who spoke to our reporter days following the issuance of the order explained, that the laws clearly state that the services should not be tied in such a manner that a customer is required when purchasing one service to purchase another service that the customer does not require.
“It should not be mandatory that customers who want Internet service, must also receive the home phone service,” he stressed. “Every consumer should have the option to acquire whatever individual service that they wish and they should not be forced to get a particular service that they don’t need and they don’t want to get another service.”
Recognizing that this has been an ongoing practice of the company for years, Nesty said that the NTRC attempted to address this directly and was informed by the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) that the complaint should come from consumers.
Over the last quarter, the commission received four complaints from retail customers indicating that Flow required that they purchase a fixed voice service if they wish to purchase and access Fixed Broadband Internet Service, which the Executive Director of NTRC noted created the avenue for ECTEL to warrant the situation as serious and formulate an official response to the problem.
According to the order, WHEREAS the Commission having considered the evidence gathered during the course of its review and investigation of complaints made to the Commission, the representations made by the Licensee in its correspondence to the Commission dated 9th 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 a broadband service is the charge stated on its website.
Based on ECTEL’s recommendation, Flow has since been ordered as of April 26, 2021, to refrain from levying any charges associated with a fixed voice service to a customer seeking fixed broadband service; to charge a retail customer seeking fixed broadband service for that service only and to continue to publish the charges for fixed broadband service on its website.
Nesty also highlighted that the company would not be able to automatically remove the charges, but it would be left to the consumers to request to have them removed.
Failure from the Flow to comply with the 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.
A source has since stated to DNO that Flow believe that they are within their rights and are contemplating legal actions against the NTRC