Tel*One tariff hikes threaten businesses

Staff Writer

THE cost of telephone calls has gone up astronomically amid fears that many businesses will not be able to sustain the increases and could be forced to close shop.



face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>The increase has been met with howls of outrage from both domestic consumers and business users of telephones who are charging that the raise was not justified by either the current rate of inflation, which has been slowing, or an improvement in the quality of service provided.


The country’s fixed telephone operator, Tel*One, announced last week that it had increased tariffs by 275 to 385% with effect from July 21. The unit charge for a three-minute local call increased from $120 to $585. Trunk calls will now cost $328 per minute from the previous $120 per minute. The actual charge for trunk calls depends on the distance between the calling and the called exchange.


Fixed calls to regional countries were increased from $1 000 to $2 053,83 per minute. The average charge for an international call is now $2 733 per minute.


Tel*One public relations officer, Collin Wilbesi, said the telephone operator has been running on sub-economic tariffs for a long time and it was necessary for businesses to charge economic rates in order to make a profit and remain viable.


“The tariff structure (will) bring in the revenue to deliver quality services in new lines and current maintenance,” Wilbesi said. “The company intends to further improve on customer service by ensuring immediate response to faults, improve on call completion rates and installation of new lines.”


Wilbesi said the August telephone bill would be a six-week cycle bill instead of the usual four-week and it will be based on the new tariff structure. Telephone users who spoke to the Zimbabwe Independent condemned the increases as excessive.


“Surely it would have been fairer to the telephone-using public for Tel*One to have engaged independent consultants to examine the impact of various price changes rather than relying on the obviously self-servicing approach that the company took,” Shingai Moyo of Mufakose, said. “Owning a telephone will soon be a luxury we cannot afford.”


A business executive who declined to be named said the increase in telephone charges would have a domino effect on the economy. He said most businesses would be forced to disconnect their telephone lines or simply fold.


Consumer Council of Consumer public relations officer, Tonderayi Mukeredzi, said the increases would inhibit consumers from communicating.


“Increases of this magnitude deprive consumers of their right to information as only a few previleged consumers will afford to make a call,” Mukeredzi said.