Council of Ministers Nullifies Telecom Law

The Council of Ministers has nullified a 2009 law that set minimum prices on telephone calls, paving the way for regulators to reset the country’s telecommunications prices, which industry executives say are too high.

The law, Prakas 232, which has been widely flouted, set a minimum price of 4.5 cents per minute for calls made on the same network and 5.95 cents per minute for cross-network calls. It also limited top-up bonuses to not more than 50 percent and to a limited number of deals per year.

In November, the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia (TRC) issued an order demanding that the country’s seven mobile phone operators abide by the prakas.

It is the second time in seven months that the TRC issued the order, and then, in less than 20 days, had it revoked.

“Based on our burgeoning consultation between TRC and all nine fixed-line and mobile phone operators investing in Cambodia in order to create the conditions ensuring honest competition in the telecommunication sector, Prakas 232…is nullified,” the Council of Ministers said in a statement on Friday signed by Secretary of State Khim Rossidar.

As part of the nullification, mobile operators are being asked to turn over their cost data every six months, beginning in January.

“All telephone operators have to submit to the TRC their cost base calculations every six months, starting from January 2014, for the regulator to have a basic principle to track honest competition,” the statement says.

However, an industry executive who spoke on condition of anonymity said that request is unlikely to be granted, because such data is commercially sensitive and telecommunications companies may not trust the government to keep it secret.

The council’s move follows a large backlash from customers, who took to Facebook to air their grievances about the high fixed prices. Last week, more than 1,000 subscribers signed a petition to get the TRC to drop the order.

In May, when the TRC first ordered operators to abide by the law, a similar customer backlash ensued, forcing then-Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun to reverse the directive.

It is unclear when the TRC will begin restructuring minimum prices, though Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Prak Sokhon has said he wants it done soon.

On Thursday, the TRC said fixed-line and mobile operators had agreed to create an independent body to discuss and solve some of the issues in the sector.

The TRC is expected to meet today concerning the prakas.

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