Despite Ban, Operators Offer Bonuses

Two of the country’s largest mobile phone operators are again offering attractive deals on calls, despite the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia’s (TRC) recent order to mobile operators to follow the government’s minimum prices for calls and to scale back customer promotions.

On Sunday, Smart, which is owned by Malaysia-based Axiata Group Bhd, began offering a 100 percent call top-up bonus that runs until December 31 as part of a holiday promotion, according to the firm’s website.

And on Wednesday, Cellcard, owned by local conglomerate Royal Group, began offering a 100 percent top-up bonus that ends today.

“Top up from Dec 18-19 and enjoy 100% bonus,” the company wrote Tuesday on its Facebook page.

Customers of both companies also received texts informing them of the deals offering free call minutes.

On November 28, the telecommunications regulator ordered all mobile phone companies to comply with a 2009 government directive, which set the minimum prices they could offer customers. For calls made on the same network, the government declared 4.5 cents per minute as the price, and for cross-network calls, the price was pegged at 5.95 cents per minute.

The regulators also ordered a limit on phone-minute bonuses and free promotions, which should not exceed 50 percent of the government call rates, while the number of promotions each year must be limited.

While the government claims the order to set prices would level competition in the market, and allow the government to collect more tax revenue, members of the public see the move as anathema to the free market, and discriminating against the poor.

Smart CEO Thomas Hundt and Cellcard CEO Ian Watson both said Wednesday that their latest prices promotions are in line with the government’s order.

“We are not ignoring the TRC regulations. We adhere to the terms of the prakas [directive] as directed by the TRC,” Mr. Hundt said.

(Additional reporting by Hul Reaksmey)

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