Mobile Firms Agree to Stop Price Dumping

Cambodia’s nine mobile phone operators on Friday agreed to refrain from engaging in unfair competition by offering generous top-up bonuses aimed at increasing their market share, officials said.

Mao Chakrya, director of the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia (TRC), said that all of the country’s operators agreed to abide by rules stipulating that 4.5 cents is the minimum price per minute for calls made between the same network and 5.95 cents per minute for cross-network calls.

The move by telecommunication firms came roughly a month after the TRC warned the mobile operator Smart Mobile from offering deals so generous they were deemed to be anticompetitive.

“All company representatives agreed with the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia to follow regulations by canceling their previous strategy by offering free calls,” Mr. Chakrya said.

According to the TRC, mobile operators cannot advertise bonuses above 50 percent of what a customer pays for a mobile telephone top-up. However, Smart, which is owned by Latelz Co. Ltd., has advertised a 500 percent top-up bonus—300 percent for calls and SMS and 200 percent for Internet. In February, operator Smart Mobile merged with operator Hello to become Smart, propelling the company to the No. 2 spot in Cambodia’s telecommunication’s market in terms of subscribers.

Alan Sinfield, CEO of qb, one of the smaller mobile firms in Cambodia, said he was looking forward to all firms in the market abiding by the government’s rules on fair pricing.

“The International Telecommunication Union enforces regulations and the regulators use its pricing prac­tices to regulate the market,” he said, referring to the agency inside the U.N. responsible for regulating telecommunication markets worldwide. In December 2009, the ministry issued a proclamation setting price floors for telephone services.

The catalyst for the legislation was a very public spat between MobiTel, owned by Cambodian conglomerate Royal Group, and Beeline, which was then owned by the Russian firm VimpelCom Ltd.

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