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Beeline adjusts tariffs in bid to conform with pricing rules

After long dispute in sector, it remains unclear whether tariffs follow new rules

BEELINE, the Moscow-based mobile-phone company at the centre of a price-dumping dispute that led to the government issuing edicts to regulate the sector at the end of last year, has announced it has raised prices to confirm with the new regulations.

In a text message distributed late Sunday, the operator told users it had ended its “Super Zero” pricing plan enacted in September that at the time the firm described as “more aggressive” than the controversial “Boom” tariff it replaced following complaints from the rest of the sector.

“Based on MPTC prakas! Your Super Zero price plan will now be changed to Super Plus price plan,” said the message, referring to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications prakas, or edict, issued in December that set minimum tariffs across the sector.

The new tariff was effective from Monday, it added.

However, it remained unclear whether the new price plan conformed with the prakas, given that within-network callers on Beeline would only be charged US$0.06 per minute for the first two minutes of a call of up to 15 minutes, according to details of the plan issued Monday by Beeline’s Lead PR and Media Specialist Nhem Socheata. Between the third and 15th minute, customers would be able to call each other at no additional charge.

According to December’s prakas, within-network calls are supposed to be no lower than $0.045 per minute; however, mobile operators are permitted to run temporary price promotions if they receive prior approval from MPTC. There was no indication as to whether the Beeline promotion was temporary or had received approval.

A Beeline service operator said Monday that there was no specific end date for the new pricing plan, but that users would be informed when alterations were made.

Nhem Socheata did not answer questions asking Beeline to elaborate Monday.

“Beeline has launched its new tariff plan compliant with [the] MPTC prakas– Super Plus – on February 22,” she said in an emailed statement. “This plan is applicable for all new and existing subscribers.”

MPTC Director General Mao Chakrya declined to comment on whether Beeline’s new tariff complied with his ministry’s regulations, referring all questions to the company.

From Monday, Beeline said it would price across-network calls at $0.06 per minute. The new regulations set a minimum tariff of $0.0595 per minute for calls between users on different networks.

This week’s move by Beeline, which is operated by Russia’s Vimpelcom Ltd, comes after months of wrangling particularly with market leader Mobitel, which in August took legal action against its rival over allegations of illegal use of its prefixes and price-dumping. The status of the case remains unclear.

Since around the middle of last year Mobitel sought to put pressure on Beeline – the newest entrant in the crowded Cambodian mobile sector – to raise its cross-network tariffs under the former “Boom” plan which charged just $0.05 per minute, a price other operators also said violated minimum tariff agreements. The ministry subsequently appeared to agree, as it established a minimum tariff in a prakas in December.

Under a separate, earlier tariff also issued in the wake of the dispute, MPTC ruled that providers should guarantee coverage across networks after Beeline alleged Mobitel was deliberately blocking interconnectivity in retaliation for its low prices.

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