The Independent Consumer and Competition Commission (ICCC) wishes to respond to the article titled “Why Telikom raised charges: Duma” which appeared in The National newspaper (30 August, p.5).
While responding to questions by East Sepik Governor Hon. Alan Bird on the recent hike in mobile phone services fees and charges by Telikom, Public Enterprise and State Investment Minister Hon. William Duma unfortunately made several incorrect and misleading statements about the function of the ICCC.
Hon. Minister Duma stated that;
- “Internet and telephone charges and prices are fixed by the Independent Competition Consumer Commission.”
- a “170 per cent increase” in mobile phone service fees charged by Telikom “remains to be clarified by ICCC”;
- “There are certain increases that have been approved by ICCC”; and
- that necessary increases “have been approved by ICCC to enable our companies to provide decent dividends for our people.”
ICCC Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, Paulus Ain said that the statements made by Minister Duma, and reported by the media, is indeed inaccurate and misleading. It only further increases the divide and public misconception on the role of the ICCC in the Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) Industry.
Mr. Ain said under the National Information Communications Technology Act 2010, NICTA is the ICT regulator and it is entirely responsible for setting the tariff/rates, attending to consumer complaints, issuing licences, setting interconnection rates and monitoring their service standards of all its licences and all other players in the ICT industry.
It is imperative to note that prior to 2010, the ICCC was the economic regulator of the telecommunication industry and that it was responsible for setting the tariff/prices of telecommunication services and the inter-connection rates between the competing telecommunication service providers. During that time, the Papua New Guinea Telecommunication and Radio-communication Technical Authority (PANGTEL) was the technical regulator of the industry responsible for, amongst other things, issuance of spectrum licenses and bandwidths to industry participants.
However, n 2010, the Government repelled the Telecommunications Act and replaced it with the NICTA Act 2010 and it established a new Authority called the National Information and Communications Technology Authority (NICTA). The new Authority or NICTA took over the role of the former PANGTEL as the technical regulator and the economic regulatory function of the ICCC that were previously performed by the ICCC and PNAGTEL.
Mr. Ain said, since 2010, NICTA is the legislated or mandated Authority responsible for both the economic and technical regulation for the entire ICT industry. Amongst other economic regulatory functions of the ICCC that has been transferred to NICTA includes; setting of the prices or rates of mobile and fixed line telephony services, wholesale internet bandwidth rates, interconnection rates for mobile and fixed line telephony, monitoring of the service standards and issuance of operator licences.
Mr. Ain said prior to 2010, the ICCC has many success stories as the economic regulatory of the telecommunications industry, one that stands out today is the successful issuance of mobile operator’s licence to Digicel PNG Limited in 2007.
Adding to this Commissioner Ain said, “It is therefore important for all concerned stakeholders to understand that NICTA is the telecommunication industry regulator by law and is directly responsible for regulating the prices of telecommunication services and service standards of the operators in that industry. It [NICTA] is the sector specific regulator of the telecommunication industry and is duty bound to perform its mandated role under its legislation.”
“Users of telecommunication services also need to know that NICTA has a consumer affairs branch that deals with Information Communication Technology (ICT) service queries. This facility can be utilized by aggrieved consumers.” Commissioner Ain said.
Consistent with Government policy, the ICCC, as an implementation agency, only regulates the prices of Electricity, Water, Fuel, Essential Port Services, Motor Vehicles 3rd Party Insurance premiums, Postal Services, PMV and Taxi Fares. It also monitors the factory gate prices of Rice, Flour and Sugar but does not set the prices of these goods. Commissioner Ain added that prices of all other goods and services in the PNG economy are determined by the market forces of demand and supply or by industry/sector specific regulators where these are subject to regulations; and not the ICCC. All stakeholders need to be informed and educated about these facts. Unfortunately, Minister Duma has miss interpreted the facts. Similarly, many consumers and the general public also continue to misinterpret the facts.
Commissioner Ain added that given the ICCC continues to maintain its competition and consumer watchdog role, it continues to receive consumer complaints regarding telecommunication issues.
“In most cases, these are referred to NICTA to investigate as the sector regulator because NICTA is best placed to deal with these complaints and queries. NICTA has successfully assisted customers on the same with and without the assistance of the ICCC.”
“Thus, concerned users of telecommunication goods and services should not shy away from approaching NICTA directly and request that it investigates their complaints and queries. Where complaints are laid with the ICCC, these will be referred to NICTA to assess and resolve.”
In closing, Commissioner Ain said the ICCC will continue to work with NICTA, the sector regulator, on issues requiring our joint competency.