Wataniya and Dhiraagu “collude” against public interest: DRP Deputy Leader Ahmed Mohamed

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Deputy Leader Ahmed Mohamed has claimed that changes made by telecommunication companies Dhiraagu and Wataniya are diluting market competition and damaging the public interest.

Both companies have upgraded their fair usage policies and increased the possible number of free texts per credit top-up from 20 to 50, effective January 1. They have also requested a tariff change due a hike in package prices.

“In the past, Dhiraagu had a monopoly. When Wataniya came in there was health competition in the country and phone charges decreased dramatically. But these recent actions, the fair usage policies and the change in tariffs, can be seen as colluding,” said Mohamed.

“I don’t know if there is a law against anti-competitive behavior in the market,” Mohamed explained, “but these colluding behaviors by the telecomm companies are not healthy for the general public.”

Mohamed said the government should act on any law which prohibits companies from colluding to reduce competition and drive up prices, or should create one to address such a situation.

Wataniya and Dhiraggu are the only two telecommunications companies in Maldives, and both introduced BlackBerry services to the Maldives this year.

CAM Deputy Director General Abdullah Pasha confirmed that CAM had approved tariffs for price changes, but said the authority did not regulate changes to free minutes “because it is used to manage excess capacity on their networks, and so it’s up to them.”

Pasha did not believe that the changes would hurt competition or impact the general public.

“Prices are going up in every sector right now, so this isn’t unusual,” he observed.

Officials at both telecommunications companies were unaware of Mohamed’s statement, and did not believe that there was cause for concern.

“Competition is one of the fundamental things of a strong, successful business. We definitely don’t engage in anything that would compromise market competition,” said Dhiraagu Marketing and PR executive Imjad Jaleel.

Jaleel said Dhiraagu has made several changes which bear similarities to upgrades made by Wataniya, but claimed that the coincidence was an effect of catering to the same population.

“After all we are talking about the Maldives market,” he said. Jaleel added that changes at Dhiraagu are always monitored by an outside party. “Dhiraagu must go through the Communications Authority of Maldives (CAM) to make any changes, and we follow CAM’s advise and cooperate with its regulations. There is nothing we would do to damage competition, or have a negative impact on the general public.”

Wataniya’s Head of Marketing and Communications Aishath Zamra Zahir said the company was also “following the usual procedure with CAM, and [has] fulfilled all the licensing requirements.”

Zahir added that Wataniya’s changes have not tamed the market, but rather have maintained the company’s  competitive edge.

“We still offer the lowest IDD (international direct dialing) in the country,” she pointed out.

According to Wataniya‘s new fair usage policy, customers can receive up to 1000 free minutes when making calls from a free phone number.

Dhiraagu customers with post paid plans can now receive between 1000 and 5000 free minutes per month for calls with free numbers, according to their plan.

Jaleel pointed out that these revisions are not unique to the Maldives, but rather reflect “a trend that is happening everywhere in the world.”

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12 thoughts on “Wataniya and Dhiraagu “collude” against public interest: DRP Deputy Leader Ahmed Mohamed”

  1. In an open market where capitalism exists, a third party watchdog usually monitors this. Not the President.

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  2. I support Andays call for an Anti-Trust Act.

    Such a statute does not require the agreement of corporations in fact it is meant to regulate corporate behavior so statements against measures to reduce monopolies and collusion in commercial affairs from big corporations are only natural.

    Anday has highlighted a valid point. However we all know that a third entrant into the telecommunications market would greatly benefit the populace however, the small market and government interest in Dhiraagu prevents such an entrant from coming in.

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  3. even if there is a law banning price fixing and agreeing to arrangements eliminating competition at certain levels or forbidding any such discussions between competitors, investigating such cases will be impossible in a society in which corruption runs top to bottom and across and corruption is another term for being smart.

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  4. if you study economics, you know that anti-competitive behavior in a duopoly is an inevitable situation. In a market like telecom, where it is not possible to bring in competition with more players, regulators have to be vigilant.

    But then regulators are also captured. Please look up on the economics of capturing.

    BTW, get some professionals. What Andey and panel talked on Dhi TV was not worth missing the Indian soap Channels.

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  5. May be this should have been discussed at the Religious Scholars Forum

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  6. It will be good to have Mr Jaleel and Ms Zahir in a panel where callers could call to clarify some of the pressing issues that were surfaced in the recent past. Politicians are deluding the actual scenario and bringing the political rife into every social, capital, economic issue. The representatives of both the companies are well informed so why not bring them to the spot light. People will also be educated!

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  7. what rubbish, prices on most goods & services have gone up in the Maldives so why should telephones be any different? Get a grip on reality - this is normal practice!! Sober up will you - coz Im sure you've been illegally drinking again!!!!

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  8. I am disgusted with comments here, Dhiraagu and Wataniya are companies operating to make money, they need to give shareholders a healthy share.

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  9. This guy is an idiot. This is he guy who got busted and thrown out from STO, for corruption and mismanagement. He facilitated the $800m deal to Yaameen.

    With donkeys like these, it would be wonder, if people would actually believe in DRP.

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