In his communication, the Liberian businessman cum presidential hopeful is requesting the intervention of President Johnson-Sirleaf for mobile telecommunications companies operating in the country to abort free calls promotions, because, according to him, the three days free calls are causing the government to lose revenue.
“I would want to draw your attention to the uncontrolled competitive price war being waged in the telecom industry by service providers. The long running and unending promotions as well as freebies like the free calls to the USA; US$1.00 for 3 days or US$1.00 for 5 days and data services are negatively impacting revenue generation of the government of Liberia,” the Liberian businessman added.
He mentioned that as a result of the free promotions, the government is losing US$22 Million Dollars in revenue. It is not however clear when Mr. Urey began empathizing with government when it comes to revenue generation.
Mr. Urey observed that if this practice does not stop it will limit the ability of Lonestar to further invest in the country economy especially the rural parts of the country which is craving for network availability.
As a matter of fact, Lonestar, in which Mr. Urey holds lion share, has since its inception in Liberia set an agenda to charge the Liberian people high and unacceptable rates. When they first came to Liberia, they were charging people as high as US$65 for SIM cards and credits. But Cellcom Liberia came and broke that price hike by significantly reducing the cost of SIM cards to $1 and scratch cards to US$5.
In response to the call to abolish the “pro-poor” promotion, Cellcom's CEO Avishai Marziano had this to say: “We look at our promotions and discounts as a way of giving back to the people of Liberia and of ensuring that Liberians have a little extra money in their pockets at the end of the day. We are both concerned and find it highly unfortunate that Lonestar/MTN will actively be campaigning to lobby the passage of laws that will prevent GSM companies from offering cost saving programs that are benefiting Liberians.”
Experts in the sector have opined that Mr. Urey is crying because his share in Lonestar/MTN will drastically reduce if the company does not continue hiking the cost of its services to the public.
Some subscribers who enjoy the freebies have taken to social media Facebook to vent their anger at Mr. Urey’s letter.
“Lonestar doesn't know that the President activates Cellcom 3 days free call? Cellcom will give them NTR from this country. Cellcom give them wahway...shame on Benoni Urey,” says Abrahim Khalilullah.
Another subscriber, J Andrew Greaves wrote: “On Thursday, I needed to visit the Internet urgently and recharged a dollar and when activated, it disappeared and again recharged another and the same thing happened. And because I didn't have the time to visit any of your offices, I resolved to not recharge until the next day. This was my second experience with Cellcom. But, honestly Cellcom is doing well. I have not recharged my Lonestar phone for close to 6 months. I only use it to receive call because of their continued bad business practices.”
For his part, George S. Karnue says: “the 3 days free call is a cost saving method for the masses, they don't want us to be in contact with our friends and family but they are lying.”
Says J Augustus G Helb: “this is just an indication of how profit-centered Lonestar Cell is and cares less for the plight of the consuming public. We are aware of how Lonestar exploited Liberians and we care less of what they are offering now. As a market force, you must be strategic in your approach to capture a substantial portion of the end users. They are not strategic and cannot compete with CELLCOM who have emerged as the single most philanthropist service provider on the communication landscape. Thanks CELLCOM for coming to the rescue of millions of Liberians who couldn't afford a phone prior to your advent on the Liberian market. We have your back.”