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Telecom firms accuse each other of unfair market practices   2009-06-22 - TN

Telecom firms accuse each other of unfair market practices
Prices of prepaid cards displayed at a mobile phone shop in Hanoi.  
Vietnam Competition Authority will meet with mobile phone service provider MobiFone this week to investigate accusations of unhealthy competitive practices leveled by several telecoms companies against each other.


The agency, under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, held a working session with the Viettel Corporation (Viettel) on Friday after the military-run telecommunication network had accused MobiFone of violating the Law on Competition.

Bach Van Mung, head of Vietnam Competition Authority, admitted there was indeed “complicated and unhealthy” competition in the telecommunications sector.

“The Law on Competition has specified illegal acts and we will identify any network violating the law,” he said.

Viettel last week complained to the agency and the Ministry of Information and Communication that MobiFone was displaying advertisement boards comparing the fees of the two networks.

Viettel said the boards showed Mobifone call fees were cheaper by VND10 per minute and monthly subscription fees less by VND1,000.

MobiFone was also accused of a promotion program in Hai Duong Province that awarded subscribers of other networks a free SIM card with VND230,000 in the account as a direct incentive for switching.

Nguyen Viet Dung, Viettel deputy director, said these were unhealthy competitive moves by MobiFone.

MobiFone rejects accusations

Dinh Viet Hung, chief of MobiFone’s Charge and Marketing Section, on Thursday rejected the claim their advertisements compared call charges with Viettel.

“We did not do it,” he said, adding that it might have been done by one of its agents and that the company would stop the ads immediately.

“We have asked agents and retailers to remove such advertisement boards,” he said.

However, Hung admitted the promotion encouraged customers to switch to its network in Hai Duong Province.

“We have stopped the promotion [that began on June 1] on June 10 after receiving relevant feedback,” he said. Tuoi Tre newspaper reported MobiFone then sent an official apology to Viettel, a move that has never happened in the telecommunication sector before.

But Hung said it was just a common promotion campaign that had been used by other networks to attract subscribers.

“We offer the choices and customers have the right to choose the service,” he added.

A source from MobiFone said Viettel had distributed leaflets on a large scale comparing the charges when its charges were lower than MobiFone’s.

Dung of Viettel, however, said those were for internal circulation and not for advertisement purposes.

What goes around…

Meanwhile, Vietnam Postal and Telecom Corporation’s VinaPhone and Electricity of Vietnam’s EVN Telecom have accused Viettel of unhealthy competition.

Phan Sy Nghia, EVN Telecom deputy director, told Tuoi Tre newspaper on Friday that the company was preparing evidence to register a complaint with concerned authorities that Viettel employees had persuaded its customers to shift to Viettel services.

Another EVN Telecom top official told Thanh Nien he was really frustrated by Viettel’s unfair competitive moves.

He said many Viettel agents had sent employees to customers’ houses to encourage them stop using EVN Telecom home phone services and switch over to Viettel, offering free phone sets and promotional monthly subscriptions.

EVN Telecom has cooperated with the police to catch red-handed several cases where Viettel’s agents illegally appropriated phones that EVN had leased out to its customers.

A VinaPhone official said Viettel had also displayed advertisement boards comparing call charges between them and MobiFone. However, the two networks [VinaPhone and MobiFone] had not complained then.

“Viettel now has the highest number of subscribers and has begun to focus more on revenue [rather than attracting customers],” he said. “It doesn’t want other networks to advertise their lower fees in the same way it had done before.”

Agents blamed

Dung of Viettel said on Friday the company has never instructed or encouraged its agents to collect phones from EVN Telecom’s customers’ houses while offering its services.

“If that was actually what happened, it could be some market development collaborators acting on their own,” he said. “It could be caused by competition among themselves.”

Viettel has around 40,000 sales collaborators and some might have attracted EVN Telecom’s customers that way to gain commissions, he told Tuoi Tre newspaper.

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