Telecommunications consumers are being urged to boycott Flow after the provider announced that rates would rise from the beginning of next month.
Consumer rights advocate Malcolm Gibbs-Taitt has seen the planned increase as the action of a callous corporation which believes it can get away with fleecing Barbadians.
“I think people should protest against the increase and just refuse to pay it . . . . I think there needs to be a boycott of Cable and Wireless, period! That’s what I think. There is nothing anybody can do. The companies can do what they want and until you can regulate cell phones we can do nothing,” Gibbs-Taitt said, referring to Flow’s parent company headquartered in the United Kingdom.
Flow announced Thursday that come July 1 there would be a five per cent increase to the rates of all consumer voice and data post-paid mobile plans, excluding the recently launched Combo plans.
It justified the hike by stating it resulted from “our continued investment in our network to provide our customers with world class products and services”.
This did not sit well with Gibbs-Taitt, the director general of the Barbados Consumer Research Association, who told Barbados TODAY there was no justification for a rise in rates.
“I am of the view that Cable and Wireless does not deserve any more from people because their services aren’t good,” he said.
Thursday’s announcement came hours before Parliament approved an austerity budget which critics, including Cabinet ministers Dr David Estwick and Donville Inniss, agreed would result in an increase in the cost of living.
The controversial National Social Responsibility Act makes legal the onerous National Social Responsibility Levy on imported and locally produced goods, which is due to be increased from two to ten per cent, effective July 1.
In addition, a two per cent tax on foreign exchange transactions and increases in the excise duties on petrol were also approved.
In this context, Gibbs-Taitt said a rate increase by the telecommunications company was difficult to swallow.
“I am hearing that everybody has to pay more, but yet still people not getting pay increase. How are they going to do these things?” he asked.
“I don’t quite understand how people are [being asked] to pay more and aren’t earning more. I have a problem with that. The inflation rate over the years has been somewhere between 23 or 24 per cent. I feel that people should get at least that in wages increase if they going to increase [the phone rates].”
It was in April last year that the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) barred Flow from increasing prices on non-competitive services above three per cent for three years under the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) Price Cap Plan 2016.
That decision had come just comes days after the company had advised its customers of price increases and additional speed to most of its internet services.
The FTC had said at the time that effective April 1, 2016, the overall price increase on non-competitive services would be below or equal to the level of inflation, or three per cent per year, if inflation exceeded three per cent during that year.
In the case of negative inflation, the allowable overall price increase would be zero for that year, the FTC had said.
Flow had said back then that its Basic plan would attract a price increase of $5; Essential will cost $3 more while there would be a $10 increase for the Plus, Max and Turbo packages.