Telecom Operators Openly Condemn Int. Call Monitoring
The West African Telecommunications Conference (WATC) has issued a communiqué at its recent meeting in Dakar, Senegal, on November 25, 2010, describing government’s monitoring, levy and surcharges on incoming international calls as a breach of International Telecom Laws, the ECOWAS Treaty and the West African Union Treaty. It condemned the practice and called on all telecom operators in countries where the practice is ongoing, including Ghana, Guinea and Congo, not to cooperate with any company employed by their respective governments to monitor calls and impose surcharges and levies. “We recommend that operators in the sub-region should cease all commercial relationships with any firm implicated in the imposition of such a surcharge system,” it said. WATC said it would continue to fight against the imposition of any such system in the sub-region and support all telecom operators to do same. “We reaffirm our determination to pursue actions against the development of this practice and support operators subjected to this surcharge across our entire economic area,” it said. The Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications said they endorsed the position of the WATC. In Ghana, the government has imposed a 19 cent per minute charge on all incoming international calls and has employed Global Voices Group (GVG) to monitor those calls and ensure that government got its revenue. The telecom operators have resisted the move from day one, but government has insisted that some operators under-declare international call revenue, which affects government tax revenue. Government also insists that it has evidence that some telecom operators connive with fraudsters to use simboxes to do call bypass, which enables them to re-route incoming international calls through local SIM cards making those calls to terminate as though they were locally generated. Since Ghana government started monitoring and levying incoming international calls, it has generated not less than $15 million in taxes. Minister of Communications, Haruna Iddrisu has stated emphatically that nothing will stop government from monitoring incoming international calls to check fraud and generate revenue for the state. But the WATC’s communiqué, dubbed “Dakar Declaration – concerning government imposed surcharges on incoming international traffic,” condemned the allegation that operators made false declarations of traffic and were directly involved in the proliferation of simboxes. The communiqué said the practice ran counter to point seven of the communiqué issued by the ECOWAS ICT and Telecoms Ministers in Bamako on July 29, 2010, which enjoined member states to avoid levies and surcharges on incoming international calls. “This tax also runs counter to the trend of lowering settlement fees as per the recommendation of the International Telecoms Union (ITU)” of which Ghana’s Minister of Communications, Haruna Iddrisu is Chair. The communiqué said the taxes resulted in general increase in retail prices, to be suffered both by local consumers and those in the Diaspora, and thereby increased the digital divide. It said by significantly increasing the settlement fee, the practice caused an increase in fraud and reduction in incoming international calls, reduction in revenue and diminished fiscal receipts. The WATC, therefore, demanded that all countries which had imposed or proposed to impose such a system should reconsider their action in the interest of the citizenry and the sub-region. Meanwhile, following Senegal, Gabon, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso have also agreed to suspend the system in their countries.
Source: Ghana News Agency