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September 1, 2014
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Mobile phone costs rise with new scheme

Mobile phone users report on social media and blogs, higher costs by all companies in the new scheme.
By Fermín Koop
Herald Staff

The Herald detects more expensive charges in all companies, as do clients

Mobile phone calls were going to cost 30 percent less as a direct consequence of the new scheme imposed by the federal government on companies, according to which clients are now charged by the second and not minute. Nevertheless, the characteristics of the new scheme make calls even more expensive than before.

Based on user complaints on blogs and social media networks, the Herald analyzed the details of the new scheme and concluded clients now have to pay between 1.60 and 1.70 pesos for the first minute of the call and between 2.08 and 2.80 for the second minute, instead of the 0.50 or 0.60 cents that were paid per minute in some contract plans prior to the new regulation.

The Communication Secretariat’s latest regulation creates a new charge “to establish a call” between 0.84 and 1.21 pesos, which have to be paid by clients for the first 30 seconds of the call even if its duration is less than that. After that period, companies charge between 0.012 and 0.02 for each second of the call. That means that the time-period of 31 to 60 seconds costs between 0.36 and 0.60 pesos.

“Imagine that you speak for two whole minutes. You have to pay one peso for the charge to establish a call plus between 0.36 and 0.60 (for seconds 31 to 60) plus between 0.72 and 1.20 pesos (for the second minute). That adds up to between 2.08 to 2.80” pesos, a consumer related website called Derecho a Derecho said on a post this week.

The Herald contacted Personal, Claro and Movistar, the three main mobile phone operators in the country, to ask for an explanation about the costlier phone calls, something that was denied by all the companies.

Rafael Scarinci, a member of the press department of Movistar, told the Herald that “no price hikes or new charges to establish a call were instated” by the company but he admitted that “the first 30 seconds of the communication have to be paid by the client regardless of the duration of the call.”

“After 31 seconds, clients have to pay by seconds. The amounts change according to the plan and the new scheme applies to all local and long-distance calls of pay-as-you-go and contract plans,” he said. “The rest of the services provided by the company remain without changes.”

With the same train of thought, Denise Berger, head of Claro’s press department, told the Herald there were “no increases established on plans, which run now according to the new scheme authorized by the Communication Secretariat.”

“We are forced to report to the Secretariat any price hikes 60 days prior to implementing them. So far this year nothing has been announced,” Berger said. “Clients of ‘controlled’ and ‘free’ plans have to pay one peso as a charge to establish a call for the first 30 seconds, while pre-paid clients pay 3.30 pesos for that charge,” Berger said.

Sources at Personal told the Herald the company is “fulfilling” the resolution of the Communication Secretariat and assured all clients are now charged per second of the call “without changing any values of the current plans”

No response was given to the Herald from the Communication Secretariat, whose press officers promised to return the call with an official response soon.

The new mobile phone resolution (26/2013) establishes in its first article that the new unit to charge a call is the second, “which will be measured after the first 30 seconds of the communication,” and gave two months for companies to adapt to the new scheme, a deadline that was reached this week.

Prices charged by companies have to be “reasonable and not discriminatory,” according to the resolution, but no mention is made on how much companies should charge for the initial 30 seconds and there is no specification that the initial period should be charged fully even though the client speaks less than that, something now done by all companies.

Review of monthly plans

The Herald reviewed the websites of Movistar, Claro and Personal, where in fact the new charges are detailed and explained. Monthly contract plans between 119 and 499 pesos are offered by Movistar, which charges 1.12 pesos for the first 30 seconds of the call on all its plans, the most expensive rate to establish a call of the three companies. After 31 seconds, the company owned by Telefónica charges 0.02 per second for a call to lines of the same company and 0.04 for a call to lines of other companies.

Adding all charges, clients that call other Movistar clients have to pay 1.72 pesos for the first minute and 1.20 per additional minute while clients who call lines of other companies pay 2.32 for the first minute and 2.40 for additional minutes. Prior to the new scheme, a one-minute call to other Movistar client-cost 1.12 pesos and to other companies 2.42 pesos according to social media users.

Claro, owned by Telmex, charges one peso for the first 30 seconds of the call on all its plans and, instead of having a flat rate per second like Movistar, the rate changes according to the plan. The company offers monthly contract plans between 90 and 210 pesos and charges between 0.018 and 0.0122 per second. That leads to an average 1.72 pesos for the first minute of the call, instead of the average 0.56 pesos per minute charged prior to the scheme reported by social media users.

Personal, owned by Telecom, charges 0.84 cents for the first 30 seconds of the call, the lowest amount of the three companies reviewed by the Herald. The company offers monthly plans between 89 and 249 pesos and charges 0.028 per second of the call for all the plans. Adding all charges, the company changes 1.68 per minute of the call.

After the new scheme was announced, the Union of Argentine Consumers said consumers would save 30 percent thanks to it and mobile phone companies would lose nine billion peso in revenue. Expectations were high on all mobile users, who hoped for cheaper fares and more investments to come. Nevertheless, according to this price analysis, that’s far from happening.

@ferminkoop

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