A hoarding with Ooredoo’s 4G advert on E-Ring Road. (QASSIM RAHMATULLAH)
DOHA: In an unusual move, leading telecommunications services provider Ooredoo has openly questioned a decision of ictQatar, the telecommunications regulator, to remove all advertisements for Oreedoo’s ongoing ‘4G For Free Forever’ campaign. The move has put both on a collision course, with Ooredoo accusing the regulator of bias.
More than 20 days after the launch of the campaign, the regulator on Friday said that the advertisements were “inaccurate” and “misleading”. Ooredoo yesterday denied the charges and alleged that by going public with its decision to suspend the campaign, the regulator was creating confusion in the market.
Dubbing the move unfair, Ooredoo even called for a public discussion on the role of the regulator in the growing telecommunications market in the country.
Ooredoo went to the extent of saying that it was ready to make public in the coming weeks “the process and policy failures that have prevented customers receiving the full benefit of new services, and have impeded the penetration of new technology across Qatar.”
Explaining its decision to dismiss the “4G For Free Forever,” campaign, ictQatar said in a posting on its website on Friday: “The CRA (Communications Regulatory Authority) has conducted its own analysis of the ‘4G For Free Forever’ and has concluded that the advertisement is misleading and creates the perception that the 4G service and data are for free.
According to tariff filing, it is only the 4G key that is free and the subscribers are to be charged for data as per the data tariff lodged and approved by CRA.”
Ooredoo launched its advertisement campaign for the 4G free plan on January 30, 2014. Under the plan, the company is offering free the 4G key, for which post-paid customers were earlier charged QR60 per month and prepaid customers QR15 per week.
The regulator said that it had asked Ooredoo to remove all promotional materials for the 4G campaign and to rectify the advertisement to clearly state that only the 4G key is free. The advertisement should also mention that “data tariffs are applicable along with other terms and conditions that apply to this offer.”
According to the regulator, customers who have paid for 4G subscriptions from February 2, 2014 and thereafter should be reimbursed the complete value of the subscriptions of the 4G key.
Ooredoo responded to the decision by claiming that it had taken every effort to ensure that customers fully understood the
offer. “In addition to outdoor advertising, the company held a press conference, had print advertising across media and kept an extremely active social media and online campaign. In addition, Ooredoo’s whole family of customer support staff in shops and at its Contact Centre briefed customers on the service in a fully transparent way,” the company said.
“Each of these channels worked together to ensure that customers were fully aware that Ooredoo’s 4G key was now being made available for free and that terms and conditions applied for the consumption and use of data, in line with global standards…. To date, Ooredoo has not received a single complaint from any customer who feels misled or who did not understand the terms and conditions,” it added, claiming that the campaign was a big success.
“The decision to announce the suspension of Ooredoo 4G advertising via a press release, and to aggressively pursue this press release with the local media with further negative comment against Ooredoo, goes against all previous precedent. Furthermore, it is actively creating confusion in the marketplace, making customers feel uncertain about the services they are receiving,” the company said. “The time has come for a public discussion on the role of the regulator in the growing Qatar communications market. Ooredoo believes it should be an impartial arbiter, applying fair rules for the benefit of the people of Qatar, and applying these rules equally and without prejudice,” it added.
Ooredoo said recently ictQATAR had upheld a complaint for misleading promotion against “other licenced telecom operators” following inaccurate claims about the penetration of their fibre service in West Bay, Doha and sanctioned both companies. “However, this decision was not publicised by ictQATAR. Indeed, it is not even publicly mentioned on its website,” said the statement.
Subscriber’s reactions were mixed on the regulator’s statement. A respondent posted a comment on Qatar Share, popular Qatari social networking site that the company should be fined for such misleading advertisements, alleging that it usually resorts to such misleading advertisements to lure customers.
Another participant wrote that initially he thought 4G to be totally free but after talking to the company’s call centre he realised that only 4G key is free. Another posting on the website said that the company’s advertisement was not misleading because it had mentioned that the 4G key is free.