Lebanese telecoms are ripping mobile users off: Activists
Written by Malek

The Daily Star, BEIRUT: Local activists renewed their campaign against mobile network providers on Thursday, accusing them of ripping customers off. “Telecoms companies are pioneers when it comes to the continued theft of people’s money,” said a Civil Movement Observatory statement carried by the National News Agency. The statement accused Lebanon’s two mobile service providers Touch and Alfa of “infringing on people’s natural right of access to real (reliable) communication [networks] with a suitable price.” A September 2015 Byblos Bank report said that Lebanon’s prepaid mobile phone users are charged the highest fees in the Arab world.

In January, activists urged people not to use their phones during several one-day boycotts against telecoms companies. Following the Jan. 8 boycott that saw wide participation, Lebanese Telecoms Minister Jamal Jarrah promised to reduce the price of mobile calls and data. Prepaid phone and data bundles expire in 30 days, forcing customers to recharge their lines even if they have not completely consumed their credit. In their statement, activists accused Jarrah of rebuffing demands he had promised to fulfill “He is making an excuse about not being able to lay further burdens upon the state treasury as the [public sector] salary scale is expected to be endorsed,” the statement said.

They questioned whether extending prepaid credit validity period to one year would burden the treasury. An analyst told local media that the Jan. 8 boycott cost the government an estimated $2 billion in revenues. For their part, activists argue that reduced prices would encourage mobile line holders to increase their use of the cellular network services. Telecoms profit provides the second-largest source of state revenue after taxation.