Tue | Dec 12, 2017

Digicel denies price hike, calls it a rollback

Published:Wednesday | September 27, 2017 | 12:00 AMSteven Jackson
Digicel's headquarters in downtown Kingston.

Customers of Digicel Jamaica littered the telecom's Facebook page with 486 comments of mostly negative in response to its new prepaid price of $6.50 per minute for mobile calls announced on the social media site.

The telecom, however, claims that a lot of customers were already on the more popular and expensive plan, and so would not be affected by the adjustment.

Digicel now offers one prepaid rate rather than five prepaid rates. It removed the varied rates that ranged from $3.95 to $11.95 per minute on various prepaid plans.

"Everything is now simplified. We are making prepaid way simpler," said Digicel's Regional Communications Manager Elon Parkinson. "It will result in savings to a lot of people," he told Gleaner Business.

On September 20, new and existing Digicel customers were automatically placed on the 'One Rate' plan. That plan charges $6.50 per minute for calls to "any" local number, the United States, Canada, China, India, and landlines in the United Kingdom and Spain. One Rate replaced Gimme5 .

Under Gimme5 customers paid for the first five minutes of a call at $9.95 to $11.95 per minute, but speak for free for an additional 55 minutes. One Rate also replaced other prepaid plans that were priced at $3.89, $3.95 and $5.49 per minute.

Parkinson was unable to say the percentage that subscribed to Gimme5 on Digicel's two-million subscriber base of which more than 90 per cent are prepaid customers.

"But Gimme5 was over-whelmingly popular," he said.

A lot of customers, however, responded on Facebook with colourful disappointment. Gleaner Business found none that thanked Digicel for the simplified rate. Parkinson said that the few are making their views heard as others keep silent. The comments generally took one of three forms - requests for lower rates; berating Digicel; and threatening to switch to competitor Flow.

Some of the comments went like this:

"Leave me on the $2.95 rate," said Natalie, even though that rate was eliminated by Digicel more than a year earlier.

"Go with the Flow," said Stephen, alluding to Digicel's competitor.

"No wonder why my credit finish so quick after I bought a $200 phone card. Smh," said Okeeto.

"I only top up my digi cauz I don't want dem shut down my sim but a flow mi a flow," Janis chimed in.

Random checks by Gleaner Business among members of the public resulted in most expressing frustration at the new rates, but none of the 10 people sampled knew the previous plan they were on, neither did they know the charges they incurred per minute prior to September 20, when the One Rate schedule was implemented.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com