Lebanese boycott mobile phones

Mobile telephone users in Lebanon are switching off their beloved devices for 24 hours to get charges lowered.

    Beirutis queue to use a public telephones instead of mobiles

    In an attempt to get the government and the service providers to review their rates, consumers were urged to switch off their phones on Monday.

    This is the second such boycott organised by a consumer watchdog, Consumers Lebanon Association (CLA).

    Organising such a boycott may seem daunting - Lebanon has one of the highest rates of mobile phone use in the Arab world.

    But CLA executive director, Abd Al-Rahman Birro told Aljazeera.net the second boycott would be "a greater success in more ways than one".

    "The first boycott arranged by the organisation on 15 July was a success," Birro said, "because we had 16 organisations with us and it drove the authorities to revisit the issue," he added.

    But professional bodies and trade unions have joined forces to call for the second 24-hour boycott, bringing the total number of organisations to 22, Birro told Aljazeera.net.

    Demands

    "We want the authorities to lower the costs to a more suitable price which is related to the current economic situation in Lebanon and other neighbouring countries," Birro said.

    Lebanese media workers assess
    the impact of the boycott 

    According to Birro, 500 minutes of mobile phone calls cost $121 in Lebanon, compared to $65 in Syria, $66 in Jordan, $47 in Cyprus, $42 in Egypt and $39 in the Emirates.

    The consumer body wants callers to be charged a second instead of a minute, prices to be cut at least 30% and night-time rates by 50%.

    It has also called for fixed monthly fees of $25 and pre-paid cards with extended expiry periods to be offered.

    Revenue

    Frustrated consumers believe that one reason why the authorities and the companies may be dragging their feet is because mobile phone revenues are the third highest source of income for the government, after customs and VAT.

    Birro predicts the boycott could cost the government $2.8 million.

    A telecommunications ministry spokesman, Talal Assal, said a statement regarding the matter would be released tomorrow. "As for now, we have no comment," he said.

    Lebanon has two GSM networks - Cellis and LibanCell - that are tightly controlled by the government.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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