Saturday, February 14, 2004

Rip off Iraq.

Around the mid 90’s, the London based Times newspaper started a campaign called “Rip off Britain”. The campaign highlighted the differences in goods being paid by British consumers Vis a Vis their counterparts in Europe or the USA. In most cases, British consumers were being charged way over the odds prices.

I have decided to start my own campaign called “Rip off Iraq” from this webpage. I will choose a different company, and investigate whether they are over charging the consumers or not, if they are, then they will be named and shamed (I doubt that they have any shame ;))

Today, ORASCOM (the mobile network service provider around Baghdad, and the middle of Iraq) have earned the right to be the first company to enter the hall of shame. It all started 2 weeks ago, I was talking to a relative of mine and asked them to buy a mobile so that we can talk to them direct, as their land lines have not been fixed yet. It transpired that, it will cost approx $125 - $ 150 to setup the whole thing. If you happen to have your own mobile, and only need a sim card on its own (which is far a cheaper option), you will not be supplied with what you want, you have to buy the phone as well. Also, each month you have to buy airtime, and if you don’t use it by the end of the month, you lose it; it will not get rolled over to the next month.
A friend of the family, who is an authorised agent for ORASCOM in Baghdad, confirmed that this policy being adopted by the mobile company. Now, if you go to, Jordan or Syria, and apply for the same spec mobile and a smiliar tariff, it will cost you something around $50 - $70. In my opinion, in Jordan at least, the standard, and cost of living is higher than that of Iraq, so in some cases goods should be more expensive than in Iraq but to ORASCOM (who operates in Jordan) it is not.
Some people might argue, and point out that since, the mobile company is creating the entire infrastructure from scratch, with no government financial backing or assistance, unlike neighbouring countries, then they should dictate their own pricing policy, which in turn should reflect the investments and risks they have under taken. That argument holds true if, Iraq had charged the mobile networks a considerable amount of money for the operating licenses, but it did not, each company that won the contracts to operate, only paid $5 million for the licenses, this was done to help the companies offset the expenses they are undertaking in creating everything else. To compare,in Lebanon, the mobile service provider paid $100 million for the licenses, and Syria it was $250 million. The Iraqi market is definitely bigger than both countries combined, and $5 million does not reflect the huge potential of that market.

If people want to buy a mobile with line, a sim card on its own, or both, then Iraqi consumers should be able to have that right to do so, and not be dictated to buy what is on offer only.

Shame on you ORASCOM.



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