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New consumer advocacy group defends BTC acquisition

A new voice is crystallizing to ensure that consumers do not go unheard beneath the roar of politicians, employees and unions over the sale of 51 percent of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company(BTC)to Cable&Wireless Communications.

Officials of the new consumer advocacy group Consumer Voices Bahamas(CVB)chose historic Fox Hill Park to present themselves and their case to The Bahamas yesterday, defending CWC’s acquisition of BTC as being best for Bahamian consumers.

“We believe… that as the employees are important to this, the consumers are equally important to the sale of BTC,”Marlene Minus, chairperson of CVB said. She added that it is the consumers”who are paying the high prices for cellular services, who are experiencing the inconsistencies in their service, and in some cases experiencing disruptions in both their cellular and their Internet service.”

CVB is prepared to use the Internet, other forms of media, public meetings and demonstrations to tout the consumer benefits related to BTC having an international strategic partner, according to Minus. She also said that CVB would not be intimidated from their declared purpose to promote and advance the interests of the Bahamian consumer.

“Should this initiative be met with conflict, slander or disdain from union members or union leaders, we understand that, we respect that and in some cases we expect that,”the chairperson said.”But we are not afraid. We are consumers, we are Bahamians, and we believe we have a voice. So we are here to say that from a consumer perspective we believe this is good.”

Minus said that its managerial and technical expertise, along with Cable& Wireless’international connections, would ensure better and more reliable services and would result in cheaper rates for cellular service, land lines and overseas calls.

Treasurer for CVB David Jordine toldGuardian Businessthat the organization has no political ties or association, but was born out of the need to protect the interests of Bahamians.

“Based on the information that has been made public thus far it seems as if the consumer is being left out of the debate,”Jordine said. He added that a lot of politics and personalities are in the fray, but households, consumers and businesses that are affected should not be forgotten.

“When we mention consumers we also have to realize that a large base of our consumers is the business community,”said Jordine.”The Bahamas strives on tourism and the financial industry and the demand for communications in those sectors is vital to the bottom line, so it’s highly important that they take them into consideration because they represent the lifeblood of this country’s economy.

“We recognize that BTC and the employees of BTC have been doing a wonderful job and we want to express our appreciation to them, however for the customer, it’s cheeper, quicker, better–that’s the initiative.”

The advocacy group reports membership of about 30 to 40 people presently. Minus said that a research and investigations team has already been formed to go into business houses and report findings back to the organization.

Although the BTC privatization was the genesis of CVB’s formation, Jordine said that the organization will not be limited to that issue.

“This group wishes to speak on behalf of consumers about any industry where we think that the consumer could get a more efficient service, a better price to meet thier needs,”Jordine said. Bahamians who support their position, or have any other ideas or comments are invited to contact the CVB by e-mail at cvb@hotmail.com.

CVB reported that it’s already at work investigating claims that some car repair businesses are gouging customers who are attempting to make sure their seat belts are functioning because of the enforcement of seat belt laws.

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