URCA fines BTC for breaches of retail pricing rules

The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) has issued a final determination to fine the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) for breaches of the retail pricing rules and “other measures”.

While URCA has yet to determine the size of the fine, as it is awaiting BTC’s financial data for November and December 2018 and January 2019, it has determined that the fine will be equal to 5.15 percent of the company’s total revenue from those months.

URCA levied the fine due to BTC failing to receive written approval before removing and adding channels to its bundled products and changing its pricing for its Flow TV product.

“BTC’s Flow TV product is offered on both a standalone basis and as part of a bundle,” URCA’s decision stated.

“Because the Flow TV products are bundled with BTC’s fixed voice services, which are price-regulated, the bundles are subject to the Regulation of Retail Prices for SMP Operators – Rules. The modifications…constitute changes to the non-price terms and conditions of a price-regulated bundle, therefore BTC must obtain URCA’s written approval before introducing such changes.

“Additionally, the consumer protection regulations require BTC to give customers not less than one month’s notice of any proposed modification, amendment or variation to a contract which is likely to be of material detriment to the customer.

“BTC’s individual operating license mandates BTC to adhere to specific regulatory obligations and any determination made by URCA.

“Despite these obligations, BTC advertised the changes to the public and implemented them without receiving URCA’s prior written approval. As a result of BTC’s actions, URCA commenced an investigation to determine whether or not BTC breached its obligations. URCA issued a preliminary determination to BTC in the matter of breaches of the retail pricing rules and other measures on November 6, 2019. BTC responded on December 10, 2019.”

According to URCA’s regulations, BTC is required to apply to the regulator to change the terms and conditions of a price-regulated bundle, apply to the regulator before increasing the price of a price-regulated bundle and apply to URCA for consent before alerting customers of changes.

URCA decided that “BTC’s actions constitute repeated breaches of its obligation, including its March 22, 2018 final determination and order”.

The March 2018 order determined that “BTC’s tariff offers for mobile services do not comply with a number of the procedural aspects of the ex-ante retail pricing rules”.

“During its investigation, URCA identified a series of breaches committed by BTC during the period of November 2016 through June 2017,” the March 2018 decision summary states. URCA in 2018 levied a fine against URCA in that instance in the amount of $30,868.56.

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Chester Robards

Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian. Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism

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