28 April 2019

Liberia: Uphill Battle Rages

Orange GSM Liberia and the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) have presented their case before Criminal Court "C" at the grounds of the Temple of Justice for final determination into the matter.

Criminal Court "C" over the weekend entertained legal arguments from lawyers defending both parties in the ongoing struggle, over a lawsuit filed by Orange GSM Liberia against LTA for imposing surcharges on the three days free calls.

During the arguments, Orange GSM Liberia's Lawyers contended that the agreement between the company and LTA was only for the floor prices and not on surcharges as claimed and imposed by the Authority.

Orange GSM said it was shocking when the Authority came up with the surcharges thus at the same time demanding the GSM Company to add on voice calls, inter calls and megabyte, something it believes will affect the ordinary people of Liberia

The Company further maintained that it operates under the law of Liberia that gives her the right to officially engage in and offer full wireless internet services, cellular GSM, cell phone and other related telecommunication services to people of all backgrounds in Liberia.

As part of the communication services, Orange GSM Liberia explained that it came into existence by buying out its precursor, the past GSM Company that includes all facilities and licenses issued to Cellcom by the Liberian Government.

Accordingly, Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) told the court that the agreement was not only on floor prices as mentioned by the GSM Company, but rather on all surcharges.

LTA noted that the surcharges on each calls, internet calls, voice calls and megabyte will take immediate effect in six months' time something that Orange GSM is opposing due to fear of losing customers.

The Authority said it is an independent national regulator with powers and authorities to undertake the regulation of telecommunication services, issue rules and order relative to the telecommunication sector of Liberia and that the action by Orange GSM Liberia to suppress the LTA from exercising its regulatory functions is 'unlawful'.

LTA mentioned that Orange Liberia filed the lawsuit against her merely to frustrate the proper functioning of the regulator while at the same time denying the Country of benefits associated with the challenged order and not necessarily on legal merits.

The Act governing LTA states that "the LTA shall promulgate, modify and amend regulations, rules and orders as prescribed by the Act to reflect new technologies, changes in the market, changes in government policies, and international telecommunications union policies across the country.

Based upon this, the Authority said it is legally empowered to ensure that service providers comply with all appropriate laws of Liberia. TNR

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