Monday, 17 March 2014

MTN Subscribers decry exorbitant price of Airtime

Who Hikes the Price of MTN Airtime?

By Okechukwu Onuegbu

Do you have a mobile phone? If yes, I supposed you own one or more Simcard (s). How often do you recharge it? And by what means do you purchase the airtime?
If your answers were as correct as mine, you would recall that Nigeria’s telecommunication subscribers’ wake-up, on December 26th, 2013 to discover an arbitrary increase in the prices of MTN, GLO, AIRTEL and ETISALAT airtime of all denominations. Throughout the thirty-six states of the federation, including FCT Abuja, it was observed that recharge cards previously sold N100 skyrocketed to N110, 200 to 220, 400 to 420 and so on.
While many believed that this hike may be precedent by the Christmas and New-year festivity, airtime Dealers and Retailers who spoke to Orient Daily in Awka, the capital of Anambra state, during the season, alleged insufficient of the products in the market, unavailability of the operators workers and partners to furnish customers with enough recharge pins due to voluntary festivity vacation.
As at then, A-Dealer, Mr. Michael Eze of Mikko Communication, said: “Guy, don’t you know we are in our season? Most of our colleagues have gone for xmas celebration.  No printers, computer centers and cyber cafes are working. So we are left with little or no option. That is why you may even see some of us selling a hand written scratch cards to our customers. It commenced with an increase on the Prices of every commodities, product and services rendered this season of festivity. Therefore, you have not to blame us”.
Miss Chioma Ugwu, who is a recharge cards retailer, added further that “cards are scarce in the cities because dealers are also scarce. Available ones resort to selling them to us at exorbitant amount instead of its value cost. This prompted us to hike the price with N10 or more (according to each) denomination in order to recoup our money since purpose of business is profit maximization”.
However, barely three months after the yuletide, the retail and wholesale prices of MTN airtime remains unchanged in all parts of the country, especially at Anambra state. From Awka, Nnewi, Onitsha, among others, card retailers sold N100 MTN recharge cards N110, while the N200 denomination is now sold for N210. The N400 card is sold for N420, and the N750 and N1, 500 recharge cards now sell for N780 and N1, 550 respectively even in both rural and urban communities.
Sometimes when queried by curios customers, the Card vendors and Dealers would alleged that the increase is effected directly from MTN’s office, but the management of MTN through their customer’s care services had restated that value of all its recharge cards denomination remains the same.
A-Dealer at Awka, Mr. Sunday Igwe told Orient Daily that “prior to this day, we buy 10 pieces of N100 airtime at sum of N950, but it has risen to N970; that of N200 used to be N1900, but now cost N1940; and N400 airtime formally sold N3800, it’s now N3880; N750 MTN pack that used to be sold at N720 increased to N735; while that of N1500 previously sold N1440, now rose to N1470.”
In a reaction (as reported by some national dailies), MTN’s General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Corporate Service Division, MS Olufunmilayo Onajide, said “We have not effected a price increase and the retail price of the various denominations of our recharge cards and recharge vouchers remain the same”
“You know our recharge vouchers denominations are: N1, 500, N750, N400, N200 and N100, and must be sold at the face value. Any hike contrary to this, is illegal and should be disregarded. That is not our wishes or knowledge. MTN has a well-established distribution structure and all our authorized partners within this structure are obliged to sell recharge cards at their face value. Any variance from the authorized face value of recharge cards is without MTN’s knowledge or authority”, she said, adding that “MTN’s 55 million customers can purchase airtime via recharge cards or recharge vouchers or through a virtual top-up. The airtime recharge options are generally distributed via a very extensive trade and distribution network which has successfully enhanced accessibility to airtime and customer convenience over the years”, even as she assured that the company was working assiduously to arrest the situation, urging those in the affected areas to explore other options which include purchasing of airtime through MTN Virtual Top Up (VTU) or MTN Auto-Top Up.
Who then increased the prices of MTN airtime? Why the increment? When should we expect deductions? These and other questions are on the lips of users of mobile phones as the Nigeria’s telecommunication regulatory body, National Communication Commission (NCC) is yet to issue out an official statement to that effect. recently sourced people’s view on this matter.
Read below…
“Trust Nigerians, some of these dealers are taking advantage of the situation to increase prices of the vouchers just because the telecommunication giant in Africa has largest subscribers base in Nigeria with 55.6 million lines, according to its subscriber data for Q3 2013.  So, there is more demand for its recharge cards in Nigeria obviously because of its huge subscription base”, says Mr. Izuchukwu Austin, an undergraduate of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. He was optimistic that prices of MTN airtime was hiked by its Dealers who wish to regain all they lost during the yuletide, noting that the sudden rise has left him with no option but to move to its rival networks where extra N10 would not be imposed on him. “I have already ported my MTN line”, he added.
But Miss Ngozika Okoye, a-business woman recounted that “When I went to buy recharge card near my house, and the vendor told me that it was N210 rather than N200 I used to buy it earlier, I refused because I couldn’t afford to pay the extra ten naira which would never reflect on my airtime initially. Since then, I had never recharged my MTN line. I now preferred Glo and Airtel network providers…In fact; it discourages me from calling my friends and customers-users of MTN line”.
In all, MTN customers interviewed by this reporter expressed displeasure over the increase, but reiterated their readiness to remain with the service provider due to its wide coverage and popularity irrespective of additional cash being added to its cards.
However, they called on the mobile giant to find lasting solution to the impasse as the little charge no matter how small it seemed, constitute “extortion, useless and extravagant expenditure since none is calculated in their tariff” even as they stressed dissatisfaction as a result of “poor quality of service by telecom companies in the country”.



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