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FLOW/LIME Merger Still Unsettled but ECTEL Says: NAME CHANGE NOT ILLEGAL

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Yesterday’s change of brand name from ‘LIME’ to ‘FLOW’ on handsets connected to the LIME network is not an illegal act. However, with the merger between the two is not yet complete as negotiations the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Company (ECTEL) have reached a stalemate.

ECTEL has confirmed that its efforts to engage Cable & Wireless, the parent company of LIME and Columbus Communications International, FLOW’s parent company, to address a number of potential negative impacts of the merger on the telecommunications market in its member states have not been successful.

“The Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority wishes to announce that negotiations with Cable & Wireless with respect to the proposed merger between Cable & Wireless and Columbus Communications International have ended without the parties reaching an amicable agreement,” a statement from ECTEL noted last week.

According to ECTEL from the announcement of the merger in November, 2014, it and the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commissions (NTRC’s) of each of its member states have been working “assiduously” to reach an agreement with Cable & Wireless, as existing legislation does not give ECTEL sufficient legal standing to stop or impose remedies on companies partaking in mergers and acquisitions in the telecommunications sector.

“The agreement sought to address issues, such as, but not limited to the minimum speed and price for entry level broadband packages, maintaining an open internet, sharing of telecommunications infrastructure for existing and new entrants to provide new services, and protection provisions to ensure customers are not disadvantaged by new services and pricing to be implemented following the merger,” ECTEL stated.

ECTEL claims that in the absence of an agreement it will continue to fulfil its mandate as set out in the Treaty establishing it, namely to promote open entry, market liberalization and competition in telecommunications sector of the contracting States.

It claims that the Telecommunications Act will guide it and the NTRC’s as they seek to maintain a fair and liberalized market environment.

Meanwhile a spokesperson from ECTEL yesterday told The VOICE that the change of brand name from ‘LIME’ to ‘FLOW’ on handsets connected to the LIME network is not an illegal act by the company but rather a rebranding which has mainly to do with its mobile service.

“It’s not illegal, they can do that,” the spokesperson said.

LIME customers received notices on their handsets stating that “as we move to our new brand, the name ‘FLOW’ will be seen on your mobile phone effective March 21, 2016…”

Meanwhile ECTEL says it is working to secure the passage of the draft Electronic Communications Bill which will further assist with managing any adverse effects on consumers and other stakeholders by giving ECTEL additional powers and tools with which to regulate.

ECTEL is currently conducting a public consultation on a suite of new regulations including regulations of access to network infrastructure, retail pricing and consumer protection, which are intended, in conjunction with the proposed Electronic Communications Bill, to further strengthen the regulatory environment, promote fair competition and safeguard consumer rights.

“As we seek to maintain a competitive environment in all ECTEL member states, the public is hereby requested to report to the NTRC in their respective jurisdictions, any actions in the telecommunications market that infringe their rights as consumers, or degrade their existing service.” ECTEL implored the public.

Micah George is an established name in the journalism landscape in St. Lucia. He started his journalism tutelage under the critical eye of the Star Newspaper Publisher and well known journalist, Rick Wayne, as a freelancer. A few months later he moved to the Voice Newspaper under the guidance of the paper’s recognized editor, Guy Ellis in 1988.

Since then he has remained with the Voice Newspaper, progressing from a cub reporter covering court cases and the police to a senior journalist with a focus on parliamentary issues, government and politics. Read full bio...

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