Consumers are ‘pawns’ in battle over CWC/Columbus merger – Bacchus
February 27, 2015
Consumers are ‘pawns’ in battle over CWC/Columbus merger – Bacchus

According to the president of the National Consumer Affairs Association (NCAA), even though customers will ultimately be footing the cost of the proposed billion-dollar merger between two regional telecommunications giants, they are being used as “pawns” in the ongoing battle.{{more}}

Junior Bacchus aired his views on Tuesday, February 24, at a panel discussion and public consultation hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade, Commerce and Information Technology.

“That’s what consumers are all about when it comes to this sector – we are an appendage,” he insisted. “This battle we are facing today… they will play us off as pawns. We really have to fight [for] our Ministers to defend our interests.”

Bacchus pressed upon listeners the importance of consumers being fully informed about matters surrounding the merger, as it would affect them more than any other stakeholders.

Quoting former US president Richard Nixon, in an address to Congress in 1971, the NCAA president stated: “Legislative remedies and improved procedures are powerful weapons in the fight for consumer justice; but as important as these are, they are only as effective as an informed and aware public make them.”

Referring to Columbus Communications chief operational officer John Reid’s panel presentation, where he made several references to the company being about “values”, Bacchus questioned whether said values were more about market numbers than about what benefits the consumer.

“We… know it fully well that when Flow came to this country… they were like deaf to the complaints of consumers about the channel selection, about the choice, what kind of information we must put up with, and we still suffering today!”

Bacchus warned Reid and Cable and Wireless Communications head of Government Relations Chris Dehring that such disrespect and disregard is not easily forgotten by consumers – as demonstrated by Cable and Wireless’s “historical abuse” of its customers, when it was the only licensed telecommunications provider in the region.

“That is why many of us are still holding on to our higher rates at Digicel,” he pointed out.

Despite his concerns, Bacchus commended Minister of Foreign Affairs Camillo Gonsalves for facilitating the public event, as that level of discussion between companies and consumers within the telecommunications sector had never before taken place in St Vincent and the Grenadines.(JSV)