Further RM3 increase in Telekom phone rental unjustified and imposes unnecessary burden on consumers
by John Chung
(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): The announcement that residential subscribers of Telekom Malaysia fixed phone line will have to bear another increase in phone rental comes as another piece of bad news for Malaysians who must surely be wearing a frown on their faces already, having had to suffer a 2 cents per litre increase in petrol prices.
The RM3 hike in phone rental not only imposes additional burden on consumers but is also unjustifiable considering that Telekom Malaysia had only last year increased the rental rate from RM20-RM22.
The previous increase of phone rental by RM2 had brought in Telekom Malaysia an extra RM84 million. We can thus assume that the increase of a further RM3 will net Telekom Malaysia another RM126 million. Is there any justification for such a drastic increase considering that Telekom Malaysia had last year posted a group profit after tax of RM1.08 billion on a revenue of RM9.8 bilion?
The new phone rental of RM25 per month for residential users is clearly exorbitant if we compare for instance to our Singaporean counterparts who have to pay an annual rental of S$104 only or S$8.67 monthly for fixed phone line services. Moreover, Singaporean users also enjoy substantially lower call charges (refer to table below) compared to the 8 cents for first two minutes and 4 cents for every additional minute that Malaysian users have to pay.
The advice by Telekom Malaysia chairman Datuk Radzi Mansur that telephone users could buy pre-paid telephone cards if they did not want to pay monthly rental although they would have to acquire another type of telephone set which would accept the pre-paid card clearly offers scant consolation to consumers. Why should phone users be made to suffer the hassle of changing their phone sets as a result of Telekom Malaysiaís unreasonable and unjustified increase in phone rental?
As a public utility provider, Telekom Malaysia must not forget that it has a social responsibility to ensure that the public is able to enjoy phone services at a reasonable rate. Profit must not be its overriding concern. As it is now, Telekom Malaysia is already reaping huge profits from its monopoly in the telecommunications sector. If Telekom Malaysia truly has the interests of its users at heart, then it should not have increased the phone rental. Such hike only enforces the publicís perception that profit comes first for Telekom Malaysia.
* John Chung, DAP National Publicity Bureau Assistant Secretary