Saturday, January 23, 2010

Businesses accuse Htoo Trading of unfair monopolization

Friday, 22 January 2010 18:13 Myo Thein

Rangoon (Mizzima) - Mobile phone dealers are accusing Htoo Trading of monopolizing the market for CDMA 800 MHz phones following a subsidiary of the parent company being recognized as the sole sales agent of essential SIM card recharge coupons.

Information Technology Central Services (ITCS), a subsidiary of Burmese tycoon Tay Za’s Htoo Trading, began selling the mandatory accessory yesterday, a day after Myanmar Telecom announced the availability of 800 MHz CDMA SIM cards, called 2000 IX, for use in Rangoon.

Though the SIM cards and recharge coupons are imprinted with the Myanmar Telecom logo, the cards and coupons are only available through ITCS. On the SIM cards is printed the warning: “Prepaid top-up card is only available from the authorized agent of Myanmar Telecom Corporation.”

“Customers need recharge coupons to make their SIM cards operational. But only this company [ITCS] is allowed to sell the pre-paid recharge coupons along with the required handsets. So no customers bother to buy the handsets from anywhere else. They are monopolizing not only the SIM and recharge coupon markets, but also the handset market,” related a mobile phone shop owner from Rangoon’s Kyauktada Township.

On Thursday morning, ITCS offices on Rangoon’s Pansodan Street reportedly witnessed long queues of customers.

“All mobile handset shops import these 800 MHz handsets. Now the Communications Department has issued SIM cards for these phones. This company [ITCS] is reselling the SIM cards along with the handsets. We don’t know yet when we will get the chance to sell these SIM cards. If they allow us to sell these SIM cards only after selling the handsets, our imported products will be useless,” lamented a mobile phone shop employee in Rangoon.

“As soon as we heard 150,000 new SIM cards would be issued in Rangoon and Mandalay, we imported the required handsets and base units,” explained a representative of another company that imports handsets. “We placed our ads in journals and at busy crossroads. But, under this current system, it will be very difficult for us to sell our product. We must wait until they give us ‘resale’ rights for the prepaid top-up card. There’s no other way.”

Several mobile shops in Rangoon are reportedly negotiating with Myanmar Telecom and ITCS for resale rights, but as of yet no response has been forthcoming.

Similarly, Central Marketing, another subsidiary of Htoo Trading, previously won the right as the sole agent for the sales of one-time-use SIM cards for GSM phones.

“Cars and phones are becoming political issues here. The government distributes these lucrative contracts among the cronies of their choice. They never think of the people. If they really intended for the benefit of the people, these cases would not appear. In our country, if we talk about these issues, they will be political issues,” commented an editor of a Rangoon-based journal.