URCA issues Final Determination and Order to The Bahamas Telecommunications Company Limited, BTC, for Breaches of Retail Pricing Rules and Other Measures

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On 28 February 2020, the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (‘URCA’) published a Final Determination and Order (ECS 01/2020)  relating to The Bahamas Telecommunications Company Limited’s (‘BTC’) breaches of the Retail Pricing Rules for fixed service bundles, Consumer Protection Regulations, and its Individual Operating Licence (‘IOL’). BTC advertised the following changes to the public and implemented them without receiving URCA’s prior written approval:

·   BTC added two channels to its Flow TV channel line-up effective 1 December 2018. The channels added were Discovery World and Discovery Theater. 

·    BTC removed six channels from its channel line-up effective 1 January 2019. The channels removed were Big Ten Network, Fox Deportes, Fox Sports Racing, National Geographic, National Geographic Wild, and BBC America.[1]

The channel changes resulted in an increase in the effective monthly price for BTC’s fixed service bundles that include pay television services. For this reason, BTC was obligated to obtain URCA’s prior written approval before advertising and implementing the changes. URCA issued a Preliminary Determination to BTC (ECS 70/2019) on 6 November 2019. BTC responded on 10 December 2019. 

URCA in its Final Determination found that:

·  BTC failed or refused to adhere to a Significant Market Power (‘SMP’) obligation (i.e., Retail Pricing Rules) set out by URCA in a determination as per Conditions 3.3 and 32(a)(ii) of BTC’s IOL;

·   BTC failed or refused to obtain  URCA’s  written  approval before increasing the monthly effective price for fixed services bundles that include pay TV as stipulated by the Retail Pricing Rules;

·   BTC’s one month’s notice to customers as per the Consumer Protection Regulations was null and void due to BTC not receiving URCA’s prior written consent or approval.

·   BTC’s actions constitute repeated breaches of its obligations, including URCA’s 2018 Order – ECS 02/2018 requiring BTC to, at all times, abide by established procedures.

In view of these findings, URCA imposed a financial penalty equal to 5.15% of BTC’s total revenue from its fixed service bundles that include pay television for the months of November 2018, December 2018, and January 2019. The fine should be paid no later than thirty (30) calendar days from the issuance of this Final Determination to BTC. Along with the payment of the fine, BTC must submit financial data for the months of November 2018, December 2018, and January 2019 in order for URCA to verify the amount of the fine. The full scope of URCA’s directives to BTC is set out in Section 5 of the Final Determination.

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