Anatel gets tough on mobile operators’ poor service

19 Jul 2012

Brazil’s national telecoms watchdog Anatel yesterday ordered three incumbent mobile operators to stop selling new cellphone plans in certain states, in response to a rising tide of customer complaints over poor service quality, including dropped calls and patchy coverage. The regulator has announced that, in each of the country’s 26 states and the federal district Brasilia, the cellco with the worst service record will be barred from selling new mobile plans. The edict came into effect on Monday, it said, and will remain in place until such time as the carrier concerned presents investment plans designed to rectify the problem. ‘A growing client base needs to be accompanied by more investments,’ Anatel head Joao Batista de Resende told reporters, adding that it has been tracking a rising tide of customer service complaints for more than a year.

Following the ruling, Telecom Italia’s TIM Brasil unit has been barred from selling plans in 19 states; Oi SA has been prohibited from signing up new users in five; and Telecom Americas (Claro) has been served a desist order in three states. Only Vivo, the Brazilian asset of Telefonica of Spain, will not face immediate sanctions, but it has 30 days to present plans or face a similar fate. As reported by CommsUpdate yesterday, Brazil’s consumer protection agency Procon ordered the country’s four largest mobile operators to stop selling any more new mobile SIMs in the southern Rio Grande do Sul state capital Porto Alegre, amid concerns over poor service quality. It is understood that any carrier that flouts Anatel’s order will face a fine of BRL200,000 (USD99,000) per day.

The cellcos have reacted strongly to the measures, with TIM Brasil remarking on the ‘extreme measure’ which is feels is ‘disproportional’ and ‘anti-competitive’. Oi SA meanwhile, slated what it termed Anatel’s ‘out-of-date’ decision, noting its own plan to up CAPEX to BRL6 billion in 2012, compared to BRL5 billion last year ad BRL3 billion in 2010.

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