Press Release - Government of
Belize - November 25, 2002 - In a judgment delivered today, the
Honorable Chief Justice, Dr. Abdulai Conteh, ruled that the price increases
which were unilaterally imposed on the Belizean public by Belize
Telecommunications Limited (BTL) in December, 2001, were made without
consultation and that the Stop Order issued by the Honorable Ralph Fonseca, then
Minister responsible for Telecommunications, to stop BTL from implementing the
price increases, is valid.
28th day of December, 2001
the Honorable Ralph Fonseca, acting under section 23 of the Telecommunications
Act, made Statutory Instrument No. 11 of 2002 directing BTL to stop the
implementation of the new tariffs and to revert to the position as it was
immediately before December 1st, 2001 and to program prepaid call boxes already installed in the
districts to accept pre-paid cards at fifteen cents per call until further
notice and not to issue or serve any telephone bills to consumers for the month
of December, 2001 or thereafter based on the new tariffs with effect from
BTL challenged the validity of the Stop Order and
argued that it was ultra vires section 23 of the Telecommunications Act and that
it was made in breach of the rules of natural justice.
The court found that when BTL changed from coin
operated public call boxes to pre-paid operated public call boxes, it did not
consult the Director of Telecommunications as required by Condition 5.5 of BTL's
license but that the requirement in the Stop Order directing BTL to program all
pre-paid public call boxes to accept pre-paid cards at fifteen cents per call
until further notice did not secure compliance with Condition 5.5 of BTL's
license and should be removed from the Stop Order.
The court also found that BTL did not adequately
consult the Minister prior to increasing telephone rates with effect from
1st December, 2001 and as
such, the price increases were illegal.
The court held
that the Stop Order is accordingly valid.The effect of this judgment is that BTL
has to go back to the rates which were in force before December 1st, 2001.
government was represented by the Solicitor General, Mr. Elson Kaseke and Ms.
Minnet Hafiz, Crown Counsel, and BTL was represented by Learned Senior Counsel
Ms. Lois Young-Barrow.
Editor's Note: The San Pedro Sun
attempted to contact BTL representatives to see if a rebate would be issued to
customers forced to pay the increased rates since December of last year. As of
press time, we have received no reply. Reportedly, although the
telecommunications monopoly boasted record-breaking profits last year, they will
appeal this decision.