The telecommunications industry regulator, Botswana Telecommunications Authority, has instructed the mobile phone company, Mascom, to tender a public apology to competitor Orange Botswana and to the general public.
Mascom has also been instructed to stop, with immediate effect, an advertising campaign that Orange had objected to.
Orange had cited the advertising promotion as a clear case of comparative advertising that engendered anti-competitive tactics that sought to undermine them.
According to Orange Botswana, the offending adverts by Mascom, which were flighted late last year, were also dishonest.
Orange says Mascom was involved in the perpetuation of “misleading information about the long-term existence of Orange in Botswana as a way to lure Orange Botswana’s customers to change their SIM cards at no cost and surrender their Orange SIM cards.”
The two companies are involved in a breakneck competition for a fast growing subscriber base which experts, however, say will reach saturation in the near future.
The situation has not been helped by the decision by government to further the industry, a move which will see the state owned Botswana Telecommunications Industry privatized, and enter the lucrative mobile industry.
For many years the BTC has tried in vain to enter the mobile phone industry, but the service neutral license regime announced by Minister of Communications Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi enables just that.
For a long time, the BTC has tried in vain to enter the money spinning mobile phone industry, including attempts to buy a stake from Mascom.
Of the two mobile phone companies, Mascom has been the industry leader since the advent of the industry in Botswana a little less than ten years ago.
But the last two years have seen a dramatic rise of Orange under the imaginative leadership of Thapelo Lippe, who has since left for Microsoft.
For the first time since its inception, Orange Botswana turned huge profits last year.
With the stakes increasing as a result of the impending liberalization, the competitive edge between Mascom and Orange has gone to such great heights that have even shocked industry insiders.
In their dispute to the regulator, Orange charged that Mascom was engaged in a misleading and anti-competitive tactics that sought to cast doubts on the long term viability of Orange in Botswana.
Orange emphasises that such a strategy by Mascom was a deliberate ploy aimed at luring Orange Botswana’s customers to change their SIM cards in favour of Mascom.
“Third party arbitration revealed that Orange Botswana’s allegations were legitimate through proof provided and admittance of the mobile services company accused (Mascom). It was ruled that the act was anti-competitive and in direct contravention of the Telecommunications Act,” reads a statement from Orange.
According to information from Orange, Mascom “was cautioned and instructed to desist from such behaviour and was also instructed to extend a formal public apology to Orange and its customers.”
In the public apology that they have since tendered, Mascom says they apologise to any person who may have been inadvertently inconvenienced by the promotion.
“The public is hereby advised that a recent sales promotion undertaken by Mascom Wireless Botswana was objected to by Orange Botswana in terms of a written complaint by Orange to the Botswana Telecommunications Authority. Upon receipt of notification from BTA that Orange was objecting to the promotion in question, Mascom immediately stopped the promotion,” reads the public apology in part.