Mixed reaction to FTC’s decision

A sad day for Barbados!

That’s how one consumer rights group described the Fair Trading Commission’s (FTC) decision to approve the Cable and Wireless and Columbus Communications Inc. merger application.

One communications analyst said the decision raised a number of questions.

In an immediate response to the ruling handed down just after 10 o’clock this morning, Director General of the Barbados Consumer Research Association, Malcolm Gibbs-Taitt, made it clear that he was not in favour of the merger, suggesting it was bad for competition.

He told Barbados TODAY once legally possible, he would be making an appeal so that the decision could            be rescinded.

Almost five months after the US$3 billion merger proposition was announced, the regulatory agency said pursuant to Section 20 (5) of the Fair Competition Act CAP 326C, it had completed an analysis of the merger application of the two companies, had considered the overall efficiencies of the merger and the anti-competitive effects that it could create in the landline and broadband internet services, and had determined that the merger should be approved subject to a number of conditions.

Director General of the Barbados Consumer Research Association, Malcolm Gibbs-Taitt
Director General of the Barbados Consumer Research Association, Malcolm Gibbs-Taitt

However, Taitt said: “First of all, if the FTC decides to agree to the merger, I would regard that as a sad day for Barbados. My reason is that our legislation, as it relates to the Fair Competition Act, is very clear in making the case for there to be competition in the market place and if you merge two opposing forces, I do not see how you are helping consumers to get competition”.

“The other point is this:  the Fair Trading Commission, as a regulator, operates [like] the high court of Barbados does. Because of that reason too, it means that if we are not satisfied with the findings of the Fair Trading Commission, we have the right to appeal to the Appeal Court of Barbados and further even to the CCJ [Caribbean Court of Justice] to see if we can get justice where there is none,” he said.

Communications consultant Hallam Hope told Barbados TODAY that although he welcomed the FTC’s decision because it was “a wise step”, there were still “several grey areas that required deeper analysis”.

Hope questioned why the FTC did not address issues relating to quality and standard of service since that remained “a concern for customers despite there being regulations in place”.

“The Commission could have used the opportunity to remove one-year contracts where first-time customers for some services have to sign off to taking a service for one year. LIME has such a policy, while Flow does not. The commission did not appear to seize the opportunity to address this nor the conflict of policy in this area,” said Hope.

“There is uncertainty concerning what would be the next step if a buyer is not found. What if customers of Flow and Karib Cable opt to stay with the service provider and the market remains skewed in favour of one service provider?“ Hope asked.

“In its rush to implement Local Number Portability, has consumer choice been sought? Local Number Portability can make sense but would it cost the consumer, if anything, and what are the financial implications for service providers?”

Telecommunications strategist with the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), Selby Wilson, told Barbados TODAY that while he was not entirely familiar with the legislation governing the FTC, he realized that the regulatory body was seeking to encourage competition given the conditions outlined.

“What I glean from the approval with conditions is that they [the FTC] seem to have taken all reasonable steps to have a structural shift while the merger takes place,” said Wilson.

“Fundamentally, from a regulatory point of view, I think that is technically sound reasoning. I noticed that it looked at the area where FLOW and LIME overlap and they have said ‘well they must divest of those facilities’ . . . that is, in my view, designed to minimize the effect of what they might consider to be non-competitive otherwise,” he said.

“I like the fact that they have incorporated other elements in terms of number portability and when the merged entity should be ready to accommodate number portability. It is a good move in that it will allow the market to facilitate competition if other players join the market,” said Wilson in his assessment of the decision.

Acknowledging that in some markets in the region there was one dominant telecommunications provider, Wilson said he hoped the merger would allow for more aggressive competition. And he suggested that going forward, regulators in the region should be “a little bit more vigilant” given the constant changes in the sector.

Wilson called on government-owned entities to step up their game and become more aggressive and creative if they wanted to compete effectively.

“I think one of the limitations in the region is the fact that the competition legislation is very weak; in some countries there is no competition regulation. And in all the countries, maybe with the exception of Barbados and Jamaica, the Telecommunications Acts do not cater rigidly for the dealing with competition issues, so there are inherent limitations,” said Wilson.

7 Responses to Mixed reaction to FTC’s decision

  1. James Austin Bynoe
    James Austin Bynoe March 28, 2015 at 2:12 am

    It sure is a sad day … The lower level of service is already being experiences. The conditions placed by the FTC where very weak. Which is what happens when you hv people making decisions in areas they know little about.

  2. James Austin Bynoe
    James Austin Bynoe March 28, 2015 at 4:42 am

    They are no mixed reactions wrong title BT … Have you heard any customers saying “oh great cable & wireless is back” stop riding the fence (you do it too much don’t become a nation).

    Those few who will gain the most are the only ones happy about this … The FTC is clueless on what damage they just did to barbados. Many things we need to do as a nation to get back on track is depending on the effective use of technology, which will be hindered by allowing this merger.

  3. Wayne P Hoyte
    Wayne P Hoyte March 28, 2015 at 4:57 am


  4. Shelly-Ann Walkes March 28, 2015 at 6:28 am

    I really not feeling sad! I look forward to reduced rates ….

    • Truckstar March 28, 2015 at 12:01 pm

      you waiting on reduced rates while everyone that knows better waiting on reduced service cause that’s all you get with slime

  5. Maxine Hutchinson March 28, 2015 at 9:50 am

    When I heard of the plan for merging of FLOW and LIME I felt a sense of betrayal. Why? Flow came in from Trinidad and offered us lower rates for telephone service and LIME found themselves floundering in that market but what did the two entities do eventually? They decided once again that Barbadians are idiots and that they were going to show us how foolish we are because we are going to catch at the lower rates.

    FLOW then moves in with their lower rates and we took the bait. When they decided that they had had enough of LIME’s share of the market, then they got together behind closed doors and made yet another plan to make us all look like asses.

    They have merged, leaving us to wonder what was it that we had done. In essence, FLOW came forward as though it was the saviour for us as far as telephone rates were concerned
    and would have been the best thing for us since sliced bread came on the market, while knowing all along that they were a part of LIME. So where are we today? Back in the hands of LIME who will raise their prices once again and most likely offer the same LOUSY service that FLOW offers today one such service such as giving two persons the same number and allowing the sons of government senior officers to place taps on your telephone and while you are having a conversation with a friend on any topic that does not suit them, they slam the phone down in your ears. If you be so adamant to make the call the resume your conversation the phone is slammed again in the ears of the persons on the line.

    So we have eventually FLOWed into LIME waters – it will be a sour state for us. Barbadian, braqce yourself again. As long as Trini’s are involved in anything we should have looked for the backlash!!!!!!

  6. Tony Waterman March 28, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    @Maxine Hutchinson !!!!! “”When I heard of the plan for merging of FLOW and LIME I felt a sense of betrayal. Why? Flow came in from Trinidad and offered us lower rates for telephone service.”” not true, amd i can prove it, flow was in Barbados Before it was in Trinidad, Facts:- “Columbus(FLOW) is an International Business Corporation (IBC) incorporated in the Fall of 2004 under the Companies Act of Barbados. Its shares are privately held.”
    Now !!! 2005-June:Closed acquisition of Cable Company of Trinidad & Tobago (now Flow Trinidad). so you see For all intents and purposes Columbus/Flow is a Registered/Incorporated Barbadian Company, which then went out and acquired a hosts of smaller businesses in the Caribbean Basin, and in Central and South America. case in point:::Closed acquisition of New World Network Ltd. (now Columbus Networks) , Closed acquisition of Cable Company of Trinidad & Tobago (now Flow Trinidad). Closed acquisition of Merit Communications Ltd. (now Flow Jamaica)Closed acquisition of Cable Bahamas Ltd.
    Columbus Communications executes term sheet to acquire Grenada Cablevision Limited. Columbus International closes the acquisition of Grenada Cablevision Limited, Grenada’s premier provider of video services, and rebrands as Flow Grenada. Columbus Networks closes the acquisition of Optynex Telecom SA, a facilities-based commercial telecom data services provider in Panama. Columbus Networks completes multi-million U.S. dollar network integration with SkyOnline de Panama and changes the name of the Panama company to Columbus Networks. Columbus Networks acquires MultiData S.A., a facilities based telecommunications provider in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
    The Prize is definitely Barbados, they want Barbados as a Stable Country, from which to Operate their Caribbean, Central and South American Enterprises, that is why the FTC Had no Choice but to say yes, or they might moved HQ to Turks and Cacos. This is just a taste of how BIG Business operates, and this will not be the last you see of deals like this one.


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