‘Three Days Free Calls’ Divide GSM Companies, As Cellcom CEO Angrily Takes On Lonstar/MTN Board Chair

{L/R} Cellcom's CEO, Mr. Avishai Marziano and Mr. Benoni Urey, Lonestar/MTN Board Chairman
{L/R} Cellcom’s CEO, Mr. Avishai Marziano and Mr. Benoni Urey, Lonestar/MTN Board Chairman

The Cellcom Telecommunications, Incorporated has sharply and angrily responded to recent claims by the Chairman of the Board of Directors of LoneStar MTN, Mr. Benoni Urey that Cellcom’s three days free calls is harmful to Liberia.

Responding to Mr. Urey who is also a presidential hopeful for the 2017 general and presidential elections, Cellcom said it notes with serious concern of Mr. Urey’s statements are carefully calculated attempts to prolong Lonestar/MTN’s goal of restricting competition and thereby continuing to exploit the Liberian people.

In a recent letter to the Liberian leader Mr. Urey reportedly called on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to end ‘various freeles, i.e. “free calls to the USA; $1 for 3 days of $1 for 5 days.” He further called for an end to discounts and special promotions claiming that a competition driven market was bad for Liberia and would limit the company’s ability to reinvest.

In response to these claims in a press release issued last week, Cellcom’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mr. Avishai Marziano retorted that Lonestar/MTN’s only goal of writing the Liberian Leader was to attempt to influence the Liberian Government to restrict a free market economy and get rid of promotions and GSM discounts which have brought relief to the thousands of Liberian people.

“The goal of Cellcom is to provide quality and affordable telecommunications to all. But it seems as if the goal of Lonestar/MTN is to hike prices and swindle money from the average Liberian,” the Cellcom’s CEO statement in the press release said.

Mr. Marziano noted that telecommunications companies and business around the world offer discounts and promotions to attract and maintain customers. These promotions and discounts especially across the African continent are geared at ensuring that instead of spending a large portion of their income on telecommunications, citizens are able to instead utilize these savings to send their kids, invest in small businesses, and deal with urgent pressing problems.

The Cellcom CEO further said, “We look at our promotions as a way to give back to Liberia and ensure that Liberians have a little extra money in their pockets at the end of the day. We are both concerned and find it unfortunate that Lonestar/MTN is actively campaigning to lobby the corsage of laws that will prevent GSM companies from offering cost saving programs to Liberians.”

For his part, Cellcom’s Corporate Communication Strategist, Dr. Kimmie Weeks also denounced attempts by the Lonestar/MTN to propose legislation that would hike the cost of telecommunications in Liberia.

Adding, “When Lonestar/MTN was the only company operating in Liberia; they made tens of millions of dollars charging exorbitant prices for phones, sim cards, and call tariffs. There was no excuse for Lonestar to have charged the Liberian people US$35 for simple sim card but they did for a long time and got away with it until Cellcom entered the Liberian Market. We cannot afford as a country to revert to those dark days,” the Cellcom official said in the press release.

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About Cholo Brooks 17424 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.