HARARE – The decision by the sole fixed line telephone service provider Tel*One to write off line rental charges accumulated since dollarisation in line with decisions taken by other utility providers such as Zesa comes as no relief to consumers.
The majority of indebted landline consumers feel the $250 odd slash is too little too late.
Tel*One promised to write off more than $79 million from an estimated $276 million owed by landline subscribers nationwide.
Business acumen dictates that entities embrace innovation to remain relevant. The majority of clients have migrated to competitors, attracted by the convenience brought about by the introduction of mobile phones, buttressed by affordable handsets and readily available sim cards.
This is the challenge Tel *One has to contend with first and foremost. The service provider has to be more innovative and contemplate the prudence of more audacious action such as a wholesome write-off against the benefits it will harvest.
It has to take into consideration vast amounts of revenue it could generate from consumers re-activating their accounts and starting on a clean slate.
Dollarisation and the adoption of a multi-currency regime wiped out people’s savings during conversion four years ago and it is out of this realisation that government issued an edict in that direction with regards to cumulative debts owed to local authorities.
As the situation stands, there are marginal chances of recovering the huge debt owed by consumers now confronted with rising food costs and given the desperation shown by the cash-short parastatal in deploying some of its staffers to debt-collections tasks.
Tel*One’s erstwhile monopoly faces stiff rivalry from other communication products rolled out by competitors but still retains the cutting edge over them with its prepaid digital subscriber lines.
It has an estimated 330 000 registered lines which gives it the comparative advantage over other competitors on this score. This equipment outlay gives it a head start and opens a wider scope for revenue generation in the cut-throat communication sector.
Internet popularity in the homes promises an inexhaustible pool for the operator if it takes the bold decision to re-activate lines currently lying idle and redundant in many households who are bound to mob the utility provider applying for ADSL services.
The multi-million debt currently owed by consumers looks a huge sum to wipe off but Tel*One cannot afford to overlook the stark reality that it is allowing a prime chance to storm back into contention slip through its fingers by letting what appears “dead debt” to hold it back.
Bold decisions regarding the remote possibility of recouping the consumer debt need to be taken now, unless the parastatal sees no point in capturing a digital-savvy generation by maximising its advantages over competitors.
It is a risk worth taking.