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woman cellphone 88 298.(Photo by: Bloomberg)
Communications Ministry warns cellphone companies it will scrutinize calling plans
Communications Minister: "We have discovered that Israeli cellphone subscribers pay millions of shekels a year more than they have to because of unused airtime."
The Communications Ministry said Tuesday that local cellphone companies will be called to a hearing in the near future at which their "minute plans" will be scrutinized, as the ministry makes another attempt at reducing the costs of mobile phone calls for consumers. "We have discovered that Israeli cellphone subscribers pay tens of millions of shekels a year more than they have to because of unused airtime," said Communications Minister Ariel Attias. "We have arranged the hearing with the intention of protecting cellphone users." Beginning at the end of 2005, cellphone companies began offering their customers "minute plans" in which subscribers were charged for a full minute of service whether or not the entire 60 seconds was used. In order to offer this plan however, cellphone providers had to agree to offer customers a "12-second option" as well, in which calls are charged in 12-second increments. Subscribers were guaranteed that they would be able to switch easily between the two options; however, according to the ministry, this has not been the case. Over the course of its research during the past few months into the practices of cellphone companies, the ministry said that from the time they began offering both options, companies have directed most of their marketing toward presenting customers with the "minute plan," with one company in particular having 80% of its subscribers signed up to that plan. "Cellphone companies only advertised the more expensive package as they did not want customers purchasing plans that would generate less income," said the ministry, which also highlighted the fact that on, average, 25%-40% of a cellphone "minute plan" bill was unused airtime. Additionally, the tariffs that customers pay when signed up to the "minute plan" are significantly higher than the 12-second version, reported the ministry. Due to these abuses by Israel's cellphone companies, the ministry said it was considering the removal of any option to bill customers for more than 12 seconds at a time. Also, according to Attias, beginning in January of 2009, cellphone subscribers will have the option of both the 12-second option as well as a new "one-second" plan.
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