By Hend El-Behary
A wave of condemnation from Egypt’s main cellular carriers Mobinil, Vodafone and Etislat followed Finance Minister Momtaz El-Saeed’s unexpected suggestion to impose per minute taxes on mobile phone calls last Monday.
El-Saeed declared the ministry is studying the feasibility of a one piastre per minute fee on every mobile phone call as a way of boosting state resources.
“Given the current mobile market situation, with mobile minute rates perhaps the lowest in the world, any new tax on minute rates would end up being paid by customers, particularly at a time where operators like Mobinil continue to make significant investments in their networks and infrastructure,” Mobinil’s CEO Yves Gautier told Daily News Egypt.
Zyad Mourad, a Mobinil public relations executive, said it will be technically difficult to apply taxes on mobile phone calls, especially since a great stratum of customers depend on a “package” system, which gives the customer a bundle of minutes in a subscription.
“Neither the customer nor the company can bear any taxes, especially since the company offers nearly the lowest cost per minute in order to remain competitive against other carriers,” Mourad said.
Etislat’s media relations officer Ahmed Kamal said customers wouldn’t accept those taxes, especially after their unanimous anger following the introduction of the 51 piastre tax deducted monthly from their credit balance.
The government imposed this tax in March, as a monthly stamp tax on cellular users.
“Taxes should be authorised by the state’slegislative authority, and it will be very complicated to apply it on free usage calls, meanwhile customers might ask for more free minutes to compensate taxes loss,” Kamal added.