LTA slaps USD4m fine on Orange, Lonestar Cell-MTN over surcharges dispute

22 Oct 2020

The Daily Observer newspaper reports that the Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA) has slapped fines of more than USD4 million on domestic GSM operators Orange Liberia and Lonestar Cell-MTN, seeking restitution for gains made by the implementation of its Floor Price order. The order follows the cellcos’ application of what are deemed ‘invalid’ surcharges as part of the price floor regulation. The surcharges – contained in Part IV of LTA ORDER: 0016-02-25-19 – mandated the two companies to increase traffic charges in the amount of LRD0.008 (USD0.00004) and LRD0.00065 on each MB of data.

‘The Board of Commissioners of the LTA remains committed to promoting and maintaining a responsive and predictable regulatory environment that takes into consideration the needs of consumers, government and the operators. It is therefore reassuring the public that it shall continue to strike a balance among these various stakeholders in all of its regulatory undertakings,’ the regulator said in confirming its decision. The LTA mandate comes just a day after it asked Orange and Lonestar Cell-MTN to repay any monies they earned from the implementation of the surcharges – a mandate which the companies have reportedly agreed to follow. An LTA press release confirmed: ‘Meanwhile, LTA has finalised the following for the public good: mobile network operators to pay over USD4 million into government revenue as gains made on the implementation of the Floor Price. And that mobile network operators reverting to the pre-surcharge tariff on voice and data services and restituting credits to affected consumers from 8 October to 14 October 2020.’

It remains to be seen whether Orange and Lonestar Cell-MTN will pay the fine.