Uproar in Egypt over hike in mobile recharge cards

05 Oct 2017

Egyptians are angry over a government decision to ratify a 36-percent devaluation of mobile phone balance recharge cards.

“It’s completely unfair, that’s quite a lot,” a mobile user told Arab News after realizing that she received about 70 percent of the price of the purchased card in charging credit.

The decision, ratified by the state-run Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), came into effect over the weekend.

Since then, there have been boycott calls on social media against the telecom companies applying the increase.

The increase is not on the price of the recharge cards, but on the delivered value given from the company to the customer.

This means a recharge card costing 100 Egyptian pounds ($5.67) will give 70 Egyptian pounds of credit.

Justin Dargin, a Middle East expert at the University of Oxford, said the devaluation is part of government attempts to raise revenue and achieve budgetary stability following years of political instability.

“The devaluation of the mobile recharge cards operates as a de-facto tax, which inevitably would injure the Egyptian working class in much the same way as a regressive tax would,” he told Arab News.

“It’ll take a larger percentage of the income of the poorer segments of the Egyptian populace.”

On Sunday, some mobile users in Egypt were confused when they tried recharging their mobile balance and received the full value of the card, without the 36-percent devaluation.

Many thought the government had backtracked its decision due to public anger, but a source at a telecom company denied that.

“Adding the full credit has occurred in some prepaid cards which have not been updated with the new pricing, but all recharging cards will be updated during the coming period,” Al Masry Al-Youm newspaper quoted the source as saying.

The Association of Citizens Against Price Rises called for a boycott of mobile telecom companies in Egypt, asking users to refrain from buying balance recharge cards.

It accused the TRA of regulating monopolization because it obtains 2-percent profit from mobile service operators.

The price hike from Egypt’s top telecom operators Orange, Vodafone and Etisalat comes as landline monopoly Telecom Egypt launches WE, the country’s fourth mobile network, owned by the government.

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