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Labor Party threatens boycott of mobile phone companies

By Shorena Labadze
Tuesday, April 15
The Labor Party will organize one-day boycotts of mobile phone operators unless tariffs are lowered, party representatives said last week.

Labor member Giorgi Gugava told the Messenger that ruling party MPs hold shares in mobile phone operator companies, and that revenue generated through price fixing is going towards the party’s parliamentary election campaign.

“The tariff we have to pay for mobile service today is artificially increased. Phone companies collaborate to set prices and there is no healthy competition among them. They are controlled by the government,” Gugava alleged.

He also said that unless phone rates are reduced to around ten or twelve tetri per minute— current prices are around 30 tetri per minute—the party will organize protests and then mass boycotts.

“We will demonstrate in front of [phone operator company] offices and announce specific days when customers do not use their phones except for emergencies. It will be an immense loss for [phone operators]. We’ll force them to compromise,” Gugava said.

A spokeswoman for Georgian mobile phone company Magti GSM denied the Labor Party’s accusations.

“It’s not true that phone prices in Georgia are high. On the contrary, it’s very cheap [to use mobile phones in Georgia] compared to other countries,” the Magti representative said. She declined to comment further.

However, some Georgians say they struggle to afford their mobile phone bills, and there is a perception that airtime prices are lower abroad.

“It’s really unbearable. They abuse our obedience as if we were blind. One person from the family must work for the mobile phone expenses. They must reduce the tariff. It’s not discussable,” Tbilisi resident Madona Khachapuridze says.

Irakli Nikuradze, a 23-year-old Georgian based in Moscow says he spends a lot more on mobile phone calls when he is back home. “When I am in Georgia, I’m nearly bankrupted by mobile costs, whereas in Moscow it’s not a problem,” he says.

Five things you didn’t know about mobile phones

1. Research conducted in Australia suggests that drivers are four times more likely to crash if they use a mobile phone while driving.

2. Next year, according to phone operator Nokia, some 3 billion people world wide will have access to a mobile phone. In Japan, 95 percent of households have a mobile.

3. A former NASA employee claims that the first text message was sent in 1989 over a beeper. From 1992 commercial phone companies developed text messaging for deaf phone users.

4. Europeans throw away some 100 million phones each year.

5. In 2006 the Finnish prime minister made news by reportedly breaking up with his girlfriend via a text message.