Etisalat fined for blocking du promo texts – du responds

November 26, 2013 9:00 am

Mobile number portability to be launched next month

The UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has fined Etisalat for impeding text messages that give information to its consumers about how to switch to its rival, du.

The country’s first telco and former monopoly, Etisalat, received the rare rebuke, ahead of the launch of mobile number portability (MNP) next month – following a five-year wait.

MNP will allow subscribers to switch providers, while maintaining their numbers, which will present business opportunities for both brands to poach each other’s users.

Etisalat is the bigger organisation within the duopoly and reportedly has much more to lose from the MNP launch, and du is already campaigning for customers to send a text message to a specific number, ‘3553’, to receive information relating to MNP.

A TRA statement reveals that Etisalat blocked the number on Thursday, November 21, preventing its customers from receiving du’s response. The regulator ordered Etisalat to lift the block on Friday, November 22, however it failed to do so. Hence, the TRA issued a violation decision on Monday, November 25.

du issued the following statement today: “In an unfortunate turn of events, our short code ‘3553’ was suspended by Etisalat, which made it impossible for interested mobile users to reach us by SMS. This, by no means, reflects any deficiency on our side or service quality. We are pleased to inform UAE residents that the SMS short code has been restored by Etisalat, following the TRA’s intervention.

“Despite this temporary setback, which interrupted our ability to reach out to customers who are interested in MNP, we believe that forming a competitive atmosphere in the country is a vital and healthy practice, which is in line with the UAE leadership’s vision. We are hopeful about the future and keeping customer interests in mind, we are confident that all partners will support the intention of giving choice to customers by adopting competitive and positive practises – be it the TRA or Etisalat.”

The TRA informed Reuters about the fine, but declined to reveal the amount. Etisalat did not respond to requests from the newswire for comments.