Czech Telecom's customers ask to be unsubscribed from fixed lines

Hundreds of people are queuing in front of Czech Telecom offices throughout the country to cancel their fixed line telephones. Most of them say the planned increase in the monthly fee for a fixed line is simply unsustainable. Alena Skodova has the details:

Many people refuse to accept the new monthly fee for a fixed line telephone, which goes up by 125 crowns next month. And so Czech Telecom clients have been descending on customer centres to cancel their fixed lines en masse. Often they have to wait for more than an hour to do this. And the clerks say people are usually firmly resolved to cancelling their fixed line phones, only a few are coming to switch from one price programme to another.

But Czech Telecom itself maintains that most customers are coming to change their tariff for a more advantageous one, rather than to cancel the line altogether. Czech Telecom's most frequently used price programme is called Home Standard. As of February, the monthly subscription fee for Home Standard will increase from the current 175 to 299 crowns, with 90 crowns of calling time for free and a cheaper tariff for individual calls. 98 percent of customers are reportedly asking for a tariff called Home Mini or a programme which will connect them to the Internet. Those who choose Home Mini will pay the subscription fee of 190 crowns a month and will receive the 90 crown credit, but they will pay twice as much for individual calls.

It's also the Home Mini programme which Czech Telecom is offering its customers as a more advantageous option, but at the same time they say they've succeeded in luring only a small number of customers. The company's spokesman, Vladan Crha, said that in the city of Ostrava alone, more than a thousand clients have changed their price programmes since the beginning of the new year. At the same time he had to admit, though, that the number of Telecom customers was decreasing.

So it seems Czech Telecom planned to profit from the new tariffs, but will it turn out to be a loss? That is a question I put to analyst Ondrej Datka from the Patria Finance investment bank:

"There will probably be many people cancelling their fixed lines, we've seen some of it in January, it might continue also in February when people will get their bills with the new fees, but I don't think this will have a dramatic impact on Czech Telecom, on the other hand the higher fees will have a beneficial impact."

An increase had been expected, I as a financial analyst, expected an increase, and it's going to boost Czech Telecom's revenues and profits, and that was the logic of it. Also noteworthy is that such an increase was inevitable because even the Telecom's regulator said that the monthly fee did not cover the cost of connecting people. So it might be unpleasant for some customers, but it was probably inevitable. And there's one argument that speaks against people leaving Czech Telecom's fixed lines en mass, and that is that Czech Telecom's fixed lines are still by far a dominant means for getting access to the Internet.

What kind of people do you think will cancell their phones, is 125 crowns really that much?

"It's not that much, for some people it might be much, but many people will probably ask themselves 'why should I pay one monthly fee for a mobile phone and another monthly fee for Czech Telecom when I don't use the Internet but only a phone with just one provider', so it should be seen on the background of the choice between using a mobile phone or a fixed line."