Saudi regulator fines operators in telecom crackdown

Mobily, a division of UAE operator Etisalat, receives the largest fine

epaselect epa06703135 A Saudi woman takes a picture with her cell phone during the inaugration of the first VOX Cinema at Riyadh park mall, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 30 April 2018. The multiplex theater will feature four screens. Marvel's Black Panther film was the first commercial film to be publicly screened in Saudi Arabia in another cinema in more than 35 years on 18 April 2018.  EPA/AHMED YOSRI
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The Saudi telecom regulator fined the country’s three main mobile operators in excess of 38 million riyals (Dh37m) in a new round of crackdown on market irregularities. The violations included the use of unlicenced frequencies, disregarding instructions in dealing with customer complaints and selling an undisclosed number of pre-paid cards without approval.

The three companies have had a strained relationship with the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), which is tasked with ensuring competition and encouraging investment in the sector. In December last year, the Saudi government reached a deal with the three companies – Mobily, Saudi Telecom and Zain Saudi – to settle old disputes and agreed on a new revenue sharing framework with the state. The deal was preceded by another round of fines in October.

All three companies declined to comment following the CITC fines.

The CITC said in a statement last week that the fines reflect its intent on safeguarding consumer rights. Mobily, a division of UAE operator Etisalat, received the largest fine at more than 17m riyals. Zain Saudi Arabia, a subsidiary of the Kuwaiti Zain group, was fined more than 11m riyals, while government-backed Saudi Telecom, the Kingdom’s largest operator, was fined more than 9m riyals. The fines were imposed after the companies had lost appeal procedures.

Shares of the three telecoms were trading flat on Sunday.