Friday, March 02, 2007

A day without mobile phones... not ! !

AOG, Madrid

Yesterday, numerous Consumer Groups in Spain staged a "Day without mobiles" (cell phones for those of you in the Americas). Was it done in conjunction with some international protest against global warming, or the health risks to the brain of mobile radio waves? No. It was to do with pricing.

Last year the Spanish parliament, (the Cortes) passed a law which forbade the usual practice of "rounding off" tariffs, charges, minutes, etc in Spain.

Up until then, and if you have a car you can relate to this, you would go to a car park, and be charged a full hour even if you had gone over the hour by a few minutes. The same with telephone calls. The government was obviously trying to help consumers and wanted to teach a few companies a lesson.

But, as the saying in Spain goes, he who makes the law, creates the loop hole. Mobile telephone companies in Spain- or at the very least Movistar, owned by Telefónica- have hit back by raising the cost of a phone call based on future losses. Spain already has one of the highest mobile phone call tariffs in Europe.

According to today's news, Vodafone and Orange gave yesterday's event little notoriety and declared that network usage had been the same as that of "any other Thursday".

Joan Clos, Spain's Minister of Industry, did declare that he had "endeavored to refrain from using his mobile" as a sign of solidarity with consumer groups.

I for one only found out that the event was happening at all when I got to work and began to surf the newswires. Although the consumer groups in charge say the event was a success, I have my doubts. Not enough publicity had been given to it. If no one knows the event is happening, the proverbial tree may as well stay put in the forest, because no one even knows it is there to make a sound.

Nonetheless, I agree fullheartedly with the move and, should they ever stage another, will make sure my mobile remains switched off.

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