Manukyan and Armentel acting director
Georgios Vassilakis (in an archive photo)
may have to wait to shake hands on new
phone service changes
Last week, at least four disputes arose simultaneously
over Armenia's telecommunication provider, Armentel,
confusing customers and sparking lawsuits.
The Greek-owned OTE company, Armentel's main
share holder, announced that beginning January
1 the per-minute charge for landline use would
double to eight drams (a little more than a penny).
Armenia's Minister of Transport and Communication,
Andranik Manukyan, insists that the company cannot
apply such a change. (Earlier this week Armentel
announced it is suspending the rate increase.)
At the same time last Monday OTE filed a lawsuit
in the International Arbitrary Court in London,
charging that the Government of Armenia has violated
its contract with the communications company.
On Tuesday, the State Committee on Economic Competition
Protection fined Armentel five million drams (about
$9,000) for showing discrimination towards consumers.
At the same time last week, the National Assembly
held discussions of a law on electronic communication
that could deprive Armentel its monopoly rights
in cellular communication and providing Internet
While the court and the Assembly are wrangling
over the tumultuous relationship between the Government
and the communication company, consumers are bracing
for the fallout.
According to Armentel beginning January 1 the
360 minutes of free phone conversation now in
force will be cut down to 120, and the monthly
prepayment for free of charge communication will
not apply after 360 minutes of use.
Armentel says it will no longer accept pre-payments
while the dispute is being heard.
Armentel sent a letter about new tariffs to Manukyan's
office and in reply, the minister said the new
charges will be rejected.
According to Manukyan the company has no right
to apply such tariffs since according to a contract
signed in 2001 between Armenia's Ministry of Justice
and Armentel the abovementioned option can be
applied no sooner than December 2004.
Manukyan encourages people to continue making
prepayments. (The minister had also strongly opposed
Armentel's imposition, in 2001 of the per-minute
tax, but his opposition was in vain.)
The time when suits will be heard is not known.
According to the head of Democratic Fatherland
political party Petros Makeyan the fight between
the government and Armentel is only for the sake
of getting shares from Armentel.
"There is no fight for the sake of people,"
says Makeyan, who in 1999 was one of the deputies
who applied to Constitutional Court to deprive
Armentel of monopoly rights.
"As a result of our research in 2001 we
announced that out of $127 million investment
of Armentel, $60 million is either addition or
misappropriation," Makeyan says. "Afterwards,
the government created a committee, which after
examining the investment programs announced that
there has been a $75 million embezzlement."
According to Makeyan it has already been two
years but until now Armentel hasn't revealed the
source of the misappropriation nor how much has
"I am sure that this is a common chain and
they're doing everything to confuse people and
divide income between themselves. If both parties
don't come to an agreement the government will
deprive Armentel of some authorities and they
will be passed to Rostelecom (Russian company)
or to Karabakhtelecom," Makeyan says.
Makeyan says Karabakhtelecom belongs to a clan,
and that the Russians already own rights to Armenia's
"They've already given them the energy system,
if they also give them the communication rights,
we'll be totally dependant."