Emergency call Service Journal
16 February, 2012
Emergency call Service Journal

 

An emergency service ‘112’ of the Interior Ministry of Georgia violates principles of liberal economy and consumers’ rights by charging consumers for the service they have never used and obliging private cell companies to perform free service to the state charging system.

Financing of the emergency service call center ‘112’ created by the Interior Ministry of Georgia that incorporates patrol, fire, ambulance, and emergency services is based on charging cell market consumers by extra tariff for cell calls.

Government decided to unite

all four emergency services [operating separately until this year] under one service call center 112 that entered into effect on January 1st, 2012 as a law of public entity controlled by the interior ministry. This new emergency call center 112 is responsible for reception of information on urgent as well as emergency situations, its elaboration and due reaction on it.  The united emergency center is a part of the best world practice and experts do approve the idea but disapprove its financing system as the mechanism violates both the liberal economic principles and consumers’ right alike.

The 112 call center is a state-budget-based institution however its account is fulfilled by tolls taken from cell subscribers. The scheme operates as following: if a cell consumer’s monthly account exceeds GEL 5 the three cell companies operating in Georgia including Geocell, Magti and Beeline automatically charge such a “talkative” consumer by GEL 0.20 and 0.50 fixed for physical and legal entities respectively as obligatory tariffs paid in the budget of the emergency call-center 112 irrespective whether or not the latter used this service.

Private cell operators insure charging and accumulation of deducted charges on a special account designed for 112 thus play a role of volunteer tax officers in fact for they collect tolls from subscribers in the state budget and enjoy no commercial benefit for performing service to this here charging system in favor to the state. Government just issued much trumpeted governmental order 489 on December 27, 2011 informing the payment mechanism of 112 service, its tariff and that cell operator companies must insure the payment mechanism performance free of charge: the charged sums are not reflected in the income of the operator companies but registered separately however Georgian National Communication Commission (GNCC) is responsible to supervise smooth performance of the obligation imposed by government on cell operators. Whether or not recruiting cell operators is a fair deal GNCC says nothing claiming that this is a governmental order and falls beyond GNCC regulation.

According to economic analysts, recruiting private companies in the state service to perform kind of tax collection [free of charge]  is an outright violation of the liberal economy principles as well as breach of consumers’ rights.

“The state has no right to oblige private companies to implement any free of charge service,” Demur Giorkhelidze, an economic analyst, said. “That’s inadmissible.”

“Of course to pay 20 tetri per month does not impoverish cell subscribers but it is a matter of principles,” Levan Kalanadadze, an economic analyst says. “This is a direct interference in relationship of private companies and its clientele that should not be regulated by the state. On the other hand, insurance of population by emergency service is a social obligation of the state and it should be free of charge, emergency means a force majore situation and access to such service should not be limited or commercialized. This kind of emergency service is free of charge everywhere.”

Shota Utiashvili, a Spokesperson of the Interior Ministry of Georgia, disagrees with economic experts although agreed with GJ suggestion that charging cell subscribers in favor of the 112 call center is a toll actually but is also a charity action and part of prudence.

“Yes, this is a toll to subscribers actually but the collected sums will go on support of socially vulnerable people, should not we support them? And should not we take measures for accidents and emergency cases beforehand? This kind of service is chargable everywhere,” he said in the interview with GJ.

Taking into account that more than 3.7 million out of about 4.7 million population of Georgia are cell subscribers and cell tariffs are still quite high one can assume the overwhelming majority of this people spend more than GEL 5 per month on cell calls, that leads to presumption that the state charges potentially about 79% of Georgian population for the service they may never use in their lifetime.

“If this tariff was fixed for the service after we use it, it would be less OK, but charging for the service we may never use is a violation of consumers’ rights, the more so that GNCC does not regulate money collection and circulation,” Davit Narmania, Executive Director of Caucasian Institute for Economic and Social Research, said.

All the three cell operators appear reticent over the issue and restrict themselves by brief twinning comments.

“We are just conduits in this charging mechanism,” Teona Bagdavadze, PR Manager of Beeline, explained to Georgian Journal. “It was a governmental order that obliged us to implement technical side of charging system and we do it free of charge, we take no commercial benefit.”

“The law obliged us to charge and transfer the charged sums to the state, it was a governmental order and we just obey,” Sandro Sadaghashvili, Head of Legal Department of Geocell, elaborates. Magti agrees and does not elaborate the issue furthermore.

The most interesting thing is that the united call center 112, in favor to which cell subscribers have already paid charges starting this February, does not provide due service as of yet and all four emergency services supposed to be united still operate separately. When dialing 112 calls are constantly misdirected to 113 of the ambulance.

“I cannot say anything honey,” a feeble irritated voice trying to keep peace of mind, informed me when attempting to find out for what kind of service 79% of Georgians are supposed to pay 20 tetri each month accruing to millions as a consequence. “This is an 113 of ambulance service but all who dial 112 get here because this united call center does not operate as of yet, the building is not constructed completely. A lot of people call and complain demanding answers why they are charged, but I cannot help my dear, perhaps the interior ministry can say when 112 will start operation.”

But Utiashvili got no idea when exactly the 112 call center will start operation as a united emergency center. But on the question why are charges paid for what does not exist as yet he wondered:

“Don’t we need these services at the moment till the 112 starts operation? That’s why we pay.”

 

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