Over the last couple of days, buyers of airtime scratch cards have been made to pay more money than the value of the cards.
The development, The Sunrise has found, was caused by a sudden hike in the cost of airtime by dealers, after Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) reportedly increased taxes on the main distributors.
The distributors reportedly reduced the profit margin for the dealers from 10 percent to 2%. Realizing the reduction in profit margin, the dealers asked the final vendors to impose a 10% ‘tax’. This meant that for every 500/= scratch card, buyers have been made to pay UGX600 and UGX1200 for a 1000/= scratch card.
While URA is yet to comment on the development, Telecom Companies have distanced themselves from the move.
Mohammad Yahfoufi the Africell Uganda Marketing Coordinator noted that: “Africell scratch cards should be sold at the exact value of the card,” adding that the company would follow up on their distributors to make sure this is done.
MTN Uganda Manager for Corporate Communications, Val Okecho added that he had received reports of the increase before apologizing for the inconveniences caused.
He clarified that it is not MTN’s position to increase prices of airtime vouchers suddenly and without official communication to customers.
“We have noted complaints raised and we apologize for the inconvenience caused by agents who have decided to impose their own recommended retail prices of our airtime vouchers,” Okecho said.
The hike has already sparked quarrels between vendors and buyers.
One such incident happened in Karuma town where a vendor engaged in a bitter quarrel with his buyers when he told his customers to pay 1200/= for a 1000 card.
Our reporter witnessed the spat between the vendor identified as Raymond Odongkara with Mzee Akoko, his client.
Mzee Akoko came to buy airtime from Odongkara’s shop. He was told to add 200/= to get airtime for 1,000/=.
When Odongkara asked Mzee Akoko to pay the extra 200/= , the old man shot back angrily; “You people, what is wrong with you. I bought airtime last week at 1,000/= now you are telling me to add 200/=. Is it the government again adding prices even on airtime?” asked Akoko.
He later left the money with the seller who declined to give him airtime on credit of 200/=.
Like Mzee Akoko, another woman who was too frustrated by the increase in price tossed the 500/= coin at a shop keeper and asked him to give her the airtime on credit of 100/=. Lucky for her, she was given but Tushabe Dennis, the Shop Keeper complained that demanding a client an extra 100/= is difficult.