by Ameera AlSaid and Menatalla Ibrahim
With many still housebound and working from home, quality internet is a crucial resource. However, some Ooredoo customers in Qatar have been hit with an unwanted price rise.
Ooredoo has announced a QR 30 increase to the price of their entry-level plan Ooredoo ONE , which will now include a non-optional six-month subscription to Netflix or a year’s subscription to beIN CONNECT. The new pricing will start on July 25, 2020.
The sudden increase in price and lack of option to remain with the current plan has frustrated many Ooredoo users, who feel like they’re being forced to pay for extras they don’t want.
Ooredoo’s customer service says: “Ooredoo has introduced a new entry-level plan which has added content features such as Netflix for 6 months free or 12 months free beIN CONNECT. All existing customers with a speed plan of 50 Mbps will be migrated to this new entry-level plan for 330 QR with effect from 25/7/2020 and this change applied to all Ooredoo customers.”
There are no changes in price or features for the network’s other plans.
Sabah Rabiah al-Kuwari, PR Director at Ooredoo, told the Gulf Times that the change is part of the company’s corporate growth and development strategy. She said:
“We work tirelessly to create partnerships that enable us to continuously lead the market in our offering to our customers. We are immensely proud to give our customers access to everything Netflix has to offer, and we’re confident this tie-up will only cement our position at the forefront of telecoms and entertainment in Qatar. We look forward to the launch with great excitement.”
However, many people do not share Ooredoo’s excitement over the new additions.
Ooredoo customer, Rehan Quereshi says:
“I managed to get in touch with them on 111 and they said it’s their new pricing policy whether we like it or not. So I did mention that when people are facing salary cuts, how is a price hike justified for the same service?
“The gentleman on the phone to my shock said that the pricing has come from the Ministry of Commerce. I did try to explain to him that the Ministry should not dictate pricing for a private entity like Ooredoo. But I guess he had his mind made up.”
Some people also took to social media to voice their frustration, questioning why they are forced to pay more for a service they don’t need, especially during the current economic crisis caused by COVID-19.
Rehan, who already has a subscription to Netflix and beIN, added:
“I think it’s grossly unfair in these difficult times for Ooredoo to hike up their prices. Sadly I might have to cough it up because I’m not sure how reliable Vodafone’s fiber optic is.”
Is there an alternative?
Some people are now choosing to leave the biggest telecommunications company in Qatar behind.
Abdul Wahab, an accountant, told Doha News that the price increase is not the main issue so much as the lack of choice. Because of the lack of communication from Ooredoo over their change in plans — and because he doesn’t need the additional extras being provided — Abdul Wahab says that he will no longer be using Ooredoo.
“Forcing customers to pay 30 extra is inappropriate and not acceptable,” he says.
With social media seething, Vodafone, Ooredoo’s only competitor in Qatar, has taken the opportunity to sway customers to switch to their services. The company has been replying to angry Ooredoo casualties.
But money and lack of choice have not been the only criticisms Ooredoo has faced over its partnership with Netflix. Some religious conservatives feel it’s inappropriate to force a service containing content that goes against Islamic teachings and Muslim culture.
“The recent marketing for Netflix as a platform with content that is solely for entertainment upsets me. Everyone knows how Netflix is and their way of inserting harmful content in the good that is advertised and everyone is aware. But OoredooQatar and some famous figures who don’t. I am not proud and won’t be happy for a partnership between a national company and one that promotes homosexuality and corruption”
“I’m not accusing those who subscribe to Netflix and choose what suits them from its content, but I don’t accept marketing that leads to moral and intellectual abnormality without any censorship or restrictions, and I don’t accept that this platform will be available for everyone on a gold platter and marketed in every way, and this is implicit support and satisfaction with what it (Netflix) promotes”
Inayat Shaikh, an IT professional, is one such customer who thinks Ooredoo’s decision is unethical:
“Ooredoo is using an unjust monopoly and forcing customers to buy what they don’t want,” he says. “I want internet for my children’s studies. Why force a Muslim man to watch TV and movies. Is that what Islam teaches? I and my family don’t want movies and TV — we use the internet for communication and studies only. Why should we pay for something we don’t use?”
Once the new plan comes into effect, Ooredoo customers will have access to Netflix and beIN Sports through Ooredoo ONE at home and on their mobile devices — whether they want it or not.