In a blow to Qatar’s main mobile service provider, Qtel must shut down all Qtel Virgin Mobile-branded services, the country’s telecommunications regulatory authority, ictQatar, has ruled.
All Virgin-branded SIM cards must be deactivated by Aug. 4, ictQatar confirmed on Monday in a statement on its website.
In its ruling, the authority said it found that:
1) Qtel Virgin Mobile services were marketed to the public by Qtel in a manner that was misleading or deceptive
2) Qtel had engaged in anti-competitive conduct and an abuse of dominance
3) Qtel failed to comply with orders and instructions ictQatar had issued to Qtel to correct its conduct concerning the marketing of its Qtel Virgin Mobile services.
Qtel is required to transfer all Virgin customers to a similar Qtel service or provide a cash refund for the value of their SIM cards (QR35) and any credit balance in their accounts.
Qtel should communicate full details to customers in the next few days, ictQatar said.
Last July, following a complaint from Vodafone Qatar, ictQatar ruled that Qtel broke the law when it partnered with Virgin Mobile to offer mobile telephone services.
Qtel at the time said it would continue operating with a few changes to its marketing strategy. But ictQatar has ruled the tweaks were not enough.
Read ictQatar’s full statement here.
Arabian Business reports that Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson said he was planning to expand his Virgin Mobile brand across the Arab world, with the UAE being targeted for new services.
UPDATE: In a press statement, Qtel said it intends to “comply fully” with ictQatar’s ruling. It also said it will migrate existing Virgin customers to Qtel’s Hala service, which will allow them to keep their mobile numbers and credit balances.
Customers must visit a Qtel outlet to swap their existing Virgin-branded SIM cards for a replacement Hala SIM card. Or they can opt for a full refund.