The information Etisalat offers is as follows:
- There will be a 100 GB LIMIT on the UNLIMITED eLife packages
- They claim that it is under test and have no idea when it will be implemented
- They have no idea how it will be implemented (i.e. what happens after bandwidth limit)
- They have no idea of what the costs associated with such a limit would be
Technically speaking Etisalat is offering an unlimited connection at this moment, however they have already previously mentioned things like fair usage policies and such on their website which they have since removed which is a little bit more than suspicious (in that it seems they are trying to make customers purchase an 'unlimited' connection on a 12 month contract that is going to be limited in the near future while making no solid information available).
At the moment there is no actual mention of any limitations at all on their website and this information is only available via phone; there is one webpage regarding the FUP (fair usage policy) however it is no longer linked to anywhere on the site and it makes no mentions of prices or any technical or solid information whatsoever.
I particularly find it interesting that the TRA is always so adamant about 'protecting consumers' when it comes to Skype or security threats on BlackBerry Messenger, but don't seem to do much of anything when it comes to actual consumers. Their policies make for interesting reading...
"2.1 Price Transparency Before Service Offering
2.1.1 Prior to offering service to consumers, licensees shall disclose the
(a) all prices that may apply, including deposits and pre-payments;
Etisalat had no idea when I called what the prices of additional bandwidth would be. Which means they are offering a service to customers without being able to inform customers of what pricing will actually be. This means that Etisalat is not being transparent in their pricing.
"2.2.2 When a Licensee offers a service which is priced per a certain number of usage units or in another similar manner, that Licensee shall provide the functionality for consumers to know their available units."
Etisalat does not currently offer any method for tracking bandwidth usage. To be fair they do not actually have a bandwidth limit yet, however if they are offering people a service that will be limited in the near future it would be considered fair to provide consumers with this service right now so they may ascertain the accuracy and functionality of such a service and also tailor their internet usage to fit any future limits.
"2.3 General Publication Requirements
2.3.1 Licensees shall publish, in a form easily available to consumers,
the prices for its services offered to consumers.
2.3.2 The information shall be published in a manner that is up-to-date
and easy to understand.
2.3.3 Where Licensees make more than one service offer for the same
service, they shall make available the prices in a manner that enables
consumers to compare the various offers.
2.3.4 Licensees shall provide a means for consumers to contact licensees
for further price information."
"2.1 No marketing communication or practice shall, or be likely, to mislead, confuse or deceive consumers by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise."
Etisalat's elife packages are displayed on their website as UNLIMITED yet are going to be LIMITED.
I ask you, is it "easy to understand" or "accurate" when a service is offered as unlimited when it is actually going to be limited?
The dictionary definition of unlimited for those of you who are interested:
not limited; unrestricted; unconfined: unlimited trade.
boundless; infinite; vast: the unlimited skies.
without any qualification or exception; unconditional."
The usage of the term 'unlimited' in telecommunications marketing has already proven contentious in other countries, yet the TRA has taken no action against Etisalat for it.
"11.1 References to prices, services, terms and conditions, or comparisons thereof, shall be clear and transparent and shall not mislead or deceive or be likely to mislead or deceive consumers."
(Taken from TRA Marketing and Communications Policy)
Obviously when Etisalat uses the language 'unlimited' consumers are going to be mislead into believing they are paying for an internet connection without limits when it will in fact have limits.
"2.3 Any footnotes or disclaimers in marketing communications or practicesThis limit is mentioned nowhere on their website. The only specific terms and conditions that I could find was a simple "terms and conditions apply" which appeared to be in reference a special offer, Etisalat did not expand upon the terms and conditions for that promotion on their website. Etisalat's terms and conditions PDF makes absolutely no mention of any future bandwidth limitations or fair usage policy and does not fairly warn consumers of what they may end up paying.
shall be readily visible and legible, audibly apparent and understandable
and shall not contradict, materially qualify or otherwise alter the basis of
the communication or practice."
"8.1 Marketing communications and practices shall not exploit the credulity,
lack of knowledge or inexperience of consumers."
This last part is what it all comes down to. Etisalat is offering a service which will be limited in the future and is not making adequate information available to consumers, furthermore, consumers who are not technically savvy will not understand the implementation of a fair usage policy on a connection that is described as "unlimited", especially when Etisalat has made little effort to inform customers of what the actual fair usage policy is and provide any solid information. Their usage of the term "UNLIMITED" is a sham and is deceiving and taking advantage of consumers who will be caught unaware when the fair usage policy is introduced. (Etisalat has already previously written on their site that the fair usage applies which would mean some customers believe the FUP is in effect when it currently isn't and this would be detrimental to people wanting to use their connection freely without fear of incurring extra costs)
Etisalat also refuses to offer telephone and internet services under seperate billing with eLife. I have read reports online of Etisalat forcing customers to abandon their Al Shamil internet service (which is just an internet service and does not include telephone connections) and this in itself is alarming. I have also been told by Etisalat's 101 number that some Etisalat business centers are no longer offering Al Shamil at all.
6.2.5 Anti-competitive bundling or tying – bundling or tying products or services offered in Relevant Markets, and which by doing so does or may restrict, prevent, or distort competition in one or more of those Relevant Markets or another Relevant Market;
This means, hypothetically, if you moved house and only had eLife and no traditional copper services you would have to purchase phone and internet from your ISP (in a bundle) and would have no method to subscribe to each individually. Given the upcoming interconnection between Etisalat and Du this would mean a very anti-competitive situation in which you may have to purchase two phone lines to get better offers from different providers.
EDIT: It appears based upon information on du's website and their customer support line they are doing the same forced phone/internet bundling with their 'real broadband' packages.
du said on the phone that they have no information about what would be available (i.e. whether seperate telephone/internet connections would be offered) when the interconnection starts.
This potentially means (as a worst case scenario) at the start of the upcoming interconnection (apparently in a few weeks?) will leave customers already in 12 month contracts unable to usefully purchase individual services from other providers without doubling up on services they already have, although lets see what happens.
du and Etisalat's "real broadband" / eLife packages both come with 12 month contracts. For me as an Etisalat customer this is a problem. If I were to hypothetically sign up for eLife tomorrow, and then du made phone lines available in my area in 6 months time I would be disadvantaged for wanting to use the competitors services because I am in a 12 month contract that forcefully bundles both phone and internet services.
Additionally, du also said on the customer support line that there is no bandwidth limit on their 'real broadband' packages, they have also stated on twitter that there is no fair usage policy.
"6.2.9 Anti-competitive customer lock-in - locking-in customers through unduly long-term contracts, and which by doing so does or may restrict, prevent, or distort competition in a Relevant Market;"
(Taken from TRA Competition Safeguards Policy)
"2.1.2 Where a service is packaged with another service and/or product, licensees shall inform consumers of the price they would pay if they obtained that service and/or product from licensees separately and of any additional conditions or restrictions that apply."
What can you do? There are other TRA policies that do hopefully protect the consumer;
2.2.4 Licensees shall notify consumers individually, at least twenty-eight (28) calendar days prior to any price increase or any change that has the effect of a price increase.
2.2.5 Licensees shall offer consumers the opportunity to terminate their contracts without penalties before an increase in prices takes effect.
This means that when Etisalat changes their price they must announce it to consumers and you have the right to discontinue services without incurring any penalty for terminating your contract. However, as Etisalat seems intent on preventing people from making separate subscriptions to telephone/internet/etc you may find yourselves out of options in a country that supposedly doesn't have a telecommunications monopoly anymore.