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Jul 30, 2003

Consumer advocate pushes B.T.L. for refunds

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After nearly two years of protests and court cases it finally seems that the question of B.T.L. rates is about to get down to the nitty gritty: that is dollars and cents. According to consumer rights activist, Lascelle Arnold, more than twenty-one days have elapsed since the Supreme Court of Belize ruled that the price hikes imposed by B.T.L. in December 2001 were illegal and it’s now up to customers to demand refunds…refunds that could have Belize Telecommunications Limited paying out millions of dollars. And Arnold is encouraging each and every B.T.L. customer to get back every cent they can.

Lascelle Arnold, Community Rights Activist

“By law we have to claim, we can’t just say, okay, B.T.L. will pay us. We have to send in the claim that yes, we hear the ruling, we see the ruling, now we have to send in a claim telling B.T.L. how much they owe us. And that’s why we’re doing this.”

Janelle Chanona

“Realistically, what time period can people start expecting, or do you think some other legal recourse will happen that will prevent B.T.L. from paying out this money?”

Lascelle Arnold

“What happened, we have waited out the twenty-one days before we start to claim. We claim the first payment in last week and we’re sending one this week. But starting today a lot of claims are going in. What we have done by waiting out the twenty-one days, that way B.T.L. cannot go to the Privy Council, so they stick with the ruling from the Appeals Court.”

Janelle Chanona

“So people will get their money.”

Lascelle Arnold

“They will get their money back.”

Janelle Chanona

“But they have to claim.”

Lascelle Arnold

“They have to claim.”

Janelle Chanona

“How much you all have estimated B.T.L. will be paying out? Millions?”

Lascelle Arnold

“We’re looking at…we have ten thousand business lines and we have forty thousand home lines. We’re looking at the home lines alone, B.T.L. owe people, without any argument or any discussion you’re looking at eight million dollars just for the local lines. Each person in Belize, this country of Belize, who own a land line, B.T.L. owe them two hundred and twenty-eight dollars. And for every business line you have, B.T.L. owe you five hundred and seventy dollars. The five hundred and seventy dollars comes up to five million dollars and the two hundred and twenty-eight dollars come up to over eight million dollars.”

“The only thing I would like to highlight is that people take their own responsibilities and fill out the forms and mail it off…the form explains itself, it will be in the Amandala for Friday. And just by buying the Amandala, you will be getting that two hundred and twenty-eight dollars off the top. Cut out the two forms, fill them out and have the address and everything to the bottom of the forms, so it isn’t a problem to send it off, put it in an envelope and drop it off at the post office, or if you want to hand deliver it, you can do it at the P.U.C. on Regent Street or P.O. Box 300 and St. Thomas Street for B.T.L.”

“One thing I would like to mention, there’s a myth out there concerning the rebalancing, and we need to straighten out that part with the cellular and overseas call. I need to tell the Belizean people that the overseas call and the cellular call and the whole rebalancing was illegal, so B.T.L. cannot come and tell nobody now that it’s a rebalancing so some people who make a lot of overseas calls will owe B.T.L. That’s out of the question, because the whole process that they went through was illegal.”

According to Arnold, customers will also be able to claim for monies spent using prepaid cards, but they will have to present the actual phone cards with their claims. Copies of the refund form will also be available in the Stann Creek Star newspaper.

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