By Andy Sambidge
UPDATE 1: Regulator demands changes to Virgin/Qtel tie-up but service will continue.
Vodafone Qatar on Saturday welcomed the decision of ictQATAR, the country’s telecoms regulator, to a complaint against Qatar Telecom's (Qtel) tie-up with Virgin Mobile in May.
ictQATAR determined that Vodafone Qatar was correct in its complaint that Qtel had illegally violated the Qatar telecoms law, Vodafone Qatar said in a statement. However Qtel hit back, saying it would continue to offer the Virgin Mobile service with a few changes to its marketing strategy.
Vodafone Qatar said ictQATAR has requested Qtel to change significantly how the Virgin Mobile brand in Qatar is represented compared to what was launched on May 13.
The telco said it was "carefully reviewing ictQATAR's decision to determine if they take further legal action with courts to rectify the impact of Qtel’s illegal behaviour on their organisation and shareholders".
Vodafone Qatar will also carefully monitor Qtel’s compliance with the new brand requirements and will report any breaches to ictQATAR, it added.
Commenting on ictQATAR’s decision, Sheikh Abdulrahman Bin Saud Al Thani, chairman of Vodafone Qatar, said: "Vodafone Qatar complained to ictQATAR about Qtel's introduction of Virgin Mobile because we believe Qtel was engaging in activities against the law which was against the interest of our shareholders. We believe that ictQATAR decision confirms we were right to take this complaint.”
He added: “Our lawyers are reviewing the decision and will shortly advice Vodafone Qatar’s Board on our options for legal action that are in the interest of our shareholders and for damages resulting from Qtel’s behaviour which has been found to be illegal by ictQATAR.”
Qtel said in a statement that it would continue to offer mobile phone services under its tie-up with Virgin Mobile.
Qtel said it accepted ictQATAR’s recommendation that it could and should have been more proactively open about the concept behind the launch of Qtel’s Virgin Mobile service in Qatar.
The company said it was "committed to providing full resources to explain the vision for Qtel’s Virgin Mobile service in Qatar".
It added that the regulator's review had found that the core complaint of Vodafone Qatar – that Qtel’s Virgin Mobile service was a “third mobile service provider” – was baseless and without foundation.
Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Saud Al Thani, chairman, Qtel: “Today’s judgement clarifies Qtel’s long-held position that we are offering the new brand experience as part of a wide portfolio of products and services designed to serve the whole community of Qatar. We thank ictQATAR for its time and investment in this process and will fully support the review’s recommendations.”