“Kommersant” published comments made by Yevgeny Zverev to an article titled “TKT may charge customers for TV broadcasting”

17 October 2011

The new municipal government headed by St.-Petersburg governor Georgy Poltavchenko can considerably change conditions of the cable television (CTV) market. Sergey Kozyrev, the deputy governor in charge of housing and municipal services, promised “Ъ” to take a close look at operators’ access to utility bills, used by TKT, St.-Petersburg major CTV operator to collect monthly fee from St.-Petersburg residents. This being said, other market players actually cannot get into bills issued by the state unitary enterprise VCKP. Should the government “balance” competitive situation, ТКТ shall face rather serious troubles.

The new municipal government can significantly affect the St.-Petersburg market of CTV. Now the leading position on the market is held by ТКТ, which privatized municipal antenna facilities as early as in the past century, while bills for the company services are included into general utility charges. Other market players have repeatedly brought up the necessity to give all the St.-Petersburg CTV operators an equal access to bills for utility services. However, they were unable to get anywhere. “It is a serious impediment for civilized development of the CTV market: a single company is holding the leading position, using their administrative resource, and can collect money from subscribers via the bill for utility services,” said Yury Osipov, CEO at the Association of St.-Petersburg cable operators. He said that in 2006 the Department of the Federal Antimonopoly Service (UFAS) for Petersburg and Leningrad region considered complaints lodged by some subscribers who elected not to receive services rendered by ТКТ, but faced bureaucratic hurdles, when trying to delete the operator’s bill of the from the general utility bill.” UFAS has hold three sessions attended even by representatives of district administrations, however, the antimonopoly service concluded that subscriber can formally waive the bill, and other operators have a formal right to enter their charges into the general municipal utility ,” remembered Mr. Osipov.

ТКТ belongs to “Natsionalnye telecommunicatsii” (NTK). In this February Rostelecom announced buying of 71,8 % shares in NTK, together with Uralsvyazinform and SZT (currently a macroregional “Severo-Zapad” branch of OAO “Rostelecom”) for 27.9 billion roubles. The shares were sold by Natsionalnaya Media Gruppa, Surgutneftegaz and Raybrook Limited Company.

Operators say that using utility bills to charge subscribers for CTV services is very convenient for subscribers. The market players only oppose to sophisticated bureaucratic hurdles faced by subscribers wishing to change their mobile operators. “If a subscriber decided to change the mobile operator, at first they need to eliminate the bill of ТКТ from the general utility bill, and this procedure may take about two months. Naturally, no one shall wait for such a long time while making payments to both operators for two months. This situation seriously impedes competition in the market,” said Dmitry Rybin, director general of CTV operator Riko-TV. Apart from ТКТ, about 25 CTV operators are active in the city, providing services to about 400 thousand users. ТКТ caters to about 1.2 million subscribers. This being said, several players offer social package for much lesser cost than TKT. “Still, due to bureaucratic hurdles related to giving up on ТКТ services, very few people risk to change the provider,” concluded Mr. Rybin.

“In fact, ТКТ has published an offer in the local newspaper as early as in the pasr century. After that almost all people in the city (regardless of their will) became subscribers of the company. Now, people trying to give up on ТКТ services will need plenty of will and patience, as well as a good deal of free time. The subscriber must personally attend the company office, write an application, then wait at home for the installer, obtain the much coveted certificate of disconnection and submit it to their housing cooperative. ТКТ was repeatedly criticized at different levels, but it still hasn't gotten past the talking stage,” said Yury Bryukvin, director general of analytical agency Rustelekom.

However, assignment of the new city governor can change the situation. According to “Ъ”, Sergey Kozyrev, the deputy governor in charge of housing and municipal services has already studied the situation at the CTV market of St.-Petersburg. “I will deal with this issue, and will try to resolve the problem in the near future,” promised Mr. Kozyrev. ТКТ declared of the vice-governor have concerned easy. The company declared that current form of the unified payment document “Utility Bill” was established by order issued by mayor of St.-Petersburg at 8/22/1994 (N 875-r) and put into effect by the order oftheCommittee for Housing
Policy of the St.-Petersburg government of 10/2/2006 (N 101-r) as amended on 12/30/2010 (N 549-r). According to these regulatory documents, a line concerning “TV broadcasting” is present on the utility bill. The TKT company has entered into a contract with GUP VCKP, and, like the majority of cable operators, uses this possibility to collect monthly fee for TV broadcasting,” stated the TKT press-service. However, they did not specify which the market players uses the utility bill.

Yevgeny Zverev, senior associate of legal firm S&К Vertikal has studied the case and came to a conclusion that TKT did not violate the current legislation. According to him, the bill is issued based on the public offer, and the line concerning “TV broadcasting” was included into the utility bill in accordance with regulations issued by the government of St.-Petersburg. However, the new government took office, and they can think it’s time to rewamp working rules.

Boris Gorlin 

“Kommersant Sankt-Peterburg”, №194/П (4734), 10/17.2011

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