Vodafone Qatar to seek damages from Qtel in branding spat - Mobile World Live

Vodafone Qatar to seek damages from Qtel in branding spat

28 JUL 2010

The local regulator in Qatar – ictQatar – has partially upheld a complaint by the local arm of Vodafone over the introduction into the market earlier this year of Virgin Mobile, which runs over rival Qtel’s network. Vodafone Qatar had argued that by positioning Virgin Mobile as the country’s third provider as a part of a branding agreement, Qtel was in breach of its own license terms. According to the Financial Times, ictQatar found that the Qtel-Virgin Mobile agreement did not amount to a third provider but concluded that the way it had been marketed by Qtel broke local telecoms laws. ictQatar said the agreement was presented “in a manner which misled or deceived people about who was providing the services,” noting that “some people were misled into thinking that Virgin Mobile was a new telecoms operator or service supplier in Qatar… This had the effect of distorting competition, as it presented another apparent third operator or service supplier option to customers or potential customers.”

Grahame Maher, Vodafone Qatar’s chief executive, said the operator would claim for damages against Qtel following ictQatar’s ruling. “It’s a good outcome. I agree with the regulator’s assessment that the Virgin-Qtel contract did not amount to a third provider, but the way it was marketed indicated that it was,” he told the FT. Reuters notes that Qtel now faces a fine and potential legal action. Qtel accepted that it should have been more open about the “concept” behind the launch of Qtel’s Virgin Mobile service, but said in a statement that the judgment “clarifies Qtel’s long-held position that we are offering the new brand experience as part of a wide portfolio of products and services.” In a telephone interview with Zawya Dow Jones, Robert Samuelson, Virgin’s managing partner for telecoms and media, acknowledge that the company perhaps hadn’t been “sufficiently cautious” in its launch into the world’s second richest country. “The main change is more [about] when we talk about Virgin Mobile we also need to make sure that people understand it’s a Qtel product,” he added. “There were certain situations where we had the Virgin Mobile name on its own – we will now have it with the Qtel name.” Vodafone launched services in Qatar last year, becoming Qtel’s first mobile competitor. The brand licensing agreement between Virgin Group and Qtel was announced in May; Virgin Mobile has hinted that the partnership may be expanded into several others of the 17 global markets where Qtel operates.

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