Prove Hitler wrong by standing up against Whatsapp regulation: expert

FEBRUARY 4, 2016

A local business expert and entrepreneur says South Africans must stand up against potential regulation of over-the-top (OTT) internet services, such as WhatsApp.

OTT services, including from WhatsApp to Skype and Google Hangouts, allow users to make messages and calls over data networks - often at comparatively lower costs than traditional telephone calls or SMS.

"Consumers can do themselves a favour by proving Adolf Hitler wrong. The opportunity is presented by anti-consumer developments in contemporary South Africa and the actions of powerful players who habitually ignore the little people," says Aki Kalliatakis is managing partner of The Leadership Launchpad.

"Why? Because they can. Decades ago, the Nazi dictator created a blueprint for insidious control. He said…

'The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time, to erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible reductions. In this way, the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes can be reversed.'”

Kalliatakis says "embattled consumers" will agree rights erosion has been underway for years.

"Our right to freely transact is threatened in so many ways. For instance:

  • Airlines turn a one-hour hop from Johannesburg to Durban into an expensive, time-consuming nightmare
  • Banks assault us with layers of bureaucracy and intimidating rules, making it tough to get a loan for a toaster, never mind a new home
  • Taxi-drivers and hotel owners call for bans on Uber and AirBnB even though these innovations make travel cheaper and easier."

He says that now the Big Two mobile phone operators are at it.

"As the CEO of the distant third competitor noted, they have 'declared war on consumer interests.'

"Bleating that excessive past profits have gone (and, in one case, faced with a catastrophic fine in Nigeria), this pair want to limit our use of Net applications like WhatsApp," Kalliatakis describes.

"This software creates a cheap alternative to costly SMSs. The Big Two want to change all that and may have enough clout with government to ensure the regulatory changes go through, channelling money from our pockets into theirs.

"They call services like WhatsApp Over the Top (OTT) services. One mobile phone boss insists OTT players get huge benefit without making any investment."

He says a former CEO of the other operator says his company isn’t prepared to spend billions giving OTT players a 'free ride'.

"Not a word about the consumer or the billions extracted from us over the years. Extension of mobile phone logic creates countless opportunities for other sectors to fleece us.

"Restaurants might refuse to supply salt and pepper because they make no contribution to their overheads," Kalliatakis says.

"Powerful business interests need little encouragement to apply the squeeze. Amazon.com strangled book sales from some publishers who challenged its online book sale monopoly.

"Internet service providers deny it but the suspicion persists they ‘throttle’ speeds to induce customers to buy more capacity.

"Hitler’s blueprint for creeping dominance can be stopped, however. We have to take notice before it’s too late."

He says a good first step is to launch a petition deploring the Big Two’s anti-OTT ploy.

"I’ll put my name right on top. Another way is to embrace pro-consumer innovations like Uber, AirBnB, pop-up shops that cut prices, easy-to-access insurance from supermarkets, massive online open courses (MOOC) that enable you to get a degree for next to nothing and every other consumer-friendly concept.

"Reject fat-cat exploitation and let them know about it … because you can," Kalliatakis urges.

 

*Aki Kalliatakis is managing partner of The Leadership Launchpad, a consultancy dedicated to sustainable improvements in customer service.