Lovemore Zigara Midlands Correspondent
ECONET Wireless is reported to have started deregistering its Ecocash agents who have been doubling as agents for its rival, Telecel Zimbabwe which is operating Telecash.Telecel launched its mobile money transfer/banking service, Telecash in January which directly competes with Ecocash and has since gone on a massive recruitment of agents.
The country’s second largest mobile network operator in the process enlisted the services of Ecocash agents which prompted Econet to force its agents to sign exclusivity agreements in a move aimed at barring Telecel from using its agents.
Agents in Gweru who have been doubling as Ecocash and Telecel agents yesterday confirmed that they have been disconnected by Econet.
Saziso Banda, who runs both mobile banking services in Gweru’s Central Business District said Econet officials came to her premises and informed her that she was being disconnected for doubling as a Telecash agent.
“They came in the morning to inform me about the latest developments and my sim card has since been disconnected from their network. I advised them that since the sim card had money they had to reimburse me but they did not,” she said.
A number of agents who refused to be named for fear of victimisation confirmed the disconnection which they said was against competition in the financial services sector.
The move by Econet might put the mobile network operator on a warpath with the Central Bank for contravening certain sections of the National Payments Systems Act on exclusive agent agreements.
The Act empowers agents to offer multiple payment system provided the agents have separate contracts for the provision of such services with each institution and the agents have the capacity to manage the transactions for the different payment systems provided.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) noted that exclusivity agreements are likely to have an adverse effect on competition and may be detrimental to the smooth operation of payment systems in the country.
It further states that exclusivity agreements would hamper RBZ efforts of promoting financial inclusion and expansion of the financial services in the economy.
Under the National Payment Systems Act it is the prerogative of the Central Bank to grant exclusive arrangements with an agent to players in the financial services sector.
Efforts to get comment from the RBZ on the latest move by Econet were futile.
Econet Wireless spokesperson, Rangarirai Mberi, acknowledged receipt of questions e-mailed to him by Chronicle but had not responded to them at the time of going to print.
Telecel is the country’s second biggest telecommunications operator-with 2,5 million active subscribers after Econet Wireless with 8,5 million.
Both companies have been in trenches in a corporate war for market share.
Last year, Econet unilaterally disconnected Telecel making it difficult for the Telecel subscribers to make calls into the Econet’s network over allegations that Telecel did not hold a valid licence.