COMMUNICATION OWNERS FORCED TO UP PRICES

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Due to the sudden increase in the electricity tariff, the All Ceylon Communication Owners’ Association (ACCOA) decided to increase photocopy and printout rates by Rs 5 recently.

ACCOA Chairman, Indrajith Perera told the media that they are unable to provide services at the previous prices with the continuous power cuts and electricity bill hike.

“The price of a bundle of photocopying paper is Rs 3,200. We used to buy it for Rs 580. But we made photocopies for the minimum amount. But we have to increase the prices in parallel with the Energy Ministry’s decision to amend the electricity bill. It will apply to all other communication services, such as computer printouts,” he said.

Perera said they do not want to land the burden on customers, but they have no choice. He also said the Government does not understand the plight of small business owners like them.

“As Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) Chairman, Janaka Ratnayake claimed, the mafia and the colossal expenses at the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) have resulted in losses. This should not be passed on to the citizens. The PUCSL Chairman should be given the opportunity to make the CEB profitable by promoting renewable energy,” Perera added.

Therefore, Perera requested the people to hoist a black flag in every household to oppose the Government’s decision to increase the prices of all essential commodities and utilities.

The university community has a very special place out of the various social groups that receive services through communication centres. Thus, Ceylon Today spoke to university students about these price hikes.

D.M. Kasun Tharaka, a third-year student of the Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo, said the increase in the price of communication services has made university students very uneasy.

He said in many cases, they need to purchase stationery, and he doesn’t know how to face this situation.

“With the present situation, we generally attend online lectures. Not every student is able to join the lecture. It becomes difficult to write notes and keep up with lectures. Therefore, we take notes from those who have them and photocopy them. Sometimes, we have to get photocopies of many pages at once. Although this used to be affordable, with this price hike, we have to expend a lot of money,” he said.

He further said the increase in the price of all communication services has affected the entire university student community.

“Not only photocopies, but now the prices of all communication services have increased. Sometimes, we have to buy colour printouts of photos for our projects. These also cost a lot of money. Many students do not have their own computer. So, they need to visit a communication service centre. This can be expensive,” he added.

He said in addition to students, other customers will also be inconvenienced during these trying times.

Meanwhile, S.A. Chandrasekara, an owner of a communication centre in Kurunegala also expressed his views about this price hike.

He said this situation is very common with the continuous power cuts and rising electricity bills at the moment.

“We have never struggled like this before, even during the inception. We have reached a point where we cannot continue operations. We have not been able to turn a profit since the first wave of Covid-19 in 2019. We are unable to even pay the electricity bill. The Energy Minister is saying that the electricity bill will be increased by 75 per cent. If that happens, we will have to shut down,” he said.

He added that even though the price has increased, there is no drop in the number of customers.

“Even though the price has increased, we cannot see a drop in the number of customers. Just because the price has increased, people cannot rest on their laurels. We know that everyone is undergoing hardship. But if we do not increase the price at this time, we will not be able to continue operations. They have decided to increase the price of all printouts and photocopies. This will definitely be a big problem for schoolchildren and employees of institutions,” he further said.

The continuous power cuts as well as the steep rise in the electricity bill have affected the price of all communication services. Therefore, communication owners urge the Government to look into this matter and provide them with some relief expeditiously.

By Sahan Tennekoon