Thursday, June 26, 2008

air Baltic: bad e-commerce Latvian style

This is how I understand e-commerce: I am my own salesperson, cashier and give away some important personal details to boot, and I generally get stuff or services I need cheaper. The e-retailer gets free sales labor (me), a free cashier (me, doing the payments online) and a free market survey interviewer (me, my address, what I bought all in the data base).
air Baltic, Latvia's national carrier, is breaking with this model and charging an outrageous LVL 6 (around USD 13.30) per person in any single transaction for buying e-tickets on the internet. That is, if there are three people flying to Paris on a single ticket purchase (say, mom, dad and the kid, and mom pays with her credit card) that single transaction is charged an additional LVL 18. The credit card payment is entirely electronic, at infinitesimal cost, so there is absolutely no cost justification for this fee. air Baltic charges a practically infinite markup on any single online transaction for which it incurs no cost whatsoever and has already been saved the expense of a ticket agent, printing tickets, etc.
This has been going on for some while, but in the summer doldrums (and after looking at some options for flying to the US via Stockholm), I think it is necessary to mention how this airline simply fucks with its customers on the internet. No other words for it. At least they could have called it a fuel surcharge.
Look for pay toilets on air Baltic next, seriously....
I am not singling out air Baltic. Ryanair is the master of endless pesterware that keeps asking whether I want to buy travel insurance, as if saying a) their aircraft are unsafe (not true) or b) the intra-European treaties on health services don't work or c) their destinations are either crime ridden, pestilent, or both, so get insured!
In the US, an American Airlines flight attendant threw a nervous and autistic toddler off a plane. No need to protect airlines from terrorists when they already have them on staff...
Which brings me back to air Baltic which also hassled my wife and child when she showed her Swedish passport (not her Latvian one that has the kid in it) and the kid his Latvian one. They demanded all kinds of documentation that the fuckwit Latvian authorities require (Schengen, what Schengen??), so fortunately my son had his American passport and then they let him fly. Don't tread on me. Hoo-yah!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The half-mother TeliaSonera selling itself too cheaply?

TeliaSonera, the half-mother of Latvia's Lattelecom and indirect 60 % holder of mobile operator Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT) has been berated by Sweden's National Audit Office for being unprepared to sell itself for the best price. See this report in the English-language portal TheLocal. This is especially embarrassing as TeliaSonera is still being courted by France Telecom after rejecting an initial take-over offer. Next in the wings could be Norway's Telenor, also said to be interested in a pan-Nordic merger.
In Latvia, meanwhile, Jack Shit is happening (other than some marketing activity by all the mobile operators pushing mobile internet, the Amigo pre-paid service, a subsidiary of LMT, offering post-paid services). Nothing new on the Lattelecom privatization/nationalization, and nothing should be expected over the summer as new valuations are done.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Lecturers on telecoms competition in Riga

Martin Cave of the University of Warwick in Britain and Mats Bergman of Uppsala University in Sweden lectured on different aspects of telecoms regulation and competition at a seminar in Riga on June 4 at the Riga School of Economics, partly sponsored by the TeliaSonera Institute.. I got short video interviews with both presenters. Note: the start titles are partly in Latvian for use on another blog.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Seminar in Riga on telco competition

Anders Alexanderson, vice-president for public affairs at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga, has asked that this invitation be posted as a reminder of an upcoming seminar on telecommunications competition. Anders has done quite a few favors in setting up some contacts in the telco field for me, so I will return one and put this on the blog:

The Stockholm School of Economics in Riga (SSE Riga), the Baltic International Centre for Economic Policy Studies (BICEPS), and the TeliaSonera Institute at SSE Riga invite you to a conference on June 4, 2008 on the Concepts of Competition in Telecoms Markets: Can Competition be Successfully ‘Engineered’? As speakers we have attracted two of Europe’s leading experts in the field of telecoms and competition, Martin Cave, University of Warwick and Mats Bergman, Uppsala University. For more information, please see the attached programme.
The TeliaSonera Institute at SSE Riga aims to promote applied economic research in areas such as entrepreneurship, regulation, and other aspects of market economics. This conference follows the two workshops that the TeliaSonera Institute organized on the new regulatory framework in 2005 and 2007, respectively.
Registration for the seminar should be sent to SSE Riga by June 2,, phone +371 701 5800. The Conference will take place at SSE Riga, Strelnieku iela 4a, Riga.

The seminar starts at 12:00 and I will be covering it, as well as moderating a discussion in the course of the afternoon. I know lots of English-reading people in Latvia look at this blog, so please come if you can.