O Techblog published this Wednesday (15) the special Did virtual mobile operators work?, which featured an exclusive interview with Veek CEO Alberto Blanco. The executive says he has defaulted on Surf Telecom; the company counterattacked, accusing the MVNO of ideological falsehood and embezzlement.
Veek was once a Surf Telecom partner
Veek began operations in 2017 in partnership with the provider Surf Telecom. However, the operation was suspended in 2019 and the customers were transferred to another MVNO, Geek.
The disagreement between Veek and Surf Telecom is financial: the supplier would have cut the prepaid recharge channel of the virtual operator and started selling credits to customers.
O Techblog asked Alberto Blanco what happened between Veek and Surf. He replied:
“That was a boring story, because defaulting is something that nobody likes. Surf Telecom gave us a default. She didn’t pay us, she robbed us, this process is at Anatel, it is in the judicial process and they have already been convicted several times.”
Alberto Blanco, CEO of Veek
Veek’s operations were terminated amidst the imbroglio, but the operator was slow to resume sales with a new partner:
“They robbed us, we assimilated the coup. Basically, we built two companies: we launched the first one and we had almost 70,000 active clients at that time, and today we would be by far the largest operation [virtual] in Brazil.
We had to make another contract, ratify again at Anatel and make all the connections. Despite having the experience, it took a while.”
Alberto Blanco, CEO of Veek
Currently, Veek has already returned to the market in partnership with another supplier, Americanet. MVNO is currently betting on a free plan, and the user is entitled to 1 GB of internet per month in exchange for watching ads on the operator’s app.
Surf accuses Veek of ideological falsehood and embezzlement
Surf Telecom countered Veek’s allegations, and claims it has filed a lawsuit against the MVNO:
“The issue of Veek is being decided in court, since we had to file a lawsuit against the company for ideological falsehood and embezzlement. Surf Telecom was the one who filed a lawsuit against the company to be compensated in the fairest way, not the other way around.”
Surf Telecom lost important customers
Surf Telecom is responsible for more than 100 virtual operators in Brazil, including Correios Celular, Uber Chip, Lari Cel (actress Larissa Manoela), soccer teams, retailers and regional fixed broadband providers.
However, Surf’s customer base was already fuller — or more relevant: the company served companies such as Banco Inter, which had the operator Intercel, in addition to Magazine Luiza, with Maga+. The customers of the withdrawing MVNOs were transferred to another company, Mega+.
The financial institution and the retailer ended the agreement with Surf: Banco Inter should relaunch Inter Cel in partnership with Vivo; Magazine Luiza asked Anatel to ratify an agreement with Claro for the creation of a new MVNO, as revealed first hand by Techblog.
Surf says that closed MVNO deals “are natural market moves” and that “just as deals were closed, many new customers have started, and that number has been growing at an accelerated pace for Surf.”
Impasse with partners left Surf customers without a signal
O Techblog gained access to a classified Surf Telecom document accusing foreign company Plintron Holdings of sabotage that disrupted access to cell phone service for more than one million users (although the number of customers is questionable, as noted in the special report) :
“(…) As of July 3, 2020, PLINTRON began a sabotage that culminated in interrupting, without prior communication and without any plausible justification, the provision of the services for which it was contracted, preventing access to its platform for any further of one million SURF TELECOM users spread over more than five thousand Brazilian municipalities. In summary, suddenly, SURF TELECOM users could not charge, recharge or use their cell phones.
Inadvertently and irresponsibly, PLINTRON interrupted the access of the entire customer base to SURF TELECOM services, in addition to actively deleting users from its platform.”
In the document, Surf Telecom states that Plintron is a shelf company, that is, without activities. A police inquiry was initiated against the company to investigate the crime of interrupting or disturbing telegraphic, radiotelegraphic or telephone service, preventing or hindering its restoration, as provided for in the Penal Code. The operation found an office closed months ago:
“Police Inquiry No. 2169498-16.2020.140524 was initiated, carried out by the Delegate responsible for DEIC – 4th Precinct of the CIG, with the purpose of investigating the crime described in article 266 of the Penal Code (interrupting or disturbing telegraphic, radiotelegraphic or telephone service, prevent or make it difficult for you to recover).
In that investigation, it is highlighted that there was a police investigation at PLINTRON headquarters, which revealed an office closed for months, which only corroborates the fact that, in Brazil, PLINTRON is a mere shelf company.”
During the episode, Surf had to activate a service of Disaster Recovery Program with TIM, and the contingency regime allowed the reestablishment of services, but at a high cost.
The interruption of services has to do with corporate issues: Plintron owns 40% of Surf Telecom’s preferred shares. The foreign company claims that the original contract allowed the conversion of preferred shares into common shares, with an option to purchase more shares and have control of the company.
Surf says that Plintron tried to change the shareholding composition and transfer control of the company without Anatel’s prior consent, and that this entails failure to comply with the agency’s regulatory standards.
In the midst of the impasse, Surf Telecom tries to go public on the stock exchange, and has rehearsed an IPO that was barred by an injunction granted by the Judiciary in favor of Plintron.
To the Techblog, Surf Telecom says it will not comment on the conflict with Plintron, and says it awaits a decision from the Arbitration Chamber.
Collaborated: Everton Favretto