TelEm threatens legal action against SCDF – Row over Carnival sponsoring

POSTED: 05/2/13 1:46 PM

St. Maarten – A huge row between the TelEm Group of Companies and the St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation over no less than seventeen violations of the sponsorship agreement between the Telecom provider and the organizer of the annual Carnival could have severe consequences for future events.

TelEm is claiming damages for infringements on its right to be the exclusive Telecom provider in the Festival Village. SCDF-President Michael granger, asked for a reaction, stated in an email to this newspaper yesterday: “All matters between SCDF and its sponsors are confidential and internal.”

But there is nothing confidential about the letters TelEm’s Chief Commercial Officer Brian Mingo sent on April 26 to the Foundation Government Buildings SOG and to Granger.

In his letter to SOG-President Kurt Ruan, Mingo complains that his company’s commercial department “has been overwhelmed with the actions of your tenant SCDF” and about the fact that the Carnival-organizers “have breached multiple terms of our agreement with them and with you (the SOG – ed.) to remain exclusive telecom provider in the Festival Village.”

Mingo pointed out that booth 79 was selling telecom services and top-up services in the festival Village and the competitor UTS provide Wi-Fi-services.

Mingo asked Ruan to inform and if necessary summon the SCDF to stop violating TelEm’s rights. “If the situation does not change it will leave us no other alternative than to take legal actions to restore our image and rights to maintain that exclusive status. This will also include damages incurred by neglecting our set and agreed terms.”

Mingo’s letter to SCDF-President Mike Granger has a similar ending, noting that the foundation has “frustrated TelEm’s rights on many occasions and in various ways.” The telecom provider asked the SCDF to no avail already on April 17 to comply with the sponsorship agreement. “In the event you do not immediately comply with your obligations under the sponsorship agreement, TelEm will hold you liable for all damages suffered and to be suffered by TelEm as a result of your non-compliance.”

Among the tidal wave of complaints, Mingo listed in his letter the Miss Mature pageant on April 22 – an event sponsored by TelEm. But on screens left and right of the stage competitor UTS showed advertisements for the new Blackberry Z10.

TelEm contacted Granger to point out the violation on two different occasions during the show. According to Mingo’s letter, Granger promised to remedy the situation, but nothing came of it. Granger apparently told Mingo that he could not stop the feed to the screens because it was controlled from the Chippie booth. Two days later, during the TelEm-sponsored teen and senior pageant, the SCDF granted chippie “again a full night of advertising,” Mingo wrote.

The disgruntled telecom provider had more complaints, for instance about the fact that the SCDF gave more banners to Chippie than to TelEm. “That gave them more exposure over a wider section of the island. TelEm, as the main sponsor, was overshadowed.”

On April 20 the festival Village was the stage for Zouk-night. The event’s promoter took over the TelEm VIP room whereby all of TelEm’s rights were revoked, Mingo wrote. There was no agreement between TelEm and the promoter. “But an agreement apparently did exist between the promoter and SCDF.”

Promises by Granger that TelEm would have its VIP room exclusively were not honored.

The Carnival foundation also made a mess of the billboards it was supposed to set up for TelEm. In early April, banner-frames in Cole Bay were flat on the ground, other frames were too small for the banners, some poles were leaning, while at other locations banners were warped, ripped or removed.

“These incidents resulted in a complete lack of visibility of the placed banners, or at least less banner visibility than agreed upon,” Mingo wrote.

There was another agreement the Carnival foundation broke: the promise to buy TelEm SIM packages in bulk to facilitate visitors to the island. Up to the day the letter was written, April 26, SCDF had not made the purchase. Mingo furthermore noted that TelEm did not get any publicity from the Youth Extravaganza on April 2, while all other sponsors were mentioned. The excuse from the SCDF: “The press release and advertisement for the event were submitted by the promoters, not by the SCDF.”

Lastly, the SCDF “has expressed grave concern and does not appear to be pleased with the erection of two TelEm/SOG welcome banners that were erected in the festival Village on April 10,” Mingo wrote, adding that the company has an agreement with the SOG about these banners.

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