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[March 16, 2014]
Activists petition ICT ministry, UCC over telecoms' poor services [Daily Monitor, The (Uganda)]
(Daily Monitor, The (Uganda) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Kampala.
Consumer activists have demanded that telecommunications companies put in place a robust and efficient system to address consumer complaints in addition to duly compensating consumers for losses arising from unsolicited services.
While presenting a petition to the minister of Information and Communication Technology and the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) executive director at the inaugural communications Consumer Parliament last week, Mr Sam Watasa, the Uganda Consumer Protection Association executive director, said unsolicited services such as SMS and ringtones have become a nuisance to mobile service subscribers.
The activists also demanded an end to abusive services such as dropped and blocked calls in addition to refunding subscriber money for unsuccessful delivery of services.
"Making a conclusive call in Uganda has become a complete nightmare. It is so common in that consumers assume it's the way networks are designed to operate and thus they don't complain," he said.
Watasa noted that a people survey on the frequency of dropped calls conducted for the petition shows that active callers experience an average of three dropped calls per consumer per day.
Mr Watasa said using the 2012/13 statistics that show that about 40 per cent of subscribers experience dropped calls, consumers lose on average $500 million in dropped calls, assuming that each dropped call was charged Shs200.
On the issue of unsolicited messages, Mr Katamba blamed it on the liberalisation of the short code in 2007, which made telecoms lose control of the short code and how people use it.
The other complaints consumers want addressed by telecoms are the unexplained money transfer charges and promotions.
TELECOM COMPANIES DEFEND THEM SELVESTelecoms attributed 'dropped calls' to infrastructure vandalism and unreliable electricity supply.
Airtel's Legal expert, Mr Dennis Kakonge said: "Telecoms suffer from fibre cuts which interrupt service delivery but we have also been experiencing power supply instability because Umeme has been doing maintenance works since September last year and this at times leads to dropped calls." MTN general manager corporate services, Mr Anthony Katamba said: "When power goes off, the site is down and the call has to be dropped. We have been using generators to backup but they are vandalised and fuel is stolen and this affects us." Uganda Telecom chief executive officer Ali Amir challenged UCC and government to provide security for the telecom infrastructure, saying that players pay an annual levy to UCC and tax to government.
hefty finesIf parliament approves the legislation, UCC executive director Eng Godfrey Mutabazi said telecoms with poor services will have to pay hefty penalties for poor service delivery.
He said: "The legislation is currently still with the ministry of ICT and will soon send it to parliamentary council and then parliament for approval. If passed, telecoms could pay about 0.5 per cent of their annual gross income as penalty for poor services." He attributed the poor quality of service to failure by telecoms to invest in the needed infrastructure to meet their ever growing subscriber numbers.
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