By John Kachembere
The Postal and Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) has warned telecommunication companies to put the interests of subscribers first or risk being fined for providing poor services to subscribers.
Potraz head of consumer affairs and publicity George Manyaya told thousands of people in Centenary over the weekend that the regulator will not hesitate to punish postal and telecommunications firms that offer shoddy services.
“Consumers are a very important stakeholder and deserve quality service at all times.
“The time for complacency is over. All operators are required to constantly improve their network service standards and ensure that they remain in line with quality of service regulations,” he said.
This comes as State-owned mobile network operator, NetOne, was last month ordered by Potraz to compensate all subscribers who lost airtime on the OneFusion package due to a faulty billing system.
The regulator is currently conducting a quality of service measurement, which deals with network availability, call connection failure rate, call drop rate and call setup time and service coverage.
Manyaya said subscribers have a right to access high quality, reliable service from both service providers and the regulator.
“In line with the new government’s thrust of improving the ease of doing business, subscribers should be able to make calls and send their postages without encountering any challenges. You also have a right to be protected from market abuse such as excessive pricing, discriminatory pricing, contractual lock-ins, unfair trade practises including false and misleading advertising as well as any form of anti-competitive behaviour.
“If you feel any of your rights have been infringed please lodge a complaint with the operator first, and if you don’t get a satisfactory answer then approach the regulator and we’ll not hesitate to crack the whip,” he said to a large applause from the crowd.
Most subscribers in the country are up in arms against telecommunication service providers over disappearing data, dropped calls and network unavailability, prompting Potraz to follow in the footsteps of some African countries that are punishing operators for poor services.
In 2011, Rwandatel’s telecom licence was revoked for poor service.
Africa’s largest mobile network operator MTN faced a $7,4 million fine in Nigeria in 2012. More recently MTN has agreed to pay $1,7 billion as a fine for failing to adhere to industry regulations on SIM card registrations in Nigeria.
In January this year, Kenya’s telecommunication regulator imposed a fine of about US$3 million on three mobile phone operators for offering poor quality services to customers.
In Tanzania, seven telecommunication service providers were also recently slapped with fines for failing to comply with quality of service standards as per regulation requirements.
The quality of service measurement exercise, which test elements such as network availability, call success rate and SMS service accessibility among other things, were conducted for both data and voice services, and from end-user viewpoints. DailyNews