Thursday, 26 June 2014

Consumer groups mobilise to demand phone rights for 7 billion users

(First appeared in Consumer News Namibia Magazine April 2013)

Consumers International (CI), the global federation of 250 consumer groups, published its Consumer Agenda for Fair Mobile Services ahead of World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) on Saturday 15 March 2014.
In the run up to 15 March, consumer groups from around the world made a call on mobile phone service providers to demand better services for the 7 billion mobile users across the globe. Mobile rip offs are commonplace – from holidaymakers being stung by four figure roaming bills abroad, to customers tricked into paying to receive text messages.
With smartphones set to function as a remote control for more and more aspects of our lives, consumer groups believe now is the time to ensure big mobile companies are held to account for unfair, substandard services.
In consultation with consumer groups around the world, CI drew up a Consumer Agenda for Fair Mobile Services, which outlines what the consumer rights movement wants to see changed. This includes demands that telecom companies:
• provide consumers with access to an affordable, reliable service
• provide consumers with fair contracts explained in clear, complete and accessible language
• provide consumers with fair and transparent billing
• provide consumers with security and power over their own information, and
• listen and respond to consumer complaints.
CI is planning to deliver this message to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) - the UN body responsible for setting standards in the industry - ahead of the ITU World Telecommunications Development Conference in early April.
Amanda Long, Consumers International Director General says:
“Mobile phones are an everyday part of the lives of billions of people. From social interaction, and digital identity; to banking and e-commerce: they have become essential to the way we live, spend, connect and express ourselves.
“But consumers the world over complain about the service they receive from telecom providers. From West Africa, to Asia Pacific; Europe, to South America - our member groups are telling us that connection reliability, unfair contracts, unclear billing, poor customer services and concerns over data privacy are regular issues for consumers. It’s time the international telecom providers answer the call for action.”
Namibia is no exception. The telecommunications industry does not have a service of culture and now that it all telephonic services fall under one company (Namibia Post and Telecom Holdings), competitiveness is not a driving force for change.
The Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) is responsible for regulating the telecommunication services and networks, broadcasting services, postal services and the use and allocation of radio spectrum. Consumer Protection and Advocacy forms an integral part of CRAN's mandate. CRAN is supposed to ensure that consumers receive the full benefits of competitive electronic communication services and are protected from any exploitation or abuse. A streamlined complaints handling system in accordance with the Act has been put in place, but no consumer group has yet evaluated the process or had access to reports on the internal handling of the complaints received by the authority.

Note: Leo was purchased by Telecom and is now renamed TN Mobile. Telecom and the Post Office are 100% owned by Namibia Post and Telecom Holdings (NPTH). MTC is 66% owned by NPTH.

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